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In 1998, Suzanne Dunaway was standing behind the snack counter at her large-scale bakery Buona Forchetta in Los Angeles when a literary agent came in for bread. The agent was a regular customer and she had an idea. „Do you want to write a book about it?” Dunaway recalls that Betsy Amster asked her back then. „Nobody has ever done that before.”
The „it” that Amster was referring to was making artisanal bread without kneading it. Conventional wisdom dictated that some form of kneading was required in order to make most types of bread, regardless of taste, style, or type, since it is when kneading that gluten was developed and gluten gave structure to bread. But at Buona Forchetta, Dunaway’s breads – focaccia, pan rusticos, baguettes – were all made without kneading. The loaves of bread were mixed with plenty of water, folded a few times, left to rise and then baked. “Everyone I knew baked sourdough bread overnight or waited a week for the starter to bubble,” she says. „I was just telling myself – it’s very simple, a kid could do it.” Dunaway accepted Amsterdam’s offer and put the recipes for the no-knead bread she’d made in the bakery into a book. It was titled the following year, 1999, No kneading necessary: Handmade Italian bread in 90 minutes.
Anyone who has even a vague interest in baking would probably recognize the term „no-knead bread”. 2006, Mark Bittmant written an article for the on the subject and credits Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery with his „revolutionary proach” over bread-baking. Laheys Recipe for bread without kneading necessary mixing of flour, plenty of water, salt and yeast; let the dough rise overnight; Bake, let rise and then bake the bread in the casserole the next day. Bittman said the two-step technique – developing the dough over time and the steam from a covered Dutch oven to crust it – „is maddening.” It is one of the Times‘s most popular recipes ever published, with more than 15,000 reviews, leading to the publication of Lahey’s book in 2009 My bread: The revolutionary no-work-no-knead method.
Last month, probably fueled by more than a year, when people started making bread at home, Times Cooking author J. Kenji López-Alt revisited the 2006 recipe, which tweaked some of Lahey’s techniques and emphasized how „very influential” the no-knead method was. In the story Peter Reinhart, author of The bread baker’s apprentice, López-Alt said that Lahey’s “genius was to incorporate and modernize a few different ancient techniques known to bakers,” but the most important development is the name. Lahey agreed: „Mark gave him the no-knead name,” Lahey told the Times. „I thought it was a mistake – it’s just ancient bread made from fear and electricity – but he’s the author, so we made it.”
„Soon home bakers and professionals started repeating the process,” wrote López-Alt. A section of López-Alt’s story was entitled “Kneading is not necessary”.
Dunaway had published the first English-language book on the subject of no-knead and was furious: She believed that the Times had rewritten history twice, not once. When she saw López-Alt’s article „How the No Knead Bread Recipe Changed Baking”, Dunaway sat down and immediately wrote a letter to her Times Cook Editor Sam Sifton. „‘You know, maybe your researchers made a mistake somewhere,'” wrote Dunaway. “Here is my book. Here is the picture of it. „
Dunaway’s book was by no means dark: No kneading necessary was nominated for a James Beard Award in 2000, was in Good little one and the Los Angeles times, and Buona Forchetta, which closed in 2003, has been widely hailed as one of the best bakeries in Los Angeles. In 2017, Dunaway was in Modernist bread, a five-book, 2,500-page tome that she describes as an early forerunner of the no-knead technique. “Everyone knew about it. My exposure was everywhere, ”Dunaway says of the time a few years before Lahey’s recipe came out. By the time Lahey’s recipe was published, Dunaway had moved to Rome. “I wasn’t out there to dance,” says Dunaway. Lahey’s recipe went viral and he was hailed as a revolutionary.
Who is going to be a revolutionary? In the history of bread-making, women bakers toiled in domestic settings, making bread for their families (or the families of white women), a fact that people like Michael Pollan often have encouraged Home cooking to romanticize. “Don’t eat anything that your great, great, great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food,” says Pollan, forgetting the often hidden unpaid food job that women and people of color have had to perform for generations to bring this type of food to the table. Enthusiasm for local recipes is heightened when they are translated into the mainstream of the professional sphere, often by male chefs.
But is it even possible to invent a new technique or a new recipe with the oldest food in the world? Ownership of techniques and recipes is both domestically and domestically Professional Settings – food tales through history have been stolen and co-opted as a function of white supremacy – and there is a long recorded history of bread-making which shows that no-kneading techniques are far from new. Lahey’s loaf of bread has been lauded for its revolutionary simplicity by bringing bread-making to the masses, but it’s just one of many. One of the earliest no-knead recipes was published 80 years ago in a cookbook by British food writer Doris Grant, best known for her wartime “Grant Loaf”.
In the 1943 book Your daily bread, Grant wrote an entire book on breads, which were quick and easy to make, to encourage the housewives, who were their main audiences, to provide healthy food to their families. Grant loathed industrial food and the way vital nutrients were removed from the stables for the sake of commodification. „Of course, it is quicker to open a can than to prepare an equivalent homemade dish, especially for the housewife who is in the business all day,” Grant wrote in her book Dear housewives 1964. The Grant Loaf, which was made from stone-ground wholemeal flour, salt, yeast and a little sugar, didn’t have to be kneaded. The top note of the recipe says: “Remember that whole grain dough must not be kneaded and it only takes a few minutes to mix.” While Grant, the early founder of no-knead bread in Modernist bread, Grant does not get airtime in Bittman, López-Alt, Lahey, or Dunaway’s writings on the history of no-knead bread.
These recipes may just be so different that no-knead bread is less of a technique than a broader concept, but in the end only one of them became standard. Lahey emailed Eater that this was „nothing new”.
„My recipe is very simple, uses minimal yeast, and has a long slow fermentation period,” he wrote. „I believe my bread-making technique is essentially similar to a method that has been practiced for thousands (THOUSANDS) of years, except that commercial yeast is used.” (Bittman didn’t respond to a request for comment.) For Lahey, however „Most 90-minute bread recipes give mediocre bread”. Grant and Dunaway’s breads can be made during this time for reasons of simplicity and accessibility.
Perhaps it is that there is nothing new under the sun, that all ideas are just mirrors of others in front of them. Lahey’s „revolutionary” Dutch oven technique is a repetition of a baking method that has been used since Roman times; the Nassteig-Proach has been known to professional and home bakers for decades. „It appears that [Dunaway] was upset when Bittman and my article came out (and it would still be a pear), ”Lahey said, adding that he hadn’t heard of Dunaway or her book before. „My method revolutionized home baking,” Lahey went on, „and books on baking that include my method.” nothing new ”was. Years later, Lahey’s no-knead recipe the Recipe without kneading.
Anyone else who came before him? You have just laid the foundation.