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No-knead bread is VERY forgiving!

Hey Hounds,

Among all the chat elsewhere about Bittman's no-knead bread, there has been plenty of worry about using dried yeast, or instant yeast, proving or not proving etc etc.

I screwed up when prepping the dough yesterday morning. Using the commmonly available Fleischman's Active Dry yeast (the one in the little foil sachet), I completely forgot to mix the dry ingredients before adding the water. So I was worried.

Early this morning, the dough had risen beautifully, and was stringy and elastic.

I then screwed up further (hey, it's early morning, and there's a lot going on in our household at first light!). After taking the dough out and folding it, I completely forgot about the second rising, the extra two hours Bittman calls for.

Into the oven it went, snug in a le Creuset pot. Out it came half an hour ago. I was expecting a sorry looking lump. Instead, I got a beautiful loaf of bread, just as good as my first time. And it tastes fantastic - delicious crust, beautiful crumb and texture.

So it goes to show that chemistry, yeast and flour can do their work, even if the baker is, like me, clumsy and forgetful! So take heart, and go for it.

- Sean

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  1. You mean Lahey's bread ;-) Bittman is only the author of the article.

    1. That's good to know! I started my first one last night and now I realize that I didn't really mix the dry ingredients thoroughly before adding the water. First thing I did when I got up was to check on it, and it looks like it's doing fine as far as I can tell.

      I was surprised that my dough wasn't more loose and wet (batter-like) as others have described. I even added a little more than 1-5/8 c. water.

      It's challenging finding a warm place that's 70 deg. in the house right now, but maybe I should just turn on the heat. Can't wait to bake this baby up!

      4 Replies
      1. re: Carb Lover

        Not like we need another report on this bread, but I do have some questions.

        So I made my first loaf and I would say it was moderately successful. It bubbled up beautifully during the rise and had a nice, mildly yeasty aroma.

        Photo of dough after 18 hrs. The blue glass bowl makes it look like the surface of the moon or something:
        http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y45/...

        I let it rise for another 3 hrs. and then baked it at 450F in my 7.25 qt. Le Creuset til it was browned and 210F internal temp.

        Photo out of the oven:
        http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y45/...

        Sorry I don't have a photo of it sliced. Like I said, it was decent but there were some problems that I want to understand:

        1. The crust was crackly and crunchy but almost too hard and thick. My bread knife struggled to saw through. I added a little more than 1-5/8 c. water so might this have caused the hard crust or??

        2. The air pockets in the bread weren't that evenly distributed. Seemed to be denser on bottom and more airy on top. Explanation or improvements? As I mentioned above, I forgot to thoroughly blend the dry ingredients first, so I wonder if this had any effect.

        3. I noticed a couple little pockets of flour in the baked bread. Was this because I didn't mix well or??

        4. Ok, I didn't do the towel thing. Instead I let it rise in the same bowl w/ a towel covering the bowl. Is rising in the towel really that critical?

        Overall, as others have said, this bread is very worthwhile and pretty foolproof. Baking in the dutch oven is brilliant. I didn't find the actual flavor very compelling, so I'm going to explore variations like using my sourdough starter and adding other flavorings. Thanks for help w/ any of my questions.

        1. re: Carb Lover

          I made this bread once so far. And, it was my first time so I can only answer one of your questions. I also had the same flour pockets in the baked bread. Other helpful posters informed me it's because I didn't mix the batter well enough.

          My next batch will probably have rosemary in it.

          BTW, the moon picture is awesome.

          1. re: Carb Lover

            The distribution of the air pockets may have been due to the rising in the bowl. I think it's RLB's site that mentions that rising in the bowl prevent's the oxygen from being able to migrate out of the dough properly.

            1. re: TorontoJo

              Thanks for your help, beetlebug and TorontoJo. I'll make sure to mix the batter more and try the towel next time.

        2. Don't worry, the ambient temperature isn't critically important. Time seems to be the most important thing.

          Also, the dough isn't all that watery. 1 5/8 cups should be just fine.

          - Sean

          1. I, too, managed to (presumably) sabotage my bread the first time out:

            I put the dough together last Thursday night at 9:30, thinking I'd get back to it Friday right after work. No instant yeast so I used a rounded quarter teaspoon of active yeast that had been in the freezer (for over a year). I also didn't mix it up until the water was added.

            What I'd forgotten was that I planned to attend a going-away party after work on Friday evening, so I didn't get home again until 9:30---a full 24-hour rise. I thought the yeast might have died by then, but it looked pretty good. Maybe the little extra helped.

            I placed it in the refrigerator until about 10am on Saturday morning. Poured it out onto a floured towel, let it come to room temperature, shaped it a little, and let it get another rise (a bit under the specified 2 hours). It was pretty darned sticky. Cooked at 475 in a Le Creuset dutch oven for 30 minutes covered and another 15 uncovered.

            It came out beautifully. I'm thinking you could go through the first rise and keep it in the refrigerator for a few days and still have the same success. Maybe it'll develop a bit more flavor, as well, since it is a little bland.

            I made it a second time, better planned, with a 20-hour rise and only 1.5 cups of water. I think the crust was better on the loaf that used more water. I also used more salt the second time and thought that helped the flavor.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Mrs Fang

              Same thing happened to me, i ended up with well over 24hrs. The bread didn't end up being very tall, maybe like 1.5in max...but it still tasted good! I'm glad to hear I wasn't the only one to let this rise rather too long and that the bread still comes out more or less OK!

            2. I posted elsewhere that I made this bread the moment I got home (to my pathetic little Beijing oven) and that the outcome was outstanding. I had a little technical trouble getting the dough folded after the 18-hour rise, but despite it not being particularly pretty when the dough entered the oven it came out beautifully. Now the absence of crusty bread in Beijing shops is no longer a problem for me! Woohoo!!

              2 Replies
              1. re: James G

                The one thing that is very wrong with this bread is that when you want some it will be a looong time before you get it! Be sure to start some before you finish the loaf you're eating!

                1. re: James G

                  Congratulations, James G!

                  Great to think of a little newspaper article creating such a bright spot so far away.

                  - Sean