Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Adventures in Baking - No Knead Bread
Bread making has undoubted become my pass time of choice these days. I don't remember any other time in my life during which I've baked as consistently. I'm sure it has something to do with the weather we've been experiencing. This winter has proven to be a brutal one for New England. I don't remember the last time we've had to deal with this much snow - so much that we've run out of places to dump it. In any case, when it's bad outside, a freshly baked loaf of bread does wonders to lift the spirit.
I splurged a bit and got a few bread making supplies that I've been fancying for a while now. Among the purchases were a couple of brotforms, a Lodge combo cooker, a baker's couche and two dough scrapers. I was especially excited to try out the brotforms, which help to circulate air around the dough as it rises and imprints an interesting pattern on the finished boule.
This past weekend, I tried my hand at making the No Knead Bread recipe (yes, that one) made famous several years ago by the New York Times. I'd read the article when it was first published but will admit that I was never too keen on trying it. The bread snob inside me was skeptical that a formula that simple could produce something worth savoring. Boy was I wrong. Though it isn't the best bread I've ever eaten, the finished product is well worth the minor effort.
I did end up tweaking the recipe a bit. I replaced 50 gram of the bread flour for whole wheat and upped the water to 360 grams. Here is the tweaked recipe in full:
380g bread flour
50g whole wheat flour
360g water at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon of instant yeast (I use SAF)
1 1/4 teaspoon of salt
In a large bowl, mix all of the ingredients thoroughly with your hand. Coat a second bowl with a bit of oil and transfer the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise slowly for at least 12 hours. At a room temperature of 65 degrees F, I actually like to let the dough rise for closer to 14 hours (it definitely doesn't hurt and the dough is well ballooned by then).
At this point, I do 4 or 5 folds with the dough still in the bowl to shape it a bit. Then I turn it onto a lightly floured surface and do a series folds to tighten the dough's surface and form it into a ball. And unlike the official recipe, I lay the ball seam-side up in a floured brotform and increase the final resting time to 3 hours. (Note: rice flour works great to prevent the dough from sticking to the brotform.)
When it's time to bake, I preheat the oven and combo cooker for about 20 minutes at 500 degrees. The loaf is then carefully inverted onto the heated pan (seam side down) and a few slashes are made to the top. I then cover the loaf with the top pan and bake at 450 degrees for 30 minutes, after which the top comes off and the loaf bakes for another 15 to 20 minutes uncovered. When the bread comes out, it looks something like this:
The first loaf turned out very good.
The next loaf came out even better.
The best part of this bread is undoubtedly the crumb, which has an open structure and springy texture. The crust is crisp and a bit chewy when eaten fresh and toasted the next day. And most importantly, the flavor is very good. I am now officially a no knead bread convert.
On a final note, I think I'll continue to experiment with this bread. Stuffing the dough with lots of goodies just before the final rise sounds like a good place to start. Olives sound good....cubes of pepper jack cheese sound even better.