Founded in 1994, Sullivan Street Bakery is renowned for its dark, crusty loaves that Jim Lahey discovered in Rome. He is the first to win a James Beard Award for outstanding baker for that scrumptious and easy concoction that prompted food writer Ruth Reichl to call the bakery “a church of bread.” Now Miamians need not just take her word for it—they can visit the new outpost of the celebrated bakery here in Miami at 5550 NE 4th Avenue. Or they can get a taste of the bakery on Saturday when Lahey hosts a demo and tasting in the kitchen’s outdoor cooking stage.
Lahey is following up the popular cookbook My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method with The Sullivan Street Bakery Cookbook. Coauthored with Maya Joseph, the new book is a clear, illustrated guide to making sourdough and applying this Italian-inspired method to his repertoire of pizzas, pastries, egg dishes, and café classics. Lahey shares recipes of fan favorites that the bakery has been serving up over the 23 years since it opened. “I hope to show that baking is a very personalized experience. There isn’t one formula. All roads lead to Rome,” Lahey says.
Here, he responds to some pressing questions from a few of his most ardent fans.
I just moved to Arizona. Do factors like water and altitude affect sourdough starter? —Tom B.
You can make sourdough anywhere in the world, but it’s about temperature and time. In tropics, keep the starter somewhere where it is cool, to keep its flora and pH in balance. In an Arizona summer, don’t start the starter unless your house is consistently below 68 degrees. Think of a wine cellar. That is the ideal temperature.
What is your maintenance routine like for your starter dough? —Ted K.
You can create a starter or buy one online—we may start to sell ours online. Make sure it stays very thick because it slows down the fermentation. Once it has started and gone through fermentation and gets acidic, you can refrigerate it for months. If it is acidic enough, the acidity will prevent other bacteria from forming. To refresh, take a small portion of the initial starter, reconstitute it, and start all over again.
Have you tried gluten-free. Would your recipes adapt for it? —Gail Y.
The point of gluten-free is no fermentation, so it’s kind of pointless.
Will no-knead bread work in a tagine if there is a hole at the top? —Beth L.
Cover the hole with a little piece of dough, wad of aluminum, or inverted ramekin.
Do you watch The Great British Bake Off? —Sara Jean D.
I’ve never seen it, but I met the judge, Paul Hollywood, when he came to New York City for a different show. He was a lot of fun. He is very cool.
No question. Just tell him that I love him. —Jeff L.