Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Throwdown::No-Knead Bread

The Cook's Illustrated No-Knead Bread on the left with some Whole-Wheat Flax loaves

As promised, here is the no-knead bread post. As I mentioned earlier, the no-knead trend has been gaining a lot of steam lately and has been credited with getting a lot of people over their fear of yeast. And frankly, the credit is earned. It really is quite easy and it really is quite good.

The bread is a pretty straight forward flour, water, salt, yeast french bready type deal. It has a nice crisp crust without being overly chewy, a soft, moist, open crumb and it just tastes good. Both recipes I made had a touch of sweetness to them because they are both all white flour breads. The first no-knead bread we tried was the Jim Lahey/Mark Bittman bread as published in the New York Times. We pitted that against the Cook's Illustrated "Almost No-Knead Bread" but I skipped their kneading stage, so we can call it a true Throwdown::No-Knead Bread.

Both breads use the same long fermentation technique. You mix up all the ingredients into a shaggy dough, cover it, and let it sit for 12-18 hours. Time it so you can wait the whole 18 hours, it makes a difference. The dough is then folded together (watch this video to get a sense of what the folding looks like - and a walk through of the whole process) a few time, left to rest, shaped, rested, and baked in a preheat dutch oven. The first have of baking is covered, so the moist dough in a closed environment creates it's own steam with contributes to the great crumb and crust.

The Lahey/Bittman bread is a straight up dough of flour, water, yeast, and salt. The Cook's Illustrated version gets tricky by adding a bit of lager and a touch of vinegar to get the yeast all excited. Neither one takes much hands on time. A few minutes to mix the ingredients, a minute to fold, another minute to shape. You have to remember to preheat the dutch oven. It needs to be screaming hot so the bread steams and doesn't stick.

At the end of the day, we decided we liked the Cook's Illustrated version better. The beer and vinegar just gave it a slightly more interesting dimension. Both were very enjoyable and I would make both again. In fact I know I will end up making them quite often. It is great dinner bread with soup, or as an appetizer with cheese etc. Very versatile and delicious.

Lahey/Bittman No-Knead Bread

Adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery
Time: About 1½ hours plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.

Nice crumb, but not as much rise as the Cook's Illustrated recipe

Cook's Illustrated Almost No-Knead Bread

3 cups (15 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus additional for dusting work surface
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water (7 ounces) at room temperature
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (3 ounces) mild-flavored lager (I used a Black Lager and it worked great - not exactly mild)
1 tablespoon white vinegar

Don't be afraid to bake it until the edges get pretty dark, pale, anemic looking bread is just sad

1. Whisk flour, yeast and salt in large bowl. Add water, beer and vinegar. Using rubber spatula, fold mixture, scraping up dry flour from bottom of bowl until shaggy ball forms. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 8 to 18 hours.

2. Lay 12- to 18-inch sheet of parchment paper inside 10-inch skillet and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface and knead 10 to 15 times. Shape dough into ball by pulling edges into middle. Transfer dough, seam-side down, to parchment-lined skillet and spray surface of dough with nonstick cooking spray. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until dough has doubled in size and does not readily spring back when poked with finger, about 2 hours. [Okay, this part I did totally different. After step one, dump the dough out onto a floured surface and fold several times the same way as with the Lahey/Bittman bread and transfer to a flour covered cloth (not terry cloth). You don't need the parchment paper, skillet, or cooking spray if you flour the cloth well.]

3. About 30 minutes before baking, adjust oven rack to lowest position (I left it in the middle), place 6- to 8-quart heavy-bottomed Dutch oven (with lid) on rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees. Lightly flour top of dough and, using razor blade or sharp knife, make one 6-inch long, 1/2-inch deep slit along top of dough. Carefully remove pot from oven and remove lid. Pick up dough by lifting parchment overhang and lower into pot (let any excess parchment hang over pot edge). [Since I didn't use the parchment paper, I just gently lifted the dough and dropped it into the pot - be careful, it's very hot!] Cover pot and place in oven. Reduce oven temperature to 425 degrees and bake covered for 30 minutes. Remove lid and continue to bake until loaf is deep brown and instant-read thermometer inserted into center registers 210 degrees, 20 to 30 minutes longer. Carefully remove bread from pot; transfer to wire rack and cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.

Beautiful, light, moist, open crumb and a thin crackly crust - a delightful bread all around
Submitted to YeastSpotting at Wild Yeast


Danielle said...

They look beautiful. So when you say "crumb" . . . well, can you just explain it Mr. Bread? I think I get it, but I'd love your definition.

Ethan said...

From a site I like - Crumb: When a baker talks about the crumb they are talking about the pattern of holes inside of a loaf.

Basically it's the bread inside the crust. So, for example, a ciabatta (or this no knead bread) has an open crumb because it has big holes (not dense).

Ruthie said...

some of your most beautiful yet, love. and (appropriately?) some of the yummiest, too.

Susan said...

I have not made the Cook's Illustrated version but I do like the look and sound of that loaf. You're so right that the no-knead phenomenon got a lot of people baking bread who otherwise wouldn't have -- what a great thing!

n.o.e said...

I love the throwdown! I've only made the No Knead bread once, but I do want to get back to it.

Anonymous said...

I have been meaning to try the no knead bread... these look fantastic!

Danielle said...

okay, thanks. these look chewy and delicious!

Deb said...

These look so good! I hope we get some of your famous bread if we come visit this summer.