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Mar 27, 2011 10:16 AM

butt load of baking questions


1) How do you make bread lighter? My no knead bread has great flavor and crust, but i would like something less chewy and more "feathery" not sure of the best word. Does that mean baking longer, more flour or less water?

2) Pizza. should toppings be cold, room temp, what before being used? Dough temp? I'm trying to avoid getting that gooey feeling in the center of the pie. being parsimonious with the toppings helps quite a bit, wondering if temp does anything?

3) no knead pizza dough: is it possible? I saw an nyt blog update but i am dubious. the recipe makes such wet dough it has got to be an unworkable disaster?? could you just make a drier dough and sit it 12+ hrs? or maybe 12+ hrs of the recipe, then into the fridge until the next day to firm up??

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  1. I'm not qualified to really answer bread questions, but I can relate my experience -- the Lahey "no knead" bread is notorious for being wet. I make it and I like it, a little different result each time, but it is never fluffy! The fluffiest bread I've made is pictured below, from a New York Times Cookbook--let me know if you want the recipe.

    The pizza dough I make (no-knead style) is from here:

    I make *half* a recipe, spread it out as best I can on a cookie sheet, cover with thinly sliced potatoes, ham, mushrooms, and lots of gruyere cheese (all room temp). It's delicious, and the lack of a wet sauce keeps it unsoggy.

    3 Replies
      1. re: blue room

        In Lahey's book, he spreads the dough out with his knuckles!

        1. re: mnosyne

          Ha -- I believe that! It's very springy, I always end up with thin thin spots and a nice thick 'n chewy rim around the edge. But we do like the flavor.

      2. 1) You might want to try a different recipe. I have never had a no knead that was not on the dense side. I think that is part of its appeal - the open, rustic nature. Try a white bread that has a little more yeast than normal and a little more liquid (esp. if you are in a cool room). Stickier, less, salty, a tiny bit more yeast and time to sit around on the counter rising get a airier bread - generally speaking. You also want to knead it, but not to death. If it feels like pasta dough it is going to be sturdy! LOL

        2) I think it is best to have the dough at room temp (so if you have had it sitting in the fridge, pop it out a few hours before you intend to shape it. The ingredients should be - not fridge temp. So grate the cheese and then cut veggies and walk away and do some Chow browsing and then come back. Gooey is reduced by getting that oven firey hot and cooking it on your stone or a really thin aluminum pan - maybe preheated if you can manage it. Sometimes I cook pizzas on the grill. Those are never gooey, but I think the toppings sorta suffer.

        3) I have tried no knead pizza dough. I used the serious eats prescription. It was a pain in the butt. I used parchment sprayed with oil to shape it because it was so wet and annoying to deal with. It is better just to knead it. Listen, I have quasi kneaded in a big metal bowl while out camping. So if you object to the flour on the cabinet and all that, you might want to try it in a bowl. You have to be creative sometimes. Pizza dough kneads (: )) to be knocked about a bit to get the right texture.

        1. 1) Can you give an example of the type of bread you want? "Chew" in general is a result of gluten and less protein would do it so it could be going w/ all AP flour if you're using bread flour, or even using a little cake flour if you're using all AP. But, if you're looking for bread that's more like challah then you can find a recipe w/ milk/eggs/butter.

          2) Everything at room temp. HIgh temp in the oven, as high as you can get it and heat the pizza stone up to an hour would help.

          3) I haven't done it but you can add olive oil to the dough to make no knead bread dough. And, in My Bread, Lahey has different recipes, one for flat bread pizzza. I can look it up if you want.

          Also, he has changed the ratio in his book, since it was written up in the NY Times and the new recipe calls for 1 1/3 c water.

          1. 1. Rather than trying variations on the same recipe, try other recipes. If you're using a bread making machine, I can't help you much there. My "bread making machine" is my KitchenAid mixer. For standard recipes, a brioche recipe will give you a light bread. Challa is a bit heavier. Rye is denser still. Pick up a good cook book that deals exclusively with breads. I'd recommend mine, but it's out of print.

            2. Soggy crust on pizza, in my experience, has less to do with the temperature of the toppings than it does with whether or not you cover the crust with a generous coating of olive oil before adding the sauce and toppings. The olive oil acts as a moisture barrier and the crust rises better and doesn't get water-logged.

            3. For heaven's sake, don't tell anyone I told you this, but for really lazy pizza crust or focaccia bread, I always keep a few packs of Great Value Pizza Crust Mix from Walmart in the pantry. I think it's something like fifteen or twenty cents a pack, but I like it better than the pricier brands when it comes to flavor. Add 1/2 cup of hot water, beat for 20 strokes with a wooden spoon and let rise for five minutes. I've had worse pizza crust from pizza parlors where I paid a premium price. But it's not as good as my own made-from-scratch, but that takes a lot more than five minutes! Life is a trade-off.

            Good luck with your bread making. It is one of life's great rewards!


              Pizza results rely heavily on oven temperature and baking surface. A sheet pan works but is not as good as a stone. Bake your pizza in a well pre-heated oven, on a pre-heated surface and your "parsimonious" habits will produce a better pizza.
              No knead pizza dough is possible but it's essentially a foccacia rather than a pizza.
              You can find lots of ideas here:
              Pizza dough will hold, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, for as much as five days in the refrigerator.