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Jan 3, 2010 06:14 AM

No knead bread question


Baked the first loaves of no knead bread and excited about how well they turned out, but I have a question regarding the second rise in a tea towel. I smeared the towels with as much flour as they would hold before folding the dough in them, but both times, it was impossible to get the dough off of the towel. Any keys to keeping the dough and towel from sticking to each other? Or an alternative setting for the 2nd rise? A new oiled bowl with a towel on top might work just as well. Thanks for your suggestions!


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  1. Cook's Illustrated had an article about NKB about a year ago. They recommended placing the dough on parchment paper. That is how I do all of my high hydration doughs now. After shaping the dough place it on parchment paper and invert the bowl over the top for the second rise. Then use the parchment paper to lift the dough and drop it paper side down into the hot pot. For really slack doughs I let them rise on parchment placed into a wide soup bowl and then tent with plastic wrap.

    Works great and much easier and safer when you are putting the dough into the pot. Good luck.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Tinfoilhat

      Tempus fugit! It was the Jan-Feb 2008 CI issue. BTW, that's a really good issue to look for in the library or on eBay. It also has the slow-roast technique for cheaper cuts of beef, French onion soup, crunchy baked pork chops, a stew primer, chicken in a pot, and oatmeal cookies.

      1. re: Tinfoilhat

        Glad parchment works for you. I like flour-impregnated cloths. But what I wanted to let you know is that the whole process of loading dough into a super hot pot -- and this is the true genius of what Jim Lahey came up with -- is much simplified by using a tagine. I use the Emile Henry Flame tagine because I like the heat holding property of their ceramic but the real reason a tagine is so great for bread is that it has a wide shallow bottom that you don't have to reach down *into* and the high top that provides plenty of room for the oven spring.

        It is even possible to load floppy wet dough into the bottom of a tagine and slash it without any burned wrists!

      2. A flour impregnated towel is one of the most important tools a baker can have. It doesn't happen overnight however.

        Linen works better than cotton but cotton will do a good job too. Flour it well and work the flour into the fibers by rubbing and scrubbing as though you were trying to get a stain *out*. The first couple times you use it there will still probably be sticking but over time the fibers will become well-impregnated and the sticking will stop.

        As for the one you have that had sticking, I hope you didn't wash it. If you still have it the dough on it is probably dried out by now. Pinch and bend it to break it up. Use a bench knife to scrape the dry stuff away. Put more flour on it and work it in as above.

        Then store your floured towels in a sealed baggie or a container with an airtight lid and never wash them.

        4 Replies
        1. re: rainey

          Are you using a terrycloth towel? Anything with nubbins doesn't work. And if you don't want to do the work it takes to get a flour impregnated towel, I have better release results with fine ground corn meal than flour. Medium works, too, it is just crunchier if you don't get it all brushed off.

          1. re: runwestierun

            A terry cloth weave? Heavens no! I should have specified that flat and close weave are absolutely required!

            I've never used meal on a towel for release but I like semolina for a baking surface. I keep some semolina in a spice shaker for that purpose.

          2. re: rainey

            I'm so glad you shared this. I was embarrassed to say that I have a tea towel that has made over 60 loaves of NKB and has never been washed. It works like a charm and never sticks!

            1. re: rainey

              That's exactly what I do. right down to the sealed baggie. Works like a charm, but yes, it takes a couple of uses and I still flour it every time. Just not as generously as the first couple of times.

            2. I've had success using a t-shirt (I usually dust it w/ oat bran rather than cotton though).

                1. re: sharonanne

                  I agree that a silicone mat and parchment will get the job done. But when you've achieved a good flour-impregnated towel you can use it in other ways: you can lay it in a basket or a bowl and make any container a banneton, you can lift with it and load with it and it's flexible, reuseable and nicer in the hand, it's also wonderful for rolling pastry or pasta on.

                  That thing about using anything as a banneton should not be dismissed either. You can get some very nice patterns on the top of your bread from an open weave. And the towel will transfer enough flour, bran or whatever to accentuate the pattern.

                2. Tinfoilhat--if parchment paper works, much cheaper waxed paper would work too? (I just grease the original bowl and reuse it.)
                  Greygarious, I like CI too--I wouldn't trust King Arthur too far . Cook's Illustrated found King Arthur plain yellow cake mix to be one of the least desirable in a group that included Betty Crocker and Pillsbury and Duncan Hines and such.. I was personally disappointed by a muffin mix I bought from them--it was medieval in its lack of sweetness, and coarseness. I like their flours.
                  Rainey please don't characterize food as "cheap" "available" "expendable" It isn't. "Rewarding process"? Food is not meant to feed the ego--?

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: BangorDin

                    I take your point about regarding food and the producers of food seriously and I agree heartily. OTOH, I don't see that flour, yeast and salt should be regarded as precious when it liberates someone to experiment with a new and potentially intimidating process like yeast fermentation. In that case I think it's not only useful but realistic to treat flour, yeast and salt as expendable compared with, say, beef or shitakes.

                    And bread making is a particularly sensuous experience. It simply is! There are flat out pleasures for the nose and the hand well before the dough is baked and becomes delicious and beautiful. If someone isn't enjoying all that, they are seriously shortchanging themselves! The separate question of does cooking (less the food than the creative act of cooking) feed the ego is, in my case, the answer would be a definitive YES. Your mileage may vary... ;>

                    1. re: BangorDin

                      You can't put waxed paper into the preheated Dutch oven. The heat does a job on the parchment too, but it doesn't burn up, just gets scorched and crumbly. I use a double layer of parchment, which maintains enough integrity to be able to lift the hot loaf out of the Dutch oven.

                      1. re: greygarious

                        Do try the tagine! And before I got a tagine I was also baking my dough on an oven stone with the bottom of a hot casserole upside down on top of it. Also easier than loading slack wet dough into a deep container.