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No Knead Bread a bit doughy

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I have made this bread 4 times so far and love the taste. We
make it in a 4 qt dutch oven. So far we have experienced
a rather doughy interior to the bread, no matter what kind of
flour we use,i.e. bread, whole wheat and bread flour combination.
The problem sometimes clears up as the bread ages.

I have measured the temperature of the bread when done with a
digital thermometer and found the interior to be 200 to 210
degrees. I am wondering if cutting some slits in the top of
the dough when it going in the oven would help with this.
Has anyone else experienced this problem?

lilbug

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  1. did you cut it before it had completely cooled? I made for the first time this weekend and was totally thrilled with the result, I made on Saturday but didn't even cut into the loaf until Sunday morning.
    I honestly did not check the interior temperature (I never do). We also inadvertently had an almost 4 hour "2nd rise" due to getting waylaid running errands - didn't hurt it a bit. With other methods I have had this totally deflate the rise, but this seemed to make more air bubbles and even crispier crust. mine also split at the top, looked just like a fancy artisan loaf when I popped it out of my LC oval oven.

    1. I always let the bread cool down completely before
      cutting into it.

      1. Yes, I have had the same problem. I have only made the bread twice. The first time, I made it exactly as per the directions. I found that perhaps my oven runs a little bit too hot as when I took the top off of the dutch oven, the crust was already beginning to burn. I only kept it in for about 10-15 minutes more. I concluded that my bread needed to cook at a lower temperature. For my second attempt, I thought I would try something different. I wanted to see how the bread would do as a regular, slicing type of loaf. I did the first rising by the book, but did the second rise in a loaf pan. No preheating of the pan or anything. I didn't want a crunchy crust for this one. I pre-heated the oven about 50 degrees cooler than the first attempt and put the loaf in. Again, I got some burning on the crust, but not so bad as the first time. I don't remember how long I ended up baking it, but it was definitely longer than the first time. Also, I reasoned that in a loaf, the bread might cook faster. The loaf also came out a bit doughy.

        I am not complaining though, as I live alone and just don't go through bread very fast. The wetter loaf seems to keep longer than a properly cooked one.

        4 Replies
        1. re: hilltowner

          Your experience sounds similar to mine. I find the crust well-browned by the time I take the lid off the Le Creuset, and the bread is usually flat. Last time, when I took it out of the oven it also had some tiny blisters all over the surface. I saw on Baking911.com (great site btw) that that could be the result of too-high heat.

          My next loaf is due to go into the oven this afternoon. This time I've reduced the water (maybe now I can get an actual seam instead of a blob), and will also cook the bread at slightly lower heat.

          1. re: Kagey

            I have not had this problem at all. My bread is not browned at all when I take the lid off. Admittedly, I am using a stainless steel pot because I don't have a cast iron one like the Le Creuset. But I am ending up with the doughy texture despite a baking time of nearly an hour total.

            1. re: Kagey

              This was also my experience on my first loaf (burning on the top.) I have since reduced the oven temperature to 425 (I think my oven runs a bit hotter than the temperature knob says, but my digital thermometer doesn't go high enough to check this) and I have cut the uncovered bake time to 10 minutes max, and my most recent loaf turned out just about perfect. I'm baking mine in a 6qt enameled dutch oven.

              1. re: Vexorg

                I too have had success by lowering the temperature to 425. When I baked at 450 I was getting crusts that were burned on the bottom, or doughy crumb if I tried reducing the bake time. Using a lower temperature seemed to fix the problem.

          2. Interesting that you say you tried it in loaf pans. I did too. I have
            some Lodge cast iron loaf pans. Split a batch of dough, baked covered
            with aluminum foil. Worked out ok, but still a little doughy even though
            there was less dough to bake. I have been cutting back on the water too.
            One and one half cups.

            1. I think the pot you are using is too small.

              9 Replies
              1. re: Felixnot

                That's what I was going to speculate. I'm using an 8qt. By the time mine is done it has risen well and generated a good deal of space between the crust and the sides of the pot so that it's hot air and not direct contact with hot metal that's doing the cooking. I think that's very important.

                I'm baking my bread on my gas BBQ (no oven). I did my first one in contact with a hot tile. The bottom crust burned but the bread, happily, was fine with the bottom crust cut off. When I elevated the pot to have an airspace beneath it, the bottom crust was much improved and I think that supports the idea that it's the hot air that crucial.

                1. re: rainey

                  I discovered that my Dutch oven has only a capacity of about 3 quarts,
                  so I guess I need to upgrade my cookware. Would a 5 Qt Lodge " Kitchen "
                  Dutch oven be large enough or should I figure on getting a 7 quart
                  version?

                  1. re: Lilbug

                    I've only used the 7 qt creuset pot. I use that pot a lot, of course I also use my 5 qt a lot too, but I think having a bigger pot will let the air circulate around it better.

                    1. re: Lilbug

                      I use the 5 qt Lodge and it works great. Going in the oven in 1 hr.

                      1. re: ibew292

                        Does your Lodge have a glass cover? I just saw one that did. I have been using my 5 qt le creuset (with excellent results,) but want to use a pot I'm less fussy about. Thought the Lodge would fit the bill, but the glass top (with plastic handle) makes me nervous.

                        1. re: mirage

                          I have an entirely cast iron Lodge pot I got from Amazon for 29.99 (and free shipping!). It works great for this bread, and I don't worry about the plastic handles and enamel of my Le creuset

                          1. re: DGresh

                            (slaps forehead) What a dope! Sometimes I wonder how I function! Anyway, I ordered my new Lodge pot! Thank you.

                            1. re: mirage

                              You will be happy with the results.

                      2. re: Lilbug

                        I've actually found no signifcant difference in loaf size or shape between baking in a 3qt and 6qt Dutch Oven (although I stick mostly to the 6qt now, since it's the one I've removed the plastic handles from.)

                  2. Anyone report back yet on the less water (1.5 cups) results?

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: HaagenDazs

                      I used 1.5 c. of water the second time and still had some doughiness, but not as bad as the first time w/ more water. The feel of the dough was just perfect though, so I hesitate to reduce further.

                      I have a strong urge to knead the dough a little before the second rise in the hopes that this would even out any air pockets, reduce gumminess, etc. I actually feel a little sad that there's no kneading because the dough feels so wonderful after the first rise. Anyone foresee problems besides the fact that I couldn't call it the no-knead bread anymore?

                      1. re: HaagenDazs

                        Yes, I've tried it now with 1.5 cups water and it was much, much more manageable. I actually did get a boule, with a much higher rise than my first. I baked in my 7.5 qt. Le Creuset at 450 F covered for 30 minutes and lid off for 20 more. By the time I took off the lid the loaf was golden but not overly brown and not wanting another loaf of doughy bread I let it bake for 20 more minutes. Still haven't cut into it yet, but my fingers are crossed.

                        1. re: skus

                          Interesting. I did my third loaf with less water and I'm going back to more. It's more easily handled with less water but gets better oven spring with more.

                          Don't be afraid of wet dough. You don't actually have to handle it much at all. Scrape your wet dough out onto a cloth that has flour thoroughly impregnated into it and a sprinkling on the surface. Sprinkle a small handful of flour on top or the dough. Draw up one side of the towel to make the first fold. Draw up the opposite side to make the second. Draw up one end and then the other. Now, working fast and gingerly with a little of the flour from sprinkling still on your hands, turn the mass onto one hand smooth side down. With both hands smooth the mass drawing any edges into the center of the seam side to create a round shape. This should take under 30 seconds — you're not looking for great geometry but a smooth skin on the mass. Plop it back down on the floured cloth with the seam side down. Cover with a second flour-impregnated towel. From this point on you only handle a towel.

                          I think having generous air space around the loaf in the pot is much more important to a fully cooked interior than the amount of water you begin with.

                        2. re: HaagenDazs

                          I have one about to go into the oven--I used the 1.5 cups this time. The dough was much more manageable, and I could actually form it into a ball (albeit a squidgy one).

                          As to my issue with heat, I'm very confused. I thought that I might have had the heat too high, since I was getting a lot of browning with the lid on. Figured maybe the bread cooked too much before it had a chance to spring. But now I've tested my oven with a thermometer, and it says that the oven is way cooler than I thought it was (I'd set to 230 C, and the thermometer doesn't even read 200). Now it's a cheap thermometer (I know, I know), but it's also not the best oven, so I don't know which to believe!

                        3. yes, im in themiddle of my first 18 hr rise right now. i made the recipe with the 1.5 cups water that Lahey states in the NYTimes video, NOT the paper article. we'll see.

                          1. I've made perhaps 8 loaves using this technique and am coming up against the same doughy crumb. When I allow the first rise to go beyond 12 hours I overproof the dough. Even when I pull it before that, the interior crumb is damp and the crust is tough. I am not getting the oven rise I would like.

                            I've tried cooler places and fooled with the times for the first rise - it hasn't seemed to make much difference.

                            I have changed yeasts, yeast amounts, did an overnight rise in the fridge after a 4 hour kitchen rise (66 degrees) - same result. I changed to Harvest King flour, and spring water instead of tap water, and cake yeast. That all helped, but not enough.

                            I would be most grateful for any suggestions.

                            Here's what I have been doing:

                            474 g. King Arthur Bread flour or half ap & bf
                            370 g. room temp spring water
                            1/4 tsp yeast
                            1 2/3 tsp. sea salt

                            Baking: 30 min. in a covered & preheated 6 qt. dutch oven at 450. Then 20 minutes uncoverd until internal loaf temp hits 208 degrees.

                            1. I've made this bread a lot and here are some of the things I've found:

                              1) though I originally thought that a very wet dough was key to this bread, i have changed my mind. I use 2 and 1/2 cups white, 1/4 cup WW and 1/4 rye and 1 and 1/2 cups water to get a dough that is sticky and tacky but not especially wet.

                              2) this drier dough results in a higher oven rise but with a good, chewy, holey interior.

                              3) (this and the next tip come from a friend who used to work at Jim Lahey's bakery)
                              during the first rise, fold the dough back onto itself a couple of times. this help to wake up and stretch the gluten, making for a chewier crumb.

                              4) bake the loaf longer, no matter what the thermometer says. I was taking my loaf out when it seemed done, but then the crust would soften and the interior was a little damp. My baker friend suggested leaving it in longer, 30 minutes uncovered as opposed to 20. this really made a difference.

                              don't know what's causing your overproofing problem, but from my experience overproofing definitely leads to a tough crumb. Why not just see what your natural cycle is for the first rise. even an 8 hour rise will give you good flavor and a nice loaf.

                              my friend also told me that you can use this same dough in any manner of ways. I've baked it in a loaf pan and as rolls. The loaf pan doesn't give you the same crust, but the bread is good, and if it's rise you're after, this would help.

                              1. From my baking, I'm convinced that adding whole wheat ( I do a bit less than a third) makes for a softer crumb but also a softer crust and it needs to bake a bit longer. Lower the temp if your loaf is scorching too soon.

                                I like the flavor that the whole wheat adds, but I far prefer the all white dough for the great open holed elastic texture. In any case I have not yet had a doughy loaf. I only felt one once when I cut open a hot loaf. But it went away when it cooled. So I think it is a problem of baking time, or else your vessel or oven is not hot enough. I mostly bake at 475F. I turn the oven down to 450 and bake longer only for the ones with whole wheat in them.

                                1. Thanks for your suggestions.

                                  The overproofing really confuses me. I have pulleed dough at 8 hours and still had a hard crust and moist crumb. I'll try your folding during the first rise suggestion.

                                  The crust seems tougher than it should be. How does that relate to the moist crumb? If I drop the temperature back, after say 10 minutes, could that help?

                                  I tried cutting the water back in my last loaf, it helped some, maybe I need to go even a little drier.

                                  If I leave the loaf in the oven much longer I am going to scorch it. At an internal temp. of 208 the crust is solid brown in color.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: RossB

                                    Ross, when I first made this bread I had a hard crust as well. Never have had the moist crumb prob. I changed the pot I used and that resulted in a very nice crust. I now use one of 2 pots---either a large corning casserole dish with glass lid or a new val do sol pot (3 quart) that I purchased at TJ Maxx for $10. This pot has given me the very best results. I've gotten a higher rise, no overbrowned bottom,great crust and crumb. Perhaps that would solve some of your prob.-try another pot. I do preheat my oven at 460 and then once the bread is in the oven turn down to 450. I've been baking for a total of 55- 60 min. and don't cut into it till it's cool. Hope this will help you. Good Luck and let us know how you do!

                                  2. I'm looking at some of the responses here, and I'm beginning to wonder if some of the temperature variations we're seeing here might be related to altitude? I've seen people (myself included) who have to turn down the temperature and cut back the uncovered bake time to keep from burning, and others who need to keep the temperature up and go for as much as 30 minutes of uncovered baking. I'm at just a bit above sea level, and get the best results at 425 for 40 minutes (10 minutes with the lid off) Where is everyone else, and what temperature and bake time are they using?

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Vexorg

                                      I'm right at sea level here in NYC. I think the variations are due to people's ovens and also people's taste. I bake mine longer until the bottom is almost black because to bake less means a slightly gummy interior and soft crust and I want the done interior and hard crust and don't mind a darkened bottom (lahey's bread, BTW, from the sullivan street bakery, is often baked until very dark). Others recoil from the idea of a darkened bottom. I've tried playing around with temps, but I think it might be due to my oven and the cast iron pot I use. Come to think of it, I bet the type of pot is most responsible for the time and temp variations.