The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Lahey bread assistance

jshep's picture

Lahey bread assistance

I've been making the Jim Lahey bread with very mixed results and I'm not able to identify which variables are the issue so I hope to get some help.  I've probably made 7 loaves and only 2 have looked right.  All have tasted good, but 5 have been really flat and pretty heavy & dense - I've hardly gotten any oven spring at all.  It has seemed as if perhaps when I had to drop it into the cast iron pot, all of the rising was lost.  It looked like it had risen on the towel, but then collapsed upon dumping into the pot and didn't rise again in baking.  Also not gettiing a crack on the top and I know he says there should be one. 

I am using a scale and adding ingrediants based on weight, but the weights don't seem right for my flour... if I use the weights he suggested the dough is really dry and has lots of loose flour even after I mix it.  Should it be like that?  I didn't think so, so I've always added more water to get a dough that at least absorbed all the flour.  But I'm confused about whether I maybe need an even wetter dough to get the oven spring, or perhaps should stick to the book exactly and use the very dry dough? 

I've made the plain recipe (came out the prettiest of any so far), the ww bread, the chocolate-coconut, and the apricot-almond.  I noticed those with 'stuff' added used half the amount of yeast... maybe I should use a 1/2 tsp instead of the 1/4 tsp of the recipe?  It also seemed as if the bubbles in my dough after the overnight rise, were pretty small, not really very bubbly.Thanks for help and suggestions about whether I should try to make it even wetter, or go with a very dry dough to get a nice round, risen shape with a crack.

So appreciative this resource is here!  Thank you!


This Day's picture
This Day

There are many discussions of Lahey's no-knead method on this forum.  You can probably find answers by using the search box at top right of the page.

Don't add more water than what's stated in the recipe; the dough will become less dry as the yeasties do their work.  You can let the dough do its first rest for up to 24 hours; do a stretch and fold once or twice during that time.  The second rise may take up to 3-1/2 hours.  Rather than letting this second rise take place on a towel on a flat surface, try using a banneton or round basket.

What size pot are you using?  I bake the Lahey-method bread in the round crock from my slow cooker, and the dough doesn't have as much room to spread out.  I've also used a Pyrex or Corningware casserole dish.  If you don't have a lid for it, set the casserole dish in a large lidded roaster to bake.

Good luck!