No Knead Bread and Sourdough
Dear Margotk, Breadfanatic's post shows that there is no one "right" way to do this. No-knead procedures can be very adaptable. For example, Suzanne Dunaway's procedures in "No Need to Knead" are more like Breadfanatic's. If it fits your work schedule, go with it.
My own procedure is closer to the Lahey recipe, with an eye on Mark Hamelman's sourdough recipe in his book "Bread," and with two hints from Rosa Levy Beranbaum. In a nutshell, here's what I do:
1. I aim for hydration of between 75 and 80% water by weight to weight of flour. So I weigh the dry ingredients. A little more water on a dry winter day, a little less when it is humid. But you can go higher and lower. It will affect the texture of the bread and ease of working with it, but you will get good results.
2. Though I keep my storage starter as a stiff dough, I make my leaven that will go into the bread as dough of the same consistency as the bread will be. It simply makes figuring things easier that way. I make sure the starter in "young and vigorous." Too much acid in it will defeat you as the organisms will be sluggish and the acid will weaken the gluten. You want acid to develop more toward the end of the rising.
3. I bake a slightly larger loaf. So I use 20 ounces of unbleached all-purpose flour, which I think gives better flavor than bread flour. To this I generally add 1 ounce of rye flour, though you still get a good loaf without it. And I aim at 2.2%-2.5% salt to the weight of the flour. If you have trouble weighing small amounts, it works out in this case to about 2 to 2 1/4 level teaspoons of table salt or fine sea salt. If I use kosher, I grind it a spice grinder first so that it will dissolve easily.
4. I mix the flour and water and leave them to autolyse for between 20 minutes and an hour. Then I mix in the salt. Then I mix in 1/4 cup of starter, which I have measured in a lightly oiled measuring cup so it won't stick. I don't worry if the measure is not exact.
5. I leave it to bulk ferment. But, as with whole wheat doughs, sourdough gluten is a bit fragile and I don't want to overextend it, so I avoid letting it double completely in bulk. Once or twice in the course of the fermentation, depending on whether I let it go 12 or more hours, I fold it. Folding it both degasses it and strengthens the gluten web in the gentlest way possible.
6. I give it the final fold, rest it for 15 minutes, shape it, and leave it to rise in a cornmeal-coated towel in a colander. As in the original Lahey bread. I haven't tried rice flour. I like cornmeal more than wheat germ or flour.
7. I bake in preheated ten and a half inch terra cotta bulb pot with a terra cotta saucer as a lid. I cover the bottom with a piece of foil because of the hole. This is a cheap substitute for expensive pots and cloches and works just as well.
I love using a starter with the no-knead bread recipe! I make mine with 50% white whole wheat flour and 50% bread flour. Here's what I do:
Assuming that you have cultivated your starter:
I've used these proportions with my starter: 1/4 cup starter, 1/2 cup water, 2/3 cups King Arthur white whole wheat flour.
1 day before baking bread:
In the morning, take 1/4 cup starter, add 1/2 cup water, 2/3 cups King Arthur white whole wheat flour. Stir and cover.
In the evening, add 1/2 cup water, 2/3 cups King Arthur white whole wheat flour.
The next morning:
Remove 1/4 cup of batter ([your starter] this will be fed using the above formula for future baking). Place the rest of the starter into a bowl and add 1/2 cup water. Mix. Then add 1/4 cup white whole wheat flour, 1 1/2 cups bread flour, 1 1/4 tsp salt. Mix. (I found using a Danish dough whisk to be very helpful). Cover w/ plastic and let rise until doubled (about 3 hrs. Note that using the starter really cuts down the rising time). Fold dough, form into ball as usual (I like to put my dough into a banneton to rise). Let rise 1 1/2 hrs to 2 hrs. Then proceed as usual.
About baking: I used to use the dutch oven for baking this bread but now I've decided that I like baking this on a pizza stone instead. Please see my earlier post.