The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Help please

Ravyn's picture

Help please

Hello...I am new to the forums.  Let me start by apologizing if this was addressed in another location but I could not find the topic via search....OK  my problem/question is this...I am just getting into making the no knead bread.  I followed the recipe for Jim Lahey's bread to the 'T'.  Let it rise for 18hours but when I turned it out it was more like thick pancake batter rather than anything resembling dough.  I tried to work with it but ended up just dumping it.  I now think maybe I should have saved it as a 'starter' but I am not going to worry about that now.  Anyway I don't understand what went wrong.  All the ingredients were fresh.  I have made the ABin5 recipe with no problems.  Does anyone have any insite or suggestions as to what went wrong?  Thanks :)

cholla's picture

I am not familiar with his recipe but. A no knead bread does not mean that you don't touch it after mixing. Stretch and fold is your friend here. It builds strength into the dough. without the kneading process. Without, you get a watery dough that does not go anywhere. On the other hand, 18 hour rise without refridgeration is a very long time and could cause the same results.(overproofing) Here the yeast eats all the available food and has no strength to rise left. Maybe a little more info as to what specifically you did will help me help you.



Ravyn's picture

Hi John

I was following the recipe from the NYT article featuring Jim Lahey's technique.  The technique is to stretch and fold after the rise.  Again I was following  his technique.  But unlike the dough from ABin5 this one looked more like a poolish and that's not what its supposed to be.  I am waiting for his book to arrive so I will see if maybe I missed a step somewhere and will post and let you know.  Otherwise I am still at a loss for why this happened.  I suppose though, that since I am learning, I should appreciate the mistakes so I can learn from them...cheers :)


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

There are a few things you can do before the book arrives...   If you used weights, check your recipe.  Divide the water weight by the flour weight and multiply by 100 to get the hydration.  That and the type of flour (there must be others with the same brand) can help decipher the problem.  Keep notes.  Another Q...  What temp was the room where the dough rose for 18 hours?  

Too bad you dumped the dough.  Could have used half of it with equal amounts of flour to make a tasty dough adding water as kneaded. (pun intended)  Sorry to rub it in.  :)  Welcome!

Ravyn's picture

Hi Mini and Everyone...thank you so much for all your input.  I am still waiting for the books to arrive and experimenting in the mean time.  Mini yes I should not have thrown it away.  I wasn't thinking and did a real facepalm when I stopped and thought about what I did.  Ah well its only flour.  I tried  making a loaf today the way ABin5 use a stone and water pan for steam and I have to say I was not too happy with the results.  The bread I make in the dutch oven comes out much better.  The loaves were Batards though so they would not have fit anyway.  I was thinking of trying to make an aluminum steam hood for the longer shapes...has anyone tried this technique?  Sadly I don't think my oven holds in the steam very well.  I have been having problems with it but cant afford to replace it just now.  I did get a high temp oven thermometer and that has helped.  Cheers all :)

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

or "aluminum cover" in the site archives.  (Search function upper left corner of the page)  You will find alu. turkey pans and all kinds of things to try.  Find what suits you best.  When I do cover with foil, heavy duty or regular, I find doubled works also well to trap steam.  

I like to shape aluminum over an empty pan first so when I do "tent"  the proofed loaf, there is plenty of room for a nice oven spring.   Try misting the cover with a water sprayer (you might have to wrestle a sprayer from the plant people in the house or better yet, get one for "baking only" in the kitchen) adding moisture before you pinch it tight over the dough.  

mrfrost's picture

The online article calls for too much water(1 5/8 cup = 13 oz).

Cut back to 1 1/2 cup(12 oz) max. Or add more flour. Even 12 oz water will be rather wet, especially if you are using a lower protein AP flour. Use at least King Arthur AP or GM Better for Bread flour. Even still, may be too wet for some, especially beginners.

Also, don't be afraid to use a well(decently) floured surface and hands to fold and shape the dough. Even Lahey does.

Check out the video if you have not already seen it:

RedL's picture

The recipe on the internet has several mistakes in it.  I always change a recipe to grams and then figure out the hydration beforehand.  The way I see it their hydration comes out to 101%, as you say a poolish.  King Arthur has a 77% no knead recipe that sounds close to Lahey’s .  It’s a larger recipe but reduced it comes out to the following.

360 g. flour  ( 3 C. @ 120 g. ea.)

277 g. water  (1 C + 1 Tbl. )

 ¼ tsp. yeast

1¼  tsp. Salt 

Ravyn's picture

Hi Red...thanks for the recipe.  I will check out the KA site :)

HeidiH's picture

I, too have followed the Leahy recipe and played with it with lots of good luck so my suspicion is the problem is with your ingredients -- most likely dead yeast.  Sometimes, by the time the yeast gets to the grocery shelf, it has been abused along the way.  Somewhere it might have gotten too hot and been killed.  I had this happen before I broke down and started buying yeast by the pound over the web which is much cheaper than the grocery store envelopes of yeast.

I now have ventured on to stretch and fold (my favorite method), hand kneading, or using the dough hook on the mixer but I made many variations from the no-knead Jim Leahy bread and only had the problem you describe when my yeast had been "murdered."

Oh, and the Leahy no knead dough will be much wetter and stickier than a bread you knead.