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The Ubiquitous No-Knead Bread

January 5, 2007

The Bread

Yes, yes, yes, everyone and their mother has made the Jim Lahey/Mark Bittman No-Knead Bread. Everyone has written about it. I have already made the bread three times, so what the hell am I writing about it now for? Well, because I didn’t write about it before. I didn’t even have a food blog when the recipe was making the rounds, and I think we’ve already covered that I’m a bit of a joiner.

What’s bumming me out now, though, is the stupid New York Times. I know Mark Bittman wrote a follow up article, full of tips and hints and changes he’d heard from other cooks around the world. I read it weeks ago, but because my mind is a sieve, I couldn’t remember what any of those tips and hints were. And the New York Times wants me to pay $5 for the privilege of reading it again! Those bastards. I am not paying $5 to read it again. Does anyone remember any of those tips and changes? I’m sure I could spend some time scouring the interwebs, but it would be nice if I had them all in one place…

Anyway, I do love this bread. So unbelieveably easy. So good. So instilling confidence that I can be a baking person. This is the first time I’ve made it with all white flour (usually I use a combination of white and wheat, but I’m out of wheat). I’m also using a different pan, because I wanted to try to make it less flat. I’m not sure how this is going to turn out. I think I’m going to have to spend some time looking for a good bread pan.

Crusty crust

(Update: I used a thin, aluminum roasting pan, and now I realize why the recipe calls for a heavy-bottomed pan: I burned the shit out of the bottom, and it stuck tenaciously to the pan, resulting, sadly, in a missing bottom crust. At least it still tastes good. Be careful to use a heavy pan.)

I am also becoming very, very interested in making other, kneading-required breads. I want to take a bread class. I really want to make sourdough, though I recognize that the inability to produce a decent sourdough outside of San Francisco has to do with the unique and wonderful San Francisco climate, and is no fault of the starter, or the baker, out here in Boston.

I’m sure there isn’t really any reason for me to reproduce the recipe here, considering that it’s plastered all over the internets, but what the hell. I know some of you (ahem, Patrick) don’t read other food writers, or really anything at all, and are completely separate from the world of the food meme. This is for you.

The Famous, Infamous, Uniquitous No-Knead Bread

(from Jim Lahey at the Sullivan Street Bakery in NY)

  • 3 c. flour (you can use a combination of whole wheat and white, or even all whole wheat. I’ve heard that all whole wheat is bad, because the flour is too heavy to properly rise, but I’ve done it and I thought it was fine)
  • 1/4 tsp. yeast
  • 1 1/4 tsp. salt (or a little bit more, if you like your bread kind of saltier, like I do)
  • 1 5/8 c. warm water

Mix the flour, yeast, and salt together with a whisk or a sifter or something. Add the water, and stir until everything is just mixed. It should have a “shaggy” appearance, and be pretty darn sticky. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and let it rise for 12-18 hours. Yes, 12-18 hours. This is the deal with the no kneading, it has an insanely long rising time. I’ve always gone for the full 18 hours, but I’ve heard that 12 is ok. It should be left to rise in a warm room (about 70F), which can be tricky in the winter. I actually bring it into my bedroom, because I know our kitchen will be frigid, and my bedroom will stay relatively warm. Anyway, you’ll know it’s ready when it’s about doubled in size, and the surface is bubbly.

Flour a work surface, and your hands (or oil your hands) and turn the dough out. Turn it on itself once or twice, lightly cover with plastic wrap, and let it sit for about 15 minutes. I’m not really sure what this part is about.

The Plastic Rise Stage

After 15 minutes, uncover it, and turn it again, once or twice, forming a ball shape. This is tricky because the dough is really, really sticky. Coat a dishtowel (NOT terry–trust me) with flour, and rest the dough on the dishtowel, covering it with the other end of the flour covered towel, like this:

Hiding Bread

Then, let it rise for another two hours.

About half an hour before it’s finished its second rise, preheat the oven, and a heavy, round oven proof pot with a lid, to about 450F. Let the oven and the pan heat for half an hour, and when the dough is ready, carefully drop it into the heated pan. You can kind of wiggle the pan around a little to get it into a ball shape, but I’m not sure how important the shape is. Cover the pan, and bake for 30 minutes. Leaving the lid on lets the dough steam, which is how it forms the crust. There are other ways you can do this, too, which I plan to experiment a bit with as I teach myself to bake bread in this coming month. I’ll keep you posted.

After 30 minutes of baking, covered, take the lid off, and continue to bake for another 15-30 minutes. I always bake a full extra 30, but my oven is also not as hot as it should be. You want a nice brown crust, and the loaf should sound kind of hollow when you tap it.

When it’s done, just turn it out on a towel or wire rack, and let it cool off. Voila–gorgeous, easy peasy bread. There is no excuse not to make this bread. It makes me feel like a dumbass for ever buying bread, because it’s so damned expensive, and making it is so much cheaper. And the smell of bread baking in the house is maybe one of the greatest things ever. And it’s so incredibly satisfying, to eat a loaf of bread and know that you baked it yourself. Hmmm. Bread.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 11, 2007 1:30 pm

    Actually, a pretty decent sourdough can be made anywhere.

    San Francisco Sourdough kind of instills a little bit of the sea and salt from the air into the bread, which is what gives it its distinct flavor. The best sourdough i ever had was from just North of San Francisco though. A little town called Sonoma. Best sourdough in the world.

    Good luck with the bread thing! I personally leave anything with dough up to my wife.

  2. January 11, 2007 5:00 pm

    Hey, I posted a review of the review a while ago in my blog
    http://pipinthecity.blogspot.com/2006/12/no-knead-bread-part-two.html

    If you click on the link to the article I put there, you just have to sign in to the NYTimes, but you don´t have to pay a single cent to read it.

    If you still need the full article though, email me and I´ll send it to you.

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