The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

No Knead Variations Part I

theuneditedfoodie's picture

No Knead Variations Part I

I have been a fan of the no-knead bread ever since two of my friends told me about it having been featured in the NY times by Mark Bittman. Now, Bittman, the minimalist guru, is not the one responsible for the No-Knead Bread; sure he helped to sell the concept by featuring it in his column for the NY times, but the mind/man behind the No-Knead success has been Jim Lahey- founder of the Sullivan Street Bakery in New York City. In 2006, the NY times mentioned the no-knead bread for the first time and it just exploded in the amateur bakers’ world, the success of the bread reached phenomenal heights to the extent that Anothony Bourdain called Lahey the Dalai Lama of bread baking. In 2008, Bittman came back with a twist on this no-knead concept and introduced, alongside Lahey, a speedy no-knead concept- where the idea was basically to add more yeast. And although for an amateur baker the speedy no-knead is a revelation, personally, to me, the holes that the bread webs aren’t big enough to give it the perfect flaky/airy crumb. The thing that I love about the no-knead bread is the use of Dutch oven, I meaning by using this noble vessel one can truly get the heat of a professional oven and the physics behind it is just incredible that even a douche, like myself can prepare some great breads. In the past, I have tried the original no-knead bread, which has an initial rising time of 18 hours and then a secondary rising time of 2 hours before it hits the scorching hot Dutch oven. I have also tried the speedy no-knead too, which has a first rise time of 4 to 5 hours, followed by another hour.  So in my quest to understand more no knead and more Lahey, I got Lahey’s bread book, “My Bread-The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method". One of the first recipes that inspired me from Lahey’s book was the Pan co’ Santi (Walnut bread); this bread contains bread flour, raisins, walnuts, salt, cinnamon, yeast, black pepper, water and cornmeal for dusting. Now, since I am allergic to walnuts, well not exactly, but since I do not like walnuts- I opted for its exodus. Obviously, with walnuts now out of the scene- the bread wasn’t walnut bread anymore, and so I added some cranberry and called it cranberry-raisin bread.  Also, what was exciting to taste was the cinnamon alongside the black pepper with the cranberry and raisins. I have to confess, this was a good festive bread. High on my success of the cranberry-raisin bread, I decided to pull another bread recipe of Lahey’s, this one called the olive bread or Pane all’Olive. Now, the olive bread had of course bread flour, pitted olives, yeast, water and cornmeal for dusting. Although, Lahey strongly suggested to use kalamata olives, since they are soaked in pure salt brine, it would add to the taste of the bread- however, the cheap bastard that I am, I opted for the regular California olives.  Now, in the past when I have made olive bread, I have witnessed problems with gradually introducing olives within the bread, for olives have a huge amount of water and keep wetting my bread dough to where I am pushed to use more bread flour just to keep the dough dry enough for baking.  So when I was making Leahy’s olive bread, I tried to outsmart the liquefied olives by air-drying it with a hair dryer. Did it work? Yes, to some extent or at least I thought when introducing the olives to the flour mixture.  Unfortunately, after the first and second rising, I knew for sure that the motherfucking olives had peed yet again in my flour. This led to very soggy dough, which was extremely hard to handle. I mean as such it is hard to control the aesthetic of the no-knead bread when you are trying to toss it up in the Dutch oven without burning your hand. Somehow after stretching my dough somewhat, I was able to slam it into the container and finally get in the conventional oven to bake.  The results weren’t very satisfying…not only the bread was somewhat moist, the culprit being the olives-it almost tasted like it didn’t have any salt.  Why so? Well, one could say because Leahy didn’t introduce any salt in it, and why that- because he believed that the kalamata olives brined in sea salt would bring enough saltiness to the bread.  The only thing that I was glad about this bread at that point of time was that thankfully, listening to the wife, I had introduced some rosemary and garlic into the flour mixture, which made the bread somewhat edible. Moral of the blog, you live and learn and you bake and get better. To be continued…


ackkkright's picture

Hi United Foodie,

I wouldn't say you were a cheap bastard, but maybe a frugal bastard.

Anyway, I don't think you're a douche.



jstreed1476's picture

Interesting report on no-knead variations. A little hard to read, format-wise. But worth it for both the description of the loaf and the all-too-common frustration of wrestling a gloppy no-knead loaf into a screaming hot dutch oven.

Seriously, though: a space between paragraphs is easy on the eyes, and free for the first year at THL.

msbreadbaker's picture

My sentiments exactly regarding format. A little difficult to read about mid-way. While we're on the subject, the current use of no capital letters is another annoying habit that some have.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Did it occur to you that perhaps the salty olives attracted moisture from the bread dough to the olive surface?  Almost everything having to do with mixing dough is about the movement of water from one ingredient to another.   So the olives were not peeing on your bread, your bread was peeing on the olives!  

I suppose you could try rolling the olives in flour first and adding as you shape the dough for the last time.  Keep olive contact with the dough to a minimum so the bread is baked before it even knows they're in there and will have to behave.  :)

(Thanks for a little spacing between paragraphs.) 

theuneditedfoodie's picture

Mini, appreciate your advice- however, I am not entirely sure. Because Mr.Lahey's method of the No Knead Olive Bread is mixing it altogether (olives+flour etc) at the beginning, and then it rises for 18 hours. I mean, I understand what you are saying and it makes sense also, but then why would Leahy advice the other way? Also, my olives weren't very salty either, in fact that was another mistake, because Lahey advised for the Kalamata olives, but I just went with regular green California olives (frugal) which hardly had much of salt in them.


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

If you're gonna change the olives then why force yourself to stick to the recipe after it flopped?  You may want to add some salt too!  Like the herb touches!  You just have to let him off the hook and say you made adaptations.  

Olive bread in these parts is also low salt and a heavy type bread.  In case you were wondering.  More popular in summer with warmer weather.

theuneditedfoodie's picture

I think it would be a good idea to add salt, my wife wasn't very happy without it either.  It is time to make some adaptations indeed.

TastefulLee's picture

...although I am less than a year at bread baking and no expert to say the absolute least...however, I can tell you what happened in my experience of adding something wet-ish to the Lahey dough. I made the basic no-knead bread, starting the dough last night. I then incorporated chopped fresh jalapeno peppers and shredded cheddar cheese by folding them in one ingredient at a time. I was panicking by the end of the 2nd fold which incorporated the cheddar - the moist pepper chunks were ripping free of the dough all over the place! I tried to poke them back in as best I could, and while the folded dough was resting under a cloth I contemplated the next few steps necessary and how I would accomplish them.

I knew I had to transfer this mass of folded glop with peppers and cheese (yes the cheese decided to peek out alongside the peppers  AARRRGGGHHHHHH) to something to proof for an hour or so, and then manage to transfer this now completely relaxed and risen (and therefore even more slack) dough to my heated cast iron dutch oven to bake. Since I knew that a) I needed something that could reasonably hold the dough in some sort of shape similar to the dutch oven for the proofing and b) I knew I would not be able to transfer the dough to the dutch oven afterward if it came in direct contact with the proofing vessel unless I flipped it over and c) I was not about to flip anything that unpredictably wet and messy into a 500 degree dutch oven made of cast iron, I decided to proof the dough IN the dutch oven...but WAIT...if I did that, then perhaps it would spread farther than I wanted it to, and this worried me in terms of oven spring. So---I decided to proof the dough in the bowl I had made it in, and in order to transfer it, I lined the bowl with parchment, taking care to allow for overhang on both sides, before I placed (or more accurately somewhat awkwardly fanagled by the grace of God) the dough into the proofing vessel. At baking time I simply lifted the parchment and quickly and gently dropped it into the dutch oven, peppers and cheese now peeking out all over the place. I was sure this was my first-ever bonafide EPIC FAIL.

However -- 30 minutes later I uncovered the dutch oven and found a wonderfully sprung beauty of a loaf, and another 15 minutes later it was caramelized and browned to perfection. I'd definitely say that all's well that ends well - especially since it tasted so darned good with the black bean soup I served for supper. 

hanseata's picture

Though I have not baked this particular bread, I making and selling olive breads regularly. My first advice: don't skimp on the quality of the olives. This bread is all about olive taste, and, with olives, you definitely get what you pay for, so it's Kalamata or nothing.

I cringed at the costs, at first, too, but my breads are small, and my olive loving customers are willing to pay the price for a great tasting olive bread.

Lahey's advice not to add salt to the dough because the olives are salty seems rather unpractical. To achieve a bread with not just salty bits (the rest being bland),  you would would need to either mince or puree the olives (unattractive look), add some of the brine (uncontrollable amount of salt), or add them dripping wet from the glass.

I wrestled with wet olives popping out of the dough, and the difficulty to incorporate them evenly, too, therefore I drain them first, and then let them dry for several hours on kitchen paper towels. That works really well.

For your no-knead bread I would do the same, and add salt like you would for your regular breads.



LT72884's picture

maybe there is a vodo spirit in the house cuz when i have made no knoead olive bread, i used a can of green olives and it turned out great. the dough was easy to handle, and the olives were drained and then chopped. I did not let them dry.

The salt in the dough alone is very important. For taste and other attributes. Salt is a main electrolyte in our body, it allows flow of things. ok im sooo trying to relate chemistry to bread making. sorry. back on topic, so salt will ballance things out. for the most part. haha.

I ussually add herbs or olives to the water, salt and yeast mixture, then i add the flour. This way, it incorperates the olives evenly through out the dough and if needs be, i can add a tad more flour with in the first minute of mixing.