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No-knead bread... problem with 2nd rise...help!

I've made this bread (the one from the NYTimes) a couple of times and can't seem to get the bread to double in size during the second rise. I let the 1st rise sit for 18 hours or so, it rises then falls, and then transfer it to a cotton towel, shape it, and let is sit for an additional 2 hours. It doesn't seem to rise at all...anybody have a suggestion?

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  1. Your problem is that you let the first rise go too long. When dough goes to a full drop like that, it won't rise again. I suspect your room temperature is significantly above 70 degrees, so that the yeast is growing like gangbusters and consuming all of the nutrients in the dough. You can control that by cutting way back on the yeast or, better, doing a lot of that rise in the refrigerator. Or you can simply shape the loaf much sooner.
    The dough is not a total loss. You can use it as a poolish or pre-ferment for another loaf. Or cut it into four pieces and use each piece instead of yeast for a new Lahey loaf. It will rise very quickly, so it might be ready to shape after only a few hours. Watch to see that it is well risen and bubbly.(Freeze the pieces you don't use and thaw them out completely later before incorporating them in a new batch. I am told this will work. I've never actually frozen a poolish.)

    3 Replies
    1. re: Father Kitchen

      Thanks so much for the advice Father Kitchen. Lot's of good options. I'm going to give them a try!

      1. re: bostonveg

        My first try it didn't double in size on the second rise either. I baked it anyway and it still came out fine. I have one doing it's second rise now, so we'll see how this one comes out.

      2. re: Father Kitchen

        The loaf is not a total loss. It can be resurrected by the addition of a teaspoon of yeast proofed in water and then the addition of a 1/2-3/4 cup of flour to supply the nutrients for the yeast to eat. If the breads falls, that is a sign that the yeast died of starvation and you need to add fresh yeast and then supply them with the nutrients in the flour to grow.
        Lehay-Bittman bread has plenty of moisture, so you might be able to just knead in the unbloomed yeast, but it will take some flour, and you might need a bit of extra water to counteract the flour addition.
        Father Kitchen is correct that chilling the bread will slow down the activity of the yeast, but there is a time limit on how long the yeast can be allowed to grow before it has to be baked.

      3. Could someone explain the theory of a second rise? Why is it better for the bread to rise twice?

        Also, why a towel? Why not just fold the bread over a few times in the bowl after the first rise and let it do the second rise in the same bowl?

        3 Replies
        1. re: david kaplan

          The second rise does a couple things. #1 it redistributes the air bubbles. While large air bubbles are a plus in this style of bread making, you don't want to over do it - you may end up with a loaf looking like a horribly warted frog ;-) The folding (really just a mini-knead) redistributes the air bubbles and #2 along with the flour and folding under of the "sides" creates a smooth skin over the top of the loaf. Think blowing a pretty bubble with bubble gum.

          As for the towel, it's really up to you. I personally use a clean oiled bowl for the second rise covered by a plate. You want a clean, oiled bowl rather than the one you just used so you don't have release problems when you're ready to drop it into the oven. It's a little tricky getting the dough out and not collapsing the loaf though. A towel and a board may be easier.

          1. re: HaagenDazs

            That makes sense. Sounds like the 2nd rise is important even if, as Father Kitchen describes above, it rises fully in the first rise and won't rise any further.

            I will try the oiled bowl. The oil won't have any negative effects on the loaf?

            How big a risk is collapsing the loaf when turning it into the pot? I think I've been kind of rough with the dough at that stage and it hasn't seemed to matter.

          2. re: david kaplan

            Also a second rise, or rather, enough time, helps the yeast change flavor. Rushing bread often gives you a strong yeasty taste. The extra time mellows out the yeast flavor.

            The refigerator is a good way to go. I also wonder if your dough a little shy on flour, which will make the dough less stable.

          3. I agree that if the loaf collapses on the first rise, it's gone too long. But I'd just add that a number of people, myself included, have found that two hours isn't long enough for the second rise. I usually go closer to three, and I think Bittman said the same (though he said that it might go faster when the weather's warm). It can depend on how cold your kitchen is.

            During the 15-minute rest, I wash the mixing bowl with hot water, then dry. The bowl is still nice and warm when I put the dough back into it for the second rise (wrapped in the tea towel with flour). I think that the warmth definitely gives the dough a boost.

            1. It's never too late to teach an old dog new tricks. I am grateful to David Kaplan for his pointer on adding some flour and yeast to an overproofed wet dough. But his answer raises a related theoretical question: Is the collapse of the dough caused only by exhausting the food supply? Or has the activity of protease gone so far that the integrity of the gluten is also compromised? I bake mostly sourdough, which is further complicated by acidity, which weakens gluten. So I don't think I would try to rescue an overproofed sourdough by adding a small amount of flour.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Father Kitchen

                It was Kelli2006 who taught you new tricks, old dog. I'm just asking novice questions.

                1. re: Father Kitchen

                  Father Kitchen, the acid breakdown of a sourdough is much different than the previous problem of yeast consuming all the available food in a over-proofed dough, and then having a mass die-off.

                  You can bake a overly acid sourdough, but the results will be closer to a ciabatta than a nice open loaf that you had hoped for.
                  The overly acidic sourdough starter must be corrected with just a bit of the existing starter and then fed flour for approx 1 week before you can bake a proper loaf that wont destroy the gluten.

                2. A few things I learned baking a few loaves...( I live in the bay area and use a wonderful slightly sourdough starter, and alternate King Arthur and Guisto's, thanks for the tips, Father Kitchen) the dough doesn't need to be so wet, a slightly stickier version of what you would knead is just right, if it's too loose and wet, you have trouble handling it, and you don't get a nice oven spring. Plus, when it rises, it gets looser with yeasty action. I do the second rise on a thin, flexible plastic cutting board (a silpat would be too flimsy) dusted with semolina or coarse ground whole wheat. Flour seems to get absorbed by the dough, thus it sticks. I put the board ontop of my range while the oven heats up to get a nice warm environ for the 2nd rise. You can just slide the dough into the hot pot. Yesterday I made a chocolate/cherry bread and baked in a corning ware casserole and I seemed to get a thinner crust on the bottom than I had been getting with the all-clad pots I have been using.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: peppatty

                    I'm prefering it on the wet side, that is making the best loaves for me.

                  2. I made the bread and I really liked it. I used about 1/3 whole wheat flour with the rest bread flour. It worked well and does improve with age. I also waited until it was completely cool to cut it. And, I will use 1.5 cups of water and more salt next time. I might just use regular AP next time too. Not sure if it'll matter.

                    I don't mind kneading bread though and the 18 hour thing was actually surprising difficult to fit into my schedule. What's the trick working here on this dough - does the long rise time create some sort of consistency that is easier to get than an inexperienced kneader could achieve? (Is that a word? and is there such a thing as an experienced kneader?) Or is it the cooking it in a warmed le creuset that creates a better cooking environment? I guess what I'm asking is if I took a regular bread recipe that requires kneading but cooked it as directed for this recipe would the result be the same?

                    Also, how are people storing this? I put it in a plastic bag on the counter. The next day, it was a great sandwich bread, the day after that, I gave it a quick toast to revive it a bit. Still good.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: vb_lady

                      I have a storage solution that works for me. I store it cut-side down on a cutting board, uncovered. The crust stays crusty, and the inside stays soft. It's worked for 3 days so far, which is the longest it has taken me to eat the loaf.

                      Of course it only works if the cut side is a totally flat surface. If you tear off hunks or cut at odd angles, then some of the cut area will be exposed to air and will dry out.

                      1. re: vb_lady

                        If the 18-hour rise is difficult, you might want to try putting it in the fridge. From what I understand, that slows things down and lets you go much longer than 18 hours. I'm thinking of trying it myself.

                        The advantages of the long rise are the wonderful flavor and texture that are the whole point of this bread. I don't think you'll get quite the same result with a regular kneaded bread recipe.

                        1. re: Kagey

                          That's what I figured, but I thought I'd double check. I"m going to try to slow down the second rise in the fridge as someone suggested. I'll let you know how that works out.

                      2. Regarding the three questions in the post from vb_lady:
                        1. Does the long rise time create some consistency? As I understand it, the long rise time serves two purposes. The first is to allow amylase enzymes to turn starches into sugars and protease enzymes to partially dismantle constituent proteins which reform as gluten. The second is to allow the gluten chains to form cross bonds. Other chemical reactions are also going on that improve flavor and texture. Kneading hastens gluten formation. So an 18 hour schedule isn't necessary. You can knead this dough (for example for 45 seconds in a food processor with a steel blade) but you would have to increase the amount of yeast you start with if you cut down on the time. If you plan an initial bulk fermentation time of six hours instead of 12, you would use twice as much yeast, and 4 times as much if you reduce it to three hours. You can also "retard" or refrigerate the dough. For tips on that, check with a good bread cook book. A longer rise usually means better flavor in breads that do not depend on added ingredients for their flavor. 2) Regarding baking in a hot pot: You always get a better bake if the container the bread is in doesn't have to warm up first. A high baking temperature works well in these rustic breads (made from flour, water, and salt, with no added sugar). Finally, containing the bread in a closed space allows steam to form around it, which assists in keeping the crust soft as it expands and helps in the formation of Maillard bodies (the brown combination of protein and sugar, something like caramel) that gives flavor to the crust. You can get this same effect in a "bread bell" such as the La Cloche baker, or even under a Pyrex bowl when baking on tile. 3) Regarding cooking this way regular breads that are kneaded: You can bake most any loaf bread in an enclosed atmosphere and get better results (though take the lid off half way through the bake). But if the bread contains sugar, preheat to 425 and then after you put the bread in the pot, turn the temperature down to 375 or even 350, since sugars will tend to caramelize or even burn before the interior of the loaf is cooked.
                        If you want to make a no-knead loaf and don't want to take a long time at it, Google "Grant Loaf" for recipes for a classic British whole wheat unkneaded loaf. Or take a look at Suzanne Dunaway's book "No Need to Knead."

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Father Kitchen

                          I'd be careful about your yeast amounts, don't forget that yeast has an exponential growth factor and doubling the yeast for half the time could yield disastrous results...

                        2. Kelli, I wasn't concerned that an overproofed sourdough loaf will also be too acid. Usually three refreshments will bring the starter into balance. My question had to do with the enzyme activity in yeasted bread. Does excessive protease in a long rise also cause a break down in gluten? One further point, if a yeasted dough goes to full drop, it doesn't mean that a massive die-off has occurred. The yeast will go dormant first. Most instruction for the use of a poolish asks you to let it go to a full drop--but not beyond.

                          1. I've made this loaf so many times, that I can't even count. Regarding the second rise, the optimal time for me is 3 hours. I've pushed the envelope a little bit on the shaping and second rising of this loaf. My first rise is done in my large pyrex mixing bowl. After punching down the dough and forming a ball, I place it directly in the Le Creuset casserole that I will be baking the bread in. I do a light oiling of the casserole and a dusting of cornmeal first. After the second rise (3 hours), I simply place the lid on, and pop it into my oven.

                            1. I've made this bread many times, using both the original NY Times article and Bittman's followup/fine-tuning article (email on profile if you want me to send it to you) for the best results. I find that the full 18-hour first rise gives the best results. For the second rise, don't expect it to double -- it won't, even if you use the full three hours. (Two hours into that second rise, preheat your oven with your Creuset or cast iron pot.) The point of the long first and second rise is to develop a depth in flavor and to give enough time for that mere 1/4 teaspoon yeast to work its magic. Once you punch it down and release the gases, it won't rise to the same height again in the next rise.

                              By the way, I don't use a towel, and Bittman explains options for this also in his followup article. I use a layer of Saran wrap with a rubber band around the top of the bowl to keep it snug and hold in the heat. I then punch it down and fold over the dough while it's IN the bowl. It rises for a full 3 hours then I slide it directly into the heated Creuset.

                              Just a thought: you may be handling the dough too much after the first rise, releasing too many of the gases. Try to barely handle it, simply fold it over onto itself, and let it begin the second rise.

                              I love this bread, and it turns out an artisan loaf every time -- a beatifully browned boule with a crusty crust and loose open crumb. Keep trying. Wonderful re-heated also.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: maria lorraine

                                Recently I watched Mark Bittman's podcast on "faster no knead bread" in which Jim Lahey criticized Bittman for his bread not having enough air bubbles or pockets, citing that the bread is not fluffy because the yeast probably had not taken its time to ferment all the flour. Well, I'm having the same problem, sorta. I did all kinds of things and tried all kinds of recipes. When I made a whole wheat version I tried leaving it for 18 hours and folding the bread. When I tried the "almost, almost no knead bread" by America's Test Kitchen, folding it about 10 to 15 times before letting it rise a second time. And I even experimented, letting the dough rise twice, once after 10 hours, then another 3 hours later. Each time the dough did rise nicely, but once I finished baking it, I saw that the bubbles were small and close together, not large and dispersed, making the bread feel dense. I did get larger bubbles in one of those tries, but they weren't large enough for me to be satisfied. I understand that this bread is a bit chewy and rich, but my bubbles just don't look like the ones described by Lahey. Can you help? I may have been punching it too much like you say by spreading it too much before folding, but if I don't flatten the dough out a bit after it's initial rise, there's really nothing to fold over. Even Lahey spread the dough out a bit in order to fold it.

                                1. re: nunahcocina

                                  Two thoughts:

                                  You're handling the dough too much. A punch-down is a single punch down. Folding 10 or 15 times is too much. Folding once is fine.

                                  Whole-wheat? You can use one-third WW flour in this recipe. Sounds like your choice of flour is making the bread too heavy to develop a open crumb with lots of bubbles. Adjust accordingly. You will have to consult another recipe to make WW bread. Peter Reinhart's latest book is EXCELLENT. Take a look at what he calls the "epoxy" method.

                                  1. re: maria lorraine

                                    I let it rise 18 hours and think (after many loaves) that the extra time helps the bread develop a wonderful taste and character. I have to admit to adding a tiny 1/4" square of Danish yeast cake to the water (this in addition to the recommended 1/4 tsp of dry traditional yeast). I can never get the final dough into the creuset neatly but it always turns out well. Also I bake it at 450F for 30 minutes lidded and 20 more unlidded.


                              2. A long time home baker, I proceeded with this recipe with skepticism about wrapping in a towel for 2nd rise. As I suspected, the dough stuck to the towel, and fell when I had to remove! I was so bummed. I will try again, although I am still wondering how many of you have had no problem with transferring the dough in to the pot. It seems like I may have the same issue at this step. I will decrease both rise times, maybe add a bit more flour and hope for the best. Even though the loaf came out flat and small, it was an admirable first try, I suppose.

                                8 Replies
                                1. re: zanbuell

                                  I place it on parchment paper for the second rise, cover lightly w/ flour dusted towel. When I bake it, I slide the whole parchment paper w/ dough on top into the pot.

                                  At one point, I would put the parchment w/ dough onto a colander and then cover w/ towel for the second rise. I thought it would help w/ air circulation and was a bread making hint from America's Test Kitchen. I found it didn't make a noticeable difference so stopped.

                                  1. re: chowser

                                    As I mentioned in an earlier post in this thread, I found the towel didn't work either. The first time I made the Bittman-Lahey-Sullivan recipe, the dough stuck to the towel but the towel might not have been impregnated with enough flour. In any case, I abandoned the towel idea, and now use parchment paper the easiest) just like chowser, above. A dough scraper really helps to fold the dough.

                                    It's just the first couple of times making the dough/bread that it's difficult. After that, it's a snap and becomes routine. Good luck, zanbuell.

                                    1. re: maria lorraine

                                      The dough scraper is the cheapest, best small utensil I've bought for bread making. I couldn't figure out how helpful it would be but it's indispensable for me now.

                                  2. re: zanbuell

                                    Here is the complete set of articles and master recipe for
                                    No-Knead Bread:


                                    1. re: maria lorraine

                                      Yes, it's important to read the "Fine-tuning" article as it supplies a lot of helpful tips and tweaks based on Lahey's experience and that of others.

                                      I've not had problem with the towel sticking to the dough. I use corn meal rather than flour on the towel, which I think helps. (And, of course, it's got to be a 100% cotton towel.)

                                    2. re: zanbuell

                                      I use the Bittman-Lahey recipe. I found the following method work well:
                                      After the first rise and scraping the dough into somewhat of a ball. Line a aluminum pie plate (a light weigh plate or wide shallow container makes it easy to flip later) with a towel and dust it well with cornmeal.
                                      Use a pastry scraper to turn the dough into the towel lined pie plate.
                                      Dust the top of the dough with more cornmeal/flour mixture.
                                      Fold the towel loosely over the dough and let it rise the second time.
                                      When ready to bake, unfold the towel, tuck it under the pie plate and holding the plate and towel, flip the dough into the pot. Make sure to grab hold of the towel and pie plate.
                                      I have never experienced the dough sticking to the towel. Even if the dough is not exactly centered into the bottom of the pot, don't mess with it. The finished bread will look fine.

                                    3. One thing most people seem to skip is the folding process. This adds structure and strength to your dough.