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Update...No-Knead Bread 2.0 (Cook's Illustrated)

The following text refers to the article in the Jan/Feb issue of Cook's Illustrated.

I baked a loaf of bread on Friday, 14Dec07 using the instructions in the article with some variations. I like this method much better than the one published in the NYTimes over a year ago. Getting the very loose dough into a 500-degree heated Dutch oven was much easier.

Some changes...

I used bread flour instead of all-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon of instant yeast instead of just 1/4 because the yeast expiration date has come and gone, and I eye-balled the amount of honey suggested in the optional whole wheat flour substitution. The dough was allowed to ferment for the suggested 18 hours.

The loaf that resulted was rustic looking and tasted good, but the bottom was burnt.

BTW, altho I did not proof the yeast as I usually do, I never discard yeast because of the expiration date has elapsed. One snowbound day several years ago I baked 2 beautiful loaves of Italian bread with yeast that was 4 years past the expiration date after proofing the yeast before getting started. My wife, who is leery of my creations, almost demolished one loaf at one sitting.

I will try this method and recipe again in a while from now.

Mistakes to be corrected next time...

I used a uncoated cast iron Dutch oven because I do not have one of those expensive enameled ones. Preheating the Dutch oven caused smoke because it was seasoned with oil. Mea culpa...didn't think of smoking oil. The kitchen fan took care of the smoke. I have a 5-qt. Vision Ware Dutch oven that will be used instead of the cast iron one.

I will try Release aluminum foil instead of parchment paper because it will take the shape of the 10" cast iron skillet better than does the paper for the second rise. I've successfully used that foil when baking rolls using a bread dough recipe. Plus I've used the same piece of foil more than a dozen times without any of the rolls sticking.

The oven rack will be raised a little higher than the bottom level which was suggested by the CI article. I'm hoping that the bottom of the loaf will not be burned the next time.

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  1. I've been an ardent devotee of the no-knead recipe for a year now, baking it at least once a week, so I was quite interested to hear that Cook's Illustrated had done some work on it. I wonder, though, if anyone else out there finds their treatment somewhat disappointing, as I do. For one thing, a couple of the "flaws" they tackled have never been problems for me (bread shape, for example, easily remediable by using a smaller pot), and some of what they propose seem to be solutions in search of a problem. Furthermore, the miracle of the no-knead formula, the exciting part for me, has always been that I reaped such generous rewards for so damn little work. Thus, coming up with a whole new set of additional steps wasn't exactly at the top of my agenda.

    I know they're hard workers over at CI, so I'm not dismissing their research. But I suspect I'll try introducing their "innovations" only on a piecemeal basis, not whole-hog. I did try a batch this week in my standard fashion but replacing about a quarter of the water with lager and vinegar. The loaf turned out very satisfactory, as usual, but no noticeable boost in flavor. I'll keep trying.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Barry Foy

      I have never made the Bittman/Lehay bread but I did read the CI article the other night. I am making beef veggie soup tomorrow because of the storm, and I might try their beer-enhanced recipe, just to see what the fuss is all about.

      1. re: Barry Foy

        I have to agree...CI characterized the Fahey recipe as "A no-fuss recipe that is revolutionizing home baking trades flavor and reliability for ease. Could we improve the bread's bland taste and make it rise high every time?" I've made the Fahey recipe nearly daily for close to a year, and I've never had a problem with rising as long as I kept to within the 12 - 18 hour development range, and I don't find the bread bland.

        I do like the idea of tinkering with it, though, so I'm going to work with the beer/vinegar addition some more. There's a No-Knead Bread Revisited video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4LaODc... in which Fahey discusses adding a bit of vinegar to the recipe, but more as a way to speed the process.

      2. I havent read the CI article, But when I make no need bread, I use a pyrex bowl and a heavy lid. Which I preheat in the oven.
        I also add the following to the dough.
        1/2 cup of rye flour.
        1 TB burnt sugar caramel ( available if there is a Jamaican population in your neck of the woods,
        1 TB malt syrup.

        However my family prefers more delicate bread,

        1. I'd be very interested in hearing more reports on what additives people are using. I am getting excellent results using the basic ingredients plus a tablespoon of vital wheat gluten and a tablespoon of malt powder (Assi brand from the Korean market). The yeasties really seem to love the malt powder.

          Jim

          10 Replies
          1. re: Jim Washburn

            I have never baked bread before yesterday, when I baked the CI version of the no-knead bread. It turned out beautifully! I am looking forward to trying the original version, too.

            I have a couple of questions that I hope some of you more experienced bakers can answer:
            1. How strictly do you have to adhere to the 2-hour rising period after you knead the dough? I would like to be able to knead the dough before I go to work, or even at lunch break, and then bake it for dinner after work.
            2. Can you keep openend yeast envelopes in zip lock bags? Or do you need to use fresh yeast each time?
            3. The CI recipe says to preheat the dutch oven for 1/2 hour. Is that really necessary or can you put it in the cold oven and assume it's OK to go whenever the oven indicates that it's preheated?

            Thanks for anybody who can help out with this.

            Martyparty

            1. re: martyparty

              I think it's probably important to stick to the two hour rise. I'd be very worried about letting it rise longer. Maybe you could experiment and put it in the fridge to rise and see what happens. Just an idea. About opened yeast.. I just toss mine in the fridge, top folded down. I put the pot in the cold oven and when the stove beeps, I figure it's time. Seems to work!

              1. re: knitterbetty

                Several times I've stretched the two hours to three hours with no ill effect, but I think eight would be a bad idea. I must admit, though, that I haven't done the experiment to prove that. I, too, fold over the cut corner of the yeast packet and save the rest. Works fine. However, I don't think the pot is up to temp when the oven beeps. The oven thermometer is measuring the temperature of the air around it, not the temperature of the pot. It will take longer to bring all that thermal mass in the pot up to 450 or 500. I usually allow at least another 20 minutes after the oven beeps.

                Jim

                1. re: Jim Washburn

                  Yes, me too. I've found the Lahey recipe to be extremely forgiving. It is a labor of love-- not much labor even.

              2. re: martyparty

                When I turn out the dough for the 2 hour rise I set the timer for 1 ½ hours. When it beeps I turn the oven on with the pot in it and set the timer for 30 min. then put the dough in.

                I just put the un-used yeast in a plastic storage container in the fridge, you get about 6 loaves from one packet.

                1. re: martyparty

                  Re: #2 If you're going to make much bread, look at 4 oz jars of yeast at your market. You just measure out what you need.

                  1. re: martyparty

                    I usually do about 3 hours for the second rise, but you'd probably be fine if you kneaded and then refrigerated. When you get home from work, you may need to leave the dough to rise for a bit, but there shouldn't be a problem.

                    I use instant yeast. Reportedly, if you keep it in the freezer, it will last forever. So far, I've found it to be true. I have little packets. After I use the 1/4 t, I fold the sachet and put a rubber band around it, and put it back in the freezer. Next time I'm going for the larger single container. If I ever use up these packets.

                    As to your third question, I just put the pot in the cold oven, like you suggest. My bread turns out great.

                    1. re: martyparty

                      1. When I've made the 1.0 version (pre-CI-I just baked my first CI loaf last night and haven't tasted it yet) I usually let it rise much longer than 2 hours, sometimes because of circumstances, sometimes because it seemed to need more time. Always worked well. I figured out once that this bread costs me about a quarter to make, so experiment away!
                      2. Buy the 4 oz jars of yeast. They last a long time and are much easier to use.
                      3. I think it's important to put it in a hot dutch oven as part of getting the necessary steam and crisp crust.

                      1. re: martyparty

                        As for yeast, it seems to be pretty stable for long periods of time. I bought a 1-lb. foil bag of it from Costco, since it was so cheap (around 3 bucks, I think) and I've been using it ever since, storing it in a large ziplock bag in the refrigerator. I just noticed recently that I'd written on the ziplock bag that I bought the stuff in March of 2003. And it's still going strong - the yeast seems to be as good as ever, from what I can tell.

                        1. re: Bat Guano

                          From what I've read, the instant yeast can keep for 20+ years in the freezer and 10+ years in the fridge. If you start to get nervous about it, just test it. BTW, mine is around 5 years old and is fine.

                    2. The original comment has been removed
                      1. RE: expensive enameled Cast Iron Dutch Ovens.

                        I purchased said item at Target for about $35. I really want one from Le Creuset, but I just can't justify spending that kind of money on it. Anyway, the Target one works great! In fact, it was recommended by CI a while back, but the availability of said item is spotty at best. CI has now recommends another similar item for about the same price. Look toward the back of that magazine issue for their recommendation.

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: jewel4352

                          I recently got a Lodge enamel dutch oven -- the ~$50 version, there's a $100 version too. Still a quarter of the price of the Le Crueset. Someone on a thread I posted here also mentioned the Target one and even an Ikea one. So there are choices for far less than the French versions.

                          I LOVE my Lodge one -- I've done Hopping John, Italian pot roast, stew...and I'll be using it a lot. Next I have to try one of these breads!

                          1. re: eamcd

                            You should look up a LeCreuset factory store. (http://www.lecreuset.com/usa/shopping...) There are about 50 or so of them in the US if I recall correctly. Sign up for their preferred customer program(no cost) as soon as you walk in, so you can use the discount for your purchase. The factory stores carry factory "seconds" which are usually 30% off the normal price, in addition to "first quality" items. Being a member of their preferred customer program will get you an additional 10% off, and more during some sales. Their "second" quality is strictly cosmetic and usually I have a difficult time telling why an item is a "second". A tiny bump in the enamel is all it takes. Their quality control is very picky. Lastly, they frequently have colors and designs in their factory locations which are not supposed to be available in the US. I have a French Bistro Pan that I would hate to do without, that I never would have gotten if not for a factory store. Take your credit cards, as these stores, at least the two I have visited in NC, have an awesome selection. Visualize if you will, maybe 5,000+ pieces of rainbow hued LeCreuset cookware calling your name............

                            1. re: htgriff

                              For the next few days, the outlet stores are offering 40% off all cast iron... I picked up a 7.25 quart enameled round french oven a few weeks ago-- regular price $269. I got mine (a perfect second-- the paint color of the paint gradation wasn't smooth enough to be a first) for $138!

                              Mr Taster

                            2. re: eamcd

                              I second the awesomeness of the Lodge DO. It is perfect and so not fussy. It's also great for no-knead bread. I'd kind of like a Le Creuset one just 'cause they're pretty. But for performance and price, Lodge is the ticket. It has also rated at the top of the CI evals.

                              1. re: Procrastibaker

                                Thirded on the Lodge.

                                My mom thought my Lodge DO was an LC when she first saw it. She has had pieces of LC in service for 30+ years so I took that as a compliment to the piece. I turned it over and she was surprised that Lodge manufactured the piece. I can't afford LC, even if I'd wanted to. With the price and construction as good as it is, why would I want to?

                                I swapped out the knob for a hardware-store chromed steel one and have made several loaves in it, along with stew, mussels, soup, and the usual suspects. The 6qt pot is $50 from Amazon and it just absolutely rules for the quality delivered at the price.

                            3. re: jewel4352

                              The CI that had the No Knead 2.0 piece also had a piece on enameled cast iron dutch ovens. Their favorite was the Le Creuset, but they recommended one by Tramontina as a more reasonably priced alternative ($35, I think).

                              1. re: jewel4352

                                Better to use a cheaper one b/c they get beat up a bit. I got mine at Ikea for 25 dollars or so, and I use
                                the Le Creuset's for cooking.