Learn from my mistakes if you need to make ‘No Knead’ bread
When the snow is falling and you’re stuck at home, there’s nothing more satisfying than breaking out the crockpot and making a hearty beef stew or soup for dinner, and perhaps a nice piping hot loaf of homemade bread.
That’s what I had in mind on Wednesday as eight inches of the white stuff billowed down during the day. I was able to work at home to get our newspaper out and decided to try my hand at making “no knead” bread. Friends on Facebook were buzzing about a recipe on Jezebel.com titled ‘How to Make Easy, Fast, Foolproof Bread from Scratch.’ None of them had tried it yet, but since I had the ingredients on hand and had plenty of hours to kill watching snow pour down, I decided to give it a whirl.
While I love making bread the traditional way, putting in some elbow grease to gently knead it into conformity, the thought of making a a nice boule without having to knead was intriguing.
The results weren’t bad. But they weren’t great either. Whenever a recipe calls itself “foolproof” you can count on me to mess it up. The bread was okay, but okay isn’t enough.
The recipe was indeed easy and it yielded a very dense, peasant-style loaf of bread. Hot out of the oven it was nice and bready, but as it sat around it got harder, and by the next morning it was rock-like.
Was it fast? My definition of fast is something you can make and serve quickly, in less than an hour. Making the dough was fast, but it does require several hours, preferably overnight to rise, so to me it’s not THAT fast.
My worst problem with the Jezebel recipe was the recommended container used for mixing the dough. I don’t have a large, tall squarish plastic container like the author used, so I substituted a large pitcher. Mistake. With its narrow bottom, the dough was difficult to stir and was prone to not being mixed properly and developing pockets of unincorporated flour. A bowl, or better yet, the cooking vessel itself, would have been the way to go.
Also, by tearing the dough out of the container as she did, to shape into loaves, you’re going to knock out some of the air and texture and that’s not good to achieve a light loaf. Better to separate the dough before putting it in the fridge and let it be.
The Jezebel recipe yielded two loaves of bread for me, which I cooked several hours apart in order to see if there was any benefit to letting the dough settle in the fridge for a longer time. There wasn’t any noticeable difference. Both loaves tasted pretty much the same.
The bread smells GREAT while it bakes, and hot out of the oven, it’s delicious. Hot bread is hot bread! But the crust quality wasn’t distinguishable from the bread, it was pretty much non-existent. Also, I think I undercooked the first loaf by about 5 to 10 minutes because the bottom of the loaf was slightly gummy. The directed 30- 35 minutes wasn’t enough. That was my mistake though, I should have known better.
The bread’s freshness unfortunately didn’t last long, it’s best warm or the same day it’s made. The next day the loaves rivaled something an Olympics discus thrower could use.
I’m not including the Jezebel recipe in my recipe tab on this blog. I see the potential here for something wonderful, so I’m going to work on it and tweak the recipe as needed to get better results.
After I made the bread I decided to pay a visit to the website Chowhound.com (where, I should have turned beforehand) and found numerous threads singing the praises of “no knead” bread from the likes of cooking experts such as Mark Bittman and Jacques Pepin.
Chowhounders also offered some wonderful tips on how to get a delicious looking and tasting loaf (hint, it’s all about the baking and the vessel).
The next time I make “no knead” bread, and there will be a next time, I am going to follow Jacques Pepin’s recipe for One Pot Bread. Check out the first five minutes of this video. Jacques makes bread making and bread baking look so good and so easy. I’ll report back after I make his recipe, and hopefully will have a new one to add to my blog.