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No Knead Bread: Question After Numerous Attempts

Hello, I love this site and I finally joined. I am not an experienced baker by any means.

I have been making Bittmans no knead bread over the last little while and either I am making a mistake or this is how it is supposed to be?

I can get a great looking loaf, nice bubbles and a delicious crust... but the inside is rubber like and gummy. (strangely enough I still can't stop from eating half a loaf in a sitting).

I would describe the center as almost like an english muffin. (in appearance and texture).

I have made a number loaves and have started a fermenting assembly line in order to have the 18 hr dough ready for yet another test bake.

Here is some more info:

• I am baking a loaf tonight and am going to let it cool for at least an hour or more to ensure cutting it open too early before being fully cooled is not the cuplrit

• I have only cooked it at 450 (trying 500 tonight). I have even increased the cooking time substantially (beyond 45 minutes plus and then opening the lid for 15 minutes after that) and still no luck.

• I am using a 3.5 qt dutch oven and it seems to work great and does not seem too small

• My yeast is not expired according to the label but it has sat "open" in the fridge for almost 1 yr. Perhaps I am not using the right yeast? (I will have to get back to you on the type or I can look it up)

• When I complete the 2 hr rising stage before baking my dough does not increase size that much. I would say it maybe increases at most 25%. It does however, expand in size a fair amount during the 18hr fermentation stage and does seem to be a nice looking dough.

Any help? I have read a lot of posts here and elsewhere and still no luck in figuring this out fully. Please help! It tastes delicious so far despite my issue and I look forward to impressing everyone with the bread I make...lol

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  1. I think you're slicing it too soon. If you put your hand on top of the loaf and feel any heat at all, wait.

    1. I'm not thrilled with the Mark Bittman version of the technique. The original Jim Lahey process is much better IMO.


      Forget about baking time - check the internal temperature of your loaf before placing it on the cooling rack. My target internal temp. for this bread is 200 - 205 degrees.

      1. I have never had less than outstanding success with this recipe. It does produce a moist, open crumbed loaf. Are you sure that you were not expecting a dryer and tighter crumbed bread? And as pikawicca suggests, certainly wait until it is cool to slice it.

        1 Reply
        1. re: mangeur

          I agree, the bread (at least the Lahey bread I make) is moist and has large open structure. I find it desirable. Not sure what is going on because I haven't tried the Bittman method yet.

        2. I'm looking forward to reading the responses to this post, because I too have only gotten weird, gummy breads from this technique. Even after the bread is cooled, the texture and the smell of the bread is strange. My best guess is that I'm over hydrating the dough somehow. Or maybe my kitchen is too cool and the rising isn't working quite right?

          Blurrytree, I salute your industry in getting a bread pipeline going!

          6 Replies
          1. re: Karen_Schaffer

            I make the bread exactly as directed by this recipe: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/08/din... After an 18 hour rise, I do stretch the dough up and over itself several times, rather over emphasizing the recommended fold. The resulting loaves have been universally successful. I have departed from this recipe to make superb raisin bread, seaweed bread to accompany fish dishes, multi-grain and seeded versions. It's my one can't fail success story.

            Here, in fact, is my first attempt.

            1. re: mangeur

              mmmm seaweed bread. What kind of seaweed? Please tell all. I tried cinnamon raisin bread yesterday and it came out a bit too dark to my taste. I'll try lowering temp/time for the next batch during the uncovered phase because it looked great when I took the lid off. I only used 3/4 tsp of cinnamon and I think I need more. I'm still reading through all the no knead bread threads and if a flavour variations thread has not been started I'll ask the question in a new thread.

            2. re: Karen_Schaffer

              < Even after the bread is cooled, the texture and the smell of the bread is strange.>

              I wonder if you are letting the dough rise too long? I've had this happen with both loaves and rolls I let go too long. http://www.baking911.com/bread/proble...

              1. re: Karen_Schaffer

                I tried it again, the NYT version with just 1/4 tsp of yeast, and I stuck pretty closely to the recommended times, even though my kitchen is more like 58-60, not 68-70. I was especially careful to bake it to 210. It came out pretty well, certainly better than my previous attempts. The texture was still a bit gummy, even after a couple of days, but no weird smell. I'll keep experimenting.

                1. re: Karen_Schaffer

                  In his book My Bread, Lahey reduces the amount of water to 1 1/2 cups. When you say "after the bread has cooled", I assume that means you're not cutting it until after the bread has cooled? That's an important step, though I'll admit to cutting into it hot. I also find a longer rise is better--mix the night before and don't do the folds until afternoon.

                  1. re: chowser

                    Yup, mixed it the night before, did the folds/2nd rise in the afternoon, baked it, let it cool before cutting. I'll try cutting the water back to 1 1/2 c. next time. I do think the dough was really too wet.

              2. Try this...it is better than Bittman's, and practically the same recipe. Much better flavor (uses yeast in beer). You knead it a tiny little bit.

                NO-KNEAD BREAD (ALMOST)

                3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (15 ounces), plus additional for dusting work surface
                1/4 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
                1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
                3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water (7 ounces), at room temperature
                1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons mild-flavored lager, such as Budweiser (3 ounces)
                1 tablespoon white vinegar

                1. Whisk flour, yeast, and salt in large bowl. Add water, beer, and vinegar. Using rubber spatula, fold mixture, scraping up dry flour from bottom of bowl until shaggy ball forms. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 8 to 18 hours.

                2. Lay 12- by 18-inch sheet of parchment paper inside 10-inch skillet and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface and knead 10 to 15 times. Shape dough into ball by pulling edges into middle. Transfer dough, seam-side down, to parchment-lined skillet and spray surface of dough with nonstick cooking spray. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until dough has doubled in size and does not readily spring back when poked with finger, about 2 hours.

                3. About 30 minutes before baking, adjust oven rack to lowest position, place 6- to 8-quart heavy-bottomed Dutch oven (with lid) on rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees. Lightly flour top of dough and, using razor blade or sharp knife, make one 6-inch-long, 1/2-inch-deep slit along top of dough. Carefully remove pot from oven and remove lid. Pick up dough by lifting parchment overhang and lower into pot (let any excess parchment hang over pot edge). Cover pot and place in oven. Reduce oven temperature to 425 degrees and bake covered for 30 minutes. Remove lid and continue to bake until loaf is deep brown and instant-read thermometer inserted into center registers 210 degrees, 20 to 30 minutes longer. Carefully remove bread from pot; transfer to wire rack and cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.

                1. I tried the Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a day recipe. The master recipe is here:


                  They give weight equivalents here:


                  1 cup white all-purpose flour: 5 ounces (140 grams


                  1 cup whole wheat flour: 4.5 ounces (130 grams)

                  1 cup water: 8 ounces (225 grams)

                  My first attempt looked like it was going to turn out OK, but then I freaked when I saw the baguettes were stuck to the parchment paper and tried to pull them off. Of course they collapsed. I tried to let them rise again (which they did rather poorly) and baked them anyway. They tasted pretty good, but they were of course pretty dense. Much more edible than my next attempt which used a different recipe. Then I accidentally threw the remaining dough out during a wild fridge clearing out spree. I haven't tried it again yet but hope to soon. God knows I've got enough flour after my most recent trip to Costco! I think they would have been just fine if I had just left them alone and put them in the oven without fiddling with them.

                  You don't have to make baguettes, they usually make a rounded loaf. These are baked on a stone or pan rather than in a dutch oven.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: ZenSojourner

                    I haven't ventured past the round loaf, yet, but all of my attempts using the "Artisan Bread in Five" recipe have been successful. Since it doesn't require the so-called 18-hour rise mentioned above, and cooks at a lower temperature, I wonder if the OP might have better luck with it.

                    1. re: ZenSojourner

                      I tried the Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a Day recipe as well. Last night, I started the Whole Wheat version of it, and I baked it in a loaf pan, hoping it would turn out ok to use for sandwiches. It came out great, but as advertised, is an Artisan Bread and not a sandwich bread, really. It is very "crusty" and will be great for use with soup, and salad, and probably will also be great for toasting. My question is different from the OP's in that what I was hoping for wasn't what I got. I would ideally like to be able to make a soft sandwich type bread (have two small grandchildren who are accustomed to and like soft, store bought type bread for their peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.) Can anyone recommend a recipe for a simple, maybe no-knead, maybe not, bread that will make a nice sandwich bread? In reviewing last night's efforts, my husband and I are considering using some of the recipes from our breadmaker, and setting it on the "manual" mode and then baking the bread in a loaf pan. Any thoughts on this would be appreciated! The type of sliced bread that I normally buy (Country Kitchen Light Wheat and/ or Oatmeal) is now $4.19 a loaf, which is what led me to believe I can and should do better and much more economically.

                      1. re: sunflwrsdh

                        I like everything my machine does except the way it bakes bread so that's what I started doing with it. I use the dough cycle then put the bread in a loaf pan for the last rise and bake it off in the oven.

                        I've found with the no knead breads you can also put it in a loaf pan for the rise, then brush the top with butter, oil, or milk and bake it for a softer crust. Brush it again with one of those when it comes out of the oven.

                        1. re: morwen

                          Thanks Morwen. I have about one loaf left in the fridge of the wheat bread. I will try brushing it with butter or milk and see what happens. Did you do the broiler pan of water in the bottom of the oven? I did that, but am thinking that maybe not doing it may make for a more tender crust?
                          I'm loving the bread machine once again, but doing the dough cycle only and then putting the bread in a loaf pan and baking, as you said. I overbaked today's whole wheat applesauce bread, though! bread pudding coming up again soon:)

                          1. re: sunflwrsdh

                            The steam from the broiler pan helps to promote a crispy crust so I'd forgo that step when going for a softer crust.

                            My toddler granddaughters have a tough time tearing through a heavy crusted bread so I just trim the crusts off their sandwiches when necessary.

                            1. re: morwen

                              Yes, I trim their crusts too, and I will try skipping the water bath in the bottom of the oven next time, as well as brushing with butter or milk. thanks for the tips:)

                    2. I've only made the Bittman/Lahey bread a couple of times, based on the YouTube video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=13Ah9E...), not the written versions. I do add about a half teaspoon vinegar, and let it rise about 12 hours. The oven temp in the video is 500 degrees, and while the bottom of my bread gets a tad scorched if I'm not careful, the crust is great and the inside is moist but definitely done--not undercooked. I also tried it with 2 cups white plus one cup whole wheat (see photo) and it worked fine.

                      1. Are you baking it to 210? This is what's recommended from American Test Kitchen's version.

                        1. Use a thermometer and bake it to 205-210

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: C. Hamster

                            so do you just poke a hole in the loaf to get the temp? The crust seems so hard I've hestitated to try this.

                            1. re: DGresh

                              Yes, right through the top. I insert my insta-read where I put the slit. It's not like meat with juices running out- No one will ever know!

                            2. Wow...thanks everyone for all of the great responses! You are all such a passionate, friendly bunch..I like it! I apologize if appear to ignore anyone.

                              Well, I tried two loaves last night at 500 degrees and I baked them for different lengths of time (30 min and 45 min). The end results between the two were identical and also the same as my 450 degree "test" loaves. The only difference was a bit (fair amount) of charring on the bottom due to the increased oven temp. (good thing I like burnt toast...not sure why? but I do).

                              I did not mention it earlier but I have also tried a slight reduction in the amount of water I added. The dough obviously seemed a bit less wet but this didn't even seem to change anything once baked.

                              I have not been checking the internal temp (I don't have a thermometer that can withstand 500 degrees). Maybe I should get one.

                              I have concluded that increasing the oven temperature does not change the final texture. Perhaps I try to bake it even longer? or just forget about the baking time all together and buy a thermometer as suggested... Or just admit defeat and try another recipe as suggested (the beer one sounds good but expensive at the rate I am going lol).

                              Overall, I really like the bread, the crust is awesome and the flavour is really addictive. It is the only bread I have ever felt does not need butter. However, something seems a bit off to the point I would feel a little weird giving it to someone other than my family.... perhaps one of the experts here could mail me a slice for comparison lol....

                              Oh yeah... mine does end up looking close to the picture posted. But it does not rise quite as well...close but a little less and I have not yet had a big crack like that on the top yet.

                              Thanks everyone, I am now out of flour, I will keep you posted when I resume with the next step.

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: blurrytree

                                You don't need to leave the thermometer sticking out of the bread in the oven. Just pull the rack out when it ought to be about done, stick the thermometer in somewhere towards the middlish of the loaf and see what it registers. The faster the sensor registers the less time you'll have to spend standing there trying to figure things out, but any thermometer that will go up to about 220 will do for this.

                                1. re: blurrytree

                                  Blurrytree, the only thing I can think of is that your dutch oven might be too small to allow the bread to fully do its thing, even though there's technically "room" in the pan for the dough. I use a 6.5qt oval for this bread, which works wonderfully, but one time I tried baking a double batch of dough as one loaf. While the dough still fit in the pan, it didn't turn out as well as my single batch loaves do, and the only thing I could think of was that the dough mass lowered the internal temperature of the dutch oven too much, or that there wasn't enough room around and over the dough for the hot air to work its magic. Obviously this is just my guess and not a scientifically tested thing, but I would suggest trying to find a larger dutch oven and see if that helps. Oh, also, not sure how long you're preheating your dutch oven, but you need to let it preheat for quite a while - far longer than it takes your oven to come to temperature. I usually let mine heat for 20-30 mins after the oven says it's ready.

                                  1. re: blurrytree

                                    I'm not sure which of the two pictures above you're talking about, but the "cracks" are from scoring with a knife. Are you scoring yours? I know there's a reason to do it, but I'm not sure what it is. Maybe it will help.

                                    And one lesson I learned right off the bat was not to put the yeast in too hot of water. I think my recipe called for 103 degrees. On my very first attempt, I poured in hot water from my sink without taking the temperature. My dough never rose. Then I measured the temperature of the hot water that comes out of my sink and it was over 110. I used cooler water, and produced beautiful dough and loaves.

                                    1. re: LaPomme

                                      Slashing the bread allows for more surface area to open up and accommodate the initial spring the bread does when put in the oven. Helps the loaf to rise higher when it hits the heat.

                                    2. re: blurrytree

                                      Are you removing the lid after half an hour? It seems odd that there's no difference in 500 degrees and 450 degrees in your bread. I use a small dutch oven, too, and get a great rise. It sounds like, as others have pointed out, that your bread isn't cooked enough. Remove the lid at half an hour (at this point, I lower the temperature to 425 to get a golden brown crust rather than darker brown, personal preference) and leave it at least 15 minutes but often longer. The original recipe has it go as long as half an hour longer, after removing the lid. It should whistle as it cools. If you don't bake it enough, it doesn't matter what recipe you do, you'll still get the same results.

                                      Do you have any thermometer at home? Even a meat thermometer will work. You only need to to go up to 210, not 500, since you're checking bread temp and not oven temp.

                                    3. Even though you say your 3.5qt oven seems okay, I think your pan is too small. Try the same recipe in a larger dutch oven. Several other posters reference using a larger oven; The Bittman/Lahey recipe calls for a 6- to 8-quart dutch oven. Pan size makes a big difference.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: janniecooks

                                        Agree-bigger dutch oven is needed.

                                        1. re: janniecooks

                                          I use a 3 1/2 quart dutch oven and it works fine. It reaches about 3/4 of the way up when it's done. If I can post a picture, I'll try but I have problems w/ my files being too large.

                                        2. Hope it's okay to bring up an old thread but blurrytree's story is mine exactly.

                                          What I noticed right off the bat is that neither of us gets much rise out of the 2 hour proofing. The ball of dough is supposed to almost double but ours barely rise at all.

                                          I don't get much oven spring, either.

                                          I played with the recipe today (sub. beer for some of the water). I got a bit better risen loaf and my crumb went from dense and gummy to lighter but with a spongy texture. Still not what I think I'm supposed to get.

                                          Anyone have any advice on maximizing the rise during the two hour proofing?

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: Monki

                                            I've found adding a couple of tablespoons of active wheat gluten to the flour helps with the rise and spring.

                                            1. re: morwen

                                              I've put it on my shopping list. Thank you!