Mark a tour kitchens Modernist Cuisine near Seattle is catnip for food writers like me. Not only do they have all the toys, but they have industrial versions of all the toys: rotovap machines, deep freezers, steam ovens, etc. But the thing that I remember the most my tour a few years ago was a simple-Jane Samsung home oven in the middle of it all. The Modernist’s chef, Francisco Migoya, opened the door and pointed to a cast iron pot in the middle that was so dark it appeared to reflect no light.
In the midst of this nerd treasure trove of gadgets he said something like: That forty dollar jar? It is the best tool you can buy for baking great bread at home.
Thanks to this pot and an almost perfect recipe, I now bake fantastic breads a few times a week. It is not a boast. The bread I bake requires almost no skill. I just lucked out in what turned out to be the pinnacle of what you can get with a combination of culinary laziness and the right tool for the job. While the internet is full of people obsessed with the sourdough breads they served (it’s quite a process), you can make exceptional bread with a little time and almost no effort.
the Lodge 3.2 Quart Cast Iron Combination Range (aka “the LCC3”) is where the magic happens. It is a curious animal. Taken apart, the “lid” is also a pan, and the bottom is a large pot. Put the first on the last and you have a casserole dish which, with its two handles, looks a bit like a child with a cap on the side. Flip it over so the pan is on the bottom and you have a perfect container for baking bread. The breads I make have a nice dark crust and a nice elastic interior, known as a crumb. If I bought what I made from a fancy bakery, I would be 100% satisfied, every time. Priced at $ 50 (only $ 40 on Amazon) and weighing 13 pounds, the combo cooker is so inexpensive that I occasionally give it away as a gift, as long as the delivery is free.
A big part of the reasons I love it so much is the recipe that makes it shine: Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread, something that was tremendously boosted by a pair of Stories of Mark Bittman in The New York Times, then was forever inscribed in his own book and Modernist bread. Instead of requiring a lot of kneading or mixing, time makes the growl. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt, then add water and mix until it holds in what is called a “shaggy mass.” After that, stick it on the counter overnight. Shape it into a ball in the morning, let it rise a bit, then put it in the preheated Lodge and bake. When I’m on my game, manual work takes about 10 minutes. By waiting for it with this overnight rise, you allow the gluten in the dough to strengthen and the flavors of the fermenting yeast to develop, a technique known as both autolysis and sleep.
There are still a lot of magic tricks left when you go to the pot. One of my favorites is how, with dough in it, it becomes a steam oven, a fetish item among bakers and chefs. With the relatively tight seal of the pot, the vapor released from the dough is trapped inside, which helps make the heat transfer to the dough particularly efficient. It’s actually a very stable little oven inside your larger one, and keeping the steam inside allows the surface of the bread to stretch while baking so the inside can rise. during cooking.