No-Knead Bread

February 23, 2007 | 8 Comments

So far, we’ve been yapping away about flour, yeast and things related to bread-making. Now’s the time to get our hands dirty and create something edible.

How about something an six-year old can make? With one hand? Something that is impossible to mess up, and no matter what you do, produces results that you wouldn’t mind paying good money for in a European bakery?

No-knead bread is the buzz among foodies around the world since November 2006. That’s when Mark Bittman came out with the famous article in the NY Times about Jim Lahey’s creation at Sullivan Street Bakery. It’s been hailed as the best thing since sliced bread. See, it doesn’t even need to be sliced. Just break it off in big ole hunks and watch it disappear. Or carve it out into a magnificent bread bowl for soup.

You still don’t understand what the fuss is all about? Watch this video and tell us where you will find a recipe that says:

“Take some flour, water, salt and yeast, stir it around a couple of times, cover it and forget about it until the next day, put the gooey mess on a board, pretend to ‘shape’ it, but you’ll fail anyway ‘cos it’s so sticky. Leave it alone for a couple more hours, throw the gooey mess in a pot in a hot oven, and after 40 minutes, take it out, and admire your work” ????

That’s our kind of recipe, and even though we try and incorporate whole grains in our baking, this bread is best made white.

We call it ‘hole bread’ or ‘balloon bread’. The high water content in the dough and the steam generated during the baking process give it a crackling crisp crust, and a very airy, porous inside. It has an almost sour-doughy taste because of the long fermentation process. If white flour is substituted with whole wheat in this recipe, it adds flavour, but compromises the porosity of the crumb and makes for a much denser loaf.

From Martha Stewart to the army of bakers in the blosgophere, everyone’s tried it and has tweaked the original recipe depending on what type of container they used to bake it in.

Ours is from the guru. After 10 attempts at measuring, taking temperatures and trying out different containers, she finally was satisfied. Rose Levy Beranbaum is very particular about her breads, and we follow her version.

Baking it on a stone gives the bread the most holes, but the dough being so sticky, tends to spread out. She prefers a cast iron pot to give it some height and a great crust.

Since no-knead bread has become so popular, people have been frantic to get hold of large-capacity cast iron Dutch ovens of the enamelised, or the plain uncoated variety – basically a large pot that can take very high heat, and has enough room for the bread to expand while baking. It must be covered, to trap the steam.

We have neither. We used a large ordinary Corningware container and covered the mouth with foil. Inverting a baking sheet on it works too.

Other suggestions:
a large soup pot
a metal roasting pan
the inner container of a crock pot
a cake tin
or divide the dough and bake it as two loaves in loaf pans, with foil or inverted loaf pans to cover.

For smaller loaves, see Rose’s Baby Bread recipe.


RECIPE

No-knead Bread
(1.5 pound loaf)

(Original from Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Cafe)
adapted from here.

Ingredients
-Harvest King flour or half unbleached all-purpose half bread flour:
468 grams (about 3 cups)-room temperature water: 382 grams, 1-1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons/13 fluid ounces)
-instant yeast: 0.8 grams/1/4 teaspoon
-salt: 10 grams/1-2/3 teaspoons
-bran/semolina/cornmeal, coarsely ground oats for sprinking

Method
1. Put all the ingredeints into a large bowl, mix it around until they are blended (it will be quite wet), and keep the bowl in a warm place to rise for 12-18 hours – the longer the better.

If your house is cold, take a picnic cooler, keep a couple of bottles of hot water in it. Cover the dough well with plastic wrap, let the dough sit in the cooler next to (not touching the bottles).

2. After 18 hours, turn the dough on to a flat, well-floured board. Use a scraper to bring it together, flour the top, pat it, then use the scraper again to lift it and fold it over a couple times until you get a roundish shape. It does not have to be precise.

3. Take a coarse towel, sprinkle it with bran (or semolina or cornmeal). Lots of it. Put the dough on it, and cover it with a another towel or inverted bowl. Let it sit for another two hours.

4. Preheat the oven to 450F with the container you are going to bake the bread in.

5. Open the oven door, slide the shelf out a bit. Bring the dough over carefully, tilt the towel so that it rolls off the towel and onto your hand. Plop it into the hot container carefully without touching it. The bran side of the dough should be on top. It may look like a mess, but when it bakes, it wll puff up and take a balloon like shape.

6. Bake it in the container covered with foil or a baking sheet for 20 minutes, then uncover it and bake for another 15-20 minutes (Rose suggest taking it off the pot and putting it on a baking sheet for the second half, but we’ve burnt ourselves too many times to attempt it again.)

7. Take the hot container out carefully, set it on a rack for 5-10 minutes, take the bread out, and let it cool a bit more for the crust to set.

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8 Comments

  1. sandeepa says:

    Loved the Sambhar Bee, never knew Kerala style would be different so each of the four South states have “n” number of sambhars and all are different in taste ? Or how is it ?

    I know this is the Bread post but the Sambhar looked too good and the Bread looks equally pretty

    honestly, i haven’t figured out what’s so special about sambar, no matter where it’s prepared, it’s just glorified dal. i like plain simple dal. with bread, of course. – bee

    Beg to differ with Bee on this one. Sambar has some sweet ‘n sour quality to it. It has a confluence of aromas not matched by any dal by itself. –Jai

  2. Micki says:

    The picture of this bread is sooooooo gorgeous, and the suggestions are very helpful. Do you know if I can make this bread with sprouted flour? It’s just so much easier on my digestive system.

    Thanks much,
    - Micki

    start by replacing 10 to 15% of white flour with sprouted. – b.

  3. Aparna says:

    Bee,
    Took your suggestion and tried this bread. Its on the way to becoming a regular in our home. I substituted half the flour with whole wheat flour and am consistently getting a good bread. Thanks.
    You can find my no-knead bread post at http://mydiversekitchen.blogspot.com/2008/07/lauras-portuguese-sweet-bread-no-knead.html

  4. Bharti says:

    Hello!
    Saw this thru Aparna’s post on her blog. Made it today and it turned out beautiful!
    http://veggiefoodist.blogspot.com/2008/08/no-need-for-therapy.html
    Thanks for making me aware of this super easy recipe!

  5. Manasi says:

    Bee, I want to try this but I have a doubt, can I use just the regular APF? I do not have harvest king or bread flour .. what substitutions must I make?

    regular apf is fine.

  6. anonymous says:

    Hi,

    truly inspiring pictures.I came across your site when i was looking for this recipe.I don’t have cast iron dutch oven. Since you have mentioned that you baked in corning ware , can you please tell me whether 2 1/2 quart corning ware be used to bake this bread?

    Thanks

    yes. you can also use the ceramic container of a crockpot or slow cooker.

  7. [...] is the No-Knead Bread’s cookie counterpart with bloggers everywhere raving about how easy and delicious it [...]

  8. [...] interested in artisan breads has probably heard of – and tried – Jim Lahey’s legendary No Knead Bread. It’s a study in minimalism using just the basic ingredients – flour, water, yeast and salt – [...]



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