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How To… Make No-Knead Bread

May 16, 2012

Foreword: The History Of Me And Bread.

I hate squishy doughy poxy sliced bread. I love artisan bread. Poxy squish gives me migraines (Were my taste-buds trying to tell me something? Probably). It was a mystery– I could eat fresh bakery bread; I could eat cake (mmm, cake…) so it wasn’t the yeast and it wasn’t the flour– until I read an article and found out that there’s a preservative in squishy bread to stop it going mouldy in the bag. Perservatives are So Not My Friend. I could bore everyone to tears about The Things I Never Eat/Drink/Do in order to avoid most migraines, but I won’t. Suffice to say that natural is best. So for years I lived a relatively bread-free existence, and that was OK. But, as I said, I LOVE artisan bread. I don’t have the budget to buy fresh crusty bread, and once I spent all day (really) making three baguettes and they were delicious but, seriously, I have Stuff To Do, and also have mutant wrists, so too much kneading isn’t fun for me.

Introducing  Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Franscois

THEN I came across mention of a no-knead bread book that was said to be brilliant, so I got it. It’s about a method for making high-moisture bread dough that can keep in the fridge for up to 14 days and that you can cook a piece at a time. Most batches make three or four loaves. I usually do two, though, if I’m feeding my family or making bread for the freezer, as the loaves are then family-sized. The small loaves are really cute and are perfect for my sister and me to take on a road-trip or whatever. There are recipes for peasant loaves, flatbreads and pizzas, enriched doughs (desserts, pastries, bagels) as well as baguettes and ciabatta and things like that.

My only quibble with the book is that the contents page is way too vague. So, I made my own and pasted it in the front. (Yes, I am a nerd.) Each recipe (in my contents page) is listed with the page number and a brief note about what extra ingredients it needs, so I can see at a glance if I have the right stuff on hand. The first thing I tried was the Pain d’Epi, or Wheat-Stalk Bread, and I made it again today, taking photos so I could show how it can be done. One note, tho: this is a double-sized loaf, so it’s a bit munchy-looking, compared to the dainty specimen in the book.

 

luke-warm water, coarse salt, yeast, high-grade flour, cup measure and measuring spoons

First, place three cups of luke-warm water in a decent-sized bowl that will fit in your fridge. I use the serving bowl that I make my trifle in. Next, add a tablespoon of coarse salt and one-and-a-half tablespoons of yeast. The recipe says to use another half tablespoon of salt, but I found it too salty for my taste.

Give it a bit of a stir then add six and a half cups of high-grade flour. (If you only have all purpose flour, just add another half a cup.)  The flour needs to be measured in the ‘scoop and swipe’ way, like this, so that each cup contains flour at the right density:

  

Next, stir everything together with a spoon. It will look sticky and moist, like this:

 The next step is to put it aside for about two hours, covered with something that isn’t air-tight. I use a piece of tinfoil, like so:

After about two hours, the dough will have risen and flattened out. It’s best to put it in the fridge at this point to make the dough easier to work with. I was working to a deadline today, so the dough was in the fridge for about 50 minutes only, which wasn’t ideal. If you’re organised, overnight works well. When it’s time to get baking, get the bowl out of the fridge and dust the surface of the dough with flour and cut off and scoop out the desired amount of dough. I always make sure I have floury hands for this bit or it really doesn’t go well.

 

Then comes the tricky bit… The book says it like this: ‘Dust the piece with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go.’ Sounds easy…? My first try was entertaining, anyway. The key is to dunk your hands in flour, without introducing great lumps of flour that will sit inside your loaf and look ugly when you slice it. I can do the ball thing pretty well, now:

 

Then you use gravity and coax the ball into a long shape and place it on a sheet of baking paper that you’ve hopefully remembered to dust with flour. (Oops. It didn’t really matter) The book bangs on about pizza peels and uses wholemeal flour under the dough so it will slide off onto a pizza stone in the oven, but I like simplicity and I don’t have a pizza peel. I do have a pizza stone (now) but a lightly dusted sheet of baking paper on my chopping board slides onto a cookie tray in my oven perfectly.  Once the dough is on the baking paper, leave it sitting on the bench for half an hour.

 

Ten minutes in, it’s time to turn the oven on. First, place a cookie sheet (or a pizza stone) about at the half-way point in the oven, and put a heat-proof casserole dish or something on the next shelf down.

Turn the oven on to 230°C and wait until the half hour is up. (That’s 20 minutes of warming for the oven.)

Next, it’s time to do the wheat-stalkiness. That means dusting the top of the loaf with flour and cutting into the dough with scissors at a 45°angle and turning the pieces to alternate sides, like this:

 

As I said, this is a double-sized loaf, so it doesn’t quite look like a wheat-stalk, but whatever… slide the baking paper with the dough on it onto the cookie sheet or pizza stone, pour a cup of hot tap water into the casserole dish under the bread, and quickly shut the door.

The bread is ready in 20 or so minutes, or when it is deeply golden brown. (A large loaf takes a little longer)

 

 Don’t be tempted to eat it while it’s warm. Warm bread smells nice but is stodgy. When it’s cooled to room temperature, rip a bit off, slather on the butter and enjoy!!! This one vanished pretty quickly once the family got hold of it 🙂

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From → Baking, Book Review

One Comment
  1. Wow, this is an interesting post, thanks for sharing! =)

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