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Now that I've mastered no-knead bread, is it all downhill from here?

The subject says it all.

The sort of soft crusted loaf pan bread that would have thrilled me before just doesn't cut it anymore, now that I regularly produce beautiful, crispy, deep golden brown crust with a large crumb, spongy, chewy interior.

Since I don't have a professional steam injected oven, where is there to go with my bread baking?

Mr Taster

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  1. My next step after the no-knead was diving into the Bread Baker's Apprentice. I actually sat with the book and read all his hints, suggestions and admonishments [about half the book] and learned a lot about making bread. And then I dove into the most hydrated formula in the book, the Pain Ancienne, and I haven't turned back.

    Mr. Reinhart has specific instructions on the "hearth method" which is an adaptation of the steam injection idea for the home cook. Is it absolutely identical? No. Are my artistinal breads as good or better than most local bakeries? Oh yes, and at a fraction of the price.

    I have expanded into creating my own barms for true NY Sourdough ryes, soft and delicious dinner rolls, ciabattas and the holy grail [besides perfect baguettes] Bagels. This book is not for someone who wants to start making bread at 2pm for that evening's dinner, but I think it is perfect for anyone that really wants to investigate the art of bread baking using slow methods to develop real flavor.

    1 Reply
    1. re: smtucker

      Great report! I've been loving CI's ANKB, but feel ready to take on the challenges in BBA. I'm going to start with a sourdough.
      I'll still be making the almost no knead tho, that's for sure. Already, this is as good as bread I buy that costs far, far more.

    2. +1 on the BBA recommendation; It's very well written, with strong technical infomation; it's intelligent and approachable with patient and thorough explanations, great bread formulas and some pretty good photos, to boot. Even if you never bake from it, it's a very good read.

      Also, I may have passed this link onto you in previous posts ( 've given it to a number of bread bakers with questions); it's a good resource: www.thefreshloaf.com

      5 Replies
      1. re: bushwickgirl

        Hi bushwickgirl, I've looked at this website before and it does have some interesting information. However, I just can't get past all the photos of small crumb, pale crusted breads on that site. After reading the site for about 30 minutes, I'm left wondering the same thing... can any other home recipe live up to the glory of no-knead bread?

        Mr Taster

        1. re: Mr Taster

          Yes, but in a different way. I can get good results (have tried many methods) from my oven but does it compare to my favorite bakeries? Honestly, no. I can't get that same crisp crustiness but home made is still far better than most of the bread you can buy, even from most bakeries. Not the best but still excellent. I compare it to home made pizza. What I do at home can't compare to the best wood burning stove places but it's still better than most of the pizza out there. What you can control is the quality of ingredients and the technique and that can be better than places that have superior ovens. FWIW, I've made nkb and CI's country rustic bread and brought it to a party as a taste test. The knb had a better crust but the country rustic bread was so hearty--it was split on which was the favorite.

          What I've found I can make, just as good as my favorite places, are breads like focaccia where you don't need that steam injection oven, or bagels. Try BBA's bagels and you'll never buy bagels again (unless you live in NYC maybe).

          1. re: Mr Taster

            I have seen all sorts of lovely open crumb, crusty exterior, etc., photos/formulas of loaves of bread at thefreshloaf; the website is very large; I could spend 30 minutes a day reading it and not feel like I've gotten very far into it.

            As chowser wrote, "...get good results...Yes, but in a different way."

        2. Yes, your life is over. Time to hang it up and just drown your sorrows in a loaf of squeezable Wonder Bread :)

          If you have a backyard, you could build your own oven. Bernard Clayton's Complete Book of Breads has instructions for building an adobe oven. My uncle actually built an oven for my aunt (outdoors and wood-fired). She bakes a dozen loaves at a time and is probably one of the most popular people in her neighborhood! I've not seen it, as they live in southern Germany and I haven't been over for a couple of years, but on my next visit, I look forward to seeing it.

          1 Reply
          1. re: nofunlatte

            If only I had a backyard... I would do wonderful things. Wonderful, glorious, dangerously delicious things.

            Mr Taster

          2. I also went from no-knead (but I cheated, since I couldn't STAND not kneading it!) to Bread Baker's Apprentice.

            Just yesterday I made his Italian bread recipe and his cinnamon buns. Both were excellent, and completely successful (ok, so one of the loaves was slightly over-proofed...but SOOOO close to perfect!). Had I tried either recipe six months ago, before I had some experience, I would have failed. His technique is key to making his breads, and it is tricky. He recommends visualising the entire process to make sure you don't miss anything and that you're fully prepared. I couldn't do that until now.

            The difference is taste is phenomenal. The no-knead bread is good, and often better than the crap you can buy at the supermarket, but BBA gives you bread that has a deeper flavour profile and has so much more character.

            Give it a try. Then report back. :-)

            1. Artisan Bread in 5 mins a day (book and recipes found online - everywhere) is far superior to no knead.

              Much easier dough to work with, much better taste, no pots and lids to deal with, similar result. I'll never bake no knead again unless I just happen need a reason to keep myself busy for 18 hours.

              http://www.motherearthnews.com/Real-F...

              1. If you have space for an outdoor barbecue-like structure, build a beehive, retained heat oven. Kiko Denzer's plan is the inexpensive approach (adobe) and Scott and Wing give you the masonry approach. Beyond that, I would suggest that you read any of the many good bread books out there and try to understand how things work. Try to understand with your hands and your heart and tastebuds. If you understand how a bread recipe is constructed with baker's percentages and what different ingredients do, you will find yourself extending your bread reach. And, if you don't have a professional steam injected oven, you can still do reasonably well by steaming up a pan of water in the oven. And you can do very well by baking in a covered terra cotta container. I use bread cloches and bulb pan pots. Someone else who posted a few years ago used a terra cotta window box. I think gradually you will find your style if you are willing to take risks and not simply be a blind follower of recipes. Learn from them and reach out. Good luck.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Father Kitchen

                  Have you been able to match Baguette Republic's crust at home? That's my gold standard in this area. I can't come close. I've done ice, water, spritz on the oven floor, in hot pans in the oven, baked on super hot tiles (unglazed quarry tiles and pizza stones) and it's good but nothing like those baguettes.

                  1. re: chowser

                    I've never had Baguette Republic bread. But I probably haven't. I rarely bake baguettes, and I've never been satisfied with the ones I have baked. I really want a retained heat oven.

                    1. re: Father Kitchen

                      I haven't been satisfied with the baguettes I've made in the oven, either. If you ever get a chance, I'd love to hear what you thinks of Baguette Republic. The first time I tried it, it was at a restaurant and all I could talk about all night, and the next few days, was how wonderful the baguettes were (not knowing they weren't baked in house). I'm close to admitting defeat and saying I'll never replicate that at home and need to buy it.

                      1. re: chowser

                        Next time I am in northern Virginia, I'll check out Baguette Republic. Thanks for the tip.

                2. Now that you've mastered no-knead bread, you're just getting started. Start working with different hydration levels, pre-ferments (biga and poolish), and baking methods. And that's without using more than flour, water, yeast, and salt! This website has some good info: http://artisanbreadbaking.com/

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: alanbarnes

                    Fantastic... thanks Alan. I think what I am really looking for is a way to continue using the cast iron steam oven simulation method in new and innovative ways. My goal is never to compromise on crust.

                    Mr Taster

                    1. re: Mr Taster

                      Have you read the no knead bread cookbook (My Bread) by Lahey? There are a lot of recipes for breads that use the no knead technique, some with the cast iron, some without. The cast iron works for the NKB in part because of the high hydration level of the pot.

                      http://search.barnesandnoble.com/book...

                      1. re: chowser

                        I think you mean the high hydration level of the dough :)

                        I have not read Lahey's book... just the NY Times article. I prefer the Cooks Illustrated recipe which is less sticky and fortifies the flavor of the loaf with beer and vinegar. Fantastic stuff. I'll check out Lahey's book too, though.

                        Mr Taster

                        1. re: Mr Taster

                          Fortifies the baker with beer, too!

                          1. re: Mr Taster

                            LOL thanks, yes the high hydration of the dough. The question I have is, if you're so happy with the NKB you're making, why venture farther? Is there a different type of bread you want to make?

                        2. re: Mr Taster

                          A worthy goal, indeed. But you need to expand beyond the rim of your Le Creuset to fully explore the wonderful world of bread. My "steam oven simulation method" involves throwing water into the bottom of my oven. I fake the whole retained heat thing with some fire bricks and a pizza stone. The possibilities are limitless...

                          1. re: alanbarnes

                            I've thrown water and ice/water into the bottom of my oven but was warned that it could cause problems w/ the difference in temperature, especially if it hits the light or the glass part of the door. I've taken to throwing it in a cast iron skillet or a baking pan because I'd rather replace those than an oven.

                            1. re: chowser

                              I tend to use hot water to minimize the temperature difference, and have hit the glass on the door more than once without adverse effect (YMMV). Hadn't thought about the light bulb, though. It would be quite a trick to splash all the way up there, but that could get ugly.

                              Another solution is to put a cake pan full of boiling water on a shelf below the bread. That'll keep the humidity up pretty effectively.

                              My goal when the weather cools off is to make homemade bagels. Boiled, yes. But like nofunlatte, I'll pass on the lye...

                              1. re: alanbarnes

                                Yes, I've used various baking pans and they work fine. I'm not afraid of those breaking, though I would be sad if my seasoned cast iron skillet split. I've thrown ice and water into the bottom of my oven but reconsidered after reading about horror stories with parts of the oven breaking. I do love the sizzle of it all.

                                I love the bagels I've made from BBA and use baking soda, not lye. They're great but do a number on my TMJ and my jaws always lock up after eating one. But, still I don't stop...

                      2. You have a bread you love. Now you must learn to make perfect bagels, croissants, soft pretzels and naan. Good luck! Oh yeah, pita and sticky buns. I almost forgot. Branch out!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: runwestierun

                          That's exactly what I was saying above, too. While crusty bread is wonderful, it's not the end all. In addition to what you've said, a great brioche is heavenly.

                        2. Try the German brezel. Get yourself some food-grade lye. And safety goggles.

                          Some day I will be brave enough to try this.