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Do you like no-knead bread better than kneaded bread?

I know there have been countless posts on Chowhound about Bittman's no-knead bread and the raving about the crust. It seems like every food blogger imginable has tried it and posted their thoughts. However, I've only seen a few that say the bread looks great, smells great, but doesn't taste great. Are people afraid to admit they don't like the recipe that stormed the nation? Are they afraid to tell the emperor that he really isn't wearing clothes?

I've been putting off trying the recipe because 1) I don't have a dutch oven yet and 2) I haven't found a good time to set it up where I can bake it after 18 hours.

However, I did make a regular batch of baguettes that only took 1 1/2 hours for rising and 1/2 hour to bake. It took me 6 minutes to knead, 10 minutes to rest (the bread, not me), a minute to shape. I threw ice cubes in a cast iron pot to create steam when I put the bread in and the crust was very nice.

So, aside from the method of no-knead bread (honestly, I kind of like the kneading and feel of the dough) and the "spectacular" crust, is it really so much better than "old-fashioned" bread baking?

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  1. 18-24 the time line doesn't seem to matter much. It's fun to do and different. Better I don't know, but when I made it for Christmas Eve my 85 year old mother couldn't get enough of it. She may have eaten the same amount of regular baked bread but I will never know because I didn't have any. She has been baking for 75 of those years and some of her breads are certainaly as good as the NKB. I think that it's great that people a baking their own bread. When it's hot and the butter is cold there is nothing better. But better than what? The crust is like nothing I have ever been able to make so I think untill the next great method comes along I'll stick with the NKB

    1. I never make crusty bread and there's something wonderful about hot crusty bread with cold butter as ibew said. So, I couldn't compare it to kneaded crusty bread from the oven but I do like the no knead one because it's so easily do-able. But, it does make me wonder if I do make a kneaded crusty bread, how much better it could be...

      1. I've made no-knead twice after hand-kneading for years and I enjoyed the different crust and crumb. It was also novel to tell people how I made it.
        Most of the taste in bread comes from salt (unless you add tastifiers) and it's been acknowledged that the original Lahey recipe was under-salted. I have also made tasteless traditional bread and realized that I'd forgotten the salt. Try eating a spoonful of white flour some time (ick).

        No-knead gives me another trick in my bread arsenal.

        1. I've been surprised at comments about the bread being short on flavor, for that certainly has not been my experience. Maybe people have an expectation that bread will be more than bread. Do increase the salt if you like. But also be aware that the flavor and "nose" of bread depend on both the action of enzymes and the development of acids in the dough, not on the kneading. It is the long rise that makes the difference.

          Flavor also depends on the formation of Maillard bodies in the crust, which is again helped by the long fermentation and by baking in a closed atmosphere. This Lahey bread is an Italian-style bread with an open crumb and a rather thin, but crisp crust. French bakers sometimes fault Italian-style bread as being short on flavor, because there are fewer Maillard bodies than in the more robust crusts of French-style breads. The first time I baked the Lahey loaf, however, I got a crust that should have pleased any Frenchman. A lot depends on how hot the oven is how moist the dough, and how long you leave it in.

          You will, of course, get flavor variations depending on the flour you use. But we could start a whole new thread on that topic.

          The sourdough version of this develops complexity of flavor that the yeasted version doesn't have because of the lactic and acetic acids in it. To make a sourdough version, use a quarter of a cup of soft, vigorous (recently refreshed) starter (same hydration as the dough) in place of the yeast.

          Still, if a person enjoys kneading, knead away and give it a long, slow rise and bake it in a closed container.

          A good compromise would be to take Jeff Hamelman's basic leavened bread recipe in his book and bake it in a closed container. It begins with an autolyse (20 minutes to an hour) of flour and water, after which the salt is mixed in, then the broken up leaven. A short kneading period follows. Then it is allowed to ferment at 76 for 2 1/2 hours, folding twice at 50 minutes intervals. Then dough is then cut, loaves shaped and allowed to rise for another 2 to 2 1/2 hours. I made it with 15 oz of Pillsbury patent flour, 2.5 oz. of rye flour, 1/3 cup firm starter, 2 teaspoons of sea salt and about 12 ounces of water (I started with 10.5 ounces and adjusted after the autolyse). When I baked it in a 10 1/2 unglazed terra cotta bulb pot, with an unglazed saucer for a lid, I got spectacular results.

          Conclusion: some of the best aspects of the Lahey recipe can be used with other breads as well. As El Puerco noted, it gives us another trick in our bread arsenal.

          One final thought: There are no great mysteries here. Try it. Very little labor is involved and a few dimes' worth of flour and yeast. You may never bake it again. Or it may become your favorite loaf.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Father Kitchen

            You're so familiar with all aspects of bread making and I learn so much from your posts. This question made me curious, though, and I had to compare two side by side loaves(since I've never made crusty bread before). I tried the no knead recipe and the Cook's Illustrated recipe for rustic country bread. Thanks to all those who helped me on a different thread with the CI recipe. The CI bread is much more complicated than others I've seen. You make a sponge overnight, very similar to the no knead recipe. But, the next day you add bread ingredients (same flour, water, salt but this one add honey), stir, knead. This process would have been simple if I had a stand mixer but I did it by hand. The dough is really sticky, not quite as sticky as the no knead, but still difficult to knead and it stuck to everything. You let it rest, similar to the no knead, and bake in an oven (I used a pizza stone) at 450 degrees w/ a cast iron skillet below, filled w/ 2 cups of hot water. It was three times the size of the no knead bread but both were great. Everyone commented that they looked like they were out of a great bakery. I'll try to post pictures later. I don't know if it's a gender thing but the women loved the CI recipe--dense, hearty while the men liked the no knead (a gender thing that women ooh and aah over foods where guys just eat and say, "Good"?) because it was light and airier. The CI crust was chewy while the no knead is slightly crispy. Overall, it was almost a 24 hour process. My house smelled great yesterday! I'll stick with the no knead for weekdays when we're busy and the CI for weekends when I have more time. Personally, I thought the CI was far better.

            1. re: chowser

              I wrote a reply and then lost it. Let's try it again. Thanks for the comparison of recipes. I wondered how a bread baked with a biga or poolish would compare.

              You can knead those very slack doughs without a stand mixer. One easy way is to run it for 45 seconds in a food processor with the steel blade. (You may need to do it in batches.) But it is possible to knead it by stretching and folding as if it were taffy. I believe Nancy Silverton describes the method in her La Brea Bakery book. Marcella Hazan describes a related method in her recipe for Mantovano or Mantuan bread in her book on the essentials of classic Italian cooking.

              1. re: Father Kitchen

                Thanks--I will try my food processor next time. I did end up kneading it like taffy just because every time I kneaded, it would get stuck, I'd have to pull it up and try to unstick it before I could knead again--kind of like a taffy pull.

          2. Well, I made the no-knead bread today. I started it last night (along with croissant dough and cinnamon rolls) and baked it this morning after we ate cinnamon rolls (the CI yeasted version, actually). I had to bake it in a SS covered pan because I just haven't had time to find a decent dutch oven.

            I concur that the crust is very good and the crumb is more open than other breads I've made. However, the fact that it still needs another 2 hours for the second rising seems like it's not making things easier on me. I have plenty of recipes that only need a couple of hours for the rise before baking. If I make the preferment overnight, isn't this similar?

            One note, my bread stuck to the bottom. I'm thinking this may be because of the type of pan I used, since no one else seems to have had this problem.

            I'm confused as to why this would be a "trick" to add to your arsenal? Your guests won't see the dough before it's baked, so is it just a matter of telling them you didn't knead it at all? I'll stick to my loaves that I can shape, but keep this in mind if I ever get gifted a proper dutch oven.

            3 Replies
            1. re: leanneabe

              I don't know what El Puerco meant by tricks. I understood it to mean simply one more useful skill, one more technique. In any case, they are only as good as the results. This isn't a performance. And, yes, it is similar to bread with an overnight preferment. So there is no one right way to bake bread. Still, for people who are afraid of kneading or who do not have space or the active time, it is a good approach. I have a handicapped friend on a limited income in a tiny apartment with his counter space taken up by a convection toaster oven and microwave. He can still bake bread now and save himself some money.

              If your bread stuck to the bottom of the pan, sprinkle some corn meal into the pan before plopping in the bread.

              Finally, you don't need a proper dutch oven. I baked a wonderful loaf yesterday in a flower pot (10 1/2 unglazed terra cotta bulb pan with saucer). The pot was pre-baked after getting a Crisco coating to make it somewhat non-stick. Put it in a cold oven and heat to 250, then 350, then 450 for 20 minutes each, and then let it cool. (Don't wash with soapy water, just rinse). I put a round a foil in the bottom to cover the hole. I preheated it to 450 from a cold oven, plopped in the dough, and covered the pot with the saucer. 20 minutes later I removed the saucer and finished baking it. I think I got better results this way than even in a dutch oven. And it was lot cheaper!

              1. re: Father Kitchen

                I started giving my no-knead breads their final rise nestled in parchment paper which is itself set into a casserole. I got this trick from a CI Podcast.

                Using the parchment paper allows you to transfer the dough to the hot Dutch Oven, casserole, flowerpot, etc, with a minimum of distortion and degassing. You have no worries about sticking.

                As for which is better, kneaded or no-knead; why it depends on what kind of bread I fancy. One need not choose one exclusively over the other.
                But in the end, no-knead requires less attention and handling than kneaded bread.

              2. re: leanneabe

                mine stuck the first time but I was thinking it was the amount of ww flour I used. I now do the 2nd rise on pam sprayed parchment and put it directly into the LC with the parchment...

              3. I've never heard of maillard bodies befor, what exactly are they? I would guess are they just the blisters that form and are visible on either slow proofed breads and/or doughs that are over fermented and therefore take a vaery long time to proof. If this is what you are describing as maillard bodies then they are no more than small aveols close the surface of the dough in which salt has chyrstalized , which is why they are even apparent in the first place.
                I am very impressed with the thoroughness of your experiments.
                Mr. Lahey should be taking some notes.

                1. Just read fatherkitchens def on maillard which is nothing more than a controlled burn.
                  Why "bodies"

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: mustardseed1

                    If you want a complete explanation, see Calvel's "Taste of Bread." The short version, as I understand it, is that in the presence of heat and moisture, proteins and sugars combine and then oxydize or "caramelize." The same thing happens on a steak on a grill, though I presume the molecular structure would be somewhat different as a steak does not taste like a well-browned crust of bread. Why "bodies"? It refers to the complex molecules formed.

                    1. re: Father Kitchen

                      Nomenclature can sometimes conceal what is going on to a novice such as myself.I want a new language for bread, I am in search of this, perhaps something that would seem more naive to the pro or already breaducated.
                      I have the Calvel book, but I usually peruse for relevent stuff and leave the rest.
                      My home loaves have thus far been great.

                  2. I just finished New Year's Eve dinner, and one of my main efforts was my first loaf of no-knead bread. I used 2 cups of Bread Flour, and 1 Cup of King Arthur Sir Lancelot Flour, which I understand to be an extra-high gluten flour. I upped the salt by 1/4 teaspoon, and used a 19 hour fermentation cycle w/ active dry yeast.

                    The "vessel" was a *shudder* Rachael Ray blue enamel 5.25 quart covered pot, with the part-silicone handle on the cover unscrewed, leaving a tiny hole on top.

                    The entire process was bizarre, and left me with no confidence. The shaggy, gooey dough didn't separate well from the parchment I used to cover it and upon which I poured it for the 2 hour rise. It made a sputtery noise when it hit the bottom of the cornmeal encrusted enamel pot. I phoned my wife and told her I was so sure it would fail, she should pick up a baguette on the way home.

                    The loaf was perfect. It rose nicely, crusted perfectly, and had amazing flavor and texture. put next to the Panera country loaf my wife bought, no one wanted the Panera bread. It was salted perfectly, and developed incredible flavor and texture. I feel like doing it again right now!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: rruben1

                      "The shaggy, gooey dough didn't separate well from the parchment I used to cover it and upon which I poured it for the 2 hour rise."

                      Although this may seem "un-artesanal", try covering the rising dough with some plastic film sprayed lightly with non-stick spray. It's easy to remove just before you put the loaf into the oven.

                    2. My second loaf of no knead bread was a bit of a miracle. I used 2 cups of King Arthur artisinal white bread flour, and one cup of Sir Lancelot. I upped the salt to 1 3/4 teaspoons, kept the water at 1 5/8, and used oiled and heavily floured aluminum foil as a loose wrap for the second rise and fold. It worked great!

                      The bread had incredible flavor and texture, a great crumb, deeply flavored and toasty crust with cornmeal on bottom. It sliced beautifully ,as well. My family thought it my best bread ever, and I've made a lot of loaves in my time.

                      The ease with which this recipe is accomplished makes it addictive.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: rruben1

                        If you want to do something interesting with the noknead, try subbing a cup of whole wheat flour for part of the white,, add a third of a cup of cocoa and a few tablespoons of sugar! It reminds me of pumpernickel, it's kind of sweet, of course. I like it with peanut butter. Also, go to breadtopia.com for a good variation made with steel cut oats. It's also a lot easier if you weigh the ingredients.

                      2. i enjoy kneading the bread, the way we were taught at school was the old fashioned way.
                        Your recipe sounds simple and sounds like it yields a great product, I also have a great and simple recipe for ciabatta, care to exchange ideas?

                        1. To me, the no-knead bread is better because the long rise gives it better flavor and because of the crust. Even if it weren't easier than the traditional kneading method, I'd still prefer it because of the resulting loaf.

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: Kagey

                            Which begs the question, "How would it turn out if you just shaped a loaf, put it in a bread pan, and baked it at 425?" I'm thinking that the flavor and texture would still be there but, maybe, the crust would not be so thick. Anyone?

                            1. re: yayadave

                              You mean use the no-knead dough in a bread pan instead of the covered pot? I've wondered myself, because the loaf from the covered pot isn't the ideal shape for sandwiches. This sounds like a question for Father Kitchen!

                              1. re: Kagey

                                I was thinking of just putting the formed loaf in an unheated bread pan. I think the covered pot keeps the steam in to form the crust. But the long rise should give the flavor and texture. I think.

                                Probably someone has done this and reported on it among the thousand or so posts about this bread.

                                1. re: yayadave

                                  I don't think that would create the wonderful crust that is formed with the Bittman bread. Heating the Creuset pot, or Dutch oven, or cast iron pot in the oven for one hour at 500 degrees has quite an effect both on crust, and on oven spring -- the rise of the bread.

                                  I've followed the revised version Bittman put out shortly after the original, and yes, after at least 20 batches:

                                  the no-knead bread is better looking --
                                  with a crusty artisan crust and loose open crumb,
                                  and much better tasting.

                                  No question, at least for me. And I live in the Bay Area, where the wonderful bread threatens all our waistlines.

                                  So just follow the recipe for the full two rises. Time it backwards from when you want to serve it and begin then. Those two long rises are when flavor is developed.

                                2. re: Kagey

                                  I've been off line for a while. Nice to come back on to the bread issue. I just baked no-knead bread this weekend, using a sourdough starter. The flavor and texture were extraordinary. General principle: most bread recipes can be baked in a no knead fashion if you cut way back on the yeast, provided they don't contain dairy products that could spoil. One contributor some time ago said he baked long loaves in a terra cotta window box, using foil as a cover. (It might be hard getting it in or out, so maybe he put the bread on a baking sheet and covered it with the preheated window box. But aside from that, Rosa Levy Beranbaum bakes her no-knead bread on a tile, in a steamed up oven. And Suzanne Dunaway has a whole recipe book of bread recipes called "No Need to Knead." Furthermore, you can strengthen most any dough by giving it several folds during the bulk fermentation, not just the one folding that Lahey uses in his recipe. (I usually fold the sourdough three--3 hrs into fermentation in the evening, when I get up, and then again prior to shaping the loaves.) As I understand it, however (and I may be wrong), brioche doughs have to have the gluten developed before adding the butter, which then coats the formed gluten strands and creates the special flavor and texture of a brioche. So you would have to knead that kind of dough. It seems to me that the flavor is the product of the chemical changes that take place during fermentation, plus the salt and the intrinsic quality of the wheat, plus the flavor of the Maillard bodies that form in the crust as it bakes. The longer the fermentation time, the less the gluten has to be developed at the beginning. So I don't think kneading adds anything to the flavor. I do think an autolyse makes a tremendous difference in kneaded breads, since it gives the enyzmes a head start, and that means more sugars for the yeast, more flavor esters and acids, and more Maillard bodies. And I frequently add a very small amount of rye to my flour (more enzymes), especially if I mill it myself. Also, we find we like bread that has up to 25% oats in it. In all these cases, however, I like to bake them in a well steamed oven or in a covered container. You can use La Cloche, an inverted Pyrex bowl, covered casseroles or--my favorite--red terra cotta flower pots and saucers from Italy. The shape really doesn't matter.

                                  1. re: Kagey

                                    I do my no-knead in a pyrex bread pan preheated in a really big calphalon pot with a lid. The bread pan just barely fits in the pan, and I preheat everything together. Then I dump the dough right into the hot bread pan. I haven't cracked a pyrex pan yet and the bread comes out great and right for sandwiches.

                              2. Every time I've made no-knead bread (4 times so far) it's been better than any kneaded bread I've made, mainly because the crust is so much better. And when I was winging it, without the recipe in front of me, I ended up with probably the wrong amount of water and kneaded it, partly just because I like kneading. Kept the long rise and the closed-pot technique, and it turned out great. Just because it's no-knead doesn't mean you CAN'T knead if you want. It seems forgiving enough that it's hard to really screw it up.

                                1. I have become obsessed with this bread and make it at least twice a week. I love the texture and the flavor of it - I do add 3 teaspoons of salt rather than the recipe's 1 1/4 tsps. I have only made it with all purpose flour but have been wanting to try it with whole grain flour. Any suggestions as to how the recipe should be adapted?

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Lil_Miss_Foodie_SF

                                    I've done half and half and it's been great. I use a little more water or a little less ww flour.

                                  2. I was intrigued and I took on an experiment to compare traditional kneaded bread with the no-knead bread technique using similar recipes. Bear with me. I've only been baking bread since February.

                                    My recipe for both was.

                                    2 cups unbleached bread flour
                                    1 cup whole wheat flour
                                    1-1/4 teaspoon sea salt
                                    3 table spoons pure University of Minnesota Arboretum maple syrup
                                    wheat bran as needed for flour handling
                                    Instant dry yeast

                                    The variables were the yeast, water, and baking techniques and temperatures.

                                    For the no-knead bread I added 1-5/8 cups water.
                                    For the kneaded bread I added 1-1/4 cups water.

                                    For the no-knead bread I added 1/4 teaspoon of yeast.
                                    For the kneaded bread I added 1 teaspoon of yeast.

                                    For the kneaded bread I mixed the ingredients together and brought the mix to a ball that I then proceeded to knead for about 10 minutes. When you knead by hand you can actually feel the gluten developing.

                                    For the no-knead bread I mixed the ingredients together just long enough for the mix to come together. The no-knead is an almost unhandleable soupy mix. I covered the no-knead bowl with clear wrap and set it aside overnight for 19 hours total.

                                    I let the kneaded ball rise to double for about 2 hours and punched it down once. Then I turned on the oven at a temperature of 375 degrees to pre-heat the stone. After about another hour the kneaded dough had risen again and I formed it into a boule ball and slipped it onto the stone with a peel and baked it for 50 minutes.

                                    The next morning I dumped the no-knead mix on the counter and folded it twice. I put it on a towel with wheat bran to prevent it from sticking and then covered it and let it rise again for another hour. After an hour I put a enameled Dutch oven in the oven to pre-heat at 475 degrees. After about 20 minutes I dumped the no-knead mix into the Dutch oven like so and covered it with the Dutch oven lid. After 30 minutes I took the lid off and let it bake for another 20 minutes. This is after 30 minutes.

                                    The no-knead bread had the better crust and slightly better taste but a direct taste comparison was impossible with the breads coming out of the oven on separate days. I suspect the kneaded bread could have been better if I had refrigerator fermented it overnight the way I do my pizza dough and not rushed it. I expected the crumb to be different but both were tight. However, as I sliced deeper into the no-knead bread the crumb did get a lot looser. The variable from the standard no-knead recipes was the use of the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum pure maple syrup. It was just something I wanted to try. I don't know if the syrup affected the experiment.

                                    What I don't understand is the claim that no-knead is simpler. It takes longer in over all time, it gets rather messy with dirtying a towel, the counter for both has to be cleaned up, the Dutch oven has to be cooled and cleaned, and there seems to be a lot more steps just to save 10 minutes of kneading it seems and kneading is one of the more enjoyable aspects of baking bread. I will probably continue to perfect my regular bread baking techniques. It was fun.

                                    19 Replies
                                    1. re: Davydd

                                      For me the big perks of the NKB technique is a rustic hard artisan like crust and open crumb. The flavor could stand to be enhanced and there are simple ways to do that.

                                      1. re: scubadoo97

                                        The CI no-knead bread Podcast I mentioned elsewhere (available free on the iTunes Store) suggests using a little light beer plus a tablespoon of white vinegar in the initial dough mix to enhance the flavor.
                                        I've also had pretty good results adding a little SACO Cultured Buttermilk Powder..

                                      2. re: Davydd

                                        I tried the same experiment (above) but my kneaded bread started with a sponge so it improves the flavor, as you mention w/ your pizza dough. The difference for me in technique (since you mix the basics the night before and let it rest overnight) is that you add more ingredients to kneaded bread in the morning and have to knead, vs just flipping the no knead bread. Plus, having done it enough, I have it down to a science, and have minimized utensils and all. I prefer the flavor of the kneaded bread but you can't beat the convenience of no knead.

                                        1. re: chowser

                                          Is anyone doing the "Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes" no-knead bread? It is less watery and goopy. I started it the day before yesterday, and will find out how I like it tomorrow.

                                          1. re: FamilyNutritionist

                                            I've done both. The Artisan bread is handy, you can grab a bundle of it and have bread in no time at all. I do think the no knead is more crusty, with more holes.

                                            1. re: FamilyNutritionist

                                              I made the Artisan bread this week and my kids have gobbled up two loaves already and begged for more. I like having the dough in the fridge all week and ready to go. I will be buying the book and experimenting some more.

                                              1. re: FamilyNutritionist

                                                There are a couple threads discussing the Artisan Bread recipes. I like them because they make smaller loaves and the dough is easier to handle (after a day in the fridge).

                                                1. re: leanneabe

                                                  I'm just not having <a href="http://familynutritionist.blogspot.co... luck</a>. I may have to actually go out and get the book, which is not really my style.

                                                  Or MAYBE I am just overproofing and overhandling the dough. My Fleishmann's yeast takes off like a rocket, even though I always use less. And room temperature is 70F here these days.

                                                  1. re: FamilyNutritionist

                                                    What you don't want is for your yeast to take off like a rocket.

                                                    Cut way back on your amount of yeast, even though you already use a small amount. Bittman uses 1/4 teaspoon yeast per 3 cups flour.

                                                    Fermentations that gallop along are usually devoid of flavor. Instead, use a much longer and slower fermentation to develop that depth of flavor that comes from the Bittman method (his 2nd article on the no-knead bread has some revisions that are important). Find a cooler spot in your house if need be.

                                                    The dough is supposed to liquid-y and very loose -- it's very difficult to handle and most bakers never use their hands to handle this type of dough. Use a poly scraper (99 cents) or a silicone scraper ($4) -- each is like a rubber spatula that fits into your hand and is a standard utensil in bread-baking. Please take note there is almost no dough-handling using the Bittman method.

                                                    I realize your post got a little jarbled, so I'm trying to help as best I can. Good luck to you and keep trying. Once you get the Bittman method down, it's almost as easy as breathing.

                                                    1. re: maria lorraine

                                                      I've been observing the dough's behavior, and adjusting the yeast downward. But I think the important thing is just not letting it sit on the counter for so long! Over 12 hours, as Lahey/Bittman recommend, is just too long.

                                                      I had some success with my most recent attempt
                                                      I made the dough stiffer and less delicate, slowed down the ferment, and formed the loaf more gently. The result was -- I had bread.

                                                      When I bake a "regular" loaf on the bread stone, it takes 20 minutes, at 500F. But a "wet" loaf takes an hour in a preheated casserole. So I'll be playing with baking times and temperatures. One of these days, I'll develop some kind of crusty sandwich loaf or roll that will work for me.

                                                      1. re: FamilyNutritionist

                                                        I believe your error is in believing two artisan bread recipes are interchangeable. Baking is chemistry -- you cannot take the ingredients and quantities of one recipe, and the instructions of another.

                                                        The Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes recipe uses a quantity of 1-1/2 Tablespoons of yeast (yikes!) for 6-1/2 cups flour. The instructions say to allow the dough to rise 2 hours or up to 5 hours total.

                                                        The Bittman recipe uses 1/4 TEASPOON of yeast for 3 cups flour.
                                                        Bittman recommends 21 hours of rise time: 18 hours for the first rise (12 hours minimum), and a second rise of one to three hours.

                                                        This Bittman rise time is so long for two reasons: development of flavor, and to give the lower quantity of yeast the time it needs to "do its thing."

                                                        If you're using the Artisan Bread recipe, with its 1-1/2 tablespoons of yeast, and then letting the bread rise the Bittman minimum of 12 hours, you're messing big-time with bread chemistry! Of course, your results are disappointing. They should be!

                                                        In winemaking and in bread, a long, slow fermentation creates flavor.
                                                        You're never going to get the flavor of a 21-hour rise in 2 hours. That's why I think the Artisan Bread recipe is lacking.

                                                        If you're using the Artisan Bread recipe, then follow it to the letter.
                                                        But don't expect the flavor of that recipe to equal the flavor of the Bittman recipe. They use completely different techniques.

                                                        I trust the Bittman revised recipe, and I've made it at least 20 times with picture-perfect results. I'd like to suggest that you try it.

                                                        Please don't be concerned if the Bittman 21-hour total rise time seems excessive. Or if the hour-long baking time seems unusual if you're used to 20 minutes on the baking stone. They are perfectly honed for THAT recipe.

                                                        But please (please!) do not use the Bittman fermentation times and baking time on the Artisan Bread flour-and-yeast quantity. No wonder you're having trouble!

                                                        1. re: maria lorraine

                                                          Hey! I'm not a complete idiot, OK? I've been using less-than-Lahey quantities of yeast all along. Since the dough *STILL* gets overproofed, I've been adjusting the yeast ever downward. And getting the dough to a cooler place sooner. Like inside the fridge. I think I've finally gotten that part of it right (see above)

                                                          I also got picture-perfect results from my first loaf of Lahey-style bread (http://familynutritionist.blogspot.co...) but have a different flavor in mind. From your winemaking experience, you know fermentation complexity depends on culture, temperature, nutrition, and time. It didn't happen in 20 hours.

                                                          I think the "Artisan Bread" approach of letting the bread ferment in the fridge for up to a week produces much more flavor. So that's the direction I'm going. But I won't be following any of their recipes to the letter.

                                                          I'm experimenting, learning from my mistakes, and learning from the experiences of others. I'd like to suggest you try it.

                                                          1. re: FamilyNutritionist

                                                            I realize that you are brand new to Chowhound, and may not yet know the Chowhound rules. You can debate the merits of what I’ve said. You cannot cross over the line into personal attack as you did in your last sentence. That’s against Chowhound rules.

                                                            You asked for help with what might be causing your unusually disappointing results with both the Bittman and Artisan Bread No-Knead Bread recipes. You said you were “just not having luck.”

                                                            I attempted to help with several posts in reply. I pointed out possible errors with your baking techniques. You responded not with thanks or appreciation, but defensively, and then concluded by insulting me.

                                                            So, in an attempt to discern just what may be causing your problems, I gave you the courtesy of reading your blog, which chronicles, in your own words, what you were doing.

                                                            Here’s a recap of your bread batches:

                                                            In your first batch,
                                                            You wrote, “I thought the [Bittman] dough was soupy, rather than shaggy, so I added a bit more flour.”
                                                            You put the dough into the refrigerator between rises. The dough is supposed to stay at room temperature.
                                                            You took the dough out of the refrigerator, did the fold-over, and then baked it. The dough has a second rise of 1-3 hours.

                                                            In the second batch,
                                                            You used 2 cups of whole wheat flour and 1 cup bread flour. Bittman says the maximum amount of whole-wheat flour that can be used in this recipe is 50%, or 1-1/2 cups. More whole wheat flour makes the bread heavier, and the yeast may not have enough power to give the heavier dough oomph.
                                                            You added the salt twice. Too much salt can inhibit yeast.
                                                            You kneaded the dough.
                                                            You put the dough into the refrigerator between rises.
                                                            After two hours out of the refrigerator, you formed the dough into rolls. Slack dough does not form rolls well. It’s best to keep the mass of dough together so that the dough can hold in the gas created by the yeast and rise.
                                                            You baked the rolls on a stone instead of in a Le Creuset-type pot or Dutch oven.

                                                            In your blog after this batch, you write:
                                                            “The rolls didn’t rise much, ” and that the “Last rise failed and no oven spring.”

                                                            You ask, “Where did I go wrong?”

                                                            In the third batch,
                                                            you use the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes recipe, “at least as far as the flour/water ratio goes.” You “start with the recipe posted in the NY Times and wing it.”

                                                            Instead of 6-1/2 cups AP flour, you use a total of 5-1/2 cups.
                                                            Instead of 1-1/2 tablespoons yeast, you use a single teaspoon of yeast, or less than one-quarter the amount called for.
                                                            You use more whole wheat flour than the recipe is calibrated for: 4 cups whole wheat flour to 1-1/2 cups bread flour.
                                                            Instead of letting the dough rise “2 hours (or up to 5 hours),” as the Artisan Bread recipe says, you “let the dough sit out all day in a loosely-covered Tupperware bowl.”

                                                            This is where it appeared to me that you were mixing recipes-- using the Artisan Bread ingredient quantities (or a semblance of them) and the Bittman 12-hour rise -- as I wrote above.

                                                            The 5” loaves you formed spread out sideways but didn’t rise.

                                                            You ask again in your blog “Why don't my no-knead breads rise enough?”

                                                            On your fourth attempt,
                                                            you use the dough leftover from your third attempt, even though you “could see that the dough had separated, [and that] the top was dried and leathery. Below that was a dough-like dough. At the bottom was a gooey batter.”

                                                            You “folded and kneaded the sticky mass in the bowl until it seemed homogeneous.”
                                                            You formed the dough into batard-shaped loaves.
                                                            You said the dough spread sideways again, and gave off water.
                                                            You give the loaves a 7-hour rise when the instructions call for a 40-minute rest.

                                                            You say the result was “No-knead, no-rise bread.”

                                                            On your fifth batch,
                                                            You mix two ounces of dough leftover from the fourth batch with ¾ cup each flour and water and let it sit till bubbly.
                                                            You “added the rest of my ingredients.” It’s unclear if you have again used the same ingredients and quantities you used in your fourth batch or if you are following the recipe.
                                                            You leave out the salt.

                                                            This batch is yet unbaked according to your blog’s last entry.

                                                            In your post just above, you say that your loaves are overproofed, that you’ve “been using less-than-Lahey quantities of yeast all along,” or less than ¼ teaspoon, though the quantities of yeast listed in your blog say you’ve been using multiple times of that.

                                                            Yet you also ask repeatedly in your blog “Why don't my no-knead breads rise enough?” when in the Artisan Bread recipe, you reduced the amount to yeast to 22% of the amount called for and used heavier flours.

                                                            You used both shorter rises and longer rises than the recipes recommended. You refrigerate dough that is supposed to stay at room temperature and vice-versa.

                                                            It does appear you didn’t follow either the Bittman or the Artisan recipes exactly, as I suggested you do earlier for better results. Your many changes and winging it have produced inferior results. You say you “won't be following any of their recipes to the letter.” And though you don’t want to do that, and though you certainly don’t want to hear this from me, that might be an excellent place to begin anew.

                                                            Welcome to Chowhound. Good luck.

                                                            1. re: maria lorraine

                                                              Thank you for your warm welcome and for your advice and support. I do apologize for repeating to you what you had said to me. I understand that could be read as an attack, and shall not do it again.

                                                              I have followed my first perfect Lahey loaf with experimentation in search of my "dream loaf". Yeast rate, proofing temperature, hydration, baking temperature. I've read all kinds of useful experience and advice here and elsewhere, for which I am very grateful. I take your point that I am perhaps varying too many variables at once.

                                                              Leaving out salt WAS a silly mistake, wasn't it? And perhaps you are correct, that when a loaf is still flat and gasless after the specified 40 minutes, one should not wait in vain hope of the now dormant and unfed yeast somehow turning that lump into something edible.

                                                              I think I have conquered my over-proofing problem by using even less yeast and controlling temperature during the long fermentation. My most recent loaf (http://familynutritionist.blogspot.co...) is closer to what I want. A very helpful person visited my blog to suggest baking temperatures to help make a less damp loaf.

                                                              I do love experimentation, and have learned loads from my lesser loaves. And from other bakers. It's a lot of fun.

                                                              Thanks again for your good wishes. I'm so close to the bread I want, and think I'll get there in the next couple of loaves.

                                                              1. re: FamilyNutritionist

                                                                >>> I do apologize for repeating to you what you had said to me.<<<

                                                                Just to be clear...
                                                                When I wrote above "I'd like to suggest that you try it, " I was genuinely recommending the Bittman revised recipe. I believe you interpreted it otherwise. Because when you repeated it, well, it took on a different tone.

                                                                1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                  No doubt, the tone of my first line contributed to your perception of my last line. A poor choice on my part.

                                                                  I agree that the revised Bittman recipe makes quite a nice loaf.
                                                                  In addition, I genuinely recommend experimentation in pursuit of the "perfect" bread. Even at the expense of a few lousy loaves.

                                                                2. re: FamilyNutritionist

                                                                  You've already gotten some great advice from Maria. I'd like to add one thing that I found, too. You said your last loaf had gone past medium brown, though the inside was slightly damp. I had the same problem, too, where the crust was done before the inside. I lower the temperature by about 25 degrees after removing the lid. I bake slightly longer but it turned out perfect. I also use white whole wheat for half the flour but found I needed to increase the water slightly to accomodate for it. It doesn't sound like you have the same overly dry dough problem that I do, but wanted to add it just in case you do run into that issue.

                                                                  1. re: chowser

                                                                    I have been stepping a bit off the line between Lahey and "5 minutes". But I think I've conquered the overproofing and overhandling problems now. So I am definitely ready to try changing the cooking temperature. I've even gotten advice to go lower -- preheat to 450F, bake at 400, then 375. I'll pick one and see how it works in my oven.

                                                                    I don't know how, with 2/3 KA white whole wheat at 5.3 oz per cup (I weighed it), I don't have a water problem. It's a mystery.

                                                                    Thanks for sharing your experience.

                                                  2. re: FamilyNutritionist

                                                    I've done both and I have the book. I have baked the Artisan bread in the dutch oven as well as on a stone, just to see how it came out. I haven't noticed much difference in the crust either way, only thing is I don't slash it if I use the dutch oven.