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Mar 12, 2011 06:45 AM

No Knead Dutch Oven Bread ?

I made my first two loaves of No Knead Bread in a Tramontina 3.5 qt DO ($40, online only, ships free to store; the KitchenAid 3.5 qt. is around $80) last night. The last time I baked bread was, oh, 30+ years ago. I used the recipe from Cook's Illustrated:

and the techniques from:

The loaves were fantastic; nice crisp crust and very chewy. I let the dough rise for about 12 hours, did a no-touch knead, let them rise for another four hours, did a final no-touch knead and let them rise for another two hours. (Supposedly, doing two quick no-touch kneads will result in smaller holes in the bread, rather than large holes, and I did not want huge holes.) The first loaf, I pre-heated the DO to 500 and then left the temp at 500 for 25 minutes before lowering the temp to 425. The internal temperature only hit 206, not the 208 or 210 that is recommended, but I took the loaf out as the crust was beginning to get a little too dark for my liking. The second loaf I pre-heated the DO to 500, then lowered the temperature to 425. I took the loaf out at 207 as once again the crust was getting a bit too dark for my liking, and the bottom was again a bit burnt. Fortunately, the bottom can be easily scraped.

If I place a piece of aluminum foil directly under the DO, will that reduce the direct heat to the bottom of the DO and thus prevent the bottom from browning too much? Would it be better to place the aluminum foil on a rack about 2" below the DO? I have the DO on the bottom rack of an electric oven.

In addition, both CI and the other site suggest that you use a parchment sling sprayed with non-stick spray for the final rise and inside the oven. I used parchment paper that is not supposed to need additional spray or grease, but sprayed it anyway as instructed in the recipes. Could the non-stick spray be causing the burning? I used Reynold's premium parchment, which is rated to 425. I have a re-useable parchment paper that is rated up to 500 degrees, but I'll need to cut it down a bit and wanted to wait until I had done a few loaves and new the proper dimensions.

TIA for your assistance!

PS... I mixed the ingredients for the first loaf in a 4 qt. round Camwear container, which has a top diameter of 8 3/16". I needed to add quite a bit of additional water in order to incorporate all the flour. For the second loaf, I mixed the ingredients in a much larger steel bowl in which I could spread out the dry ingredients before adding the liquid. Doing it this way, I only needed to add a little bit of extra water, and the mixing was much easier. The second loaf was about a 1/4" higher ( 4" high) than the first loaf and a little bit 'airier', less dense. The second loaf is on the right in the picture.

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  1. Mix your dough in the largest bowl you can comfortably handle. Confining the dough during the mixing process has no benefit.
    Placing aluminum foil under your DO won't help, try moving your DO up higher in the oven - further away from the heat source. You might also try reducing your starting temperature to 425/450. A piece of parchment on the inside bottom of the DO may also help, but don't oil it. Oil = browning and that's what you're trying to reduce.
    For my no knead DO bakes I use nothing but the DO. No oil, no foil, no parchment, nothing other than the naked DO. It all comes out perfectly. (See avatar below - a no knead Ciabatta)

    3 Replies
    1. re: todao

      Thanks, I'll try parchment w/out oil, then no parchment, and if that doesn't work, I'll drop the starting temp. Even if I get rid of the browning/burning on the bottom, I think I'll drop the starting temp to see what that does to the rest of the crust.

      1. re: sawdin

        Putting it on a higher rack will help because the heat coming from the bottom is burning your dough. I prefer using parchment because it's easier to transfer the risen dough. I find the dough pretty wet and unless you use a lot of flour and you're quick, it's not that easy to transfer.

        re. dough temp, I've never even measured it. When it gets somewhat nicely coloured I take it out.

        Parchment is non-stick, no need for oil. I think oil may smoke as well.

    2. Sawdin,

      I remember you from other no knead bread posts. So I guess you are serious about doing this, huh? Great looking bread. I don't think oiling the parchment paper help. Try skipping it. Another thing, have you tried to dust the dough with cornmeal or somet hard grains before putting the dough in the Dutch Oven. Feel free to lower the temperature too. I have recently lowered my no knead bread to 400-450oF and longer bake time. Everyone's ovens are different. Someone's 500oF maybe someone else's 450oF. This results in a bread with a softer and lighter crust. I also substitute some of the water with olive oil.... etc. It can be fun to play around.

      9 Replies
      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

        Hi Chem,

        Yes, just getting into the NKB. I made another loaf today and put aluminum foil on the rack below the DO and I did not use any non-stick spray on the parchment paper; result, no burning. The crust was much softer, but I think that was due to my making a very different loaf (white whole wheat, whole wheat, high gluten and a little bit of Hi Maize Resistant Starch for extra fiber). CI's says to use All Purpose, King Arthur says to use their high gluten flour. I know what using all AP gives me (my first two loaves), so my next two loaves I'll do one with 100% high gluten flour and the other using 100% bread flour. I think that will give me a good baseline as I'll have done loaves using 100% AP, 100% hi gluten (KA Sir Lancelot hi gluten) and 100% bread flour. My goal is to come up with a combination that has more fiber and whole grains than a straight white bread, but I don't really like the taste of 100% whole wheat. I'll probably do a loaf w/ 100% King Arthur White Whole Wheat just to get a baseline on that too. I thought I'd try to get lucky w/ the loaf I made today, but I didn't like the result (not crusty enough, smaller crumb and 'wheaty' taste), but I'm not sure which flours did what, so that's why I'll do some 'baseline loafs'.

        I've read about dusting w/ cornmeal, but if I keep getting good results from not spraying the parchment, I'll probably just stick with that.

        Do you use a thermometer to check the final temp? I have a quick read from Thermoworks (not the thermapen), but it's not a remote. I'll probably pick up one of their programmable thermocouple hand-held units that has two channels as I can use that when doing a high heat roast/turkey, grilling and maybe smoking, if I pick up a smoker for the summer.

        Yes, it's fun experimenting. I recently read somewhere that coating the DO with oil (e.g., olive oil) will impart some additional flavor to the bread. I would think the EVO or 'pure' olive oil might burn, though maybe extra light wouldn't as it has a higher smoke point. I would think just mixing it in like you do would be easiest.

        Honeyville sells the Hi- Maize flour (5lb) and King Arthur sells a 'blend' with hi maize (3lb). KA claims their blend has 20 grams of fiber in a cup, 40% more than their whole wheat flour. I'll slowly add it in once I get a good combination of other flours. My guess is that I'll end up w/ 2.5 - 3.5 ounces blended into a loaf that has a total of 15 ounces of flour.

        Hi Maize 260:

        Thanks for the tips!

        1. re: sawdin


          Wow, you tried a lot. I have tried bread flour and all purpose flour. Isn't bread flour same as high gluten flour? Or is high gluten flour has even more gluten? I didn't notice a huge difference between my bread flour and all-purpose flour, but maybe I also altered a bunch of other things, so it is difficult to say what did what. The problem of "alternating one input at a time" is that it will take way too long. The problem of "alternating several variables at a time" is that difficult to pin-point the sources of effects.

          I did try to brush/coat the dough with olive oil. In my case, light olive oil. I think it gives it a much crustier crust, but not necessary good (nor bad). It has this "fried dough" crust, which shouldn't be surprising. I think I will need to turn down the temperature a notch if I am going to coat the dough with oil in the future. This is different than mixing oil into the dough. When I substituted some of water with oil, the bread turns softer and finer, and the 'holes' got smaller. This is really a personal thing. I like it, but some don't.

          Oh, one thing I like. I mixed cheese into the dough and top it with shredded cheese to make cheese bread. I like them. My friend put chocolate chips in it. Surprisingly, it actually tastes good. Another friend is thinking about putting Prosciutto (cured ham).

          I have to say no knead bread is not my top priority now (so many other things to play), but I will come back to it.

          Edited: Interesting, I do have an oven thermometer, but I didn't use it.

          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            high gluten flour has 14% protein. bread flour is around 11.5%. obviously not the same :)

            1. re: Emme

              King Arthur's bread flour is 12.7% and their Sir Lancelot hi gluten is 14.2%, but I think their percentages are higher than most brands.

              1. re: sawdin

                i think what i quoted was from sherry yard, as hers was one of the few books i was reading last night. but harold mcgee lists bread flour at 12-13 and hi-gluten at 14-15 IIRC. the larger point of course is just that hi-gluten flour has a higher protein content than bread flour. :)

            2. re: Chemicalkinetics

              I agree, best to only make one change per loaf if you want to know what the effect of the change is. Thanks for the info on using olive oil; I'm not sure I'd like the taste, but I think some good friends would.

              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                I was in a bookstore last week and I took a look at Jim Lahey's "My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method", and copied the modifications for making pancetta bread. I didn't copy his recipe for basic bread, but the Bittman article lists it as:

                3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
                ¼ teaspoon instant yeast
                1¼ teaspoons salt
                Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed

                Here are his modifications for pancetta bread:

                Add 300 grams pancetta or bacon; 1/4" dice, then brown.
                Reduce salt to 1/2tsp
                Add 1Tbsp fat of the drippings from crisping the pancetta/bacon.
                1/4red pepper flakes (optional)

                1. re: sawdin

                  :) You should try the bacon/pancetta. I haven't tried that, but it sounds fun. Red pepper flakes sound great because it will give it another dimension. I am not a big fan of spicy-spicy food, so last time I put cracked black peppercorn. I think that may work well with the bacon thing. So many things to try, but so little time. :D

          2. my first time i made it, it burned slightly on the bottom. i used parchment paper in my cast iron. did at 500 then lowered temp 20 min in or so to 450. i may or may not have spritzed the parchment out of fear.

            since then, i do it at 450 (may be because of my cast iron), and just let it go til browned and hollow when tapped... i bake for 25-30 minutes covered, then uncovered for 10-20. i should also add that i often do a 1/3 sized loaf - 1 cup bread flour, rounded 1/8 tsp yeast (sometimes a bit more), 1/2-3/4 tsp salt and 1/2 cup or so water.

            things i've found make all the difference: touch the dough as little as possible to get it mixed up for the first rise (18-22 hours if i have time, and i just leave it in the mixing bowl and cover with saran slightly vented), mix in enough water that seems like it just might be too much, , when taking out to fold, handle as little as possible; when i shape it, i sprinkle with a little cornmeal and set it on the parchment for the final 2 hour rise, again touching it as little as possible. i don't invert it into my cast iron, and it hasn't made one bit of difference.

            happy kneadless baking!

            13 Replies
            1. re: Emme

              Touching the dough as little as possible seems to be quite important. Lahey, CI's and the No Touch - No Knead online blog ( all stress that, but it's nice to also get affirmation from other 'home bakers'.

              Thanks for the tips!

              PS...On the amount of water, on all three loaves that I've made, I've had to use more water than what the CI recipe calls for. On the King Arthur site, they note that if you use hi gluten flour, you'll need to increase the amount of water.

              1. re: sawdin

                i'm not sure quite how much water the CI recipe calls for, but i think they're cautious. or conservative rather. my very first time, while my dough was *tacky,* wasn't as wet as it could have been. subsequent doughs i used more water, and this is conjunction with the minimal handling, seems, for me at least, to be the trick to nice big open crumb. kneadless to say, YMMV.

                1. re: Emme

                  Agree. After my first no knead bread, I either add a bit more water or a bit more oil.

              2. re: Emme

                Agree. Haven't used parchment paper yet but that's definitely the safest bet for getting a nice bottom on the loaf. I use cornmeal with pretty good success - though it's messier.

                I use the famous recipe from the NY Times article. No oil, minimal touching. My biggest issue is finding a warm enough rising spot in a drafty house!

                1. re: JReichert

                  for a warm spot, try nuking a couple of wet cloths for a minute or two. You now have a warm and moist environment for bread rising called your microwave. Don't open to keep the heat in.

                  1. re: LUV_TO_EAT

                    Not a bad idea except I don't own a microwave and will not use one - they'e downright dangerous and kill your food, look into it sometime. My issue is that I'd like my bread to rise while I'm at work and there's nowhere warm enough for it to happen.

                    1. re: JReichert

                      Try the top of the refrigerator (outside the fridge, that its!). Or try some other electrical appliance area, like the stereo/tv.

                      1. re: JReichert

                        You want a long rise so cool is ideal. Start it the night before, if it's not rising enough.

                        1. re: chowser

                          Right. Flavor and gluten both develop during that long rise.

                    2. re: JReichert

                      I turn the light on in my oven, then put the dough in there. It can be almost too warm for a really long rise, but if I am pressed for time and want to move things along, it works like a charm.

                    3. re: Emme

                      Emme -- I'm going to try your 1/3 loaf tonight. I like having this bread but a full loaf is too much for the two of us. This bread is best fresh. And it's so good -- when it's sitting there it's the perfect substrate for lots of good butter.

                      So I think a smaller loaf, made more often, is going to be the answer.

                      1. re: Emme

                        I'm figuring on using all purpose, not bread flour and hope that works as well.

                        Think that's what I've done before. We'll see.

                        1. re: karykat

                          good luck.. i always use bread flour, and a bit of cornmeal for dusting, so i can't speak to the AP... do report back!