The Sullivan Street Bakery Cookbook
Jim Lahey with Maya Joseph
W.W Norton, 2017
About ten years ago when everyone on the Internet was going crazy for Jim Lahey’s No-Knead bread, the number of times I made it, I recall comparing it to a sourdough — in texture, if not in taste. The long rise time meant that the dough was actually picking up wild yeast in the air, but not enough for it to be a true sourdough bread. And at the time I wished that there was a sourdough version, but wasn’t inclined to experiment and create a starter, just out of lack of time.
A decade later and a new book by Lahey, and there is currently a sourdough starter bubbling away on top of my fridge as I prepare to try some of the no-knead sourdough recipes in The Sullivan Street Bakery Cookbook.
Lahey offers detailed instructions on how to create a starter or biga (he refers to it by the Italian term, having learned to bake bread in Rome). The sections where Lahey talks about his time in Rome are incredibly interesting, laying out the differences between the regional bread styles of Italy.
Once the reader has a monster mess of starter ready to go, there are piles of recipes to try, and not just the basic white sourdough loaf but a number of other breads as well, some sourdough-based, some not.
Beyond bread, there are also recipes for the many other things available at Sullivan Street, open since 1994 and serving the mid-town New York neighbourhood with pizzas, pastries, sandwiches, cookies, cakes, and savoury dishes such as roast meats (for the sandwiches), plus soups and chilis.
The one drawback to Lahey’s no-knead bread for the home baker is that the long rise time often requires scheduling your life around baking bread; the whole process can take up to 24 hours for some breads, depending on various conditions. This is easy to deal with in a commercial bakery like Sullivan Street where there are people on hand 24/7, 365 days a year, but is less simple to do at home when you have other things going on. Nevertheless, I suspect the final product will be worth the effort.
Usability (based on hardcover version): Very good to excellent. Recipes are in a clear font of a good size, with ingredients in bold. Measurements are offered in metric. Steps are numbered and separated by a line break. Many of the bread recipes have a lot of steps, but there are pages of numbered images for visual reference.