Sunday 18 January 2009

No knead bread - wow!

I always believed that the secret to making great bread was kneading the dough. As I blogged last week, there are people on flickr who make amazing looking bread which hasn't been kneaded. This bread is known as "no knead bread". It seemed a crazy concept but despite my reservations I gave it a go this weekend. And all I can say is "wow!".

I decided not to try the recipe on the New York Times website that I found last week. Instead I followed the links on the flickr noknead group to a couple of video recipes and these were the ones I followed. Here are the videos if you are interested:

The videos made it look very easy but I was still sceptical about their claims that it would only involve 10 minutes of actual work by me to produce the bread. And I am pleased to report that I actually only spent about 5 minutes of work on making the bread over the 20 hour period. Amazing.

I didn't follow their recipes to the letter though. I used 3 cups of white bread flour rather than mixed flours and 2 cups of water. The recipes said 1.5 or 1 5/8ths cups of water but I found 1.5 cups the dough wasn't very wet so added the extra water. I mixed all this together for 10 seconds yesterday at 2PM and covered the bowl with cling-film. I then left it as per the instructions for 18 hours.

This morning at 9AM I found a bowl of spongy looking dough that has risen very high up the bowl. Again, as per the instructions, I scraped the dough out on to a floured surface, folded it, rested it for 15 minutes and then put it in a floured tea towel for 1.5 hours.

I put an old casserole pot with lid in my oven at 250 °C for 30 minutes, dropped the risen dough into the pre-heated pot, slashed the top of the dough with a Stanley knife, put the lid back on and baked it for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes I opened the pot expecting to see a disaster and was amazed to see this loaf:

No knead white bread

I made a ham and cheese sandwich and it was delicious bread. The crust was very crisp and, well, crusty! The inside - the crumb - was very light with lots of large holes. It reminded me a bit of ciabatta.

No knead bread sandwhich

I have been making my own bread for 5 years now and this was easily the best loaf I have ever made. All but 2 of my previous loaves have been made using my bread maker to make the dough for me. The other 2 were made by me kneading the dough myself because the bread maker was broken and they were awful - I can't knead to save my life! The bread maker dough produced pretty good bread, especially when combined with a sourdough starter. But I was always disappointed with the crustiness of the crust. Straight out of the oven the crust would be crisp and crunchy but while it cooled the crust would turn very soft. I would always put water into the the oven to produce the steam needed to make a crunchy, crisp crust. But this didn't seem to work.

But with the no knead bread I got a crunchy, crisp crust. I think this is because the enclosed casserole pot combined with the wet dough turned it into a small steam oven which is what proper bakers use.

I will be definitely trying this recipe again and will be trying more recipes from Breadtopia who have loads of no knead bread recipes.

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