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Bittman's no-knead bread recipe?

Bittman's no-knead recipe is no longer available on the NY Times website without paying for it. You all have been writing such great things about it. Would someone mind posting it?


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  1. Sorry, but we don't allow the posting of copyrighted material on Chowhound.

    3 Replies
    1. re: The Chowhound Team

      Thank You for trying but I have found the recipe and now I can try it.


      1. re: The Chowhound Team

        OK, standard internet disclaimer: Not an intellectual property lawyer, or a physicist for that matter. Going by this, it appears recipes have no copyright protection whatever:

        - the salient statement is 11:13 minutes into the talk, and this:

        My sense of things is to take one example - a 'Cooks Illustrated' recipe for -whatever- has zero copyright protection, but Christopher Kimball's 'Letter From Vermont' does. Now, if it's Chowhound policy that 'we don't nick other people's recipes because that's not cool' well that's another issue. In this case Bittman's no-knead recipe has been on Youtube for some years now, so it's moot. Question stands though just what is Chowhound policy?

        1. re: The Chowhound Team

          And you think this is Mr. Bittman's recipe. He stole it from somebody else. Give me a break!

            1. Try Wendesday Chef. I had the same problem, so i asked some friendly chowhonders. They pointed me to the internet and the Wednesday Chef site.

                1. For a Word copy of this recipe, send an email to me at


                  1. There are probably 400 posts on this recipe on several threads on chowhound. If you read them all, you could probably write your own book on the subject. Father Kitchen's posts are especially helpful. If you read them, you can probably figure out the recipe and method(s).

                    1. The Lahey recipe is actually rather common sense. It combines three approaches to bread that deserve to be better known even apart from this recipe. The first is that it contains a lot of water relative to the flour--about 80%, give or take--and this "slack dough" is typical of many Italian-style breads that, when baked at a high heat, produce thin, crisp crusts. Secondly, the approach uses a long, slow fermentation to allow the sulpher dioxide bonds to form between gluten molecules. These bonds create the strands and webs of gluten in a crust. Normally, their formation is assisted by kneading. The long fermentation time also allows enzymes to unlock the full potential of the flour. (This approach works well when breads are not enriched with dairy products or raw honey. Raw honey contains enzymes that may wreak havoc in a long fermentation. The no-knead approach also seems to work less well with whole wheat flour, but still produces a decent bread.) Thw third element is baking the bread in an enclosed container which traps the steam and creates a moist atmosphere. It is the same effect as one gets in baking under a bread "cloche" or under a flower pot or in a closed traditional, retained-heat oven. Almost any kind of dough can be baked in an enclosed container. In this case the high temperature works well with a slack dough that does not contain added sugar. A sweetened bread would require lower temperatures because of its tendency to burn. Elizabeth David is of the opinion that a non-porous pot, since it holds all the moisture, may adversely affect the quality of the crust. If she is right, it explains why it is important to take that lid off and also why her suggestion of using unglazed terra cotta is worth following up on.
                      I just got a post from friends who baked their usual rosemary-olive oil bread in a covered Creuset pot. They prepared it with biga and then retarded it overnight in the fridge. After taking it out (they didn't say how long, but usually the books say to leave it out for about two hours), they baked it in the pot. The results were exceptionally good.
                      I only get into our monastery kitchen now and then. I plan to try this approach another time with 100% whole wheat flour, but I will knead the dough and then give it the long, slow fermentation. I've already found that unkneaded version makes a superb sourdough loaf with AP flour. I use 3 cups of flour and 1/4 cup of starter made at the same consistency as the dough.

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: Father Kitchen

                        Father Kitchen, I find all your explanations very interesting as well as helpful. Before Mr. Lahey's no knead recipe I had only made bread once, perhaps 30 years ago, and I am now making my fourth loaf in one week, with varying amounts of whole wheat, additons and so forth.
                        What I would really like to achieve is a sourdough loaf with a thicker, and crisper, crust. You mention making a superb sourdough loaf with AP flour and starter. Could you by any chance elaborate on that?
                        Thanks so much.

                        1. re: stonetta

                          Father Kitchen. I just discovered your Nov. 18 comment in the thread entitled "Bittman's No-Knead Bread...Wow!" about making a sourdough loaf. Sorry, it's just that there are so many threads about this bread!
                          In case you want to expound further, however, please feel free to do so :) I have so much to learn!

                        2. re: Father Kitchen

                          Father Kitchen: I tried the Lahey again yesterday; it was another semi-failure. Low rise but great crust. However, I want to discuss it in terms of yr post in which you say the water shd be about, by weight, 80% of the flour weight, because my calculations suggest that's far from the Lahey proportions.

                          Lahey/Bittman say:
                          3 C flour + 1-5/8 C (13 fl oz) water.
                          3 C flour = 21.3oz = 595 gm
                          13 floz water = 13.56 oz weight = 384.4 gm

                          So far, so good (I think!), but 80% of 595gm = 476gm!
                          The water weight (384) = 65%, a serious difference.

                          At 80% water by the above calculations I'd think the mix would be close to wallpaper paste. Obviously I'm missing something or mis-calculating, but I did weigh carefully, use a metric conversion guide and doublecheck but switching back and forth from Avoi. to metric on my electronic scale.

                          As for my 2d try: Dough not as wet/sticky this time, possibly because I just dug my Cup measure into the flour and excavated. First time I stirred the flour to break any clumps; that probably had a sifting effect, incorporating air. Dough looked fine at all stages, nice and bubbly. Was just barely able to 'fold' it--was more like flopping and slopping. I left 2d rise go 2 hrs + time to heat oven. Baked on stone under inverted steel bowl. I'd hoped to use a smaller bowl but the dough was still in lava-flow mode. Baked @ 450 throughout (in a previous post I said I'd forgot to reduce heat after uncovering--don't know where I got that idea; recipe says 450 period. Uncovered after 30 min, baked 30 min more and cooled. Remain perplexed. Comment, pls?

                          1. re: billmarsano

                            What if you baked in the bowl and covered it with the pizza stone? I've gone to a small pyrex casserole and am getting a great rise (it almost reaches the cover) but before had been using a pizza stone on bottom, covered by a stainless steel pot, and getting a decent but not great rise. While the oven is heating, I flip the dough over on a piece of parchment paper and put it on top of the stove to let it rise more w/ the heat. Then, I pop the parchment right into the hot casserole dish. So, you could try that, pop it into the bowl and cover w/ the pizza stone. It also gives it a nice boule shape. I've read others saying that a smaller container gives a bigger rise.

                            1. re: chowser

                              TKS. Might try something like that. I didn't want to risk my Iittala wonder pot--the magnificent one designed by Timo Sarpanava, which has just gone (expensiverly) back into production after a long and lamented time off the market. It's glazed inside and I just didn't know whether it was a good idea to put such a pot empty into an over to heat to 450--and then dump in a blob of dough that would be say 375 degrees cooler. Scary!

                              But for all Bittman/Lahey followers I have come up with another approach, which I will detail in a post at the end of this string. Check it out!

                            2. re: billmarsano

                              Bill, I think your scale is probably inaccurate, and it would be worth investing in a new one. 80% as much water as flour by weight will give you a very slack dough, though I got quite nice bread that way. If you are getting a thick paste, the scale is probably off. Rosa Levy Beranbaum, in testing the recipe, suggested you go for 75%, which is what I did the last time I baked it. If you are using a steel bowl and don't have to worry about plastic melting, go for 500. Reduce to 450 if, after you take the bowl off, you think the crust is going to burn. By the way, chowser's post looks great. You can bake bread in a bulb pot and cover it with the saucer. The main thing is that you have some way to contain the moisture and then release it.

                              1. re: Father Kitchen

                                Well, my scale works well enough to satisfy the Post Office. It read 1 lb when I put a 1 lb package of spaghetti on it and 5 lbs when I put a standard scale weight on it. So I doubt that the scale is at fault. Also, I did the artihmetic on 2 calculators, and they agreed. The 'weight of water' came off the web. But if you want to double check with your scale, my figures are:
                                1 C. unsifted flour weighs 7.1 or 7.2 oz so 3C weigh 21.5 oz or ca.595 gm. 80% of that figure = ca 480 gm.

                                Water weighs ca. 29.6 grams per ounce, so the 13 oz or 1-5/8th C) called for = ca .384 gms. (I'm saying 'ca.' here to stave off decimal points.) or only about 65% of the 595 gm weight of the flour. This leaves me with 96 grams of water less than the 80% weight (480). Those 96 grms = 3.25 fl oz. For an '80%' recipe the water would have to be 16oz (2 C) not 13 oz.

                                So something is passing strange here.

                                Anyway, I'm not going to worry overmuch about this, having arrived at my own solution. I followed the Bittman/Lahey recipe very closely but added one more C. flour (+ a little more salt and very little more yeast). That works out to water at a little less than 50% of flour weight. My two rises totaled 12 hrs at most and the result is a delight--great crust, very good crumb. I expect even better if I rise a little longer next time. I cut it short because it looked so ready to go.

                                1. re: billmarsano

                                  As long as your bread bakes, I wouldn't worry, but usually I figure 140 grams/cup of AP flour. At www.erikthered.com/flwm.html you can find a guy who has measured and weighed with and without tapping. A tapped cup by his standard weighs 142 grams. Yours weighs 198+. So something is passing strange here. I usually figure 140 grams to a cup when I don't have a scale handy. But eventually, I think one's sense of touch is the best guide.

                                  I just refreshed my sourdough starter and will bake a Lahey type loaf again with it. But I am going to try multiple folding of the dough.

                          2. My ears pricked up at your mention of "Italian-style breads". Can this technique be adapted for producing a pizza dough?

                            1. I've never tried a no-knead pizza dough. All the many fine crust recipes in Peter Reinhart's "American Pie" call for some degree of kneading. However, Suzanne Dunaway's book "No Need to Knead" contains a recipe for no-knead pizza dough. She uses 60% water to flour (by weight), an additional 10% or so of olive oil, about 1% yeast, and 4% salt. The Lahey recipe uses less yeast, and perhaps this recipe would work as well with half as much yeast and a longer initial fermentation. Dunaway's actual measurements are 1 teaspoon active dry yeast, 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water, 4 to 4 1/2 cups AP flour, 6 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt. She lets the dough rise covered with plastic wrap in a warm place until doubled in volume (about 1 hour) and then bags it in a freezer bag (lightly oil it first for easy release)and refrigerates over night or for up to 1 week. (I think I would fold it before bagging.) After taking the dough out and letting it reach room temperature, she divides the it into two pieces and presses each piece from the center outward into a 12 by 6 rectangle on an oiled baking sheet. I don't see why you could not do the same on a round pizza pan. There is no mention of a rising time for the shaped dough, but I should imagine you would let it rise for at least half an hour. Bake in a very hot oven (she gives 550!) for 7 to 10 minutes depending on the thickness and the topping. I should imagine the pressing of the dough as you shape it accomplishes some of the same functions as kneading. For those interested in no-knead breads, her book is a "must read." I discovered it when I wanted to bake some sourdough bread in a small kitchenette oven and had absolutely no counter space for kneading. I glanced at her book in a bookstore, tried baking no knead sourdough baguettes (I ended up having to fold the ends of the dough under as it oozed past the open ends of the pan), and got such good results that I went back and bought the book.
                              P.S. I weighed the six tablespoons of olive oil and got only two ounces instead of the three I expected. You may want to doublecheck my calculation.

                              1. I just checked the specific gravity of olive oil, which is listed as between 800 and 920. So the figure that I gave in the above post of 10% olive oil by baker's percentages for the Dunaway recipe should probably be revised upward a tad to 12.5%.

                                1. If you go to the chow topic "Bittman Responds" you can link to his follow-up on the bread which includes, under "Related Articles," I think, a link to Lahey's original recipe.

                                  1. Can somebody please provide details about how to fold the Lahey|Bittman dough? "Fold a couple of times" and "fold like an envelope" is a bit vague for such an important step.
                                    Pics would be lovely.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: driesie

                                      The article in the NYTimes had photos. One was of the dough folding. It looked like the dough took the shape of a deflated football when it was pour out on the work surface. The 2 ends were folded to the middle. That was all the folding that was done. That's what I did when tried the recipe.

                                      My mistake in baking the bread was that I used a cooking vessel that was much to large...5-qt. Vision Corning stock pot. A 3-qt. or 3 liter Corning vessel would have been sufficient. I would've liked a higher loaf than what resulted.

                                      1. re: driesie

                                        The most important thing about the entire process of making this bread is that there are no really difficult steps. Folding means doing the best you can to fold it in over on itself. There's nothing in the original recipe about "envelopes". Fold it in half once or twice is what you do. That's it. It's an important step, yes, but it doesn't need to be neat and perfect. You only need to end up with a seam. Don't worry about perfection or even neatness. The dough is pretty gloppy and it's not going to look neat.

                                      2. Finally sorted out the folding procedure: fold the dough in thirds.
                                        * Flatten the ball of dough slightly.
                                        * Wet the fingers of one hand to prevent the dough from sticking.
                                        * Pick up one third of the dough and fold it to the middle.
                                        * Pick up the remaining third on the opposite side and fold to the middle.
                                        * Repeat the procedure with the remaining two sides.
                                        * In this manner you fold the dough four times and end up with a single seam right in the middle.
                                        * The gasses in the dough will expand and crack the central seam slightly open instead of breaking through the top of the bread at all sorts of odd places.
                                        * I've also had problems with the dough sticking to the towel used by Lahey and recommended by Bittman so I've eliminated the towel completely. Those guys are expert bakers and I'm not.
                                        I simply pick up the folded dough and place it seam side down on a plate or flat dish dusted with a mix of flower and wheat bran and then sprinkle flower/bran on top. The dough is then covered with a towel.
                                        * After the second rise the dough is dumped straight from the plate|dish into a piping hot Pyrex bowl where it lands in the correct position: seam side up.
                                        * Wherever the dough clings a bit, I use wet fingers.
                                        In the meantime I'm playing around with the hydration percentage to get rid of the stickiness. Should get it right with the next batch.
                                        Any other suggestions about eliminating sticky dough?

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: driesie

                                          I have been using l l/2 cups water, which does make the dough a bit less sticky. Also use KING Arthur unbleached flour and that also helps. I think the dough needs to be somewhat sticky tho--that's why you get the great rise and wonderful crust.

                                          1. re: jackie de

                                            I'm also using 1 1\2 cups of water but flour differs way down south in Africa, maybe that's the problem. Whatever, I'm not yet willing to accept sticky dough: I've seen Lahey handling an almost perfectly round ball of risen dough and that's what I'm striving for.

                                        2. Ditto. Mine has been sticking like crazy. After bad reports about dough sticking to the towel, I decided to try waxed paper (major failure-- bread came out but was pretty ugly). I just tried greased wax paper and it was still basically a disaster in appearance, though I'm thinking it will bake up just fine. Maybe I should just try the towel as recommended. I used 400 g. unbleached bread flour, 68 g. ww flour and about 380 g. water (to compensate for the ww flour). For neither loaf has my dough had anything near an identifiable seam. Do you think I just need to cut back the water? Or are people incorporating some flour during the folding? I love the flavor of this bread but would like to make it look a bit nicer.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: Procrastibaker

                                            If you don't already have a silpat mat, this would be a great to invest in one (for the second rise.) The dough comes right off with the help of a silicone spatula. My dough is quite wet I use 1\2 whole wheat. and spreads out over the mat during the second rise. I just form a roundish lump before I put it into the heated pot.I The bread is gorgeous but not picture perfect. After 10 loves,I have stopped measuring the water and go by feel.I think you should cut back the water a little.

                                            1. re: Procrastibaker

                                              I only have terry type towels, which seem to make the dough stick much more than smooth cotton towels. As a substitute, I used pieces of an old sheet. I folded each piece a couple of times and had very little to no sticking. I was also able to transfer the dough to the bowl easily as I could actually lay the sheet in the bowl and do an easy flip without worrying about burning/melting etc.

                                              1. re: Procrastibaker

                                                My Mom told me (by phone) that she just leaves it in the original bowl after the "fold" and bakes it as usual. I haven't seen the results, but she is very satisfied with her experimenting.

                                              2. I will reduce the 1 1\2 cups of water roughly tablespoon by tablespoon in my next couple of batches.
                                                I get a perfect centre seam with my described folding method and the dough handles fairly well with wet fingers.
                                                Test before you start folding: push the dough gently with a finger: the dent must spring back. If the finger penetrates cover the dough again and let it rise some more.

                                                1. Dear Stonetta--
                                                  Can't help asking if that is Stonetta as in Stonetta Dairy. Gee, I miss the Bay Area. If you are there, look for Giusto's flour. It is milled to the trade in South San Francisco, but is available retail in bulk from the Food Mill in Oakland and, as I recall on the web. It makes wonderful sourdough bread. I mention this only because the water to flour proportion can change with the flour you use. And when the batch is as small as the Lahey loaf, even half an ounce of water can make a difference. So it is helpful to experiment. Generally speaking, here's what I would keep in mind for a sourdough Lahey loaf.

                                                  1. Use a good sourdough starter that is not based on baker's yeast. The San Francisco type starter is excellent and you can get it at Trader Joe's or Andronico's or many other good food markets. Or make one yourself following the directions in Maggie Glezer's books or any other classic bread making book. (My starter is from Russian California by way of Kodiak Alaska, and I keep it mainly because it is so good. But when I lived in Berkeley, I had no trouble making a very good starter from scratch using whole wheat flour and water.)

                                                  2. The secret to a successful sourdough bread is to leaven your dough with a culture that is young and vigorous. If the culture is too acid, the micro organisms will be out of balance. And the excessive acidity will notably weaken gluten structure. If your culture is separating into "Egyptian beer" and mud, it will need several refreshments before you use it. Because I don't bake sourdough more often than once every two weeks, I refresh my culture three times before using it. The classic test is that a culture of stiff levain (about 60% as much water by weight as flour) will quadruple in volume in less than eight hours at room temperature. When mine is really vigorous, it will do it in four.

                                                  2. You don't need to refresh large quantities of culture. But accurate measurement helps when dealing with small quantities, so I always use an electronic scale.

                                                  3. Though I generally keep my culture as a stiff dough, for this type of bread, a batter culture is easier to handle. So for my last refreshment, I make the culture with the same proportions of flour to water as I will use in the loaf. It will be 75% to 80% as much water as flour by weight for white flour and maybe 5 points more for whole wheat.

                                                  4. You can use AP or bread flour. Softer wheat has fuller flavor and I usually use AP. But some authors recommend using bread flour as the gluten is a bit weaker in a sour loaf than in a yeasted loaf, so the extra protein would be a plus. I haven't tried bread flour in a sourdough Lahey loaf.

                                                  5. For a typical San Francisco culture, 81 degrees F. is the temperature at which the bacteria and yeast reproduce at an equal rate. Above that, you will get more bacteria (and a more sour flavor, but with less rise). Below that, the flavor will be milder. I like a mild sourdough and prefer to ferment even kneaded loaves at kitchen room temperature, which is usually around 76. I have done it at 60 and like the results. If you want more tang, the best bet is to do the bulk fermentation of the dough at the lower temperature. Then finish it off after shaping it in a warmer environment, say 85-90. But for real tang, go for sourdough rye.

                                                  6. For the Lahey recipe, I add 1/4 cup of the fresh batter starter (75 or 80% hydration)to the amount of water (7 or 7 1/2 ounces depending on the flour I will use) and mix it to dissove it. Then I add these to 15 ounces of flour, mix to combine all the flour, and let them autolyse for 20 minutes to an hour. (If I am using home-milled whole-wheat flour, I prefer to remove some of the bran by bolting or sieving it, and I add 2 tablespoonsful of rye flour to improve enzyme activity.)

                                                  7. After the autolyse, I stir in the salt. I go for 2.2% by weight. Since there is about an ounce of flour in the 1/4 cup of starter, I want 2.2% of 16 ounces, or .352 ounces of salt. I round that to 1/3 ounce. In practice, I know it works out to 1 1/2 teaspoons plus a smidgen of fine sea salt. Some bakers are using more. The old classic measure was 1.8%. (Or use clean ocean water for both the water and the salt!) I could probably put in the salt right after adding the water and yeast. I've never tried it that way. My theory is that I would prefer to let the yeast reproduce before hitting it with salt.

                                                  8. Allow it to bulk ferment. I go for closer to 18 hours. It should be kept in mind that the long fermentation time serves two purposes here. First of all, it allows disulphide bonds to link the gluten strands without the benefit of kneading. Secondly, it gives enzymes time to do their thing and unlock the flavor and physical potential of the wheat. We start with very little culture or yeast because we do not want the leavening organisms to exhaust the nutrients in the flour before the dough is ready to bake. The cool temperature also helps to slow micro-organism growth. If your kitchen is warm, so that the yeast and bacteria outstrip their food supply, you can cut back on the amount of starter to use. I've seen some recipes that lead me to wonder if this may work with even as little as 1 tablespoonful of starter! (But I haven't tried that--yet.)

                                                  9. Handle any sourdough gently. In folding, don't try to flatten it. Folding will expel a lot of the gas even if you do it gently. I use a bench knife (dough scraper) to lift the dough and lay it over when I fold it.

                                                  10. When you shape the loaf and leave it to rise in a towel, you can use flour. But I find cornmeal works better with this wet dough. Cornmeal doesn't become sticky if it absorbs water. Sometimes a wet dough will activate the gluten in flour on the towel and then the mass sticks to the cloth.

                                                  11. If you can, bake it at close to 500 but be sure to take the lid off after 15 or 20 minutes. Bake until the internal temp is about 210. You should get a rich reddish-brown color on the crust.

                                                  That's where I stand now. I haven't been able to find bulb pots to experiment with using them as baking containers. They aren't available here at this time of year. But I will be visiting Arizona in a few weeks and will pick up some then. I think they will probably work better than those heavy pots.

                                                  So at this point you know as much about this as I do. Good luck.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: Father Kitchen

                                                    10. When you shape the loaf and leave it to rise in a towel, you can use flour. But I find cornmeal works better with this wet dough. Cornmeal doesn't become sticky if it absorbs water. Sometimes a wet dough will activate the gluten in flour on the towel and then the mass sticks to the cloth.
                                                    Thank you for this comment, Father Kitchen: it could be a major element in finding the solution to the sticky dough problem.

                                                  2. Ouch! My apologies to everyone. I have an egregious error in point #6. The amount of water should be between 10 1/2 and 11 1/4 ounces for fifteen ounces of flour.

                                                    1. Father Kitchen, I just found your reply and I thank you soooo much for going into such detail. I will print it, study it, and look into the books you mention. My brother has a much more scientific mind than I do, so I will forward the information to him, let him do all the testing (since he wants sourdough as well) and then I'll wait for him to tell me "OK, this is what you do"!
                                                      I'm not related to the dairy company - Stonetta is a name I came up with after finding so many user names already taken when I signed up for Blogger. Since I did not want to go through the same thing with Chowhound, I just went straight for Stonetta, which sounds a bit Italian, like me. My real name is Anna Maria.
                                                      Thanks again, I truly appreciate your reply.

                                                      1. Hmm, I think it's StoRnetta Dairy. They're still around. Clover Stornetta.

                                                        1. Of course, it's Stornetta. I was fusing it with Mamma Pometta at Oakville Crossroads.

                                                          1. Reduced the 1 1\2 cups of water by a tablespoon, which resulted in a much stickier blob of dough. It stuck to my fingers like mad and scraping it all off was impracticable.
                                                            Tipped the dough out after the first rise on a kitchen top sprinkled with corn meal (it's called maize meal in South Africa) and folded it. It didn't stick to the kitchen top or my fingers at all.
                                                            Just finished off half a loaf, every slice thickly spread with butter: it was perfect.
                                                            We will be off on another bundu safari next week and will enjoy fresh bread around the campfire every evening. I will mix a batch early every morning and keep it in a rectangular ice cream container wrapped in sleeping bag while we're traveling.
                                                            It will be baked on the evening coals in my trusty old flat-bottomed cast iron pot, complete with a couple of coals on the lid.
                                                            Thanks again for your posts, Father Kitchen.
                                                            Note: please ignore my earlier wet finger-recommendation: it helps but is not needed once you've sorted out the correct amount of water.

                                                            1. Dear Driesie,
                                                              Thanks for your tip. I just mixed a batch of sourdough bread using your proportions.
                                                              By the way, what's a bundu safari?
                                                              I visited Johannesburg about fifteen years ago and was fascinated by the cook books for those cast iron pots. I can't remember the Afrikaans word for them.

                                                              3 Replies
                                                              1. re: Father Kitchen

                                                                Bundu means wild and open space and I consider Lahey's recipe as ideal for home and bundu baking. It easy to do, tasty and forgiving: you can't make a mistake: even Bittman got away by recommending 1 5\8 cups of water.
                                                                I consider all rising times as general guidelines: I've varied the first rise from 15 to 18 hours and the second from half an hour to 3 and 5 hours and they all worked: simply pick the result you, your flour and surrounding temperature likes best and stay with it.
                                                                The top element of my stove conked out yesterday: I carried on baking and it worked (the crust didn't achieve the shade of brown I prefer, but it was still
                                                                chewy and the taste and flavour remained great).
                                                                I've even interrupted the second rise by placing the dough in the fridge overnight and baking the next day. I liked the result and will experiment further: if it works consistently an ever-ready stash of fridge dough will be heaven.
                                                                The bread also keeps well: simply give it short blast in a microwave when it gets a bit too dry.
                                                                Cast iron pots are also called Dutch ovens and were used by pioneers all over the world. It is still being used daily by blacks living in rural areas to cook a staple food called putu (a stiff and healthy maize meal porridge similar too polenta and grits), often slathered with lovely sauces containing all sorts of veggies (wild and market-bought), spices and bits of meat.
                                                                The locals prefer the round cast iron version, which has three legs in order to lift it above the coals for slow cooking. It is also used for superb open fire stews (potjiekos).
                                                                The potbelly version (potjie) is not so popular on the road (or off-road bundu tracks) because it takes up too much storage space.
                                                                Le Creuset makes a modern flat-bottomed version, which works just as well. I'm sure you know all about them but a good overview can be read here:
                                                                The Lahey recipe should work just as well for backpackers. Consider the lightweight ingredients: flour, a packet of dry yeast, salt and water, which can all be mixed in less than two minutes in any container. Cover the wet dough and bake on evening or morning coals in any lightweight metal container which can be covered by a lid or foil.
                                                                I will do some extra experiments during my next bundu trip, which starts tomorrow:
                                                                * Scraping a few coals away and baking Lahey dough wrapped in aluminum foil in a slight hollow in the hot sand or earth. A few ashy (not so hot) coals will be placed on top during the browning phase.
                                                                * Lahey dough baked in a varkpan.
                                                                I don't know what American soldiers and backpackers call a varkpan. It consists of two rectangular aluminum containers, one fitting into the other, each with fold-up handles. You cook, warm or fry in one and eat, drink, wash and shave from the other.
                                                                * I think the dough should work with artificial coals and a Weber (Webber?) oven too.
                                                                I lived in Washington DC for a year or so. You will probably find Johannesburg not as nice as you remember it. Too rapid urbanization and crime seems to be wreaking havoc all over the world.

                                                                1. re: driesie

                                                                  I hope to try the bittman recipe again over the next couple of weeks with some variations, and will report to you all, disasters included. My bittman was a semi-success. Dough like lava--IMPOSSIBLE to fold. Looked great in the bowl, bubbly surface and all, but wouldn't let go of the bowl. Went the full length on both rises, baked on stone under a big mixing bowl--probably too big per one of the above posts. Plan to increase flour-to-water proportion. May even try a wet towel instead of a bowl.

                                                                  Great thing about terry cloth--no baker makes that mistake twice!

                                                                  1. re: billmarsano

                                                                    My last post from an area which has internet coverage:
                                                                    * Hold your horses: why use a towel at all, wet or dry, terry or not? Is it because a towel provides a layer of air all around the dough during the second rise? Or is it because the towel allows you to dust the bottom and top of of the dough with stuff like wheat bran? Or is it used to protect the second rise dough from draughts and sudden temperature drops?
                                                                    If you dump first rise Lahey dough straight into another container and cover the top with a towel all sides except the bottom are exposed to the air within the container. You can even dust the container with wheat bran or whatever else you prefer.
                                                                    I haven't experienced problems with this method. Am I missing something?
                                                                    Can the experts please explain why a towel is needed at all?
                                                                    * The bubbly first rise dough is very stringy and the strings will cling to the bowl. Just tilt the bowl at an angle of about 45 degrees and gently work all clinging strands loose with your fingers until the dough plops out of the bowl.
                                                                    * See to it that it lands on a surface dusted with corn meal, not bread flour or anything else. Pat the blob slightly flat and fold.
                                                                    * If bits of dough should cling to the dusted work surface loosen it with a plastic spatula or even wet fingers -- after sorting out the amount of water needed by the locally available bread flour I no longer use either.
                                                                    * Dough with a thick lava consistency sounds about right to me: maybe you should just adjust your tipping technique and be a bit more patient while doing it.

                                                              2. Bill Marsano's Revolutionary No-Knead Bread Recipe!!

                                                                I've been reading and digesting all these posts and, despite what looks like good advice from people who know their stuff, I decided to go my own way, just to get it out of my system. Sometimes I insist on learning the hard way. And sometimes it unexpectedly pays off, as follows.

                                                                Although the commonest thread in thisthread was "must maintain the water-flour ration posited by Bittman/Lahey" I went ahead with my earlier idea of avoiding my peroblems: dough that was supersticky and refusing to hold any kind of shape not imposed by gravity. so I added lots more flour--1 C, which is 1/3 more than the orig recipe. Also increased salt in proportion but yeast just a wee bit. My approach being this: let the long rise do the work w/o help from high water content.

                                                                I hurled the dry stuff into a bowl and stirred the water in w/a spatula--the work of a minute. Stuff looked exactly like the B/L original. Covered and set to rise.

                                                                After 6 or 8 hrs had a beautiful rise all bubbly on top, just as B/L require. Not wanting to rush things I waited another 2 hrs (sorry for not taking notes--I was Xmas fatigued). finally at 8 or 10 hrs I concluded that I mus do something and commence 2d rise. I turned the stuff out onto a well-floured countertop. Stuff exited the bowl readily if not with alacrity and despatch. Certainly with ease, helped by a loosening spatula. V. little left behind on sides of bowl, none stuck to spatula. I floured the counter and top generousy (I put a lot on figuring that what isn't needed will fall off, and that's what happened) and began shaping. Not kneading--I just spent a minute or less 'balling' the blob. It made a nice ball and more or less held it or something like it. The main appeal for me was that it didn't immediately flatten into a sheet and begin flowing downhill to threaten Hawaiian villages. Again, this was just a minute's work. Oiled bowl lightly. Oiled hands and rolled blob in them. Dumped into bowl, covered it, set it aside. Note: the two shaping sessions took less time by far than it took to get the dough out of the bowl the first time. And I mean shapng--no kneading action used.

                                                                FYI, I had cut the first rise short because I feared the dough would rise to the point of collapse, which I gather is not a good thing. I held the second rise to about two hours (plus oven-warming time) because it look really fine and ready, and, at 2 AMish, I was damned weary. Dumped blob on stone, covered w/same big steel salad bowl used earlier, prayed. 30 min later, uncovered--prognosis good. Half hour later (heat 450 throughout) took the thing out.

                                                                It's a triumph, I think. A nice big round healthy boule shape, lovely crust, beautiful color, good crumb w/nice irregular holes, great taste--all in many hours less than B/L with much less mess and stickiness.

                                                                Maybe it's just dumb luck, not to be repeated, but if you want to try my way, I used 4C flour (King Arthur white) to 13 fl oz water, a little more salt and yeast. If you want to weigh: My postal scale said the King Arthur (unstirred,unsifted) was 7.1 to 7.2 oz per cup. If you go to http://www.fourmilab.ch/hackdiet/www/...
                                                                you'll find a metric conversion guide that will do the grams for flour and also tell you the weight of water per fluid oz.

                                                                Good luck all!

                                                                1. Dear Bill, Your posts are always interesting. Thanks for the input. I think some of the stickiness may be due to the flour. You may want to look at www.theartisan.net/flour_test.htm to see how they rate some commercially-available flours. King Arthur AP works out somewhat sticky in their recipe. I wonder, however, if your postal scale is innacurate. If the unstirred, unsifted flour weighed 7 ounces per cup, your total amount of flour would have been 28 ounces. If you add 13 ounces of water, you end up with a hydration by baker's percentages of 46.7%, which ought to be a stiff paste, if you could coax it to come together. I doubt that you could have even kneaded it. Since I screwed up ingredients in one of my posts, I am comforted by your mistake. But I am curious about your actual proportions.

                                                                  I was reading Jeff Hamelman on sourdough. Most sourdough recipes I know suggest that you not degas the bread, since sourdough is a bit tender. He has you do it several times in the bulk fermentation, because folding the dough builds strength. So I suspect that this Lahey recipe may in fact work quite well if it were folded several times in the process.

                                                                  I'm still waiting for my new Country Living flour mill--I actually got what was on my Chowhound Christmas wish list. I suspect it will arrive while I am away in Tucson for a family visit next week. But I want to try your approach with whole grain flours.

                                                                  I think the bottom line in all of this is that there is no one "right" way that covers every case. Some procedures may be fairly interchangeable. Others may work better with one flour or another.

                                                                  One little heretical practice I have often followed is to let loaves rise in large Chinese plastic rice bowls. I round the boule and put them into a lightly Pammed bowl bottom side down. (The joins on the underside seal better that way.) (Works even better if you then flour the oiled bowl.) When it is ready to bake, I put the boule into my hand and onto a peel, slash the boule, and put it on a preheated cloche plate. My loaves, which I have shaped by rolling with light pressure on a tacky surface, actually stand up so that the loaf rounds upwards a bit. So far, I can't really see that rising the loaf in floured basket or towel is any advantage. But perhaps in some climates it might be. But I prepared them in hot, humid Guam this way and baked them in the wood fired oven at Gef Pa'go, with excellent results. So my attitude is to encourage people to try to find out what works for them. Perhaps with a different flour I would have had different results. The Guam loaves were Gold Medal flour for the levain and Hawaiian brand flour for the final dough. And they were delicious.

                                                                  By the way, the last time I baked the Lahey recipe as a sourdough, I also made it with 4 cups--20 ounces--of flour (Pillsbury patent flour this time--slightly higher protein than AP), 2 teaspoons of fine sea salt, and 15 ounces of water, and 1/4 cup of a batter starter. I was amazed at how good it was.

                                                                  1. Since this seems to be among the more active of the Bittman bread discussions...some technical questions:

                                                                    1. It calls for rapid rise (or instant) yeast. What's the diff between this and "active" yeast? What would happen if I were to use active yeast?

                                                                    2. I've experimented with a small amount of whole wheat flower with great results -- 1/2 cup out of the three cups. If I want to crank up the amount of whole wheat, to half or three quarters, would it make sense to add more yeast? Anyone try anything like this?

                                                                    Have made this five times now to astonishing results, kudos all around, and numerous demands for the recipe. Hard to explain carrying bowls of rising dough around with me from place to place, but well worth the effort, and lots easier than kneading!

                                                                    1. The different yeasts are processed differently and have different granular size. Active dry yeast should be hydrated by wetting out in a couple of tablespoons of water--not cold, which can kill it--before adding to the flour. Normally, you use about 20% more of it. You would not increase the yeast if you increase the amount of whole wheat flour. It would rise much more rapidly and exhaust itself sooner. The flavor would suffer and so would gluten formation. If you use a lot of whole wheat, I suggest you use a stronger white flour--a good bread flour, or even add some vital wheat gluten. But the recipe also works with 100% whole wheat. However, whole wheat absorbs more water than white flour. So you should increase the water. I got good results with 15 ounces of whole wheat and 13.5 ounces of water. But the towel absorbed some water, so next time I will decrease the water to 12.5 ounces.

                                                                      1. For my two favorite loaves so far I have used:

                                                                        a) 1 1/2 cup AP King Arthur and 1 1/2 to 1 5/8 cup King Arthur Whole Wheat, with 1/4 tsp Active Dry yeast, 1 1/2 cups water, 2 full tsps. salt.

                                                                        b) 1 1/2 cup AP, 1 c. Whole Wheat, 1/2 cup rye flour, 1/4 tsp Active Dry Yeast, 1 5/8 to 1 6/8 cups water, 2 full tsp. salt.

                                                                        In both cases I have found that an 18 hr. first rise and a 3 hour second rise work best. I switched to a 3 qt. pot for a while, but I believe that my last loaf was best because I switched back to a 5 qt. pot. It seems to give more consistent holes throughout. I also find that it is best baked without a lid for closer to 25 to 28 minutes rather than 15 minutes (in other words more rather than less - I like it as dark as possible without burning).

                                                                        By the way I keep meaning to buy the Instant Yeast, but so far (10 loaves) I've always used Active Dry, just adding it dry to the dry ingredients (as if it were Instant).

                                                                        1. It is actually Jim Lahey's recipe (Sullivan Bakery). Try googling it under his name