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Questions about No Knead Bread

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jacqueg's picture
jacqueg

Questions about No Knead Bread

I've been making the NKB for a while, and have some questions about it. Although I've tried several times in the past to bake my own bread, this recipe works for me much better than any other ever has.


I use the recipe from Breadtopia (2 cups AP, 1 cup WWW, 1 1/2 cups spring water, 1/4 tsp yeast, salt) with the addition of 1 tbsp golden molasses because I love the flavor. I use KA or Bob's Red Mill flour, and weigh everything. The first rise is overnight, and the house temp probably drops into the high 50s. (We don't keep a warm house.) The dough is soft, slack, and sticky, but cleans the bowl. I fold it in the bowl a few times. I bake the bread in a loaf-shaped clay baker starting with a cold oven. I bake to an internal temp of 200 - can't get much hotter than that because I am at 5400 feet. 


I get beautiful thin crackly singing crust, delicious flavor, but not much ovenrise. I get small to medium holes and a moist interior.


The baker is the size of a 9" loaf pan. The dough fills the pan to about halfway, and proofs to just under the pan rim. The finished loaf comes out about 2-3 inches high - just over the pan rim.


For this amount of dough, is this the highest I should expect the dough to rise?


I have been doing a series of timing experiments, and it doesn't matter much whether the first rise is 10 hours or 18 - the loaf is pretty much the same. I switched from active dry yeast to rapid rising, the loaf is pretty much the same. One hour or two for the proof, the loaf is pretty much the same. Whether the proof is at room temp - 65 degrees or so - or in the oven with the light on, the loaf is pretty much the same. The first slice cut after half an hour or two hours later, the loaf is pretty much the same.


So at least I'm consistent. But it really seems to me that the loaf should rise more. Or is the pan a bit large for this amount of dough? The finished loaf weighs 1 1/2 pounds. If the issue is using a cold oven, I am happy to trade the low rise for the crust and not having to deal with a very hot and heavy dutch oven. But if I can get more rise, I'd love to know how!


A related question - why does the original recipe call for rapid rise or instant yeast? Seems counter-intuitive to me, given that NKB relies on a long rising time.


Thanks for any hints!


 

flournwater's picture
flournwater

The air pressure is lower at 5000 feet so your dough should actually rise faster than it would at sea level.  That raises the risk of the dough not developing sufficient structure which, in turn, can cause it to deflate or "collapse".  Watch the dough, not the clock to prevent your dough from over proofing.  Some bakers reduce the amount of yeast by as much as  30% - 50% at higher altitudes to get  better control over the rise.  Also, at higher altitudes the humidity drops (the air is drier) so it's sometimes necessary to add a bit more water when you bake bread well above sea level.  A 60% hydrated dough at sea level might need to be 65% or more at 4000 - 5000 feet.


Starting in a cold oven means you don't have the shock associated with the typical "oven spring".  Additionally, because water boils at a lower temperatrue (somewhere around 200 degrees at your altitude) your bread loses moisture much more quickly than it would at sea level  -  browns better though.


Instant or rapid rise yeast is much easier to use than ADY.  I use ADY because it's less expensive (I buy it in one or two pound bags, depending which is the better value) but it's a little more involved because it's best to proof it ahead of use.  Also, because of the dust and dead cell residue that it usually contains  (they get washed away in the proofing process), it's best to use a little higher percentage of of ADY than the instant/rapid rise yeast listed for most formulas.  So using instant and rapid rise yeast is often preferred by many bread bakers.

jacqueg's picture
jacqueg

Do you think it's possible that even 10 hours for the first rise is too long? Maybe I should give up on the while-I'm-in-bed thing, and watch it during the day to see what it does. What I see at the end of the rise period, whether I stop at 10 or 18 hours, is a flat topped dough mass. Since I don't have a volume-marked bucket, it's hard to tell, but I am sure that it has come close to doubling. When I turn it out of the bowl, it has plenty of gluten strings and looks coarse/granular.


If a higher altitude means that my dough loses moisture more rapidly than at sea level, why is the bread so moist inside?  It's not gummy, but it's more like banana bread than french bread. Or is that what I should expect from this wet dough?


With such a gloppy dough, does the fingerprint test work for indicating full rise?  Also, what about just skipping the second rise?


Thanks for your response. It is just astounding how many nuances and permutations there are in getting a measly 4 ingredients to behave.

reyesron's picture
reyesron

I think what flournwater said about proofing by what you see rather than the clock is well said.  I have pretty good results with my no kneads, and I think a lot of it is I don't do any folding, only shaping before the last rise.   I really don't want to lose any of the gas build up, or as little as possible.  I was watching a Jim Lahey/NYTimes thing from 2009 about his 2006 no knead recipe, and he said to turbo charge the proofing process, use warmer water, and add 1/4 teaspoon of red wine vinegar to the water.  I do that and I get some pretty decent fermenting after 4 to 6 hours.  (I like the crust from Lahey's recipe, but I like the taste of the pain a l'ancienne, which is also a no knead, but a cold rise which might work for your environment a little better). 

jacqueg's picture
jacqueg

...and decided to skip the shopping trip today (which is an all-day commitment, since we live so far from Costco), and mixed up some dough instead. Keeping in mind what flournwater said about structure, I added 1 tbsp vital gluten to the 3-cup recipe. I also just finished folding the dough with a wet wooden spoon at 20 minute intervals, 3 times. The dough started out sticky and shaggy, but is now smoother, and definitely more elastic and coherent than the slack, sticky pile of my previous efforts. 


So now I'm leaving the yeasties to party down, and will check every hour to see what they're doing. 


Reyesron, I am very interested in a long, cool rise - eventually, I want to move from using commercial yeast to a starter. I just love that tangy flavor. So does the vinegar do something for the structure as well as the taste?


What changes in the dough am I looking for that will tell me it is ready for the next step, either a second rise or shaping and baking? 

reyesron's picture
reyesron

First off, the vinegar isn't in the long cool rise.  Its in the shorter version of Jim Lahey's (of the Sullivan Street Bakery, NYC) no knead bread, baked in a dutch oven.  His recipe originally called for 12-18 hours proofing at room temperature.  His recipe calls for a 1/4 tsp of instant yeast and he claims the 1/4 tsp of red wine and warmer water turbo charges it.  His original 2006 recipe you can find here:    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/08/dining/081mrex.html?_r=1


The pain a l'ancienne recipe calls for cold water and immediate refrigeration for 1 to 4 days.  I spread it out over 2 or 3 days, starting from the second day.  The pain a l'acienne recipe that I use is from the Bread Bakers Apprentice by Peter Reinhart.  In Artisan Breads Everyday, Peter has elaborated on the recipe. I do use instant yeast as I haven't ventured into starters, and I'm not really sure that I will.  


In the Lahey recipe, the dough is ready when it's doubled but its explained well in the article. (I found his revision to the 2006 in a 2009 youtube) The same is essentially true of Peter Reinharts recipe insofar as readiness.  In pain a l'ancienne, I have found a bread that I love in crust, crumb and taste, and everyone I share it with becomes addicted as well.  I've always been a butter freak, but I don't even use it on this bread.     

jacqueg's picture
jacqueg

for the clarification. I'll have to track down the pain a l'ancienne, it sounds very tempting.


I've been watching my dough all day - it has risen, but not quickly. It is shiny and wet-looking, and very sticky to the touch. No sign of bubbles yet...



reyesron's picture
reyesron

which recipe are you using?

jacqueg's picture
jacqueg

Breadtopia's NKB - By weight - 5 oz white whole wheat KA, 10.5 oz unbleached white KA, 12.25 oz water, 1/4 tsp rapid rise yeast, 1 tbsp golden molasses.


I'm now at about 10 hours, on my last check a few minutes ago, I thought I *might* be starting to see some bubbles.

jacqueg's picture
jacqueg

the salt, yeast and molasses are volume.

jacqueg's picture
jacqueg

...and it's nicely shaped, taller and rounder than it's been. Crust is excellent, thin and crackly.


Total rising time was just over 10 hours, instead of the 18 or so I had been waiting. I skipped the second rise entirely, the dough went from the rising bowl into the baker, rested 15 minutes, then into the oven. So overproofing was definitely a big reason for the suboptimal rise I've been getting.


And the crumb is more open, so I will keep on with the folding routine at the beginning of the rise.


So of course, I'm going to do more tweaking - next time, I will mix the dough and retard over night. The flavor is good, but it is missing that tang.


Thanks all for your hints, they were a big help.

reyesron's picture
reyesron

It sounds like you got a loaf you're satisfied with, so congratulations should be in order.  What steps did you actually add, or subtract to get there?  Thanks, Ron

jacqueg's picture
jacqueg

...I had been mixing the dough and letting it rise overnight, to get the long rise time specified in the original recipe - 18 hours. With another hour or two of second rise, that makes a total rise time of 19 or 20 hours. I had also read reports from several people that the recipe worked fine at higher altitudes with no problems, but clearly something was not optimal in my case, so I decided to shorten the rising time. I had also been folding the dough at the end of the first long rise, but since flournwater pointed out that structural development was not what it should be, I decided to fold at the beginning of the long rise.


I mixed up the dough in the morning, and checked on it every hour. During the first hour, I folded the dough in the bowl every 20 minutes, three times. I then checked it every hour to see what it was doing. I also decided to skip the second rise completely. I rise my bread in a ceramic mixing bowl, so I can only see the top of the dough mass. At 9 hours, I thought I saw a few bubbles under the surface, and at 10 hours I was sure they were there (none broke the surface.) So I moved the dough into the bottom of my clay baker, let it rest for 15 minutes so I could pat it more even, and put it in the oven. Total rise time just over 10 hours, or little more than half the recipe specification.


I'm going to keep working on getting my loaf to rise higher. I'm going to start rising the dough in a bucket, so I can track bubble formation better. Also, I am going to try retarding the dough overnight, to try to get more flavor out of the shorter rising time. A couple loaves down the line, my new sourdough starter will be ready, and I'll have to start factoring that in.


And that's my story!

reyesron's picture
reyesron

If you have a digital camera, I would love to see what you're getting, rise wise, and oven spring wise, and the crust and crumb.  I did the breadtopia no knead recipe night before last, and baked it yesterday and it was pretty good.  I mixed up the Jim Lahey recipe last night, and we had it with a nice white bean and sausage stew a half hour out of the oven.  It was quite excellent.  I don't really worry too much about the aesthetics, as if I were in a contest, I just like the crunch and the taste, so I'm easy to please.  They rise in my clay baker, but they don't push off the top, and the crumb is interesting and probably right.  


It doesn't sound like you heat the bottom of your clay baker.  You do need to heat it up starting in a cold oven before  putting the dough in it, or did I read that wrong?  


http://www.shaboomskitchen.com/archives/bread/painlancienne.html


I'm convinced you'll love this bread and here's a posted recipe.  With your cold house overnight, it will work well in the fridge.  You don't have to use it all at one time, I don't.  I chop some off and put it back in the fridge.  It gets better for about 3 more days.  It doesn't make 3 days in my kitchen, however.  I do use some after one night of rising.    

flournwater's picture
flournwater

Jacqueg, take a look at what Mike Avery has to say about high altitude bread making on this thread:


http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/17239/italian-or-french-bread


I belive it could help you quite a lot.


 

erdosh's picture
erdosh

This is all excellent info, people! I enjoy reading replies from knowledgable bakers. However, let me throw some cold water on the mix.


I am an old-time bread baker and I like my loaves as free-form. But just for curiosity's sake I did try a NKB recipe. It turned out very good but not excellent and the shape restricting to whatever bowl I use is limiting.


NKB should really be called short-knead bread. When mixing up wet and dry ingredients, you actually knead the dough briefly and begin developing gluten.


It takes so little extra work to knead that I fail to see the advantage of NKB's. Shortcuts usually sacrifice quality as it does in this case.


What do you think?


George (author of What Recipes Don't Tell You)

reyesron's picture
reyesron

My impression of no knead vs. knead is that its not really skipping any steps, per se, but it's creating a different type of bread, with less yeast.  Personally, I like most of what you get from no kneads except a distinctive taste, although I do get a very nice flavor in pain a l'ancienne.  When I ran a no knead ciabatta against a biga ciabatta several months ago, I liked the biga method ciabatta better, as I might like a fuji apple over a granny smith apple.  When I speak to people who are baking bread for the first time, the no knead concept seems to lessen some of the mystery of bread baking.  Mix 4 incredients, let it sit for a 18 hours, throw it in a dutch oven, and Joila!  a beautiful boule.  whoda thunk you could do that?  I think experienced bread makers like the no knead method because its one more new method you can spend a lot of time tweaking and having fun with.  Its also pretty hard to screw up. 

erdosh's picture
erdosh

Very well put, Reyerson! Excellent thinking--I like them all in your reply! Why didn't I think of those? I am about to have a yeast bread baking class and these thoughts are good to incorporate.


George (author of What Recipes Don't Tell You)

flournwater's picture
flournwater

Well, erdosh, I wish you had started a new thread on this subject.  I feel kiinda naughty hijacking a piece of this thread.  However, now that we're here, I'd like to add that the NKB approach seems to help those who have had a lot of trouble making bread develop a sense of confidence that enables them to move forward and learn more about the art of bread making.  I had failed at bread making for more years than I'd care to count but the NKB approach stuck a harmonious note for me that carried over for the next two years so that I can now enjoy a wider range of successes (and a few failures) that are available to those who love to cook/bake.  After learning the NKB process, I worked with starters and within a few months developed a very nice sourdough starter.  When I included some of that starter in the NKB formula it took me to another level of success that I have been able to build upon ever since.


I have to commend the creator of the NKB technique for providing a doorway into bread making that invites even the novice bread maker to enjoy the thrill of making a good loaf of bread.

Dillbert's picture
Dillbert

I make a lot of the no knead stuff.  I really don't think even 'short knead' applies.


I've got a dedicated clear plastic 'bowl' - with lid - into which I poked a hole so it's 'vented'


I put the bowl on the scale, weigh in the flour, add yeast, add salt, stir the dry stuff around, re-tare & weigh in the water, stir to mix - not even two minutes.  let sit for 18 hours, remove to a board, mash a little, cover with the same plastic bowl, let sit for an hour or so, then bake - covered, then uncovered.


the covered bit does require a container - so yes indeed I am constrained to a number of oven proof 'containers with lids' on hand.  I don't find that to be a problem, however.  if it's a good chunk of bread, I'll eat it round, square, oblong, rectangular or whatever [g]  I've also used a big hunking 12" evasee pan to make rolls vs. a loaf - nobody around here complained.


soup to nuts, I've got perhaps 15 minutes active prep time to produce a very respectable loaf of bread.  one dirty bowl, one dirty lid, one dirty wooden spoon - the baking 'pot' - having just come out of a 450'F oven, with no oils/fats, gets wiped out and put away.  it's hard to envision how to make a loaf with less effort, muss or fuss.  I mix it up before bedtime, have a fresh cooled loaf for dinner tomorrow.


I have any number of other bread recipes which I routinely bake - a lot more hardware, a lot more muss and fuss, they are quite good, but not nearly as simple and minimal effort.

erdosh's picture
erdosh

The shape may or may not be important, depending what you use the fresh bread for. If it goes with dinner (or breakfast--why not?) make is round, square, oblong or any shape. In our household we use bread entirely for sandwiches and for this purpose I want the bread slices uniform in size--I need a standard ciabatta-type shape.


George

Janknitz's picture
Janknitz

That it is not necessary to preheat the entire clay baker for good results.  I preheat the lid, but I do the final proofing in the base of my clay baker.  When it's time to bake, I put the base in the oven and carefully cover with the hot lid.  


I get excellent results, without the terrifying feat of placing my nicely shaped dough in a screaming hot base (yes, I used parchment, but there have been mishaps--i.e. the famous "butt crack bread").  


I will say it was scary the first few times because I was worried that I would crack my beloved clay baker, but I didn't.  I don't see any difference in the volume of oven spring or quality of crust and crumb with this method, so it's how I do it all the time now.  


Janknitz who is plotting her first bake for the end of Passover.  

reyesron's picture
reyesron

I'm sorry, I thought you started this thread because you were having disappointing results with the NK bread.  But now you are saying you are getting excellent results, so maybe I misunderstood.   I can't imagine not preheating my clay baking base, any more than not preheating the baking stone, as they kinda serve similar purposes in browning the bottom of the bread.  However, whatever works for you, works.   

jacqueg's picture
jacqueg

...not Janknitz (hi Jan, I knit too!)


I've got some dough rising now, in a plastic bucket, so I can see what's going on beneath the surface. I also got some SAF yeast, so I'm curious to see whether it makes a noticeable difference.


My interest in getting a higher rise is to get a more open and chewy crumb. What I get now is a crumb more like banana bread - nothing wrong with it, but I do love that French bread texture. 


I've made runs at baking bread about a half-dozen times over the past 20 years. I don't appear to have a good feel for kneading, and the NKB has given me the best results ever, even at a higher altitude than my previous sea level attempts. I have baked it in preheated dutch ovens and pyrex casseroles in a hot oven, but I get a much better crust - sings loud every time - with the unheated clay baker (I soak the top, also) in an unheated oven. Plus I don't have to worry about handling a heavy, very hot piece of cast iron, nor worry about a hot glass explosion (yes, I had one pyrex casserole blow up). And the ovenspring I get in the baker is about as good as I was getting in the hot pot/oven. So my strategy for now is to keep the crackly, singing crust, and work to maximize the rise/crumb.


Maybe after I've mastered this, I'll try regular kneaded bread. When I watch videos of pro bakers, I am so envious - I can see how springy and alive their dough is. I have *never* achieved that. So I will be satisfied if I can get a nice loaf with NKB. If I don't like my home-baked bread at least as much as the store-bought sourdough, it's hard to justify the time and effort of home-baked.


I'm interested in the dough temp issue, thanks for posting that link. Another research project...


I'll post some photos later today.

jacqueg's picture
jacqueg

OK, I'm finally posting photos - I hope! We'll see how this works.


This photo shows the dough when it had doubled (original height at pen mark). This was at 8 hours, a lot less than the 12-18 hours of the original recipe. At this point, You can see the bubbles on the dough surface - next photo will be a closeup of the bubbles.


 


 

carefreebaker's picture
carefreebaker

When making Lahey's No Knead dough, should I stop proofing the dough for the first rise when it has doubled in size?


At first I was proofing 18 hours with a 2 hour second rise but I think that was too long as I wasn't getting oven spring. Now I proof 12 hours and a 1 hour second rise and now I get too much ovenspring...loaf sort of explodes.


I am using a Romertopf 111 clay baker heated at 475 and lower to 450 to bake the bread.


Any tips would be appreciated, thank you.

jacqueg's picture
jacqueg

These are the bubbles. I've never seen this dough have a "cratered" surface, although others say it does. My observation is that the dough is so wet that when the bubbles break, no crater remains.


At this point, I turned the dough into the loaf pan.


 


jacqueg's picture
jacqueg

The dough fills about half the pan. This baker is the size of a 9" loaf pan. 


I don't preheat the baker and I put the dough into a cold oven. The top of the baker is soaked.


 


jacqueg's picture
jacqueg

This is what it looks like out of the oven - the tallest part of the loaf is a little more than even with the top of the baker. One of my original questions is whether the finished loaf is a reasonable size for 1.5 lbs of bread dough in a 9" bread pan. It seems to me that it is not, but I don't have much experience. I'd very much appreciate some opinions on this subject!


 



 


 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

One and a half pounds is 680g which is a small loaf.  I think you could double the recipe and fill up most of the space and still come out with a nice loaf. 


Have you tried cutting back on the rising time, getting the dough into the oven sooner?


Mini

jacqueg's picture
jacqueg

Today, I'm going to put the dough into the pan as soon as I start seeing bubbles in the body of the dough - maybe about  hours? - and then let it rise some more in the pan, until I see the bubbles on the top. That should reduce the degassing, yes?


 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

In calculating the hydration of the dough, I come out with 79% hydration!  It is no wonder the dough looks wet and sticky!   You should try 70% on the next loaf.  Dough hydration is the water weight divided by flour weight.  Keep total yeast at 1/4 tsp when you double the dough recipe. (or stick to the smaller loaf and reduce the yeast.)


Mini

jacqueg's picture
jacqueg

I'll start adding a bit more flour and see whether I like the change - since I want a larger loaf anyhow!


 


 

jacqueg's picture
jacqueg

Today, I'm going to put the dough into the pan as soon as I start seeing bubbles in the body of the dough - maybe about 6 hours? - and then let it rise some more in the pan, until I see the bubbles on the top. That should reduce the degassing, yes?


 

jacqueg's picture
jacqueg

I love this baker - the loaf really crackles and sings out of the oven, and the crust is beautiful - I just think I should be getting a bit more rise!


 


jacqueg's picture
jacqueg

It's nice as it is, but I would love to get more holes and a chewier texture. 


reyesron's picture
reyesron

In my opinion, your oven spring, and the finished product is as good as it gets.  A boule' might be ever so slightly higher, but you should be more than happy with what you have.  

jacqueg's picture
jacqueg

It's good to have experienced opinions! 

ananda's picture
ananda

I'll second Ron; it's a top-knotch loaf


Best wishes


Andy

Janknitz's picture
Janknitz

I don't really think you can expect much more out of it.  If the holes were bigger it would be overproofed, and the rise and crumb look perfect. 


If you want a chewier texture, that's a function of gluten in the flour.  Try a flour with a higher gluten level (i.e. bread flour instead of AP) BUT be aware that will change the hydration level as well, so you may need to fiddle with the amount of water, too.   You might get a bit more rise out of a higher gluten flour.   


 

jacqueg's picture
jacqueg

It's good to have more opinions! But I wonder why you say that if the bread had more holes, it would be overproofed. What are your reasons for saying that? I see loaves on this site that have larger holes, and they are not judged to be overproofed. Is it a function of the type of dough/bread it is?