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Nov 7, 2007 04:17 PM

No Knead Bread - 1 Year Later

It's been one year since we first read the article from Mark Bittman at the NYT on Jim Lahey's no knead bread - one of the hottest online foodie posts last holiday season. I'd like to remind everyone of this technique. I, for one, have used the recipe often! With Thanksgiving fast approaching I thought I'd post this as a reminder that homemade bread is not hard to make and this recipe will most certainly please the crowds!

Does anyone have any revolutionary adaptations they're willing to share?

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  1. After making this regularly, I found an old bread baking book in my closet that had no knead rolls. A lot more ingredients than the no knead bread but you just mix it all up, put it in the refrigerator for a few hours and make rolls. They were okay, kind of a mix between biscuit and rolls.

    As far as adaptations to the Bittman bread, I've tried whole wheat, white whole wheat, various herbs, cheeses but keep coming back to the plain old version. And, a year later, I still eat it hot out of the oven, even though you're supposed to let it cool for better texture.

    1. Funny you should post this - I am looking over my two clippings on the subject now, getting ready for Thanksgiving - a great recipe!!!

      1. No changes that work as well as the original but a question. The only problem I'm having with it is the second step where it is turned out on a floured towel. If I put enough flour down for it not to stick there is too much flour on the bottom of the bread, if I don't put enough a good portion of the dough sticks to the towel. Has anyone come up with a better idea? I'm thinking of putting it into a bowl with a little oil.

        16 Replies
        1. re: Eric in NJ

          I don't turn out to a towel anymore. I put a small amount of oil and corn meal in a bowl and complete the last rise there. It does get a little messy when I dump it into the dutch oven.

          1. re: ibew292

            Now I'm thinking I might try spraying some Pam with flour into a non stick pan and do the second rise there. Not too much of anything sticks to that.

            1. re: Eric in NJ

              In Crust and Crumb, Peter Reinhart swears by sprays. You can get better quality sprays than Pam, though--Trader Joe's has one that is just olive oil.

              1. re: chowser

                Actually what we have is one from Whole Foods I just use Pam as the generic term for those sprays sorry.

          2. re: Eric in NJ

            I do the same as you Eric and it's much less bother then flour on a towel. It works great.

            1. re: Eric in NJ

              I use a sheet of nonstick aluminum wrap, lightly dusted with flour, instead of a towel and it works fairly well.

              1. re: Eric in NJ

                I never was able to make the towel work and I got tired of throwing towels with embedded dough away. Now I use flour on a piece of wax or parchment paper and it works like a charm.

                My favorite flour combo yet is 1/2 bread flour and 1/2 semolina.

                1. re: Eric in NJ

                  I'm using Silpat with a light dusting of flour and it works very well. I also follow the advice of someone here (don't remember who, sorry) and have impregnated my top towel with rice flour.

                  1. re: Eric in NJ

                    The right kind of towel makes a difference. It can't have texture. I've started using large cloth napkins and they work w/ enough flour. Sometimes, I'll do the Best Recipe method where you line a colander w/ the floured towel (napkin). Put in the dough and cover w/ oiled aluminum foil. This gets a great round rise, air can circulate. Other times, I do it on a lightly floured silpat mat.

                    1. re: chowser

                      A cotton dishtowel(not terrycloth)with a tight weave and rice flour is the perfect combination. The rice flour does not stick to the dough nor the towel.. No need to wash the towel, just save it for re-use on next loaf.

                      1. re: hot tamale

                        I've pretty much stopped using the towel, but I found that plain floursack cloths (that I get in packs of 6 at Bed Bath & Beyond) worked well for this technique.

                        1. re: hot tamale

                          Ditto, except that my preference is wholemeal flour. I haven't tried rice flour, but the wholemeal really seems to prevent sticking. I keep my towel, still caked with flour, in a ziploc. Works great.

                          1. re: Kagey

                            I just started making these a couple of months ago and the family is crazy about them. My favorite at this point is 1/2 king arthur bread flour and 1/2 king arthur whole wheat. I use corn meal on the towel an that works fine, plus I like the extra crunch that it fives the crust. Does anyone know how to keep the top crust crunchy for more than a couple of hours?

                      2. re: Eric in NJ

                        This is so weird. I've NEVER had problems with putting the dough on a dishtowel. I wonder whether I'm using some extra-stick proof cotton towels (kidding)? I dust it lightly with flour and the dough usually just comes right off. Could it be the humidity in the air? Or lack thereof? I'm in Northern California.

                        After a year, I'd say that I've made the no-knead bread more than any other recipe. I still love it. Sometimes I add a bit of whole wheat flour, sometimes rye, sometimes just regular unbleached flour. Last time I used King Arthur's Bread Flour. The loaf was great as usual, but I didn't see much difference.

                        1. re: oakjoan

                          Well, it's not the ambient humidity--I'm in San Francisco. I was using the floursack cloths and having a terrible time no matter how much flour I used or how much time I spent rubbing it into the cloth to impregnate every nook and cranny with flour.

                          I just stopped worrying about it and started using parchment or a silpat. Works great. Why sweat it? But I agree it is strange that some of us get such grief and others have no problems in this regard.

                        2. re: Eric in NJ

                          Wheat bran works much better than flour and adds a slight nutty taste to the crust.

                        3. Up until 2 weeks ago i had been using about a little less than 1.5 cups of water for a more manageable dough. I've not use the towel after the 2nd loaf. I just cover with the same inverted metal bowl. I use a pair of chopsticks to work the dough: at the initial mixing and at shaping. With slightly less water, it's easy to shape using the chopsticks and tucking the dough. Then a couple more hours later, when the pot has been well heated, I trace the top half circle of the dough where it meets the bowl to loosen that part of the dough away from the bowl, and (you'll have to have good spatial relation to imagine this) then tilting the bowl right over the heated pot, with the help of gravity (and sometimes a little more work with the chopsticks to loosen more portions) the dough does a slow-mo 360 flip into the heated pot, and greets me with a hiss when the dough comes in contact with the hot surface, signaling a promising nice crust to come. Done this way i don't need additional flour at all.

                          So then 2 weeks ago, i wanted to make steamed Chinese breads. I was being brave as I didn't know how much i can do with the dough after the first rise without it dying on me. This I needed flour for sure, i thought. This time I use a small soup laddle after punch down(or a table spoon would do) and sorrt of cut away a small piece. With lightly floured hand (dry) I cuddle it a little in my hands to get the dough not to stick and into a ball, then lightly flatten and stretch out the outer ring. I then filled it with my own recipe of vegetarian fillings, and do a north meets south, east meets west wrap to get a center, and then do some gathering to make it like a Chinese bun. The folds don't really stay that apparent, but it's enough to make a good seal without losing the springiness. Still not too keen on too much flour I used big cleaned leaves like kale, or mustard greens or whatever i have to set these buns onto. When it comes time to steam I carefully use a big flat spatula to scoop under the leaf to transfer 3 or 4 buns (slightly stuck together now) into the already boiling steamer.

                          That wasn't enough, as I wanted to do a Pan-fried/steamed (potsticker style of cooking), too. So then i would heat up (dry) a good All Clad Stainless Steel pan very hot, either carefully take each dough off the leaf, or just flip them over into the pot and then peel the leaf that's now on top off. Again, that hiss when the dough meets the dry hot pan is a good sound that tells you the sticking will form a crust that will come off clean. Then i add a little oil and coat the bottom of the pan, then some water to create steam, and the lid goes on and the heat turn not too low, only slightly lower.

                          The two Chinese variations takes a lot less time to cook. Most of all though, it had made me less afraid to work with the dough. I have also baked the buns the way that's described in the original recipe. Not only do i still get the crust, I can have more crust area by making them sort of like dinner roll where you can pull them apart, each individual piece has its own crusts all around. From there I've made baked veggie ham and cheese (comte) buns that are really tasty and convenient to take with you; as well as those filled with a mixture of chopped raisons, toasted walnuts, cinnamon, honey and maple syrup,

                          Definitely, can't thank Mark Bittman and Jim Lahey enough for getting me started on a dough journey!

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: HLing

                            Hling: What fun to read about your Chinese bun adventures. Great tip about the kale leaves.

                            I'll be trying this soon. Thanks.

                            1. re: HLing

                              wow. this is really making a recipe your own. I will try your chopstick tricks.

                              1. re: HLing

                                This sounds great. I'm going to give it a try--thanks!

                              2. It seems like you really have to plan ahead to make this recipe. Does everyone really let it rise for 12 to 18 hours, and then another 2 hours? So if I wanted this bread for dinner on a Tuesday I would have to start it on Monday at 10PM, correct?

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: Linda513

                                  Yes, really do let is rise the 12-18 hours, in fact I think the flavor is much better if you let it go the 18, then at least the 2 hours after that. If you don't get the time quite right, the dough is pretty forgiving. Don't be afraid of this method. It may take you a few times to get it like you like, but it's well worth it. I haven't made it all summer, time to get baking again!

                                  1. re: jackie de

                                    I've had a year of wonderful bread baking with this recipe. I've substituted whole rye, semolina, and whole wheat pastry flour (since it's a little finer) for a third of the white flour (which was all-purpose for many months till I switched to bread flour), all with great results. And don't forget to have the right butter on hand to spread on it: Though most of us stock unsalted for cooking, I think simple bread-and-butter demands salted. Trader Joe's sells Kerrygold (from Ireland) at a ridiculously low price, and it's delicious.

                                    As for sticking to the towel, that's never been a problem for me. Until recently I put down a coating of wheat bran rather than flour, since I could see that flour would get too sticky unless it were an inch thick. With bran there's no sticking. But I just tried semolina for the first time the other day, and it worked well too--just grainy enough to keep the dough from glueing itself to the towel.

                                    A cousin whom I introduced to this recipe tells me she's made delicious cheese bread with it, incorporating a heap of Gruyere just before the final two-hour rise. I'm afraid I have no further details on that, so you'll just have to do your own experimentation.

                                    1. re: jackie de

                                      What was working well for me was just starting a new batch every few days. Then I had one on hand to eat and one in process.

                                    2. re: Linda513

                                      Yes, it does require some planning ahead, but once you get used to that, it's great. I mentioned once before that there is a shorter method that I use only when I absolutely need the bread to be done in a day. I start as early as possible, say 7:30 or 8:30am, and follow the recipe, except double the amount of yeast to 1/2 a teaspoon. By around 4pm, the dough has done a pretty good first rise, and I proceed as per the recipe. It works really well, but you definitely do lose some of the flavor.