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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

No-Knead Bread Third Attempt

This time, I decided to try the "Artisan Bread in 5 minutes". The dough is not as wet, so it should be easier to handle. And I wanted to try their approach to creating a more sour dough. After all, it was lacto-fermentation that got me interested in the no-knead breads. What I really wanted was crusty sandwich rolls. And, since my last attempt at sandwich rolls was not exactly what I wanted (extra-dense mini-rolls), I decided to try a different recipe.

So, based on the Artisan Bread In 5 minutes recipe, I tried this:
3 cups lukewarm water
1 teaspoon granulated yeast
2 teaspoons table salt
4 cups whole-wheat flour
1 1/2 cups bread flour

I mixed the ingredients on a Tuesday morning, let the dough sit out all day in a loosely-covered Tupperware bowl, then refrigerated until Friday morning, when I let it warm up a bit.

Then I removed about half, which I then cut into 12 pieces, each just under 2.5 oz, and formed into little 5" loaves on a cornmeal-strewn cookie sheet that I intended to use as a peel, and let them rise for 2 hours.

Only, then didn't turn out looking much like the little loaves I expected. Instead of rising up, they spread out. They looked more like coccodrillo loaves. Only flatter. And, when it came time to slide them off the peel onto the baking stone, they wouldn't slide at all. So I put the entire cookie sheet on top of the baking stone, poured hot water in the brownie pan in the bottom of the oven, and baked them for 15 or 20 minutes, during which time they did not spring up....

They were even more stuck to the cookie sheet afterwards than they had been before. It was quite a job getting them off the cookie sheet. They did not crackle as they cooled. They were on the menu Saturday, when they disappeared quickly, as 2 rolls were required for every sandwich . That's 5 ounces of bread for every sandwich. Which is almost my entire RDA of grain, so it seems a bit inconvenient to eat it all in one meal. Especially after I've already eaten 2 slices of bread for breakfast.

Why don't my no-knead breads rise enough? Here are several possible reasons:

  1. Not enough gluten in my flour mixture -- Unlikely. I use 2/3 King Arthur White Whole Wheat (13.2% protein) and 1/3 King Arthur bread flour (12.8%)
  2. Gluten not well-enough developed. That goopy dough gets very stringy when I tip it. Doesn't that mean the gluten developed?
  3. The slack dough is too soft and fragile. Sounds likely
  4. I drive all the gas out while forming the loaf -- likely
  5. The yeast has used up its food source and doesn't give me much during the final rise
  6. The oven is too hot, preventing a good oven spring -- likely

I started with this comment from Alecto, who has taken to adding wheat gluten to Jim Lahy's no-knead recipe. But I wasn't paying attention. I read some comments at the Chocolate and Zucchini posting on no-knead bread, followed on to another discussion at chowhound, and looked up a lot of facts by searching for dough conditioners, rise, and oven spring. I found out:


  1. People have widely-varying ideas of how heavy to make a cup of flour and
  2. Some bakers like to use a dough enhancer like ascorbic acid
  3. Too little kneading gives a weak and sticky dough, while overworking gives a strong but inelastic dough (Dough and Bread Conditioners); ascorbic acid causes oxidation, leading to more disulfide bonds between gluten molecules (Chemistry and Technology of Cereals )
  4. Prevent sourdough from rising horizontally by kneading more, adding more flour, or adding ascorbic acid (baking911 bread problems)
  5. lauralmay's blog pointed me to a "clarified" recipe for the Jim Lahey bread, in which the water weighs about 80% what the flour weighs, instead of the nearly 95% I had figured. That means that Jim Lahey's one cup of all-purpose flour weighs about 140g, not the 125g given in the USDA database
  6. I figured out that I make a cup of flour a pretty consistent 5.3 oz -- 150g. So my really loose dough must be firmer than Jim Lahey intended.

I have a hard time beleiving I am using TOO MUCH flour. I can believe that I am not stirring enough to start the glutens developing.

Here's my plan for the next loaf (to be baked from the "Artisan Bread in 5 minutes" dough in my fridge)

  • Allow the dough to warm up before shaping it
  • Shape very gently
  • Try a loaf or boule, not rolls (too much handling!)
  • Bake at 425F
  • Slash the loaf

I haven't decided whether I'll bake in a casserole, on the stone, or in a bread pan in a large casserole.


6 comments:

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to give you some advice about these no-knead techniques, based on my experiences.

1. You can't make rolls easily, unless you want flat rolls (like you have discovered). This dough is just too wet to hold up by itself. Stick to making a boule or loaf in a pan or cast iron pot. Also, let the dough rise (the second time) in a bowl or pot (lined with a floured towel or parchment paper) so that it retains its shape.

2. Your flours have plenty of gluten. If you can see the strands after the first proofing, the gluten has formed just fine.

3. Are you using instant or active dry yeast? I have only had luck with instant. Your recipe, it would require about 1/2 teaspoon of instant yeast. When I used active yeast, the dough over-proofed too easily and then it wouldn't rise in the oven.

3. I always start mine in a 450F degree oven so I don't think your temp is too high.

You should shape it before it has warmed up. The problem with shaping after it has warmed is that you will most likely deflate any gas that has built up during the warming up stage. Here is what I would do: remove from the refrigerator, dump onto floured board, stretch it out and fold it in thirds. Let it sit for 15-20 minutes. Form into loaf or boule and let rise for at least 2 hours (maybe more depending on how cold it was coming out of the fridge). Don't let it overproof.

Good luck with your next loaf!

Family Nutritionist said...

Thanks for the advice. I use the big foil "brick" of Fleishmann's yeast I get at BJs. I keep it in the freezer and refill a glass jar in the fridge periodically. I've recently thrown away an empty bag. It works great for my bread machine recipes.

It is hard to beleive that this dough will hold the shape of the bowl it rose in, but I'll give that a try, too.

I'm down to overproofing and overhandling, I think. And maybe overheating. Something is preventing oven spring.

Anonymous said...

I think your problem is that you have reduced the yeast. The master recipe calls for 1.5 tablespoons instant yeast. You reduced that to a teaspoon. Also, the Artisan Bread in Five website states their cup of whole wheat flour weighs 4.5 ounces. Yours is 5.3 ounces so you really haven't reduced the flour all that much. Am guessing that if you convert your recipe to the baker's percentage formula, it will not add up.

If you are attempting to create sourdough using their method, you must include a viable, active sourdough starter to the formula.

Also, proof your dough on parchment paper, then you'll have no problems moving it to your baking stone. BTW, scaling your ingredients allows greater accuracy and results.


Good luck!

Family Nutritionist said...

I think I have enough yeast -- the initial proofing goes very quickly, and the dough tries to escape the bowl. What I worry about is over-proofing -- not getting the dough into the fridge fast enough, so the yeast eventually devours all the free sugars LONG BEFORE the final rising, and just can't get the dough up.

Strangely, though my cup of whole wheat flour is 5.3 ounces, I really do wind up with a very wet, sticky, hard-to-work-with dough. Maybe I'm getting extra water in every cup, too :)

As for sourdough, I am assuming that the bacteria naturally found in the unbleached flours will eventually assert themselves if the dough sits around long enough.

I learned my lesson about raising wet dough on a cornmeal-strewn peel of any type!

Matt said...

I've tried this kind of 'levain' recipe with commercial yeasts, and found that iot never ever works. The yeast activates very quickly, runs away happily for afew hours then 'runs out of steam' so that it looks good after the overnight prove, but when you knock it down and shape it it doesn't do the second prove at all well. I've been told that some commercial yeasts will cope with long proves, but most are designed to prove quickly and 'burn out' - hence the problems.

I now use a sourdough starter (using 1/4 to 1/2 cup starter per pound flour) and find this works brilliantly!

Celi said...

I have the Artisan Bread in 5 minutes book, and I LOVE it! I have made many of the recipes in the book, and I have found that for the whole wheat or mostly whole wheat recipes, the second rise just makes it flatten out. So instead, I form my loaf (free-form, on parchment) and bake in a hot oven and it turns out good. I think that if you made free-form rolls on parchment and bake them right away it would probably work the same way.