Wednesday, February 24, 2010

No-Knead Bread

I must be the last person I know to (not) try her hand at no-knead bread. Even my sister, who is busier than six people, manages to keep a sourdough and use it to make no-knead loaves. I have no excuse. Better late than never, right?
It really is as easy as they say, although I think it takes a bit of experience to get exceptional results. For a first go I was very happy. My loaf had a nice crust; the interior had the right shine and a good tooth. It had a minor rising issue though, maybe because the dough was too wet, or I didn't let it proof long enough, or possibly because the recipe calls for instant yeast and I used the same amount of active dry and Andrew Whitley says that you need twice as much active dry as instant and twice as much fresh yeast as active dry. So there's something to try next time.
I'm also curious to try adding some vital wheat gluten flour. I read an article about making whole grain no-knead breads and the author suggested adding 1-2 tsp. vital wheat gluten per cup of flour, but I wonder if it wouldn't help a white loaf too.

No-Knead Bread

adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery

  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 1/4 tsp. instant yeast
  • 1 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
This is the recipe as it was emailed to me by Y., who knew J. in his Sullivan Street days. I thank them both.

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