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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

No-knead Bread Fifth Attempt -- qualified success

Last Thursday, following my Fourth Attempt, which I'll call a qualified success (it had considerable sourdoughy character but was as heavy as a rock), I saved a 2-oz lump of the dough to try again. Based on my experience and that of others, I decided my dough was simply overproofed and overhandled. I'm a bit rough on the dough, and I don't think these slack doughs take particularly well to that. So I decided to make a less wet dough. I started with:

2 oz leftover from the fourth attempt
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour

and let it sit until it was bubbly, after which I added

3/4 cup water
1 1/2 cup King Arthur Bread Flour
1 1/4 cup King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour

That's a total of 4 cups flour and 1 1/2 cups water, for a dough that was still quite slack but not nearly as wet as the no-kneads I have made so far. A bit later, I realized I had forgotten the salt..., so I added

1 teaspoon salt

And I had to knead that in. I did the kneading with a silicon spatula in the tupperware "rising bowl".

I IMMEDIATELY put the dough in a sealed tupperware in the refrigerator and ignored it until Sunday evening. By the time I had time to think about it, it was 8pm. The dough looked somewhat risen and bubbly, with a slightly leather skin. When I tipped it, it slid a little, displaying the strings in all of its bubbles. I used a tea towel in a bowl as a bread form, gently pulled the leather top skin of the dough all the way around the ball of dough, and formed a kind of seam at the bottom, which I gently nestled in the oat-strewn, tea towel-lined bottom of my bread form bowl, and covered it with a damp tea towel. By 10:30, the ball had risen, though it hadn't quite doubled. But I had to bake this thing so I could get to bed. Following Jim Lahey's advice, I dumped the thing into the preheated casserole (500F), seam side up, covered the casserole, baked, covered for 20 minutes, then uncovered and baked for 30 minutes more at 425F. I used a thermometer to tell me when the center was 205F, at which time I took it out and went to bed. I didn't stay around to listen to it crackling. And I didn't take any pictures.

This loaf was a success. In the oven it rose up in the casserole, pulled away from the sides, and developed a nice rustic crust. Monday morning, I used it for sandwiches. It had a nice sourdough flavor and a crunchy, chewy crust. I thought the interior was a little on the damp side, though the crust had gone slightly past medium brown.

I recrisped the bread in a 350F oven for 15 minutes to serve with soup Monday night, after which it was pretty much gone. Monday night, I made a loaf of my standby bread with buttermilk for the rest of the week.

What went well:

  • The slightly drier dough was easier to handle and harder to deflate
  • The cold, stiff dough was also less delicate than a warmer, softer dough
  • I saved a piece of the fragrant but over-proofed dough for its sourdough organisms.
  • I did all of the first rising in the refrigerator
  • I didn't try to make fiddly little rolls out of it

What I want to do differently next time

  • Add the salt before the final addition of flour
  • Allow more time for the dough to warm up so it can rise before baking
  • Remember to turn the oven down to 425 as soon as the bread goes in

Did you notice the part where I saved 2 oz of dough to start the next batch? Neither did I. So I started over, substituting a spoonful of plain yogurt for part of 3/4 cup of water, and a couple spoonfuls of rye flour for part of 3/4 cup of whole wheat flour, and adding just a pinch of yeast. After that began to bubble, I added 3/4 cup each of water and flour and put the starter in the fridge to fool with later. Next time, I might feel bold enough to try rolls again


ejm said...

I have been fighting for several months to get slack dough bread that ISN'T too moist inside.

I haven't yet tried "no-knead" (being the cook who insists on kneading slack dough bread :-)), but my most recent loaves of slack dough bread worked out very very well.

I am a huge fan of a method that I learned about in Maggie Glezer's book "Artisan Baking Across America". She suggests the following 20 minutes after the dough is first mixed and kneaded (it is still really really rough at this point and pretty sloppy):

Scatter the tiniest bit of flour down and pour the dough onto it. Use a dough scraper to very very gently fold the dough in half. Lightly pat it to remove any excess flour. Fold it in half again and once more. Put it back in the rising bowl. Repeat that step twice at 20 minute intervals and then proceed as normally and let it rise to about double.

Shape it and let it rise to just double (not more). Preheat the oven to 450F. Turn the oven down IMMEDIATELY that you put the bread in the oven and bake at 400F for 15 minutes then turn it down to 375F when you turn the bread around to account for uneven oven heat. Keep baking until the internal temperature of the bread is around 210F (instant read meat thermometer works beautifully)


Family Nutritionist said...

Thanks for the tips. I was thinking of reducing the temp to 425F or even 400, but hadn't gotten that far (having forgotten, the last time, to reduce it at all). So I appreciate your experience.

This last time, I was forced to knead to mix in the salt I forgot to add with the flour. But I did it right in the mixing/proofing bowl, which is a flat Tupperware. I used a silicon spatula as if it were a bowl scraper, and I folded the dough in on itself several times.

Getting the dough to behave is all about adjusting your speed until the dough adjusts its response, isn't it?

So I'm going to try your preheat and baking temperatures, and bake until 210F instead of 205.

Have you ever done a side-by-side comparison of your slack dough kneaded vs non-kneaded?

ejm said...

I've never tried "not kneading". I just can't quite bring myself to try - even though so many people have raved about it. Enough other people have said that it doesn't really have any flavour the next day.

And I hear you that you absolutely don't want to knead. However, you might try this folding thing. Glezer mentions that it is perfect to develop the gluten, especially in dough that hasn't been developed enough. Sure, it's added steps but if you have a dough scraper, it's not very messy at all.


explanation of folding technique with photos

ejm said...

ooops! I forgot to say that I hope the different baking temperatures do the trick.


Family Nutritionist said...

Thanks for sharing your experience. I guess I am going to have to try the "knead vs no-knead" experiment myself. I always thought kneading had to do with texture, not with "flavor the next day", which is a mystery.

Maybe we can get McGee to explain this one to us!

I plan on baking the next one today or tomorrow, and I'll try your temps.

What A Card said...

Thanks so much for stopping by my blog and leaving those great links! I don't know how you found me...it was like you popped in out of nowhere just to be helpful :)

Anyway, I'm impressed with your bread making attempts. Making bread always kicks my tushie. It NEVER turns out for me. So I impressed with your perseverance!

Andy said...


I just wanted to say thanks for your advice on the no-knead bread over at my site. I am glad it is turning out well for you! I tried it again yesterday (the post should be up in the next week or so), and it turned out much better. I'll let you know how my trials continue. Thanks again!

Sven said...

Good Job! :)