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No knead bread? What's the point?

I've heard a lot about no knead bread, but what I haven't heard is why someone would make this over regular bread. Is it out of laziness, or are there significant differences between the two that make no knead bread interesting in and of its own right?

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  1. I have been a bread maker for 40 years (really, really old). I do my own puff pastry and croissants and make my own hamburger buns. Laziness is not a factor.

    You have to think ahead to make this --- I let it sit for over 24 hours. It is the best artisian bread I have found.

    29 Replies
    1. re: dutchdot

      That is a great testimony. I was a baker more than 40 years ago. Can you share your recipe (yes, I know recipies abound)?

      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

        No-Knead Bread

        3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting (I used 1 c whole wheat as a part of the total)
        ¼ teaspoon instant yeast
        1¼ teaspoons salt
        Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.
        1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
        2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
        3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
        4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack. Yield: One 1 ½ pound loaf.

        1. re: sarah galvin

          Fantastic! Thanks, Sarah. I'll start this on Monday when I get back from camping... I'm greatly looking forward to it!

          1. re: sarah galvin

            sarah, just how big a bowl would you recommend? I have a couple of big bowls (glass and aluminum) but I kind of think I don't have a LARGE bowl.

            I imagine you need something in which the dough can more than double in size.

            1. re: cuccubear

              It doesn't take an overly huge bowl. It can rise above the rim. You could always use a large pot, something like a dutch oven. I find the flavour on this very nice and complex. I think the longer rising time helps to develop the flavour. I used a LARGE bowl and it was way larger than necessary. Remember that the final size is the diameter of a Dutch oven and about 6 inches high.

            2. re: sarah galvin

              America's Test Kitchen had a show where they improved the rise and flavor of the no knead bread, by adding some beer and kneading it just a little. If you go to the website the recipe is there and free. All You have to do is register. It's called "Almost no knead bread" and they have a few variations. They have some other helpful hints about making this bread as well.

              1. re: danhole

                I'm making this for dinner tonight. Will report back with results.

                DT

                1. re: Davwud

                  The bread making process takes about 12-22 hours in total depending on how long you let the dough rise, so unless you've started the dough rising at 4am, it won't be ready for dinner tonight.

                  Also, the 2 hour proofing tends to be incompatible with 9 to 5 work schedules, so if that's your thing it's best to make it on the weekend... let it rise overnight, bake it in the morning, and you have freshly baked bread for lunch (or dinner, depending on your timing)

                  Mr Taster

                  1. re: Mr Taster

                    It says to let it proof for 8 - 18 hours. I started it at 10 pm last night.

                    DT

                    1. re: Davwud

                      Just a point of clarification... the proofing is the final 2 hour rise after kneading and before baking, not the initial 8-18 hour rise.

                      As long as your job doesn't prevent you from coming home at 4pm to knead and proof your bread, you'll be good to go!

                      Please report back.... the first time results are a wonderous thing. My wife and I just stared at ours for a good 15 minutes, listening to the crust crackle as it settled. Glorious!

                      Mr Taster

                      1. re: Mr Taster

                        It looks good. It's not crackling but it doesn't seem to be cooked at as high a temperature. I keep putting my hands on it to see if it's still too warm to cut into. Of course, thump, thump, thump, every time I look at it.

                        I was expecting it to be bigger. My boning knife is next to it for reference.

                        DT

                         
                        1. re: Davwud

                          That looks pretty beautiful... I can't tell the height from this photo, however. I have had very tall loaves and very slim ones... not sure why the difference, but even the less beautiful ones have tasted wonderful.

                          Mr Taster

                          1. re: Mr Taster

                            Tastes great. Excellent crust and good chew.

                            DT

                            1. re: Davwud

                              Here's a buttered cross section.

                              DT

                               
                              1. re: Davwud

                                That looks exactly right.... about average height in my experience of baking perhaps 20+ loaves.

                                Can anyone with baking expertise chime in on how kneading/temperature, etc. contribute to a higher or lower rise?

                                Mr Taster

                                1. re: Mr Taster

                                  I thought about putting it in the oven with the oven light on. My kitchen is about 72*

                                  DT

                                  1. re: Davwud

                                    It might rise too fast there. You want a nice slow rise. That's what develops your flavor best.

                              2. re: Davwud

                                DT,

                                Did you use the ATK method or the original?

                                Dani

                                1. re: danhole

                                  ATK.

                                  Just made another loaf and it was even better.

                                  DT

                2. re: sarah galvin

                  OK I'm in the process of making this bread and just realized that I don't have a ceramic, cast iron or pyrex pot that is 6-8 qts. with lid. I have a 5 qt. stainless steel pot with a lid or I have a 6 qt. ceramic bowl with no lid. Can I use stainless steel?

                  I'm going to the kitchen now to put the dough in the floured cotton towel.

                  1. re: worktime

                    First let me clarify that I make the Cooks Illustrated modification of the recipe which does not mention ceramic as a potential baking vessel.

                    But to answer your question re stainless steel... No no no!!!!!! Do NOT use stainless steel or you will wind up setting your kitchen on fire (unless it is is a clad vessel with a thick aluminum core... that might work). Stainless steel by itself is an *extremely* poor conductor of heat and at 500 degrees it will burn the bread in minutes (if not less).

                    This recipe relies on HEAVY cookware, of a thick gauge, made from material that heats evenly (ideally cast iron), at EXTREMELY high temperatures with a tight fitting lid. If you don't have this equipment, there's no point in making this recipe because you won't get the beautiful, artisinal type crust that is the whole point of this recipe. (Lucky for you, Le Creuset is having a 25-35% off sale at their outlet stores in September! I got a beautiful 7.25 quart round french oven second for about $130 during a recent 40% off sale.)

                    The science behind it is that the high heat and lid initially steams the bread, which is what is responsible for creating the beautiful, golden, mottled crust that professional bakers get from their steam injected ovens.

                    Mr Taster

                    1. re: worktime

                      I would suggest using the ceramic bowl, as long as it's oven-proof at 500F, and covering it with foil.

                      1. re: Full tummy

                        Well @#$%! I didn't know or understand I guess.
                        So now I have a mound of dough rising on my counter. Should I put it in the ceramic and cover with aluminum foil? What happens if the pan isn't big enough? It's 5 qt. not the 6 I originally thought. Could I just cook it with out a lid? I have a cast iron fry pan, it's big probably 14" or so but again no lid and it would be flat, like foccacia. Or should I just give it up??

                        1. re: worktime

                          It's the enclosed environment (ie with lid, super-heated steam, etc) that promotes a great crust.

                          If you have a baking stone, put the dough on that and put your stainless steel pot upside-down on top of it (both preaheated to 500F) If you can create a tight seal with foil, then try that. Or just try it in your stainless steel pot. If not, just bake it off as usual in whatever baking pans you have. It will still taste better than fast risen bread.

                          1. re: fmed

                            Or use the ceramic casserole with a baking stone on top of it, but I think the foil should be o.k., as long as it's tightly wrapped.

                          2. re: worktime

                            I've used smaller containers and it worked fine--I actually got a bigger rise. Do you have anything like a terracotta pot/planter base? You could turn the ceramic pan over it and use that. You need an enclosed container.

                            1. re: worktime

                              This thread might help. It gives a lot of good options, including Father Kitchen's about using steam, as you would regular bread.

                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/505121

                              1. re: chowser

                                Ok, I think I will either try putting it in the ceramic bowl, it's amixinf bowl, and cover with aluminum foil or parchment and then a lid or I could put it in my cast iron skillet with no lid and put a pan of water in the bottom of the oven for steam.

                                The terracotta saucer idea is interesting but I'm reluctant to get one from the storage area under my deck where's it's been sitting for years, scrubbing the dirt and bugs out of it and then putting the dough on it. eeeewww!

                  2. I've been baking for years, and I have to agree that the loaf this method produces is simply great. There is no laziness factor at all, since a KitchenAid mixer takes the grunt out of traditionally kneaded bread anyway. It's really all about the texture and the perfect crust.
                    Given that artisan breads now sell for upwards of $4 per loaf, this method not only produces a loaf as good or better than what is being sold, the cost savings is tremendous. It is such a minimal fuss to make that I do at least three small loaves a week so I always have fresh bread.
                    A slice of this bread also makes the most astoundingly crunchy toast you can imagine..

                    1. I use the almost no-knead method because I'm NOT a baker; can't tell you how many failures I've had possibly because of over- or under-kneading or handling. The method I use now is fail-proof and the results are guaranteed delicious. Aside from using the bread machine, it's brought fresh, artisinal bread back in my life.

                      1. The NKB allows a novice to make a loaf that has a wonderful crust and large crumb and has artisian qualities that you just don't find in oour supermarket's bakery. It's easy to do and just takes some planning ahead since the rest time is so long.

                        1. No knead bread puts bread that rivals artisinal bread in the hands of any one that is willing to try to bake with stellar results the first time out.