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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.


          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.


            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.


                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. 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.

                            2. I tried this on Sunday but the dough was VERY sticky, I had to add a ton of flour to it to do the short knead and it still didn't rise as expected. The crumb was also sort of wet.
                              I am thinking that it might have been too cold in the house for it to properly develop (we generally set our heat at about 65 in the winter and only turn it on if we are cold).
                              Any suggestions?

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: ErikaK

                                I think that dough is meant to be sticky. It has a high per cent of water deliberately. Also that "short knead" is not really meant to be a knead. It's more like folding it over a couple of times. If the house is cold, just extend your rise times. It'll work. If it's wet inside, you probably want to bake it uncovered a little longer. You probably want an internal temp of about 205 to 210. This is what I think, any way. Subject to correction.

                                1. re: ErikaK

                                  Also, make sure the bread cools to an internal temp of 100 before you cut it. If you cut it while it's hot, you release a lot of internal heat and eliminate the out-of-the-oven cooking that it does while its cooling.

                                2. I haven't tried this version simply because I find it just as easy to use a small amount of sourdough starter (which I always have on hand) with flour, water, and salt. But this looks like an interesting alternative, though it won't have the health benefits of bacteria fermentation--some celiac sprue sufferers can tolerate sourdough bread for reasons not entirely clear. But I do have a few comments. I read someplace that one home baker used up her supply of yeast (which she kept in the freezer) a full thirteen years after opening it. That stuff can go on a long time, so you probably don't have to double the amount of yeast. (Besides, it will double in one generational time which I gather is about an hour.) Secondly, the honey (or malt syrup for those who use it) is yeast friendly, unlike sucrose. But if you add very much to the dough, you increase the risk of burning the crust. In eyeballing the honey, you may have added so much that your crust burned at the high baking temperature. So using a little less honey may solve the burning problem. When I bake honey-oat-whole wheat bread, I bake on the lowest rack position because it is the only one my Tramontina casserole or covered flour pot will fit on. So I start the bread at the high temperature to get a good oven spring from in, and then I drop it to 375 after about ten minutes. The pot will remain hot and the temperature drop more gradually. When all is said and done, however, the variety of ways to bake a good loaf is amazing. No wonder there are so many great breads in the world!

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: Father Kitchen

                                    Since my initial attempt at baking bread using the method described in CI Jan/Feb 2008 I've had good luck making the changes that I stated in the original posting. The aluminum foil works well as does the Corning Visions Dutch oven. I've used the same piece of foil twice...how about that for 'going green?' Having the oven rack at a greater distance from the heating element also helps.

                                    I also used my own recipe for making rye bread since my daughter gave me a kitchen scale as a Christmas gift, something I suggested to her when she asked I would like. A pound of bread flour and 7 ounces of rye flour were combined for the dough along with some molasses and 3 Tbs. of caraway seeds. It isn't rye bread to me without the seeds. Also, if I'm opening a bottle of lager beer, I use all of it instead of water.

                                    I also reduced the uncovered baking time to 12 minutes instead of 30 minutes. It worked like a charm. The resulting loaf had good crust and crumb.

                                    1. re: ChiliDude

                                      Great going, ChiliDude. I use foil in the bottom of my flower pot baker, mainly to cover the hole. But I can see it would work well in a Dutch oven. Next time we get frozen pie, I'll save the tin and cut the bottom out of it. It will last even longer. Your rye bread recipe sounds good. I think Peter Reinhart's "Whole Grain Bread" has some recipes involving beer or spent grain. And another recent book, whose title escapes me now, has an ale-based barm bread recipe in it. I haven't tried any of those kinds of breads, but your rye bread is giving me a nudge. Did you bake it as a slow-rise bread?

                                      1. re: Father Kitchen

                                        Me again. I just checked some references. Reinhart does not give recipes based on beer but on grain mashes, and he has one reference to the word "barm" which he calls a ferment based on a mash. My understanding is that "barm" referred to the cap of yeasts that formed on a fermenting vat of beer or ale. It is composed of S. cerivisae, and baker's yeast is simply a select strain of barm. In any case, we are on the same trail. Dan Lepard in his book "The Art of of Handmade Bread" does give a barm bread recipe that incorporate both beer or ale and a natural leaven ferment, which surprised me since S. cerivisae and C. milleri thrive at different pH values. Elizabeth David in her book on English bread gives a short description of early baking that incorporated barm. Ale or beer was used to make a preferment that was then incorporated into the main batch of dough. So the historical procedure was much like Lepard's. Finally, Collister and Blake, in "Country Breads of the World" give a recipe for a stout-oat-wheat bread that includes baker's yeast in it as well. I'm sure I've seen some other literature on beer-based breads, but I'll be darned if I can remember where it was. Perhaps it was Charel Scheel or something on the web.

                                  2. I've made the original no-knead recipe a couple times and tried the 2.0 version this weekend with a few variations. First, I used bread flour instead of all-purpose and Grolsch instead of the bottle of Budweiser they called for. Grolsch is also a light lager but it's much more flavorful and I think it made a difference. I'm not certain though because I also substituted in a few tablespoons of rye flour. Finally, I forgot to turn down the oven so I ended up baking the loaf covered at 500 degrees for around 20 minutes and then uncovered at 425 for around 20 more. (Instead of a Dutch oven I use a clay cooker sitting on a pizza stone on the bottom rack.) Also, I didn't bother with all the parchment paper. I let the dough rise on a plastic cutting sheet and just dumped it into the preheated cooker. N-K 2.0 is much less sticky than 1.0 so it wasn't much trouble getting it off the cutting sheet.

                                    The end result was a big flavor improvement over No-Knead 1.0. The high initial temperature gave me a thick crunchy crust; a bit more than I like really but the thick crust reheats and toasts very well. I'm sold. <a href="http://tinkeringwithdinner.blogspot.c... are some photos.</a>

                                    I do want to explore using a starter or at least holding back a bit of dough from each batch to keep in the refrigerator and add to next week's loaf.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: billjac

                                      I think the addition of little bit of rye flour and letting the dough rise on one of those flexible plastic cutting boards are great ideas!

                                      1. re: billjac

                                        I've just noticed that I'm still getting the occasional blog hit from this comment. Here's a link that actually works: http://tinkeringwithdinner.blogspot.c....

                                      2. Will this recipe work if I use a 5 quart oval dutch oven? Or does it have to be round?

                                        8 Replies
                                        1. re: Carole

                                          Any shape you like, provided you can cover it tightly in the first part of the bake. But a long, narrow loaf will cook more quickly because of the changed crumb to crust ratio. So for an oval pot, just ease it into an oval shape.

                                          1. re: Father Kitchen

                                            Thanks! Just finished mixing the dough.

                                            The pot is a heavy LeCreuset that I got 20+ years ago to make pot roast so it has that heavy lid. Like you said, I'll have to adjust the timing.

                                            1. re: Carole

                                              Carole, you can actually bake a no-knead loaf in an open oven without a container, but you would really need to steam up the oven first. And, as Rosa Levy Beranbaum mentioned about a year ago on her site, it will tend to spread. I find it helpful to approach these recipes with an inquisitive mind and ask why they do something that way. I most often bake bread in a closed container because it approximates the atmosphere of a traditional retained-heat oven. But I have even made no-knead baguettes. I keep going back to round loaves, however, because I like what a closed pot does.

                                              1. re: Father Kitchen

                                                Yeah, I was worried about the spreading factor. I've done a bit of bread making here at home and it can be tricky with a very wet dough. This seemed like a great way to prevent having to add too much flour just to be able to manage it. I was going to look for my round cloche in the basement and use that (haven't used it in a long time) but I thought I'd see first if the oval dutch oven would do the trick. I have an old Wolf stove that's had plenty of water thrown on it's floor in an attempt to generate some steam.

                                                It's in the second rise now so I'll get a result soon. Anyway, this is great fun!

                                                1. re: Carole

                                                  Funny thing about very wet dough--it usually makes for very big holes (if the flour isn't too strong) but it isn't necessary for a no-knead bread. I haven't had time to do comparisons of the behavior of doughs made at different hydration rates with long rises. I only get to bake when my teaching/editing schedule and the cook's schedule allow me to get time in the kitchen. But I experminented with a no-knead approach even before I had seen the Bittman article, and I made a decent loaf with medium hydration--rather like French bread. The trick with less water is to mix all the flour in. Also, I think a wetter dough probably provides a better environment for protease and amylase activity. Some time ago I read something on the net that suggested that any bread recipe can be made into a no-knead recipe by the addition of a small amount of ascorbic acid. I'm leery of additives, so I never tried using it. Some other approaches that work are the one in "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day," in Suzanne Dunnaway's "No Knead to Knead" and in Van Over's "Best Bread Ever." In fact, if I were to try to experiment and try to get the best of both worlds--complex flavor without using sourdough--I would probably use the beer/yeast combination but hydrate with the liquid at 67% of the weight of the flour and mix it for 45 seconds in a food processor fitted with the steel cutting blade. Or I might use a mixture of water and live yogurt with the yeast. In any case, you don't need to make this with a dough so wet it oozes. And, by the way, a cloche works just fine. If you plan on scoring the loaf, that would be the way to go.

                                                  1. re: Father Kitchen

                                                    Wow, I had totally forgotten about "Best Bread Ever" by Van Over. I loved his approach but found that the flavor of the basic bread lacked the complexity that I like. I never did try to adapt another recipe (with a starter) to his method. That would be good to try, too. I have a recipe for Italian Country bread from Beth Hensperger's book "Baking Bread – Old and New Traditions" that I add rosemary and sun-dried tomatoes to, using her basic variation with Rosemary& Raisin (drop the raisins). It's very rich with eggs and sugar as well and the process starts with a sponge you let sit overnight to up to a week. This bread makes the best grilled cheese sandwiches ever. She also has a paragraph in this book about using a dutch oven to get a great crust (over a camp fire). The recipe makes a huge loaf (7 total cups of flour) so I'd have to reduce it or cut it in half.

                                                    I'm going to have to do some experimenting.

                                                    1. re: Father Kitchen

                                                      First try finished and cool. The bottom is a little burnt but the crust looks great. After 20 minutes in the stage of the baking without the lid (recipe suggested 20 - 30 minutes), I checked the internal temp and it was 211 so I pulled it. Waited 2 hours and had a slice. Excellent crust – not too thick or thin, very good flavor and I'm really pleased. Even in the oval dutch oven the loaf fit and came out pretty round. I had used parchment paper and next time I'll try the non-stick foil. Oh, and for the beer I used what I had on hand – Stella Artois.

                                                      Don't know what exactly to do to adjust for the burnt bottom. Maybe move the rack up to the second from bottom level. My oven really pumps out the heat from the bottom.

                                                      1. re: Carole

                                                        Just completed a second loaf where I used the non-stick Reynold's Wrap Aluminum Foil and I much prefer it to the parchment paper (thank you ChiliDude). Very easy to lift up. And I don't know if it had role in playing but my bottom crust this time wasn't burnt. I didn't raise the bottom rack – just switched to the aluminum foil.

                                                        Now that I think of it, I'm sure the reason the bottom didn't burn this time is that with the aluminum foil, I didn't spray the foil with the Pam like I sprayed the parchment paper.

                                                        After 20 minutes of baking with the lid off, the thermometer read 210 so I'm getting consistent results.

                                                        Another question: does the beer have to be fresh? I mean just opened or can I use the same bottle that I opened a couple of days before for a previous loaf (that I put a stopper in)? Perhaps I'll try what ChiliDude said and just use all beer instead of part water.

                                          2. I did a comparison on the Cook's Illustrated and the Jim Lahey/Bittman/ New York Times bread. Here it is. http://idinearound.wordpress.com/.
                                            End result is that I found the differences to be not worth the extra trouble. I did like the parchment sling of the CI, and will use that in the future. Would like to know if anyone else has done both, and what they think of the two.

                                            7 Replies
                                            1. re: thehumblecook

                                              I didn't get a chance to try the Cook's Illustrated recipe yet, but it looks to me like the additions are simply ways of approximating the more complex flavor of a naturally-leavened loaf, which naturally contains both acetic and lactic acid. I've kept a sourdough starter going for years. It takes about three minutes of work a week to keep it going when I am not baking. And it makes a good no knead loaf. However, I usually fold it a couple of times during the bulk fermentation. I prefer the more complex flavor that a natural leaven gives. In any case, I can see beer in my bread future. So many loaves; so little time. Happy baking.

                                              1. re: Father Kitchen

                                                When you use your sourdough starter, is that the only leavening agent, or do you add some yeast "just to make sure"?

                                                I realize that you have probably described your method in a previous post, but you do have, ah-hum, a considerable body of work on this subject. Maybe I should just copy it all out and I would have a complete primer on No Knead in all it's permutations.


                                                1. re: yayadave

                                                  I've never needed to add baker's yeast to sourdough bread. It is important, however, that the starter be "young and vigorous"--which means refreshed just before using it to leaven the bread. Ideally, you let it ferment at room temperature like a poolish and biga and use it at the point where it begins to drop. I usually bake the no-knead loaf with 20 ounces of flour and 15 ounces of water, but you can use a bit less water if you plan to bake it on an oven stone or slash it. Or go for 21 ounces of flour and 14 ounces of water. Oil a 1/4 cup measuring cup and scoop up some starter. I don't measure it exactly--I probably actually pick up 3 tablespoonsful. But I am not working with a tight schedule and I can adjust to its rhythm. I mix the salt (usually 1/2 tsp fine sea salt per 5 oz flour) with the flour and dissolve the starter in the water and then mix everything together. I take care not to leave any undissolved lumps of flour. I scrape the mass into a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. If I do this late in the afternoon, I'll usually fold it before going to bed. And I fold it again when I get up in the morning and then prior to shaping the loaves. Although I have left the loaves to rise in lightly oiled large Chinese rice bowls, I find I actually like using a towel. I sprinkle it with cornmeal (since it doesn't contain gluten and won't get sticky if it absorbs moisture), place the rounded loaf on a towel, seam-side down, sprinkle some more meal on top and loosely cover with the ends of the towel. I generally put the whole package in a bowl or colander to rise. 40 minutes before baking, I put my casserole (a Tramontina as in CI), or Dutch oven (Lodge) or 10 1/2" clay bulb-pan flower pot (with a round of foil in the bottom because of the hole) together with its saucer (both previously seasoned with shortening before the first bake) in a cold oven. I heat the oven to 475. I remove the pot from the oven. I pick up the dough package by the top of the towel with my left hand, place my right hand under it, and turn back the ends. I plop the dough into the pot, and jiggle it if has landed off center, cover it, and put it into the oven. For a loaf made with 3 cups of flour, I bake it at 475, uncovering it half-way through the bake. For a larger loaf, I reduce the temperature to 425 after about ten minutes, and then about 15 minutes later uncover it. I bake until I start getting mahogony tones on the crust. I usually check the internal temperature with a probe thermometer when I bake a large loaf. It should read close to 210. If the crumb is a bit gummy later when the bread is sliced, that tells me that I need to reduce the water next time. It shouldn't be a problem, but different flours absorb different amounts of water. And flour in humid weather may have absorbed a fair amount of water. Also, I generally use all-purpose flour. But when I bake this sort of loaf with oats or corn in it--about 25% of the total flour--I use home-milled Wheat Montana white hard winter wheat which I bolt to remove some of the bran. It is a high-protein flour, and I think the addition of oats or corn (with little or no gluten) gives it a better texture than the wheat flour by itself. Also, I often add a tablespoon or two of rye to improve enzyme action in the home-milled flour.

                                                  1. re: Father Kitchen

                                                    Father Kitchen -- question for you: What if you like the idea of being able to refrigerate doughs but don't like the sourdough acid taste. Is that taste inevitable when you hold dough that long?

                                                    I've made the Bittman recipe a number of times and loved it, but am wondering what would happen if I hold that dough or other doughs longer in the frige.

                                                    1. re: karykat

                                                      Karykat -- I can't give you an authoratitive answer because I haven't much experience in this area. Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois have a book out called "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day" that uses nothing but dough retarded for long periods in the refrigerator--up to ten days, as I recall. So you can retard the dough for long periods, and the flavor does get more complex, but I don't know how tangy it gets. I have retarded a yeasted dough of just flour, water, and salt for 24 hours and found it made a big difference. And once one of our friars left some whole wheat dough in the fridge when he was called away for an emergency. The cook found it about two weeks later oozing out of the covered bowl it was in. She baked it and got a very tangy sour whole wheat bread. The most common source of acids in sourdough cultures is Lactobacillus sanfranciscensis, which flourishes under warmer conditions. So I would expect that dough refrigerated for several days would not get especially tangy. (In fact, my sourdough bread, fermented at room temperature, is only slightly tangy.) Our very sour, whole-wheat bread experience, made from dough left in the refrigerator for several weeks, may have involved other species of lactobacilli since it was not made from an established culture and may have contained milk. (It was based on a recipe from "The Tassajara Bread Book." So possibly, after a very long retardation in the refrigerator, you might get a "pickled" dough. But would you store dough for several weeks? Probably not, unless you have a walk-in refrigerator with lots of space. When all is said and done, there is one way to find out, and that is to try it. My guess is that you will like the results if you hold the dough for a few days. Beyond that, try freezing it. And when you bake retarded dough, let it reach an internal temperature of 62 degrees F. before putting it in the oven.

                                                      1. re: Father Kitchen

                                                        Father Kitchen -- You are a godsend. ;-) I have the Artisan Baking book. I didn't realize until it arrived that it was written by local people. I have taken baking classes from one of the authors and loved her. It's helpful to know that the actor most responsible for the tang is retarded at low temperatures. So, now I have my quick release foil and my book, and will give it a try. Thanks.

                                                        1. re: karykat

                                                          Do let us know how it turns out. Maybe you'd like to start a chain on the topic.

                                            2. I'm glad to see that this post has generated so much interest. I wish there were more people in my area who baked bread, especially rye bread. Hunting down a store that sells rye flour is quite an adventure. Finding caraway seeds in a large quantity for the rye bread is much simpler.

                                              6 Replies
                                              1. re: ChiliDude

                                                ChiliDude, this probably should be a new chain. I figure from your restaurant list that you are in an area near West Chester or Paoli, PA. You are within driving distance of Whole Food markets, which should carry Rye flour. The major supermarket chains near me in D.C. carry Bob Red's Mill rye flour, but not in large bags. Or check with a bakery supply store and get a fifty pound sack of it, if you use a lot. Or perhaps a local bakery would sell you some. Finally, consider getting a mill and making it yourself. An advantage is that you can also make fresh cornmeal from flint or dent corn. Your chili never had a better accompaniment.

                                                1. re: ChiliDude

                                                  I get my caraway seeds by mail from Penzey's.
                                                  I echo Father Kitchen about Whole Foods or the big supermarket that has a natural foods section. You may need to make a pilgrimage but you will get what you need! I like Bob's Red Mill brand, they always have the expiration date of the product in a font size I can read.
                                                  I do store my rye flour in the refridgerator.

                                                  1. re: scharffenberger

                                                    There is a Penzey's on Germantown Rd in the Walnut Hill area of Philly, and the cooking school at the Walnut Hill College is listed on a wholesaler list on the web, although its own web site doesn't mention wholesale, so the listing may be wrong. The oldest and possibly largest baker's supply in the U.S. is George R Ruhl and Sons in Hanover, MD, just south of Baltimore. They have a great web site that even includes recipes under the "vendor" tab. (www.grrruhl.com.)It is about 100 miles from West Chester, a bit far for a drive on its own, but they ship. Or simply combine it with a visit to any of the many tourist and cultural destinations on the way down. We've bought flour from Ruhl, one fifty pound sack at a time. They do sell to the public, and the inventory is huge.

                                                  2. re: ChiliDude

                                                    If you're in the greater Philadelphia area, Four Worlds Bakery sells various flours including rye, spelt, etc. He has various pick-up options.

                                                    Here's a link to his website: http://challahmansbreadblog.blogspot....

                                                    1. re: Carole

                                                      thank you to everyone on this thread - i spent a day reading this before i jumped in and tried this method with excellent results! my loaf is so beautiful that i almost felt like leaving it alone, but did cut into it and slather it with butter. wonderful. my fear of bread baking is now over. thanks!

                                                      1. re: Carole

                                                        I think on my next trip north to the Longwood Gardens, I'll go a bit further to Philadelphia. Thanks for the tip.

                                                    2. I'm about to make the basic recipe, but only have regular yeast. The video on CI says to make sure you use instant yeast. Has anyone tried both kinds or had success w/ regular?

                                                      5 Replies
                                                      1. re: bear

                                                        I haven't done the CI version, but I've made the NYTimes version a number of times and always used standard active dry yeast (not instant). No problems.

                                                        1. re: bear

                                                          Don't worry with a 18/20 hour rise regular yeast will work. That's all I use.

                                                          1. re: Eric in NJ

                                                            Thanks, Heather and Eric,

                                                            I am doing the 18 hr. rise, so hopefully that will work. I'm pretty sure the only other time that I made it, I used regular and it was fine.

                                                            Should go great with a big ol' pot of chicken soup during our Boston area Nor'easter tomorrow, and help refuel after shoveling 12"+!

                                                            1. re: bear

                                                              We were supposed to get 3 to 6 inches of snow and only had rain...........hope the same for you.

                                                              1. re: Eric in NJ

                                                                Naw, we already have about 6", but the good news is that the bread is rising nicely. Now, to get that chicken soup going after I do a little shoveling...

                                                        2. Almost No-Knead Bread

                                                          Recipe paraphrased from a recipe in Cooks Illustrated 1/2008

                                                          This recipe comes out best made in an enameled cast-iron dutch oven with a
                                                          lid that fits tightly. It can also be made in a regular cast-iron dutch oven
                                                          or a heavy stockpot.

                                                          Use a mild flavored beer like Budweiser or a mild flavor non-alcoholic beer.

                                                          The bread is best the day it's baked. It can be wrapped in foil and stored
                                                          in a cool dry place for 2-days.

                                                          This recipe makes one large, round loaf of bread.


                                                          3 cups of unbleached, all purpose flour (15-oz). Plus more flour to dust work surface.
                                                          1/4 tsp instant or rapid-rise yeast
                                                          1-1/2 tsp regular table salt
                                                          3/4 cup plus 2 Tbs water at room temperature (7-oz)
                                                          1/4 cup plus 2 Tbs mild-flavored beer (3 oz)
                                                          1 Tbs distilled white vinegar


                                                          1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, yeast and salt. Now add the water, beer and vinegar. Fold batter using a rubber spatula. Scrape the dry ingredients from the bowl bottom and continue folding until a ragged ball of dough forms. Cover bowl with some plastic wrap. Allow to sit at room temperature for 8 to 18 hours.

                                                          2. In a 10-inch skillet, place a 12 x 18 inch piece of parchment paper. Spray parchment
                                                          paper with nonstick cooking spray. Take the bowl of dough and turn out onto a lightly
                                                          floured work surface. Knead dough 10 to 15 times. Pull edges of dough from edges into
                                                          the center to form a ball of dough. Place the dough with the seam side down, into the parchment lined skillet. Spray dough with nonstick cooking spray. Cover the dough
                                                          loosely with a piece of plastic wrap. Allow to rise at room temperature until the dough is doubled in size, about 2-hours. The dough should not easily spring back when poked.

                                                          3. Place a 6 to 8 quart, heavy bottom, dutch oven with lid, on lowest oven rack. Preheat the oven at 500-F for 1/2 hour. Lightly dust top of dough with flour and then make single 6-inch long, 1/2 inch deep cut on the top of the dough with a sharp knife or razor blade. Take preheated dutch oven from from the 500-F oven and remove lid. Using edges of parchment paper, pick up dough from frying pan and place into dutch oven. Allow extra parchment paper to hang out of dutch oven and cover dough with lid. Return covered dutch oven to oven and turn temperture down to 425-F. Bake bread covered for 30-minutes. Remove lid and continue baking until bread is deep brown and an instant read thermometer, inserted in loaf center, reads 210-F. This may take 20 to 30 minutes after removing cover. When done, remove bread from dutch oven and cool on wire rack for 2-hours, until bread reaches room temperature.

                                                          1. I made two batches exactly as written, with the exception of subbing regular yeast for the rapid. In the first loaf, I put the dried yeast in the dough. It worked pretty well. For the second loaf, I warmed the 7 oz. water and activated the yeast. This made a pretty big difference in the amount that it rose before shaping, but didn't seem to make a huge difference in the final product. Both loaves were excellent, and so easy. I'll be making this often.

                                                            A note: For the first loaf, I overlooked the instruction to spray the parchment with nonstick spray. Don't skip that step! I had to cut the bottom crust off. Oh, well, it was still great. Lots of flavor from the small amounts of beer (I used amber lager, not Bud) and vinegar.

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: bear

                                                              That is strange Bear, I have yet to spray my parchment paper and it just comes free. 4 or 5 times now. I use a cast iron non enamel pot, just pick up the whole loaf on the paper and plop it in.

                                                              1. re: Eric in NJ

                                                                That is strange. This was totally glued on. I did overbake the first loaf looking for CI's internral temp of 210. It never seemed to get above 208, and I realized I had blown it. It was still fabulous, but I can't imagine that overbaking would cause it to stick.

                                                                The reason I missed the spray step is because I didn't remember doing that in the original recipe. Just a fluke, I guess.

                                                                I used my enamel-cast iron Lodge Logic.

                                                            2. Having studied this thread carefully, I baked my first batch of this bread yesterday. Thanks to ChiliDude for excellent suggestions. I used nonstick aluminum foil instead of parchment -- worked like a charm -- used beer alone instead of beer and water for the liquid, replaced 3/4 cup of all-purpose flour with rye flour, and added 1 tablespoon molasses and 1 tablespoon caraway seeds. The dough seemed quite stiff -- rye is thirsty -- so I stirred in an extra 1/4 cup of beer. After the first rise, I divided the dough in half and formed two small boules so I could give one away. I baked one, then cranked the oven heat back up and baked the other -- 20 minutes with the Dutch oven covered, 15 minutes open, and my instant-read thermometer yielded a perfect "done" temperature of 205 degrees. My bread had superb flavor and a tender crumb. Yum!

                                                              Questions. First, the bottom crust on both loaves was quite dark, even though I positioned my Dutch oven on the second-to-lowest rack, and for the second boule I followed Father Kitchen's strategy, preheating the oven to 475 degrees, turning down to 425. I think the darkness may be unavoidable with the loaf sitting on such a hot surface, even with aluminum foil in between. Has anyone experimented with reducing the initial heat further? Even 475 is hotter than the temperatures called for in any of my conventional bread recipes, which range from 375 to 450.

                                                              Second, the Cook's Illustrated recipe says the enclosed baking environment creates ideal crumb and crust because it retains humidity. Yes, the dough is moist, but my pot didn't seem particularly humid. Has anyone tried tossing some water -- a tablespoon or more -- into the pot before adding the bread dough? I'm baking in a heavy stainless steel pot, so the temperature contrast won't damage it, and the foil will keep the dough from getting wet.

                                                              Thanks in advance for any advice!

                                                              33 Replies
                                                              1. re: WendyBinCT

                                                                Wendy, I haven't baked that bread myself, so my answer reflects hunches as well as some experience with other breads. 1) Can you bake at a lower temperature? Yes, and I should think you probably should. With all that rye, I should think that the long rise has led to a lot of sugar development from the amylase, to say nothing of the molasses. Beer may contribute some sugars its own (check the label). So try dropping it to 375 for the main bake. Very sweet breads can go down to 350. It is also possible that your oven is baking hot. Also consider the effect of rye itself. I believe Rose Levy Beranbaum recommends that, as a general rule, the amount of rye flour not be more than 16% the weight of the wheat. When you go beyond that, you get a loaf that behaves more and more like a rye bread loaf. And most ryes are baked at lower temperatures, including Volkornbrot that may be steam baked at about 250 overnight. I am no expert in baking rye, but I suspect that its presence would be another reason to lower the temperature. Secondly, your pot won't seem particularly humid. The water vapor in the pot will be hot vapor, not condensed moisture. If you figure the dew point of a 450 degree atmosphere, you'll see that it won't seem humid in the least. Besides, you only want humidity for part of the bake. If it is too wet for too long, you'll get a concrete crust, not a crunchy one. :>)

                                                                1. re: Father Kitchen

                                                                  Wow, Father Kitchen, thanks so much for your generous response -- a fascinating and informative lesson!

                                                                  1. re: WendyBinCT

                                                                    Round 2 Report: Baked my second batch of the CI recipe this afternoon, and the bread is just right! Following Father Kitchen's suggestions, I ratcheted back both the oven temperature (to 375) and percentage of rye flour (1/2 cup rye to 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour). No more overdone bottom crust! I added one innovation which I will definitely retain -- after the first rise, I divided the dough in half, formed loaves, and tucked each into a half-sized mini-loaf pan for the second rise, then reused my nonstick foil cradles to lower the pans into my Dutch oven. Two gorgeous little loaves which puffed upward instead of spreading horizontally. Just delighted!

                                                                    1. re: WendyBinCT

                                                                      That was with all the beer? Could you write out the proportions? I think I want to try that.

                                                                      1. re: Father Kitchen

                                                                        Yes, Father Kitchen, all beer! I don't care for beer myself, so when I had to open a room-temperature bottle for this recipe, I figured why not just pour it? The little bit left went down the drain. Warm beer, bleh! I keep Heineken on hand for when my grown son visits, so that's what I used. Must say the yeasty aroma coming from my oven was intoxicating, and the finished product is superb. Here's my ingredient list:

                                                                        2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
                                                                        1/2 cup stone-ground rye flour
                                                                        1/2 tsp. Instant yeast
                                                                        1 1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
                                                                        1 1/2 cups Heineken beer
                                                                        1 Tbsp. white vinegar
                                                                        1 Tbsp. molasses
                                                                        1 Tbsp. caraway seeds

                                                                        Please note that the original CI recipe called for 1 1/2 tsp. TABLE salt, so my use of Kosher salt actually halves the saltiness -- I always cut back on salt, even in baking, since I take medication for hypertension. The original recipe also specifies 1 1/4 cups of water and beer combined, but I increased that by 1/4 cup when I found my mixture quite stiff, and it's supposed to be damp and "shaggy." Your mileage may vary. One last point: the recipe calls for cutting one slash across the top of the dough just before popping it in the oven. I did this with three of my four mini-loaves, and they baked up picture-perfect. I just tossed the fourth in without a slash, and it developed a bizarre bubble of crust and came out looking like Elephant Man bread. Tastes great, though! I'm sure yours will, too!

                                                                        1. re: WendyBinCT

                                                                          Thanks so much. I hope to bake Tuesday.

                                                                          1. re: Father Kitchen

                                                                            Well, I didn't get to bake Tuesday. A bad cold intervened. Last night I mixed the dough. I had to squeeze in the kitchen while Brother Cook was at prayer. I didn't have a copy of the recipe or procedure but did it mainly from memory. I used 17 ounces of whole wheat flour (not home milled this time) and 3 ounces of dark rye flour from Bob's Red Mill. I decided to leave out the molasses as I wanted the taste of the grain and figured the amylase in the rye would pull the sugars up sufficiently. I used 2 teaspoons of sea salt, 1 tablespoon of cider vinegar, 1 can of Miller Genuine Draft (12 oz) and 2 ounces of orange juice, and 1/4 teaspoon of instant yeast. I mixed the dough by hand and three hours later gave it a short whirl in a food processor. 9 hours later, it had tripled in volume. So I folded it rather firmly. 2 hours later I folded it again, let it rest, and rounded it into a boule, which I let proof in a polenta dusted towel set in a colander for 2 hours. The consistency of the dough was medium, rather than soft, and perhaps next time I could increase the liquid by at least another ounce. Because of time constraints, I may have put it in the oven a tad bit before the perfect moment. I slashed the loaf and baked it at 425 and then lowered the temp to 350 after 40 minutes to finish baking it to an internal temperature of 200, about an hour in all. I baked it under a preheated cloche, and uncovered it after 25 minutes of baking. The loaf is more compact than a white loaf would have been. It stood tall and the cross score on the top opened very well. The crumb looks dense but good. We'll see tonight. The color is quite dark and the aroma rich. And you'd swear there was molasses in it.

                                                                            1. re: Father Kitchen

                                                                              We had dinner and the loaf was sliced. The bread was a trifle dense, but the crumb soft and had a good mouth feel. The flavors were really interesting and complex. The beer did not stand out. It was a slightly sweet bread, which is good to know since I did not add any sugar. The amylase in the rye really cracked the starches and brought out the sugars. The color was as dark as a dark rye. I thought it was one of the best whole grain breads I have ever had. But it bombed. Our guys are mostly used to my sourdough or white whole wheat with oats breads. They weren't expecting this. But I think it is worth repeating.

                                                                2. re: WendyBinCT

                                                                  Happy to hear of your success, WendyBinCT. I've baked rye bread a couple of times now and am gonna mix some dough today. I received a kitchen scale as a Christmas gift from one of our daughters. Weighing the flour is better than using a measuring cup. I like to play with my food. Sometimes I throw in an extra ingredient. For example, 2 Tbs. of blue cornmeal just because I have it and it should be used up. Maybe I'll toss in a little semolina or garbanzo flour just because I have it handy.

                                                                  BTW, I researched types of beer because Cook's Illustrated specified lager beer which is bottom fermented. Most US beers, but not all, are bottom fermented. Ales are top fermented. Any regular beer that is called lager or pilsner is correct for use. I don't use light beer. Harold McGee's 'On Food and Cooking' is a very good reference for the process of brewing and characteristics of beer.

                                                                  My biggest problem is finding a vendor of rye flour close to home. Paying shipping cost on top of the price of the flour does not sit well with me. Whole Foods sells a 30-oz. package of organic rye flour, but I would like to buy a 5-lbs. package and 'organic' is not a must. I dislike the word 'organic' as it is applied to food because any compound comprised of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen is chemically organic.

                                                                  Anyone in the Philly 'burbs, specifically in the Wayne area, know of a store that sells rye flour?

                                                                  1. re: ChiliDude

                                                                    Good to hear from you, ChiliDude! How cool that you got a kitchen scale for Christmas! I know that weighing is the most accurate way of measuring bread ingredients. Once you get started, you'll never go back to measuring cups!

                                                                    Hope you can find a local purveyor with a good assortment of flours. My neighborhood supermarket stocks Bob's Red Mill products. The company's website has a list of stores which carry the line, including Whole Foods, Acme Market and Trader Joe's in Wayne, and lots of other places in and around Philly. Maybe Acme and TJ's offer smaller quantities than 30 pounds at a clip?

                                                                    Happy baking to all!

                                                                    1. re: WendyBinCT

                                                                      Oops, I just saw that the Whole Foods package is 30 ounces, not pounds. My bad! ;^)

                                                                      1. re: WendyBinCT

                                                                        Thanks for the input. I went to the suggested website and was given to understand that the 2 stores that you mentioned do sell his products. However, I have never seen them on the Acme shelves. Hodgson Mills products were sold by Acme at one time, but I have not seen them in a couple of years.

                                                                        I was at TJ's in Gateway Shopping Center earlier this month and asked if rye flour was sold there. The response I was given was negative. Maybe I didn't ask a person who knew. I'll ask again at the service desk next time I'm there

                                                                        1. re: ChiliDude

                                                                          TJ's does not carry rye flour. Whole wheat "white" flour, whole wheat and all purpose non-bleached flour, yes.

                                                                      2. re: ChiliDude


                                                                        Check out this local guy:


                                                                        He has Four Worlds Bakery and sells great flours.

                                                                        This is his mail order form,


                                                                        but you can call or email him if you have any questions. His dropoff location in Havertown wouldn't be too far to drive.

                                                                        1. re: Carole

                                                                          Thanks of the info. I called The Head Nut in Haverford just before Christmas 2007 and was told that rye flour was sold there in 2 milled forms. I have yet to make the trip there.

                                                                          1. re: ChiliDude

                                                                            My experience has been that even when mills' web sites have listed retail dealers, it is best to phone ahead. Sometimes they don't carry the full line, and sometimes the web site listing is out of date. If you are going to use a lot of rye, consider getting a home mill. Nothng beats freshly-milled flour. But be very wary about what kind of mill you buy. Some don't measure up to the hype.

                                                                              1. re: ChiliDude

                                                                                The NexTag web site has a long list of mills, many of which I had never heard of before. The two best hand-cranked mills are not listed: Country Living Products (which I have) and the Diamond mill. I used to have a Magic Mills II, which has been discontinued. Most of the folks who used to sell that now sell the Whisper Mill. But it looks like the Magic Mill got reincarnated in another Mill on that list. Bestec, I think it was called. The Magic Mill was a good mill, though the claim that it did not heat the flour (also repeated for the probable clone) was not quite true. My flour used to heat up to about 118 degrees. I replaced the mill because I wanted to be able to grind corn more efficiently. The Country Living mills a wider range of stuff, but it definitely takes longer to cranks the flour out by hand than to run it through an electric mill. For high volume milling, the Meadow Mills, with granite mill stones, looks like the best. But if you aren't baking half a dozen loaves a day, it would be a white elephant.

                                                                                1. re: Father Kitchen

                                                                                  This sounds very interesting. Where do you buy the rye, wheat, etc for the mill?

                                                                                  1. re: Carole

                                                                                    I've generally bought grain from Amish grocers in Wisconsin and now in Virginia. When I lived in California, we belonged to a buying club with neighbors and got grain wholesale through them. Later I got it from the bulk supply of an organic food store. In Washington State I generally bought it from a co-op. Some co-ops and organic food stores offer good selections, and others offer only one or two kinds of grain and sometimes they cannot tell you what kind of wheat they sell. I had to shop the web to get a source of flint corn. Wheat Montana lists retail locations for its products, but not all of them carry grain. On the other hand, some of their retailers have in-store flour mills (they look like supermarket coffee mills). There are a few big distributors of natural grains and beans, but the shipping is often prohibitive for small lots. So you are better off locating a local retailer, even though the price per unit may be higher.

                                                                                    1. re: Father Kitchen

                                                                                      I just checked the Wheat Montana web site and found two wholesale distributor listings for PA and maybe eight retail outlets. A few were within driving distance of Philly. You could phone the distributors and get a good idea of other suppliers in the area. And you can phone the retailers to learn about what other products. For example, do they sell rye or spelt or whatever?

                                                                                      1. re: Father Kitchen

                                                                                        Thanks for the info. I'm checking out the website now.

                                                                                        The store in Fleetwood is 44 miles from my house. The one in Doylestown is also a long distance to drive.

                                                                                        1. re: ChiliDude

                                                                                          I drive ninety miles to get my grain. But when you buy grain or flour in fifty pound sacks, you don't take long trips often, so I combine those trips with visits to historical sites. I store the stuff in food-grade vinyl buckets with air tight lids. Sometimes you can get these from bakeries or doughnut shops, since icing and shortening are often shipped in them. My best source is McKutcheon's factory store in Frederick, MD, which sells the buckets for very little money.

                                                                            1. re: ChiliDude

                                                                              I live about 6 blocks from the Head Nut so I'll try to check them out this week. I'd like to find good rye flour as well! Didn't even think of them.

                                                                              1. re: Carole

                                                                                Please let me know if The Head Nut also carry bread flour. I don't use all-purpose flour for my bread. Thanks in advance.

                                                                                1. re: ChiliDude

                                                                                  Oops, just got back from my walk to Head Nut. I bought 2 pounds of rye for $0.59 a pound. I saw white, dark rye, and pumpernickle flours. They may have bread flour and I just didn't see it. You should give them a call. The flours are kept in plastic buckets and I don't know how fresh they are (nor did the person working there) but I'm going to start a loaf this afternoon and finish it tomorrow morning so I'll let you know how it goes. I'm try the approach that uses a lower temperature and all beer.

                                                                                  1. re: Carole

                                                                                    Thanks for your prompt reply. Good luck with baking. See my new post before you start.

                                                                                    1. re: ChiliDude

                                                                                      Just made the rye bread yesterday and got to try it this morning. I used the recipe in the thread above that uses all beer and lowers the temperature. Now I need to make one using the original recipe (haven't tried the rye one yet). This loaf turned out with very good flavor, didn't rise quite enough, didn't quite brown enough even though it came up to temp, but tasted great as toast (very sweet). I think I could have kept the temperature at the original 425º with no problems. Don't exactly know what caused the low rise. It didn't really bloom much in the oven – went sideways, not up. I also plan on ordering some of the flours from Four Worlds Bakery and try them.

                                                                                      1. re: Carole

                                                                                        Sorry that you didn't get the fermentation and rise that should have occurred. I've been allowing the fermentation to take place for the prescribed 18 hours.

                                                                                        I got 3 pounds of rye flour and 5 pounds of high gluten flour at The Head Nut this morning. What a steal! The high gluten was 39 cents/pound and the rye was 49 cents/pound for a 3 pound purchase. Caraway seeds were not to be found. Someone must have misplaced the container.

                                                                                        The Head Nut is 10 miles from my house.

                                                                                        1. re: ChiliDude

                                                                                          Yeah, I did the 18 hours for the first rise. And then nearly 3 for the second. (did the poke test).

                                                                                          Good steal at the Head Nut ... their prices are usually very good for what you get.

                                                                                          BTW, the Havertown delivery site for the Four Worlds Bakery source (who grinds the grain himself) is less than a mile from the Head Nut. But his prices are higher. Still $1.00 for a pound of rye still isn't too steep.

                                                                                        2. re: Carole

                                                                                          Carole, if your dough was very wet, it will tend to spread a bit. But the most common cause of it going sideways and not up is the shaping technique. Think of rolling up some paper. If it is very loosely rolled, it sags and the bundle flattens. But with a little torque on it, it turns into a round tube. In shaping a tubular loaf, the idea is to work in just a bit of torque as you roll it up. For round loaves, you simply apply tension to the outside surface in one of two ways. You can gather some of the outside and pinch it on the underside. Or, more easily, place the ball of dough on an unfloured surface. Cup your hand or hands over it, depending on how big it is. (The technique works well for dinner rolls, too.) Apply very slight pressure and move it around in a small circle. As you do, you will feel the skin tighten up and the loaf begin to stand up. Gently press the pucker that forms in the bottom together so it stays closed. Let it rise in a container that supports it like a bowl or cloth-lined basket or colander.

                                                                                          1. re: Father Kitchen

                                                                                            Actually the dough wasn't wet at all, in fact I thought it might be too dry. And I did the whole cup it around and pull and twist to get a tight, sealed ball. I tell you it looked great and was as tight as a drum. Round and high. I let it do the second rise in a 10" frying pan and that's when it got flat instead of high. Next time I'll use a smaller container. I was hoping it would rise some in the oven but that didn't really happen. I have a cloth-lined basket that I may try next time.

                                                                                            1. re: Carole

                                                                                              Boy it's annoying when that happens. It reminds me of one of the best cooks I know who prefers not to tell guests whether he is serving a souffle or a savory pudding until it comes out of the oven, because sometimes it sags. Over proofed dough will also sag, but it doesn't sound like that was the problem. So best of luck on the next one. I think my problem with a slightly dense crumb was that I over developed the gluten when I gave it a whirl in the food processor. Probably all it needed was folding. So I'll try it again without the food processor next time. I just wish I could bake more often, since it helps the learning curve. Thanks for giving me a push toward the kitchen.

                                                                        2. I tried a modified version of NKII in my Zoji breadmaker. Using the standard 2lb white recipe (and std settings), I include 1/4 - 1/3c lager in the liquid and add 1-2T cider vinegar. I've never cared that much for the bread the maker produces (the taste is always OK), but with this recipe - so far - the shape, texture and crust have been perfect, and the taste is great.
                                                                          I've made 2 loaves in the breadmaker and two in a DO. The results are totally different, but good! The breadmaker takes just 4 minutes to prepare, and is obviously easier to do.
                                                                          I also have been looking for a 2lb bread pan to fit inside the DO for a more conventional shaped loaf.

                                                                          1. I made this bread today with 100% white whole wheat flour. I upped the hydration to 80% and gave it a 14 hour fermentation time. It is very, very good. The crumb is light and open and not the least bit dense. The taste is slightly sweet and complex.

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: JockY

                                                                              Interestingly, when the original recipe came out I wrote to the folks at Sullivan Street Bakery for a clarification. In their reply, they told me that for whole wheat you could take the hydration as high as 100%. I presume that would be with a high protein whole wheat flour. I baked the original version the first time with 87% hydration and unbleached all-purpose flour. It was a bit tricky to fold, but the bread was great. Thanks for the report.

                                                                            2. I am an intrepid home baker who was skeptical about this approach. However, I just tried the Cook's Illustrated version (the basic recipe, as opposed to the whole wheat variation, etc.).

                                                                              I used Grolsch beer, which worked fine in lieu of Budweiser (which is what they recommended). Used Robinhood unbleached all-purpose flour. I forgot to whisk together the dry ingredients as recommended, so I ended up giving the dough mass a few kneads immediately after mixing to assure that the yeast and salt were not poorly distributed. I let it sit over night at room temp (70 degrees F) for about 10 hours and let it rise a little more than 2 hours after shaping. I liked the recommended approach of using the parchment paper to transfer the loaf. Cooked for 55 minutes total at 425 degrees, with the pot on the second-lowest rack position.

                                                                              Comments on final result:

                                                                              A very respectable loaf of bread given the very limited effort involved. Very attractive, slightly oblong loaf with a nice crispy, rustic crust and a moist, pleasantly chewy, fairly dense crumb. The bottom was slightly scorched--others have also noticed this, apparently. Even with the addition of the vinegar and beer, I found that taste to be somewhat inferior to my best results using pre-ferments, but it was still quite good--certainly better than many breads I have had from respectable bakeries or at restaurants. Aside from the lack of complexity of the flavour, my main criticism was that I found it to be just a bit too salty. 1 1/2 tsp of salt for 3 cups of flour is a bit heavy-handed, in my book, especially if you use salted butter as I usually do.

                                                                              I will make this again, with the following modifications:

                                                                              1) I will add a bit more water (though less than the original New York Times recipe) to improve the hydration a bit in hopes that I can get a bit more open crumb without having problems with collapsing loaves that I have heard about.

                                                                              2) I will try letting it rise a bit longer (the first time, that is) in hopes that this will increase the flavour (without generating unwelcome off-flavours, of course).

                                                                              3) I will raise the rack up one notch and use convection for at least the first half of the baking in hopes that that eliminates the scorching problem. I will wait until this is addressed before trying the whole wheat version containing honey, as that will further increase the risk of scorching.

                                                                              4) I will try using my favourite premium all-purpose flour, the President's Choice Organic Unbleached. That stuff is awesome for high-hydration breads--I even like it better than the King Arthur unbleached all-purpose..

                                                                              5) I will decrease the salt to 1 1/4 tsp.

                                                                              6) I will work on adapting my Robinhood Multigrain Flour loaf (which contains honey, lecithin, gluten flour, and fresh wheat germ) to this method.

                                                                              7) I will experiment with forming a loaf (instead of a boule) and baking it in an oblong enameled cast-iron pan. I prefer loaves because they make nicer slices for the toaster. I also might try slashing the boule with a cross rather than a single slash--this will make it come out a bit rounder.

                                                                              8) I will of course remember to whisk the dry ingredients together before adding the liquid to eliminate the need for pre-kneading.

                                                                              Depending on how all of this goes, I may post my "improved" approach here.


                                                                              8 Replies
                                                                              1. re: zamorski

                                                                                This is a nice post. Have you had a chance to try this method again? and do you have anything worthwhile to add?

                                                                                1. re: yayadave

                                                                                  Have continued to experiment with this as outlined in my post above...

                                                                                  My current approach, which works very well is as follows:

                                                                                  15 oz (by weight) all purpose flour (I use President's Choice organic, but any premium all-purpose brand will work)

                                                                                  12 oz (by weight) of water--use maybe 11 1/2 oz if it is humid

                                                                                  1/4 tsp of yeast

                                                                                  1 1/4 tsp of salt

                                                                                  3 TB of fresh (untoasted) wheat germ [keep this in the fridge or freezer]

                                                                                  I mix this with the dough hook on my KitchenAid mixer at medium speed for only a minute, until nicely combined. It will be super-gloppy and may or may not clear the bowl.

                                                                                  I let it rise (covered with foil) in the KitchenAid bowl at room temperature for at least 12 hours--preferably closer to 15 hrs or even 18 hrs.

                                                                                  If you are not experienced handling a wet dough, this takes a little of practice: Sift a bunch of flour on the counter in an area that is maybe 15 inches across. It should end up being opaque--no counter-top showing through! With an oiled scraper, gently and gradually scrape the dough out of the bowl onto the counter, trying to retain as much air as possible. Now fold the dough in on itself using a bench knife or scraper, again trying to retain as much air as possible. I do this by sliding the scraper under the dough on the right side and gently folding about a third of the dough mass into the centre. Then do the same thing on the left side, then the top, then the bottom, and again on the right, left, etc. as many times as you can until it is mounded into an almost boule. You will see that it helps to scoop a bit of the flour up with the scraper before you fold the dough will prevent it from sticking. Now finish shaping the boule in the usal way by sprinkling a bit of flour on top (if it is not already pretty floury from the folding) and flouring your hands generously. Working quickly is the key, and if it starts to stick even the slightest bit, grab some more flour in your hands to keep it dry.

                                                                                  I use the Cook's Illustrated approach of letting it rise for two hours in parchment paper in a bowl and then baking more or less as they instruct. I place the dutch oven on the rack on the second lowest position and bake at 425 covered for more like 35 minutes with convection on until the lid comes off. Using convection seems to help the bottom from scorching. I turn off the convection when I take the lid off and then bake it for about 10 to 15 minutes longer. If you have a problem with the top getting just a little too dark you can tent it with foil.

                                                                                  You can let it cool out of the pot in the oven with the heat off and the door ajar if you want the crust a bit crisper.

                                                                                  This results are excellent: Nice, crisp crust. Flavourful, moist, tender, even crumb with large-ish holes--lovely golden colour. Makes incredible toast.

                                                                                  Criticism? The dough is moist enough that the boule tends to spread a fair bit, so the appearance is a tad rustic.

                                                                                  Variations: If you want a slightly prettier loaf, back off the water a bit. Crumb is a little denser and flavour is not quite as good (though still excellent). I sometimes substitute up to a third of the flour with Robinhood multigrain flour, which yields a nice result.

                                                                                  Happy baking!

                                                                                  1. re: zamorski

                                                                                    Thanks.That should help any body on their way.
                                                                                    That's 80% hydration. No wonder it's tricky to work with.

                                                                                    1. re: yayadave

                                                                                      Yes, it is a moist dough, which is why you hear so many bitter complaints from the some folks about it being utterly unworkable. Cook's Illustrated tried to address this issue by reducing the hydration, which does make the dough easier to handle and the final product more attractive.

                                                                                      The problem with this approach is two-fold:

                                                                                      1) This whole no-knead idea uses autolysis to work, and this seems to require a moister dough for the gluten to get organized on its own. For this reason, the Cook's Illustrated version yields a bread with a fairly poor structure.

                                                                                      2) I think the flavour development is better in a moister dough.

                                                                                      I have come to the conclusion that the whole no-knead concept with a very wet dough (which is what you want/need) is sort of a misguided concept, if the intention is to convince people that "anyone can bake a loaf of bread." What it does it to trade a fairly foolproof task (kneading) for a less foolproof one (handing a very sticky, relatively fragile dough, and oh, by the way, tossing it into a red-hot cast iron pot without deflating it or having to go to the burn unit). I think that to some extent this approach amounts to something between a parlour trick and a useful shortcut.

                                                                                      That said, for someone who is comfortable with a wet dough, I do find it to be a useful approach in largest measure because the first rise is very flexible time-wise. It also saves me about 6 minutes of kneading with the dough hook.

                                                                                      That is my take anyway.

                                                                                      1. re: zamorski

                                                                                        Excellent posts. Thanks much. One question for you: what do you think makes some flours better for a high hydration recipe?

                                                                                        1. re: karykat

                                                                                          You are most welcome. Good question...there have been a lot of posts on the general issue of flour quality on CH. I can't tell you WHY it makes a difference but I am certain that it DOES make a difference. Or more precisely: Some flours yield a better result than others, and some flours are more consistent than others. The big differences I see with premium flours are:

                                                                                          1) Consistency of the product and its performance;

                                                                                          2) The extensibility and strength of the gluten, which is needed to form nice big air cells BUT not collapse.


                                                                                        2. re: zamorski

                                                                                          I think it depends on your definition of 'fairly foolproof task.' I don't find kneading at all foolproof. And I can't tell you how many packages of yeast I discarded over the years just to be POSITIVE the reason I'd gotten no oven spring was due to old yeast. I'd literally never baked a loaf of bread that pleased me before I tried the Sullivan Street method. I'd taken classes, tried the 5-min-a-day method, tried making it in the Kitchen-Aid...nada. I never was sure when to stop kneading, I never got much oven spring, and let's not even talk about trying to get a crust by putting little pans of water into the bottom of the oven. So managing the dough and juggling the hot pan seem a very worthwhile tradeoff for a reliably excellent bread.

                                                                                          1. re: valereee

                                                                                            I like the quality of the bread I get from the Lahey method -- the flavor, texture and the great crust. To get those things, I'm happy to deal with the wet dough. And haven't found that all that hard.

                                                                                2. I have a question regarding the parchment paper. The Reynolds parchment paper is advertised as "oven safe up to 420F," but the recipe calls for pre-heating to 500F and baking at 425F. The parchment paper won't catch on fire in the oven?

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: Gigihsu

                                                                                    Never had a problem with parchment burning for this recipe. It does get very brittle though...

                                                                                  2. I tried the CI 2.0 recipe, just cut into the bread. I do like the taste, but it didn't seem to rise as well and the crust didn't develop as well as I've been used to from the original recipe. I'm trying to troubleshoot.

                                                                                    Re: the rising. I'm wondering about the kneading issue. I let it rest fifteen minutes as usual, then kneaded it a few times, shaped, and let rise 2 hrs. On looking back at the recipe, I realize that the CI 2.0 method doesn't call for the fifteen minute rest after it comes out of the pan. Could that be my problem? Or -- and this takes me back to the reason I love the original Fahey recipe so much -- is it just that kneading is an art and I just don't really get it?

                                                                                    Re: the crust. When I put the parchment sling into my dutch oven, I had a difficult time getting the lid on correctly -- the paper kept getting in the way. Now I'm wondering if it didn't form the nice tight seal it's supposed to. I really liked being able to slash the dough, but maybe the parchment is more trouble than it's worth. I may try aluminum foil next time, see if that's easier to work with.

                                                                                    Or: could the issue be that I didn't have the rack on the lowest setting in my oven? I'd never used the lowest setting when making the original recipe, and I saw others were reporting scorched bottom crusts, so I didn't bother changing my rack for this recipe. It's on the fourth setting, which is just slightly lower than the middle of the oven.

                                                                                    Or: I might not have baked it long enough after taking off the lid. Using the original recipe, I've always taken it out after 5-8 minutes (at 450) because the top browned very quickly. But at 425, I could have gone longer. My crust is closer to golden than mahogany. But I've ended up with crusts that same color before using the original recipe and still had a lovely crack to it. This crust didn't sing much at all.

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: valereee

                                                                                      I think the issue is that the CI recipe is a less moist dough. Moister doughs rise higher and have better crusts. In addition, the no-knead technique relies on autolysis for gluten development, and this requires a moist dough. Hence, even with the quick knead, I found the CI version to have underdeveloped structure, hence less spring.