[UPDATE: I have provided photos of the steps for making No-Knead Bread here .]
Love that No-Knead bread. Still. After 120 loaves since April, I’m still baking 4 or 5 loaves each week. From what I can gather from reading all I can about this phenomenon, everybody who tries it loves it, its simplicity, its flexibility, and most of all, its taste. Who can resist warm crusty bread with creamy butter? Someone with more willpower than I.
Anyway, to continue the buzz, the January-February issue of “Cooks’ Illustrated” has an article about no-knead bread. They cottoned onto this baking revolution and decided to try to improve the original basic recipe. It was developed by Jim Lahey of the Sullivan Street Bakery in New York City and published in Mark Bittman’s column in an issue of the New York Times a little more than a year ago. (By the way, the NYT has free archives now. You can find the original article here. There are also videos of the process on youtube.)
The final result of CI’s testing of a variety of ingredients and methods is the recommendation to add white vinegar and beer to the original ingredients, reducing the amount of water slightly. They also added 10 to 15 kneadings thus changing no-knead bread to “almost” no-knead bread. This reduces the holding time to as little as 8 hours from the 12 to 18 or even 24 hours recommended in the NYT article.
I tried the changes last week. The bread came out of the oven perfectly, with a slightly more tangy taste, the object of CI’s changes. It took a total of 10 hours which in some cases could come in very handy. (The 12-14 hour rising time of the original recipe is very forgiving, however. I have had success with as much as 26 hours rising although the dough needed a little encouragement with some kneading to plump back up after 26 hours on the kitchen counter!) With only 10 hours needed to rise, it becomes convenient to mix the dough in the morning and bake it in the late afternoon or early evening to have ready for dinner, nice and warm.
One of the suggestions from CI solved the problem some people have with handling the wet dough when moving it from the final rising into the cooking pot. After the initial rising time, CI recommends laying a sheet (12 x 18 inch) inside a 10″ skillet and spraying it with Pam. After kneading and shaping the loaf, place it on top of the parchment paper and spray the top of the dough with Pam. Then cover it loosely with plastic and letting it rise for a couple of hours, it’s a cinch to pick up the paper and plop the whole thing into a preheated Dutch oven to bake. No mess in the pot, no need to handle the dough one more time, so no messy hands. The skillet keeps the dough from spreading out too much, although the size of the Dutch oven or whatever cooking pot used somewhat determines how much it spreads out also. I get the tallest loaf when I use a round 3 Quart Corningware casserole with a glass lid.
Here is the recipe as printed in the magazine issue mentioned above.
“Almost No-Knead Bread”
3 c. (15 oz.) unbleached flour, plus additional for dusting work surface
1/4 t. instant yeast
1 1/2 t. salt
3/4 c. plus 2 T. water (7 ounces) at room temperature
1/4 c. plus 2 T. (3 ounces) mild-flavored lager*
1 T. 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 dough 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 a 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 diugh, seam-side down, to parchment-lined skillet and spray surface of dough with nonstick cooking spray. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let ruse 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. (Note: make sure your pot is oven- safe to that high heat.) Lightly flour top of dough and, using razor blade or very sharp knife, make one 6-inch long, 1/2-inch-deep slip 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, 20-30 minutes longer. Carefully remove bread from pot; transfer to wire rack and cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.
* Use a mild-flavored lager, such as Budweiser (or mild non-alcoholic lager).