Dumb mistake - surprising results
Recently I ran across an article by Mark Bittman in the NY Times about no-knead bread, and I decided to try it. The recipe calls for flour, yeast, salt, and water. Sinple and straightforward. No oddball ingredients or procedures - or so I thought. I mixed everything together, covered the bowl with plastic wrap and let it stand at room temperature for 18 hours as instructed. At the end of this time I poured the dough out on my heavily floured marble table and sprinkled it with more flour. "Poured" is the operative word here. The dough was roughly the same consistency as soap bubbles, though heavier. When I tried to pick it up, it oozed through my fingers. With great difficulty, and the help of a bench knife, I managed the stretch and fold maneuver.
The instructions say that at this point one should form the dough into a ball. Right. I would have had more luck forming hollandaise sauce into a ball. Using a small metal peel I got the very wet dough into a heavily floured banneton, where it rose for 2 hours. I pre-heated the oven to 450, along with a metal pot and cover. Then came the transfer from the banneton to the pot which, upon being removed from the oven, was now a toasty 450 degrees.This exercise was complicated by the fact that the very wet dough had stuck to the heavily floured linen cloth lining of the banneton. [We won't discuss my language at this point, except to say that it was extensively non-Biblican in nature.] Transferred into the pot, the dough was not a pretty sight. Undaunted, I popped the lid on the pot and put the whole thing in the oven. Thirty minutes later, upon removing the lid, the bread was lumpy looking, but it smelled bread-like.
After the 45 minute baking period, I removed the bread from the oven and turned it out to cool. It was lumpy and misshapen but smelled wonderful. After it cooled I sliced some for supper and discovered a magnificently crunchy crust and a very, very moist crumb with big holes that were reminiscnt of a ciabatta.The flavour was incredibly good.
So where does the mistake come in? I had misread the recipe. [Is it relevant, at this point, to say that I have a visual problem and difficulty in reading small print? Excuses, excuses! The more likely scenario is inattention to detail.] The recipe called for 1 5/8 cups of water. I had used 1 7/8. Someone is likely to point out something about baker's math at this point, so I should tell you that itt has long been my opinion that math has too many numbers and not enough adjectives. I tend to avoid it except for those hideously necessary things like balancing the bank statement.
While I will certainly try the recipe with the proper amount of water, I will also continue to make this bread with far too much water in it. It was delicious, truly some of the best and most flavourful bread I have ever made.