The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Problems with Jim Lahey No Knead Methods - Poor First Rise, Too Dense, Etc.

kvolluz's picture
kvolluz

Problems with Jim Lahey No Knead Methods - Poor First Rise, Too Dense, Etc.

Hello, everyone.  I am new to baking as a result of seeking new uses for my Lodge dutch oven.  Of course, I discovered Jim's book in that process.  I've tried the basic white bread on several occasions and am not having any success to my great embarrassment and frustration.  My first rise just isn't getting to the size as described in the book.  I've checked my flour and it has the appropriate protein content.  I've changed my yeast to a new jar in order to make sure that it is fresh. I use a food scale in order to get the portions correct.  I use a thermometer in order to make sure that the water is the correct temperature.  I've even changed from using a metal mixing bowl to a plastic one in order to make sure that the dough is not too cool during the first rise.  All of this to no avail.  While I do get a rise, stopping at various times between 12-18 hours, it never doubles in size.  For my second rise, I place the dough in my warming drawer and that doesn't seem to help.  My breads barely get over 2 inches tall when completed (measured at the widest point).  And, of course, the bread is a quite dense, chewy, and simply not a pleasure to eat.  Since I've read so many great reviews of Jim's book and the no knead process generally, I know that I must be doing something wrong but am now at a loss as to what to do differently.  Does anyone have any ideas, suggestions, or advice (other than to buy my bread at the grocery store!!)?  Should I put the dough into the warming drawer for the first rise as well?  Of course, that's not in Jim's book but I really do not know what else to do.  If I can get a better first rise, I'm sure that my results will improve. I'm not going to give up.....I will also change the brand of flour (and yeast again) in order to see if this makes a positive change.  Look forward to hearing any thoughts.  Thanks.

Mukoseev's picture
Mukoseev

I have found that I have had to increase the amount of water that the recipes call for by about a 1/4 cup.  This gives me a very loose and sticky dough but I get a good rise every time.  I have also increased the amount of flour to 4 cups  and water to 2 1/4 cups.  This makes a larger loaf which seems to be a better size for the 5 qt. dutch oven.  It can't spread out and flatten out  as much.  Hope this helps.

kvolluz's picture
kvolluz

Thank you.  Have you increased the yeast in your modified recipie in order to account for the additional water and flour?

Mukoseev's picture
Mukoseev

Yes.  Sorry.  1/2 tsp. yeast  and 2 tsp. salt.

mrfrost's picture
mrfrost

Have you looked at the (online)video? Do a web search for NYT no knead video. Tells and shows what to do.


Try to match the dough consistency as shown in the video. This means you may need to make slight adhustments in the flour and/or water amounts.

kvolluz's picture
kvolluz

Thank you very much. To say that his results are night and day different from mine is a gross understatement! It is interesting to note that the recipie in the video varies slightly from that in the book, a fact which tells me that I just need to keep tinkering with my own proportions until I find a combination that works for me. To date, my dough has never looked like the one in this video. I very much appreciate this tip.

Mukoseev's picture
Mukoseev

Hang in there.  The results will be extremely gratifying.

agordo's picture
agordo

For most of my breads baked in Dutch oven, I use a 3 quart or 3.5 quart.  With less area to spread, the boule expands and bakes upwards.  My breads baked in the smaller Dutch oven are much higher than those baked  in my 5 or 6 quart pot.  I use the larger pots for batards.   My favorite long Dutch oven is about 20" x 9" available from Cabela's.

flournwater's picture
flournwater

The first thing that struck me is your the words "first rise".  Before this moment, I had never read a printed recipe for Jim Lahey's No Knead,( http://www.sullivanstreetbakery.com/recipes) but his video doesn't include anything but a "first rise":


http://video.nytimes.com/video/2006/11/07/dining/1194817104184/no-knead-bread.html


and that's the method I've used from the start.


Take a look at the video and see if you notice anything he's doing that differs from your own procedure.


The only other thing I'd suggest is so proof your yeast in the water before adding the water to the flour.


How "warm" is that warming drawer?

kvolluz's picture
kvolluz

Thank you.  I have used active dry yeast but have not proofed in water prior to use.  I will try both proofing with active dry yeast and using instant yeast as well.

wildeny's picture
wildeny

My first try used active dry yeast without proofing in advance. In NYT, the 2nd article about NKB said so. And there is no big difference between using active dry yeast and instant yeast.


NKB is very easy to make. Just make sure: 1. 75% hydration 2. Long time fermentation 3. Cover method. Even when 1 is off, 2 & 3 would still make it work. Oh, just be careful not to over-handle the dough.


Also, as mentioned by others, the main rise is in the oven.

wildeny's picture
wildeny

Here is my first try with photos


http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/20810/my-first-ovenbaked-bread-thanksgiving


Not exactly the same as Lahey's instruction. I retarded the dough in refrigerator.

penuchepastries's picture
penuchepastries

If you used active dry yeast and forgot to bloom it first, then you will never get its leavening effect at all, i think this is the reason why your dough never had the full rise expected, not much of the supposed to be yeast was present in your dough. I think you are on the right track, just bloom your yeast first. To check if the yeast is still active, add slightly warm water to it, a couple of pinches of sugar, stir and wait if it froths, if it does not after 5 minutes, then it could be dead, buy another batch. good luck

flournwater's picture
flournwater

"If you used active dry yeast and forgot to bloom it first, then you will never get its leavening effect at all,"

I must disagree.  While the leavening affect may be affected to some degree, I have used active dry yeast as a dry ingredient blended with the flour and salt before adding water for several years and have never had a failure.  It is a good idea to proof your ADY to make certain it is still active but, as long as it's fresh, there should be no serious consequences when adding it without the "blooming" process.

Janknitz's picture
Janknitz

In NKB's seems to come from oven spring, and it sounds like you're not getting much oven spring.  Have you checked your oven temperature to be sure it's hot enough? 


In addition, NKB can LOOK done when it is not, in fact done.  It gives all outward appearances of being done (nicely colored crust, hollow sound when you tap it), but then you find a gummy center.


I recommend using your instant read thermometer to check for doneness.  It should be at least 185 F in the center. 

kvolluz's picture
kvolluz

That's a great tip, too.  I will check the interior temp and pick up a thermometer to check my oven temp as well.  

flournwater's picture
flournwater

I would agree with checking the internal temperature but I'd look for something closer to 195 degrees (perhaps a bit more) for this bread.

rjerden's picture
rjerden

Can you tell us more about the flour you are using?


Protein content alone will not determine how much rise you get. The best rise will be had with a short patent flour with a high gluten content and relatively high hydration. Short patent is a flour which has low ash content (< .50). Only the endosperm is extracted, almost no bran or germ. If there is a lot of bran it will absorb more water, and will hurt the rise.


Increasing the yeast will get a higher rise in a shorter period of time, but will not increase the maximum rise. In addition, it gives you less tolerance in terms of timing your bake, as it steepens the dough rise curve, and therefore shortens the optimum period in which the dough will get the best oven spring.


I see you are in Texas. Try KA AP or bread flour, White Lily Bread Flour or Gold Medal Better for Bread. If you are buying from a co-op and just have to have organic, get organic white flour from Kansas or Nebraska. Mix and adjust until you get the consistency in the video.


 

kvolluz's picture
kvolluz

I am using 365 Brand unbleached, all purpose baking flour from Whole Foods, allegedly milled from hard red wheat. How does one determine the gluten and hydration content?   What is KA AP?  King Arthur all-purpose?  Thank you!

K.C.'s picture
K.C.

I'm using the 365 brand flour as well and it's worked fine for any bread. I just made Sourdough over the weekend with it and I use it to feed my starter. 


 

rjerden's picture
rjerden

I believe Central Milling provides WF some of their flours.  It's good flour, although I couldn't find any specs for it. KA is King Arthur, AP is all-purpose. Hydration refers to the ratio of the weight of the water to the weight of the flour in the final dough. Most no-knead recipes use high hydration (on the order of 75% or more) so that the gluten strands can more easily align themselves without any manipulation or kneading (although many recipes require just a bit of folding).


I think WF also sells a bread flour. I've always found their 365 products to be good value for the money.

meetmike's picture
meetmike

Funny to see your post this am, as I just made 6 loaves of Lahey's basic no knead for a library fundraiser yesterday and, as usual, they all turned out as promised. My first reaction is that you might be over-thinking this or possibly overworking the dough. A few suggestions, comments, questions. (1) Throw out your yeast and get some brand new, preferably the kind that goes right into the flour without hydrating first; add a little more than is called for, as can't really hurt; (2) Maybe cut back on the requested salt, as amount might be inhibiting rise; (3) Make sure dry ingredients well blended before adding water; (4) Don't over-stir or mix the initial dough, just get all the dry ingredients wet; (5) Per response above, you'll almost certainly need to add more water than recipe calls for: dribble in an extra 1/8 cup at a time to get really sticky dough, surface will be shiny wet; (6) I used regular King Arthur Unbleached White this time instead of bread flour per Lahey; made no difference in rise, gluten, crumb that I can see; (7) Leave the rising dough alone for the full 18 hours; doesn't seem particularly temp sensitive; can go even longer; (8) When preparing boule for second rise after de-gassing gently, go beyond simply pulling corners to center to make loose boule; also pull boule toward you on de-floured board to get a little surface tension going--this is a departure from very loose boule in Lahey's photos; (9) Get the dutch oven really really hot by (a) starting at 500F, (b) heating 45-60 minutes (it's like heating up a stone; (10) The second rise may well take a full 2 hours, if not more; Be Patient; (11) Make the transfer of boule to dutch oven as quickly as possible and get that sucker back in the 475 - 500F oven. Of all these, I think you'll find the solution in either the yeast or too little hydration. Best of luck! Mike in Maine

kvolluz's picture
kvolluz

Mike, thanks for all of these tips.  Hey, if you were to cut one of your loaves in half, how wide would the loaf be at the widest point?  I'm trying to ascertain how far "off" my loaves are from being near perfect.   Thanks again!

meetmike's picture
meetmike

Took a tape measurer to the last loaf this am. The base is 8" at its widest. From base to highest point on loaf is 3". Sometimes springs as high as 4". For higher, I think I'd just increase the dough amount by 50%. The 5 quart Lodge Dutch Oven is certainly big enough. Mike in Maine

kvolluz's picture
kvolluz

Thanks.  On width, you are having more success than I am.  I have barely achieved 3 inches to date.  Looks so much bigger than even 4 inches in his video....

kvolluz's picture
kvolluz

I made another attempt this morning.  Recipe:  430g flour; 345g water (cool); 1g plus tiny pinch yeast (rapid rise); and 8g salt.  First rise 13.5 hours; second rise in warming drawer 1hr 45 min.  I also watched the NYT video several times before making this loaf.  After the first rise, it did appear that the dough was larger than my previous attempts but certainly not as large as the dough shown in the NYT video. Also, my dough was still very sticky in comparison to the NYT video.  After the second rise, my dough was noticeably more yellow than previous tries and was definitely larger in mass.  The dough was still sticky to the touch, not the fairly dry mass that appears in the video. Any thoughts as to this stickiness issue and suggestions for modification to recipe?  I then baked at 475F for 30 min in my Lodge 5qt dutch oven with lid on and for 15 minutes with lid off, taking the loaf out when internal temp measured approx. 200F. Result was better than my previous attempts but still not the beautiful large loaf shown in the video.  Thanks to everyone for the suggestions.  Any further suggestions are most welcome! 

mrfrost's picture
mrfrost

Not to state the obvious, but as to the stickyness issue, he evidently has effectively arrived at a consistency with a higher flour amount(lower hydration). Whether this was using a little less water initially, or a little more flour somewhere along the way. He actually seems to use quite a bit of flour in his dusting. And/or I actually think it's possible that he sneaked in and extra(unseen/"unfilmed") fold or more.


It's all about getting your final dough(consistency) to be like his. I did an extra fold, with a little more flour. Consistency still was just a little more slack than his, but all and all, it was close enough, for me.


His was the last no knead that I tried, and being that none of the no knead formulas taste like much to me, don't know when or if I will ever be inclined to try again.

kvolluz's picture
kvolluz

No worries about stating the obvious! It has occurred to me as well that I should modify what I am doing by either or both of adding more flour and using a little less water.   I am keen to get a no knead method "down pat" simply because I really don't have the time or skills to make make bread using more traditional methods.  Thanks so much for your input!  I will keep tinkering for sure.

penuchepastries's picture
penuchepastries

Just reduce the amount of water in your dough. When i teach bread making, i always write the word variable in the recipe next to the water in the ingredient lists, and tell my class that the hydration level is caused by a lot of factors, the protein content, the humidity in your kitchen, the temperature of your water, the temperature in your kitchen etc.,  With all that, only your fingers can tell, plus your eyes of course how much water your dough needs, whether you have used enough or whether you have to add more. Keep doing the recipe and use less water next time but make sure you remember how the dough feels like when it became too sticky, and not to have that same feel again when you try your next batch.

kvolluz's picture
kvolluz

Thanks for your input here.  It is apparent that even this very simple process is as much art as science.  Given the very specific instructions in the video and in his book, and the admonissions that ". . . even a four year old can do it", one is left with the impression that all one has to do is follow the instructions to a "T" and then you'll have a great loaf.  Well, that doesn't appear to be exactly the case!  Thank you once more.  I'd love to know how wide a successful loaf of Lahey's bread should be at the widest point when cut down the middle.........

kvolluz's picture
kvolluz

Thanks to all for the comments and suggestions.   I increased the recipe to include 4c flour; 2 1/3c water; 1/2 tsp instant yeast; and few pinches salt.  With an 18 hour first rise and 1.25 hour second rise, I obtained a much bigger loaf that was 3+ inches high at widest point when cut across diameter line.  Also changed the flour to KA bread flour.  Dough was much less sticky after first rise.  I'm very pleased and will continue to experiment with Jim's base recipe.  

Mukoseev's picture
Mukoseev

....

kvolluz's picture
kvolluz

Today I used SAF yeast in the same recipe that I posted on 3/12.  This loaf is significantly higher than even my previous good efforts and there was much improved "singing" after taking the loaf from the oven.  I guess there really IS something to SAF yeast after all!

HeidiH's picture
HeidiH

In some grocery stores and food warehouses, yeast doesn't move very fast.  And in the summer (especially here in SC) an hour or so on a sunny loading dock would probably kill a whole pallet of yeast!  I've gotten dead yeast from the nicest of stores.   I now buy yeast by the pound and keep it in the fridge.  If the first use makes the bread rise, the rest of the pound will work, too.

Is your warming drawer too hot?  To keep food out of the danger zone, a warming drawer without multiple settings is likely to keep a temperature of 160F, plenty hot enough to kill yeast.  For rising bread, a warming drawer with a setting of 90 degrees or less is recommended around the web.  If your lowest available temperature is 100F or 110F, the heating cycle probably reaches temperatures sufficient to kill your yeast. 

I was hurrying my bread by using the oven with the light on for rising.  I am now saving this method for days in the winter when the house gets cooler.  I seem to be getting better results right now with on-the-counter rising.  In the summer, our AC is set to 78, which dough seems to love.

Heidi

 

 

Ruth Hirsch's picture
Ruth Hirsch

Hi,  it is not at all clear from your note whether you pre-heated your pot.  Would explain frustration.  Lidded pot needs tobe pre-heated 30-60 mins.   

you wrote:"The dough was still sticky to the touch, not the fairly dry mass that appears in the video. Any thoughts as to this stickiness issue and suggestions for modification to recipe?  I then baked at 475F for 30 min in my Lodge 5qt dutch oven with lid on and for 15 minutes with lid off, taking the loaf out when internal temp measured approx. 200F. Result was better than my previous attempts but still not th.................."

copyu's picture
copyu

http://www.flickr.com/photos/71323838@N00/5799352891/in/photostream/

An early effort, baked in a cast-iron Japanese rice-pot, using slightly lower hydration and a bit more salt. (430g flour 340g water.) The base of this pot is much smaller than that of the average dutch oven, but the pot is almost six inches (150mm) tall at the center of the domed lid and 8" diameter at the top. The lid struggled to stay on. (I'm thinking of 'David and Goliath'...I'm not sure who won the contest...)

copyu