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The Power of Simple Baking

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During a book fair this summer, a Japanese bookseller introduced me to a new word - Tsundoku - which is the act of buying books and letting them pile up unread. I’m sure many of us suffer from this affliction to some degree. Cookbooks are piled on my night stand and have always been a favorite bedtime read.

I especially like a cookbook with a good tale that takes you on a journey on how a recipe comes into being. And when the writer’s passion and love for his subject is as infectious as Jim Lahey’s, you can’t help but be swept along in the romance.

Just a quick note on Jim’s backstory - it’s a feel-good story for the record books. Jim Lahey has always recognized the dignity of bread and he so believed in his big, imperfect Italian loaves that he started peddling his bread on the street in NYC. He’d bake the bread at his apartment in Brooklyn - board the subway with a wicker basket full of bread and a folding table and set up “shop” on the sidewalks of SOHO. What he couldn’t sell, he’d give away. People would ask him, “Is this a mistake? Why is the bottom so dark?” “No no,” he’d say. “Just try it and tell me what you think.” When Jim went to job interviews, he had no resume; he’d show up for an interview armed only with a loaf of bread. After some time at Amy’s Bakery in Hell’s Kitchen, he eventually landed at the Theater District’s legendary Orso owned by restaurateur, Joe Allen. After several years at Orso, Joe sponsored Jim’s sabbatical to Italy to broaden his bread education with bakers in Rome and Tuscany. Upon his return, Joe Allen backed the opening of The Sullivan Street Bakery. Local boy makes good!

For anyone looking for dessert pastries, THE SULLIVAN STREET BAKERY COOKBOOK isn’t for you. Of nine sections, only two are dedicated to sweets - 1 for breakfast and 1 for dessert. The majority of the recipes reflect the savory items found in his shop - his signature rustic and crusty Pugliese bread with its dark carmelized bottom, his savory pizzas and his not-to-be-missed Pizza Bianca bread. Please treat yourself to this simple wonder. It’s like foccacia, but thinner and so much lighter. Prior to baking, it’s topped with olive oil, sea salt and rosemary. Perfect alone, or toasted and topped with fresh ricotta and honey for breakfast. It makes a simple prosciutto & mozzarella sandwich too! With a drizzle of olive oil and a shred of basil. Perfection.

Like his first cookbook, MY BREAD, his method is simple and he uses one basic dough to make a range of breads and pizzas. A quick note: Chapter 2 is dedicated to making a sourdough starter, but don’t let this deter you. Sourdough starters have the reputation for being labor-intensive, but Jim has simplified this for us. Even though it takes up to five days to make it, it involves nothing more than mixing flour and water and letting it sit in a mason jar. Make it with your kids - it’s fun to check on the jar every morning to watch it foam as the dough rises and falls.

I hope you will enjoy Jim’s recipes as much as I have over the years. His shop introduced me to so many taste sensations that are now among my family’s favorites. Sure, it’s easier to pick up a loaf at Empire, but I invite you to get in there and discover the nuances of working with dough. In this fast-paced world, it’s nice to slow down and share the simple dignity of bread.

The Sullivan Street Bakery Cookbook Cover Image
By Jim Lahey, Maya Joseph (With)
$35.00
ISBN: 9780393247282
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - November 7th, 2017


For anyone looking for dessert pastries, THE SULLIVAN STREET BAKERY COOKBOOK isn’t for you. Of nine sections, only two are dedicated to sweets - 1 for breakfast and 1 for dessert. The majority of the recipes reflect the savory items found in his shop - his signature rustic and crusty Pugliese bread with its dark carmelized bottom, his savory pizzas and his not-to-be-missed Pizza Bianca bread. Please treat yourself to this simple wonder. It’s like foccacia, but thinner and so much lighter. Prior to baking, it’s topped with olive oil, sea salt and rosemary. Perfect alone, or toasted and topped with fresh ricotta and honey for breakfast. It makes a simple prosciutto & mozzarella sandwich too! With a drizzle of olive oil and a shred of basil. Perfection.


My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method Cover Image
By Jim Lahey, Rick Flaste (With)
$29.95
ISBN: 9780393066302
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - October 1st, 2009


Like his first cookbook, MY BREAD, his method is simple and he uses one basic dough to make a range of breads and pizzas. A quick note: Chapter 2 is dedicated to making a sourdough starter, but don’t let this deter you. Sourdough starters have the reputation for being labor-intensive, but Jim has simplified this for us. Even though it takes up to five days to make it, it involves nothing more than mixing flour and water and letting it sit in a mason jar. Make it with your kids - it’s fun to check on the jar every morning to watch it foam as the dough rises and falls.

I hope you will enjoy Jim’s recipes as much as I have over the years. His shop introduced me to so many taste sensations that are now among my family’s favorites. Sure, it’s easier to pick up a loaf at Empire, but I invite you to get in there and discover the nuances of working with dough. In this fast-paced world, it’s nice to slow down and share the simple dignity of bread.