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Dec 21, 2006 02:45 PM

how to time no-knead bread?

I know there have been tons of posts about this famous bread on the board, but I'm crazed b/w work and holidays and wonder if someone can help me answer one quick question:

I'f I'm serving a meal around 3:00 on Saturday, when should I start the bread? I don't bake a lot of bread, so I'm not sure how far in advance you need to let it cool, etc. I'd appreciate any thoughts on how to time this!

Many thanks, and happy holiday cooking!

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  1. Counting backwards, you need at least 20-30 minutes to cool before slicing, ~1 hr. for baking, plus 2 hrs for the second rise, which takes you to about 11:30. The first rise is 12-18 hours (longer rise=tastier bread) so that would take you to anywhere between 5:30 p.m. to 11:30 the night before to start it.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Pistou

      Sorry if I've bungled this--clicking on "Add Your Own" did nothing, so I clicked on Pistou's 'reply' button. Anyway, are we talking about the no-knead bread Mark Bittman ballyhooed in a recent NYTimes article? If so, Pistou's timing appears right.

      But what I wanted to say is that although I measured and timed with care, the result was only fair. Main problem: dough was impossibly loose. Its appearance (bubbly surface) was fine but I had to wrestle it out of the bow, to which it clug with adhesive determination. Dough could NOT be 'folded over on itself once or twice"; after second rising (which I gave an extra hour) it would NOT form a ball. It came out shaped like a Hershey's kiss. Crust really good, though, but small loaf: I lost a lot of the wet dough that clung to t bowl and my hands.

      I baked it on a pizza stone under large stainless mixing bowl. Forgot to lower heat after removing bowl, yet loaf was not charred.

      Plan to try again but with this change:
      1 C more flour to the 13oz water in Bittman's--because I suspect overnight rising was standard in the old days before packaged yeast. If little yeast/long rise is the important part, maybe the water/flour proportion isn't so important. I remember now having an excellent result many years ago, by accident. I had made a standard recipe but after several hours concluded that the yeast had failed, as there was no visible rise. So I stuck the bowl in a cupboard and forgot about it. Next morning there was a fully risen loaf waiting to be baked; came out fine, w/excellent crust.

      Another possibility--instead of so much extra water, cover loaf with wet cloth in oven?

      I may try these anyway and will report results but thought it wise to first throw these ideas of to your more-expert selves for review.

      1. re: billmarsano

        Billmarsano, I'm sorry to hear that you had problems. I think you should try it again without changing the water/flour ratio. That appears to be part of the trick to the no-knead aspect--the high water content causes the gluten development, and if you make the dough drier you will not get that effect.

        As for the sticking, first, flour your hands. Then just scrape out the bowl. The dough will come out. Flour your hands each time you work the dough, and flour the work surface too. Be persistent and try it again. You'll get a good result.

        I'm not sure about the pizza-stone-and-bowl arrangement, though. This wet dough spreads out, and it seems like you need a vessel to contain it. I bought by enamelled iron pot (a Le Creuset knockoff, but it is fine) at Marshalls for $30. It was well worth it. I originally bought it for braising lamb shanks, but it is perfect for this bread.

        Also, where did you get the idea that you need to lower the oven temperature during baking? I don't think that was in the original instructions. I've never done that. Not necessary or desirable. Just bake it at 450.

        1. re: seefood

          Seefood: Blv me I did flour my hands--repeatedly! And, in desperation, heavily. Nevertheless, may try again the original way. Re temp: may have misread recipe but I recall it saying bake under cover 30 min/450; remove cover & reduce to 300 or 350. Have to find recipe to be sure, though. May use my Iittala enameled-iron pot next time--though spreading, at the baking stage, was no problem. It was really unmanageable--like a lava flow--after the first rise. More to come.

          1. re: billmarsano

            Have you watched the video that was posted on the nyt site with the recipe? It helped me to get a sense of how loose the dough should be (very!) and how to work with it.

            1. re: billmarsano

              Many of the problems with this recipe come from the way you measure flour. If you weigh the ingredients, you will find it easier to handle. The first time I made it, I had 87% as much water as flour (having figured a cup of flour weighs five ounces, so I used 13 ounces of water to 15 ounces of flour). It was hard to handle and to fold. Rose Levy Beranbaum tested the recipe and reduced the water to 75% of the weight of the flour. It works beautifully. I just used a silicon spatula to scrape the clinging dough out of the bowl. But with some other doughs in the past I've given the bowl a very light coating of Pam or olive oil. Spray it on and wipe it out with a paper towel. Those doughs didn't stick, and it might work here. On the other hand, in the long rising time, the dough may simply absorb the Pam or olive oil. But it is worth a try. Finally, when you fold it, use a dough scraper (bench knife) or a big pancake spatula if you don't have the baker's tool. Just sort of flip the sides to the middle. And don't worry if it is messy. It will bake up fine.

              1. re: billmarsano

                I agree that you shouldn't add flour. The dough IS sticky and must be peeled from the sides of the bowl. It cannot be "folded" exactly, but you can try to lift part up and sort of put it over another part. The dough is just gooey. One question....did you heat the stone and bowl cover? The high heat of the vessel and lid are key to the crust.

        2. Are you planning on using your oven before the party? If so, it might make sense to bake it the day before, or morning. If not, mix it the night before, about 10-10:30 do the fold and 15 minute rest, flip then do that 2-4 hour rise, turn on the oven and heat your pot around 1:00, bread goes in 1:30, done by 2:15 in time to cool somewhat but you'll still have slightly warm bread and your house will smell great for when the guests arrive. I know you're supposed to let the bread cool first before you cut it but it's so good when it's warm. I think the longest I've let it sit is 20 minutes!

          1. Perfect, these are exactly the answers I needed! Thanks for helping to simplify!

            1. I would not bake this bread the day before serving. The crust will not be the same, for one thing. This dough is lean and so the bread is fantastic right out of the oven, great later that day, and good the next day, though quite different from fresh baked.

              I figure on mixing the dough 22 hours before serving time, ideally--that is, if there are no other demands on oven space that require the bread to be out earlier. The 22 hours allows a long, 18-hour rise, which is desirable (even longer is fine; I did 24 once). Then you got your 15-minute rest and your 2-hour second rise and your 40 or so minutes baking time (I've never baked it longer than 45 minutes). Then a cooling period, which is crucial, because the starch gels are still changing during that time. Then, cut, serve, ooohhh and aaahhhh!

              1. 22-24 hours is good. 24 may be easier on the mathematics!

                I've made five loaves in the last week. The first four with 18 hours first rise, 15 minute fold and rest, 2 hour second rise, 30 minute covered bake, 15 minute open bake. Some with 1/2 cup of whole wheat replacing 1/2 cup of white flour. All turned out marvelous. Also -- used either Le Creuset dutch oven (OK) or a smaller, roundish ceramic casserole (amazing...nice tall brown, cracked loaf).

                The fifth...I let rise about 21 hours. It was very gooey and unmanageable. Then, the second rise was more like three hours. Also very gooey. Ultimately, it ended up tasting great, but just a little more messy along the way. More holes in the dough (not necessarily bad).

                As I've been bustling around a lot this week, I've taken to carrying my rising dough with me from place to place in my car. Doesn't seem to bother it at all!!

                1 Reply