The Fresh Loaf

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Questions on no-knead bread

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cex112's picture
cex112

Questions on no-knead bread

Hi,


I'm pretty new to breadmaking, funnily enough because I think I have a bit of a wheat intolerance. However, having researched how to make better bread I came upon the NY Times 'no knead bread' method and have been using this successfully over the last three weeks, making bread pretty much every day.


But I'd doing some things just because that is 'how it was done' on the video and would like to understand what is going on, so a couple of questions:


 


1. Why for the final rise is the bread 'upside down'? Does it matter? It would be easier for me to get it into the pan if it was the right way up I think.


2. On the video, they are making this in a bakery. I'm in a home and can't throw flour all over the place (often looks like I have though!). The original technique puts the dough into some floured towels for the last 2 hour rise. Now does this matter? Can I replace this with non-stick bowls or something? My reason for asking is that I've probably destroyed about 5 tea towels with the dough sticking to them (even though they were floured).


 


Thanks for any insights.


Royston

Dillbert's picture
Dillbert

improvise (g)


 


no-knead is typically very slack aka wet - it'll take the form you bake it in - so right side up, upside down, I've not seen a difference.


I let mine go 18 hrs in a lidded plastic bowl, turn it out on a plastic cutting mat, cover it with the same bowl, dump it in a preheated pot for baking - with lid, then remove lid....


the plastic mat, being flexible, lets me 'pour' the dough into the (hot) pot with minimal fuss.  tried the towel thing - didn't work for me either.....

cex112's picture
cex112

Hi, thanks for these thoughts, they make me realsise its not just me trying to find a way through this. One of the really frustrating things is when I have this dough that you can tell just looks right and will make a great loaf, only to mess it up with the putting it in the pot.


I may have a non-stick mat thing somewhere, I'll give it a go.


 


Cheers


Royston

ehlime's picture
ehlime

Hi Royston,


I just made a loaf last night.  I have made it several times in the last year or so and I use wheat bran on the towel, not flour.  The loaf will absorb the flour, and it needs to stay moist, as Dillbert mentioned.  Wheat bran will stick to the loaf, but not be absorbed.  I use prob about 1/3 cup in total, most of it under the loaf and then patted around the sides and top at the last rise and it doesnt' stick at all.  The extra I just brush off after baking. (It usually smells like it it burning in the pot, but it doesn't)


As you mention a possible wheat intolerance, try corn meal. I've used it and it works well, too.  Also, I use nearly 1/3 spelt in almost all of my NK breads...I like the flavor and it will reduce the wheat you use.


:)


emily

cex112's picture
cex112

Hi Emily,


 


I've tried the wheat bran thing, and that is what I normally use on the loaf, but it didn't stop the sticking to the towel. I guess I could have put more on, but there is then the absolute mess of loose bran that goes everywhere when I come to get the loaf out of the towel.


 


Is corn meal a straight replacement for wheat flour - ie. can I use three cups of cornmeal to make the bread?


I like the idea of the spelt, I'll get some today and give that a try though.


Thanks


Royston

Minnesota Crust's picture
Minnesota Crust

Hi Royston, I do my final shaping and fermentation on parchment paper. Once the bread is ready to bake, I set the parchment paper and dough into the dutch oven. I find the dough doesn't burn as bad on the bottom when I use this method. One other thing... I find that if I use a 68% hydration that my final product is perfect. I get better a better shape and the crumb is as it should be... Perfect!

cex112's picture
cex112

OK, thanks, I'll see if I can get hold of some parchment paper and give that a try. I do like the bottom of the bread being quite well done though.


We have some non-stick flexible cake dishes, which I've tried putting straight into the dutch oven, and the bottom didn't get nice and crisp as I like it, but they are a lot thicker than parchment paper (I guess) and so definitely worth a try.


Now how do you measure the hydration? I'm using 3 cups of flour and 1 and half cup of water. Looking at the maths that sounds like either 50% or 33% depending on how its measured so I suspect I really don't know what you mean by 68%.


 


Thanks


Royston

Janknitz's picture
Janknitz

Spray or rub a little cooking oil on a sheet of palstic wrap (or I use plastic shower caps from the Dollar store--they come 10 for $1) and cover the bowl with that--no flour flying around.  Some people spray the plastic with a cooking spray, but I have a refillable oil sprayer with olive oil.  Just a thin coat is all you need. 


You might want to check out "Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day" by Herzberg and Francois.  They have recipes for breads that don't contain any wheat and the method is similar to the NY times recipe. 

cex112's picture
cex112

Thanks for your help, I haven't tried plastic wrap with oil. Tried it without and that didn't work!


I'll look up the book, sounds good.


 


Cheers


Royston

spacey's picture
spacey

America's Test Kitchen did some things to this recipe that help with it.  I don't like that they added beer to the recipe - IMO  if you want sourdough, make sourdough.  However, something that makes this really easy to do is to make the final proof easier by taking an 10" frying pan, putting a square of parchment in it, and putting the dough directly on th parchment in the pan.  This both contains the bread and keeps it from spreading out too much, and it makes it pretty easy to just pick up the parchment with the bread in it, and place it in the dutch oven at the end.  In this case, since the pan contains the bread and keeps it from spreading, you can place the dough in to proof seam-side up and place it in the dutch oven without turning it over..



Regarding turning the bread over between the final proof and the oven - It's a pretty common idiom in bread recipes to proof with one side up, then to flip the bread over when its going in to be baked, though come to think of it I think that a lot of recipes proof with the seam up, and then turn it seam-side down so it can be slashed.  Anyway, here are some obvious benefits for the seam instructions with the no-knead bread:


1) It's a very wet, slack dough.  So resting it seam-side down in Lahey's method minimizes how much the seam opens up, which happens with doughs when the final proof is in a flat surface.


2) When turning it back over to put it in the oven, the seam-side being up allows the bread to get a lot of "oven spring" - the expansion the dough undergoes in the oven.  Most recipes call for cutting the gluten skin of the dough to allow it to spring out more an open the crumb more, but with the NKB the seam being up does this without the baker having to do anything.

This Day's picture
This Day

1.  Since you don't score no-knead bread, having the seam up in the oven allows the bread to break along the seam as it expands during baking.


2.  I sift rice flour in a large circle over the middle of the dish towel before setting the dough on it.  Then I gather the four corners of the towel and lower the dough into a cheap woven straw hat (from a dollar store) that has a deep crown.  Still holding the corners of the towel, I gently tip the dough back and forth to see that it releases from the towel.  If it doesn't, I sprinkle a bit more rice flour around the edges of the dough.  I place the top of the towel loosely over the top of the upside-down hat.  If the crown is deep enough, the dough won't rise high enough to touch the towel on top.


When I'm ready to bake, it's easy to pick up the hat and tip the dough into the pan or pot.  I just hold back the hat brim and loose edges of the towel in one hand, flip the hat over and push on the crown to tip the dough out. 


I usually use some whole-wheat flour in no-knead bread, and twelve ounces of water.  In the video it looks as if Jim Lahey uses more flour than the recipe states.


 


 

cex112's picture
cex112

Thanks, that all makes sense, never thought of using a hat, but I can see how that would work.


Does it matter that when you tip it in, that lots of rice flower ends up in the pan too? (i.e. that was on the towel?)


I would like to use some whole-wheat flour too, do you have a sense of how much to use is okay? and does this affect timings at all?


 


Thanks again


Royston

This Day's picture
This Day

You don't need to use very much rice flour--it's surprisingly non-stick.  Most of the rice flour will adhere to the towel anyway.  You can brush off any excess on the bread after it has cooled.


You can use about one-third whole-wheat flour, but maybe you should experiment with less at first.  The dough won't rise as high, and the baked loaf will be smaller.


I usually let my dough putter away for about 24 hours for the initial rise, so have forgotten how much whole wheat affects timings using the usual procedure for no-knead bread.  You'll probably need to allow more rising time.