The Fresh Loaf

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Bittman/Lahey No-Knead Bread hydration

cranbo's picture

Bittman/Lahey No-Knead Bread hydration

So I've made no-knead bread before and was a bit disappointed. But recently I got reinspired to try the Bittman/Lahey version as published in the NYT:

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
1 5/8 cups water
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons salt

Mark Bittman was on "Good Food" on KCRW with Evan Kleiman a couple of weeks ago, talking about this recipe. What's interesting was that in his interview notes, he mentions the weights to use. However, someone please tell me how 1-5/8 cups water weighs 345g! :)

I measured these ingredients, and here's the comparison:

Flour: 428g (me), 430g (Bittman) (3 cups)
Water: 385g (me), 345g (Bitt.) (1-5/8 cups)
Table Salt: 8g (me), 8g (Bitt.) (1-1/4 tsp)
Instant Yeast: 1g (me), 1g (Bitt.) (1/4 tsp)

What's interesting about this, is that the water listed is close to 89% hydration! As a result, the dough is extremely wet and goopy, almost like a batter! Here are baker's percentages (using a nice dough calculator); I'm using ADY instead of IDY:

Flour (100%):     430.37 g  |  15.18 oz | 0.95 lbs
Water (89%):     383.03 g  |  13.51 oz | 0.84 lbs
ADY (.2%):     0.86 g | 0.03 oz | 0 lbs | 0.23 tsp | 0.08 tbsp
Salt (1.8%):     7.75 g | 0.27 oz | 0.02 lbs | 1.39 tsp | 0.46 tbsp
Total (191%):    822 g | 28.99 oz | 1.81 lbs | TF = N/A

My questions are:

  1. 89% hydration can't be right, can it? Did I do something wrong here?
  2. How much water do you use when you make this recipe?



LindyD's picture

Using my own calculator, I get 80.23 percent hydration (345/430*100).

So does's calculator which you can check  here

cranbo's picture

Hi LindyD,

Yes, that's correct, but the issue is that 1-5/8 c. water (listed in the original recipe) weighs about 383g at room temperature, not 345g, unless somehow I measured wrong.

(383/430*100) as listed in the original recipe is 89% hydration, not 80%. 

My issue is whether 89% is too high (I think it might be!). In any case, I cooked up a batch at 89% hydration, we'll see what happens.


LindyD's picture

Here's the original TFL discussion, which you might find helpful.

Edited to add that there's been some discussion out on the 'Net that Lahey uses 1.5 cups of water.  Don't know if that's correct, but you might try weighing 1.5 cups to see if comes closer to the Bittman number.  

Lahey has a new book out; perhaps he explains it there.

Have fun with your bake.

cranbo's picture

Thanks for the referal link. I read thru the whole thread, and it confirmed my suspicions:

  1. The hydration listed in the original NYT recipe is wrong; AND
  2. The original recipe should be 1-1/2 cups water, not 1-5/8 cups water

This is confirmed by:

  1. It appears that few bakers continue to make the recipe at the original hydration; those that did it appears that it didn't turn out right (too slack)
  2. The demo video shows 1.5 cups water being used, and 3 rounded cups of flour.

It's just a shame to see a serious recipe mistake being propogated!

LindyD's picture

On the other hand, Cranbo, you could think of it as a giant ciabatta in a pot.  ;-)

cranbo's picture

Yes, that's correct: 1.5 cups of water weighs around 350 grams, so it all adds up.

Yeah, "pot o ciabatta" is exactly how my 1st one is shaping up.

Final rise was in a cloth-lined basket with a LOT of flour, and even so, it was so wet that it stuck badly like a batter. We'll see how it turns out; it's gonna be ugly, but maybe it'll still taste good! :)

UPDATE: turned out decent in any case. 

  1. Poor oven spring
  2. Nice browning on the top and bottom crust
  3. Shatteringly crisp, cracker-like thin crust
  4. Nice chew
  5. Big open-hole structure/texture
  6. Mild, but slightly pleasantly lingering flavor.

Incidentally, in lieu of yeast, I used 1 tbsp. of firm starter (60% hydration) in lieu of yeast.


mike owens's picture
mike owens

i have made maybe 20 of these.  i weigh in ounces so please don't flogg me. i scaled it down a touch for a smaller loaf but here is how it measures out for me and i have never had it go wrong. 

9.5 oz flour.  i use a combo of 3.5 oz fresh ground spring wheat,  4 oz KA bread flour and 2 oz all purp.

a scant 1/4 tsp dry yeast

1 tsp salt

8.75 oz purified water

my last batch i mixed in  about a half cup spinach ablended with the water and then during the folding i added some grated gruyere cheese.  i did a tri fold with cheese between each layer and then did it again.  it was fantastic.

Fanciesmom's picture

While I'm not a professional baker - I do make this bread often, so my 2 cents worth. 

I weigh out my flour (cups) and I weigh (silly I know) my water.  The first rise is in an oiled bowl, then I flip it out on an oiled board make a couple quick folds, cover with saran and let it rest for a few minutes before scooping onto cormeal dusted parchment.  Then I cover and let it rise again while the oven and pan heat.  I use the parchment to lower the dough gently into the pan, cover and bake as described.   I do jack my oven to 500 and have a hearthkit.

I always get a good crust, tender moist crumb, and incredible taste.


copyu's picture

I strictly measure everything by metric (gram) weight, except for the instant yeast, when I make NKB. I use:

430g flour(s) [mixed rye, oat/wheat bran, AP, bread flour, semolina...]

up to 340g [MAX] filtered water

up to 12g salt

1/4 teaspoon yeast (or 100g starter, and adjust other ingredients)

I try to fold at least 3 times before baking and find that the slightest reduction in water gives me a real "bread dough" by the second fold. At about 330-335g water, I still need a plastic scraper to do the first fold. Then I dump the dough into a smaller glass bowl, lightly misted with cooking spray.

Last night I baked a 30% semolina loaf coated with 'blue' poppy seeds. By rights, my dough should have been folded at 8:00 pm, but I started the folding at about 4:30 and pulled a lovely loaf from the oven at 8:30.

My 'best moves' with NKB were—to reduce the hydration to between 75-77%; to bake while slightly 'under-proofed' for good oven spring; to add 'thirstier' flours to the bread/AP flour; and finally, to buy a smaller dutch oven. Ten-inch (250mm) ovens are too big, IMHO. My new one is 8" (200mm) which is just about perfect for the formula above. I often use a brotform for NKB, these days, which would have been impossible when following the original formula.

I hope this is useful. Cheers





copyu's picture

"There is no internationally-agreed standard definition of the cup, whose modern volume ranges between 200 and 284 millilitres."

I think the above, from Wikipedia, is a better answer than I gave before.

Cup measures are quite silly and, if the world made any sense, would be BANNED. (I'm only half-kidding!) I find it really frustrating, since I have 3 'Pyrex' glass measuring cups, plus a few stainless-steel measuring scoops which, regrettably, do not agree with one another...[180ml, 200ml, 250ml = "1 cup" perhaps?]

I know (from woodworking) that one should always use the same rule or tape measure for all critical measurements, so that errors are minimized and balanced-out, instead of multiplied. However, inches are still inches...centimeters are always centimeters. Some people use 2-cup-capacity measuring cups, which *really* messes-up their flour measurements!

'CUPS' are NOT "cups" unless we all use the same ones! [Even pints and (fluid) ounces vary between English-speaking countries.] It's probably about time for the whole world to go 'officially metric' without changing anything [3/4" and 2" will still be "standard", but just *called* 19mm or 50mm respectively.]

Still, "cups" are better and less confusing than the really old recipes I've read, which include gems such as "add new wine, a good amount..."(???)