The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Starter for Almost No Knead Bread?

conbrio's picture

Starter for Almost No Knead Bread?

Hi. New here, new to bread making. I've just baked my fourth No Knead loaf. The first two were Jim Lahey's basic recipe. The crust and crumb were good, but I thought their flavor was a little one-dimensional. The next two were from the Cook's Illustrated Almost No Knead recipe (Jan 2008). Big improvement in flavor, texture still good, higher crown.

The purist in me really likes the idea of using only flour, water, salt and yeast. The Cook's Illustrated recipe uses vinegar and beer to improve the flavor. I'm wondering if, instead of vinegar and beer, I get a nice complex flavor by using a starter/biga. Has anyone tried encorporating a starter into the No Knead or Almost no Knead recipes? If so, how to do this? How much starter to use? How would you adjust the ingredient quantities?

Thanks for your help,


mrfrost's picture

Of course you can knead it a few times like the almost no knead version if you want. This assumes you are speaking of soudough. If you are speaking of a yeasted starter(biga), think about it, the no kneads are virtually bigas. Anyway, he's got a lot of other easy no knead and sourdough recipes at his site. Just click on on the player to open link.

AnnieT's picture

Michael, my son bakes this bread most weeks and instead of the vinegar he adds 1/4cup of sourdough starter. He SAYS he got the idea from me - I don't remember that but I recently made a couple of loaves with the starter and really liked the flavor. I keep my starter pretty thick, not sure about his. Hope you'll try it, A.

mariana's picture

Michael, I bake this bread using the following modification of Cook's Illustrated recipe: I remove beer and vinegar and add 2 Tbsp of starter.

427g unbleached APF

1/4 tsp instant eyast (1g)

1/2 Tbsp salt

285g water

2Tbsp sourdough starter (27g, how wet it is doesn't really matter, it's a very small amount)

Makes a perfect loaf, after 14 hours of fermentation at room T.




cranbo's picture

You can easily add any amount of the flour weight in starter. Depending on how wet your starter is (aka starter hydration %), you may need to add more flour to your recipe. Of course, the more starter you add, the faster your dough will rise, so your rise times will vary significantly from the recipe. 

If you're leaving it out overnight at room temp (12 hours or more), I agree with previous posters, start with 1/4 cup of starter in your first loaf, and work up from there. 

conbrio's picture

Wow, this is great.  Thanks so much for all your responses.

Now, to learn how to make a starter:

Mariana, that loaf looks beautiful!




conbrio's picture

Hey there.  I just wanted to say thanks again.  I got my first sourdough starter up and running and made an ANK loaf from it, substituting 1/4 cup of starter for the beer and vinegar.  Well, I didn't think my young starter would be sour enough, so I tossed in a teaspoon of vinegar.  The loaf turned out great, and was extra-tangy, so the vinegar was probably not needed.

BTW, sourdough waffles are incredible!




SCruz's picture

I make my no-knead with 1/4t yeast, 1.5t salt, 7 oz WW, 8 oz unbleached, and 1/2 oz rye flour. I add 1/2 C sunflower seeds and 1/4 C poppy seeds to the dough, and top it with sesame seeds and a few fennel seeds for surprise. I like the denseness of the bread and it has great flavor.