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No Knead Bread revisited

I attempted baking this bread for the 2nd time last week. I read the original article and its follow-up to refresh my memory. The results were less than desired and after allowing the dough to ferment for almost 24 hours, I still had that loosey-goosey glop. I baked it in a loaf pan, covered with aluminum foil for the 1st half-hour, uncovered for the next half-hour.

A friend alerted me to Martha Stewart's TV program on Thursday, 18Jan07 which had a demonstration of baking this bread. I was not at home at the time of the telecast, but accessed the website and copied down the recipe.

THERE ARE SLIGHT DIFFERENCES IN THE INGREDIENT AMOUNTS, A MENTION OF OLIVE OIL, AND BAKING TEMPERATURE.

I've come to the conclusion that too much water is being used in the recipe printed in the NYTimes.

I'm going back to my usual method of baking bread. I've had success baking ciabatta loaves and rolls in the past.

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  1. I think the recipe was revised to be 1.5 cups of water, as opposed 1 5/8 cup.

    Also, give the pot thing a try, it works better than other methods that I've tried.

    all that said, stick with whatever is working for you, regardless. This one just adds another arrow in the quiver, so to say.

    1. I can say my quick or lazy bread recipes are an envy to others, I cannot explain it well enough for the others to get it right. Also I never use oils as a fat in breads, only shortenings. I discovered oils tend to be overly wet, is what I am driving at.

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      1. At 1.5 cups of water, works great for me. But use the dutch oven if you want great results. Also, experiment with some of the high gluten and European flours available at the King Arthur website.

        3 Replies
        1. re: bengoshi

          Thanks for the high gluten advice. I used bread flour and whole wheat flour in equal amounts, and I called Gold Medal to find out what the gluten percentages were for the 2 flours.

          1. re: bengoshi

            I've made this bread twice...the second in is the oven now. The taste of the first loaf was great but it was a bit moist inside. The dough was impossible to handle. I've been using 1 5/8 c. water to 3 3/4 c. spelt flour. The spelt flour may be the problem and the amount of water may be another problem. I will continue to experiment because the taste and crust are wonderful.

            1. re: etmoser

              So, I make this twice a week using: 1/2c soy flour, 1/2c spelt flour, 1c whole wheat, 1c white whole wheat and toss in some flax seeds. I find that using the 1 5/8c water works fine. BUT, this is definitely hard dough to handle and it always bakes up a rather moist bread. However, as I have grown quite fond of this, since toasted with butter and jam it's delicious, but the texture is definitely not like regular bread. Not sure what I'd compare it to, but almost like a crumpet in texture, at least in the inside, the crust is quite crunchy. Just my $.02. But since i noticed you were using spelt, as i sort of do, I figured i'd chime in!

          2. I'm using 1 5/8 cup water and it is turning out great. Some people talk of little oven rise, I believe that it is because they are using to little water. I also add 1T of honey and 1T of olive oil. My dough is almost impossible to handle but the results are worth the hassle.
            Baked in lodge 5 qt dutch oven 25 min covered 25 uncovered.

            3 Replies
            1. re: ibew292

              I got very little oven rise using 1 5/8 cups of water the 1st time using just bread flour, and 1 3/4 cups the 2nd time when equal parts of bread and whole wheat flours were used. I have a Wagner 5-qt. Dutch oven, but I want a high loaf to be used for making sandwiches.

              1. re: ChiliDude

                My mother is having trouble also. I don't know but I've never had a loaf that didn't rise. She deceided that it wasn't worth the trouble for her. I just completed my first sourdough NKB and its wonderful. What about putting a loaf pan in a cast iron covered pan? It may not be worth it to some people to do the NKB but my total time actually working with the bread is about 10 min. It is easier for me to know what I'm doing in 18hrs than where I be in 6hrs. I hope you keep making whatever bread that works for you. I don't know if it makes any difference but I use Dakota Maid all purpose white flour and King Arthur whole wheat flour.

                1. re: ibew292

                  A lot of posters have had luck in a covered Lodge.

            2. I've been bemused by all the posts over the past several months on Chowhound by people who have trouble with Bittman's recipe. I've been using it, as have several friends, regularly, and--it just plain works. But--you gotta follow the instructions--or rather, the crucial parts of the instructions.

              One of which is to use a suitable baking vessel: you must use a heavy, lidded pot that can retain a lot of heat. A loaf pan covered with aluminum foil is never going to achieve that effect. I use a Le Creuset knockoff enamelled cast iron pot.

              I always use 1-5/8 cups of water. But I do depart from the recipe in some minor ways: I use a little more salt than in the original recipe. And I don't use instant yeast; active dry works just fine. Also, I have dispensed with the towels. You can put the dough in a bowl, covered with plastic wrap, for both the initial and the final rises. Flour the bowl before putting in the dough.

              As for the problems with the dough being sticky that so many posters have complained of: well, yes, it is sticky. You want that. I find that a silicone spatula is very helpful for getting the dough out of the bowl and into the hot pot.

              Bottom line, just follow the essence of the recipe--very wet dough, long rise, and baking in a preheated, heavy, lidded pot--and it works wonderfully well.

              5 Replies
              1. re: seefood

                I've done almost exactly what you describe, down to which things you can change and which instructions you must follow.

                I have baked in a ceramic pot with a lid (Copco) and that's worked fine.

                My favorite tool in baking this bread is a plastic dough scraper. It's shaped like a 4x6 notecard with one rounded edge, and it's plastic so I can bend it to conform to the bottom of my bowl. Makes working that impossible dough a little easier. They're about $2 at Sur La Table.

                1. re: Pei

                  Amen to the plastic dough scraper. I also oil it to keep the dough from sticking.

                  I actually have a loaf in the oven as we speak. I was having the flat, gooey problem at first, but then I started using less water (I use about 1.5 cups, or possibly a few drops less), and now it's easier to handle. I think that's important because you really need to have the surface tension and the seam at the bottom for the second rise in order for the bread to spring properly. At least, that was my hunch, and so far, it's been working. If the dough is too squishy to handle, you won't have that.

                2. re: seefood

                  I used a silicone spatula to get the dough out of the bowl after the initial rise. The towel thing is the problem, and I may dispense with that nonsense. The loaf from the 2nd trial was baked using a pizza stone in the oven that was preheated with the oven as was the loaf pan.

                  1. re: seefood

                    YES! All these negative posts made me doubt my sanity. Was I merely imagining that my BittLay Bread was turning out magnificently every time? Using 1 5/8 cups water, and all the other ingredients exactly as set forth in the NYT? NO I WAS NOT!

                    I totally agree about the bread pan and the tinfoil.

                    Long Live BittLay Bread!!!

                    1. re: oakjoan

                      That's a great name for the bread.