A few months ago, I wrote about my new dinner plan: my personal challenge to try one new recipe each week this winter, focusing on one of my more neglected cookbooks for a month.

Well. It’s time for me to report back on this month’s selection . . .

Once the holidays were over, I decided to (finally) plunge into Mark Bittman and and Kerri Conan’s book about no-knead, whole grain bread. I bought this cookbook over a year ago, and while I have taken a look through it now and again, I always put it back on my shelf without taking even the most tiny step toward trying the techniques and recipes.

At one time, I used to bake bread regularly — until my starter got moldy and it grossed me out so badly that I decided to take a little break. (And that break has probably lasted nearly a decade now.) But back when I did bake bread, I always used white flours and traditional (by that I mean kneaded) recipes.

I’ve been interested in getting back into bread-baking — but I wanted to bake with whole grains, and I wanted to try Mark Bittman’s revised no-knead technique. There is a very popular no-knead method out there already introduced by Mark Bittman when he was at the NYTimes back in the mid-2000s. Apparently it’s great, but I’ve never tried it. This new cookbook has revised (“revolutionized” as the book’s description claims) that original method, making it easier to do – and adapted especially for whole grain baking.

The book is good.
Like . . . really good.

Lots of photos, extremely detailed and clear instructions, enough “science” (if you like that kind of thing) – but organized so you can skip over those parts (if you don’t like that kind of thing). There are tips and hints and, like I mentioned, lots and lots of photographs. Mark and Kerri take us step by step through making starter and baking a “beginner loaf” with white flour (which is easier to bake with, so easier to succeed with) while introducing their no-knead technique so we get the hang of thatThen, they move us on to the Real Deal – baking with whole wheat flour and converting the starter to whole grain. Once we get comfortable with the no-knead technique, there are variations galore — plus recipes for many other things using our whole wheat starter (pizzas, flatbreads, rolls, cinnamon rolls, etc.).


And how was the bread?

Great. It’s great! I was intimidated by the whole grain thing. I mean, it’s easy to get good results with white flour. It’s tougher with whole grain (and the reasons why are all explained in the more “science-y” parts of the cookbook). I was expecting . . . hockey pucks . . . when I first switched over to whole grain flour. But that didn’t happen. I know there will be improvement as I continue making the bread using this technique, but I was thrilled with my results.

So far, I’ve made 5 loaves: 2 “beginner” loaves (I had to start over as I had a little accident with my original starter). (The jar slipped out of my hands when I was feeding the starter . . . and it broke.) (Oops.) 2 whole wheat loaves. And 1 rye loaf. (That rye loaf? Ohmygoodness. So good! And the crust was amazing!)

There’s no stopping me now.



A couple of other things to know about this cookbook:

  • I was hesitant to try no-knead bread because . . . I actually like kneading bread. I was afraid no-knead meant . . . no-touching. But that’s not it. There is a folding technique with no-knead bread. It’s not kneading (at all), but you still do get to work with your dough in a hands-on way (if you like that kind of thing).
  • After the “beginner bread” recipe (which does use standard measuring cups/measurements), all the rest of the recipes in the book are written for weighing your ingredients using a digital scale. If this freaks you out, let me assure you — it’s easy!
  • The book includes a nice section on “timing” your bread baking (making it work with your personal schedule); this is a helpful adaptation for me.

So. There you have it! I’m really excited to have this cookbook in my collection — and I’m glad to have finally gotten past my intimidation and tried this new-to-me technique. I’m on a bread baking tear for now — and there are so many more recipes I want to try.

Wondering what’s next, cookbook-wise?
I’m thinking . . . quick but tasty dinner options from Melissa Clark . . .

I’ll check back in a month, and let you know how it goes.

In the meantime . . . have you tried any good recipes lately?


Past cookbooks I’ve unpacked:

How to Cook Everything Vegetarian (Mark Bittman) – November 2022

Go-To Dinners (Ina Garten) – December 2022