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Hassouni

Total noobasaurus question about no-knead dough

26 posts in this topic

So I used to make the NYT recipe for no-knead bread a lot a few years ago, then stopped (better access to good bread). I'm making Kenji's recipe for pan pizza from Serious Eats, in which he makes a no-knead dough. I've seen all the videos with Jim Lahey, Bittman, and whoever else, and they always do the merest stir of the dry ingredients after adding water. I did that too, and I ended up with lots of dry flour, and bits of dry dough invading the wet dough. How the hell do I avoid that? I couldn't even incorporate the excess dry stuff when mixing last night...

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A simple no knead dough needs about 680 g of water per kilo of flour. You can stir it easily at this level. Water and salt first and flours on top with the yeast.

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Hi Hassouni.

I haven't seen the videos, but are you talking about the recipe(s) discussed here? Possibly not, since you talk about water going in after the dry ingredients; the 5 Minutes a Day one adds dry to wet.

But anyway ... maybe there's some TV magic involved. When I make it (which is frequently) it certainly needs more than a casual flick. Give it a good turning-over with a tablespoon or other implement of choice, but there's no need to be obsessive about making sure every last speck of flour gets mixed in - the wetness of the recipe will take care of that as it sits waiting for you to use it.


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Mixing is a skill. Some folks are more efficient than others. The tool used makes a difference. If I try to mix a wet dough using a wooden spoon, it will require more strokes than a Danish dough whisk. I like to use a combination of dough whisk and flexible plastic dough scraper. Start with the whisk, then when things are mostly amalgamated, switch to the scraper to clean up stray dry flour bits. But don't worry about how long---just keep stirring until well moistened. Or do an initial stir, then wait a few mi items and stir some more.

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Hi Hassouni.

I haven't seen the videos, but are you talking about the recipe(s) discussed here? Possibly not, since you talk about water going in after the dry ingredients; the 5 Minutes a Day one adds dry to wet.

But anyway ... maybe there's some TV magic involved. When I make it (which is frequently) it certainly needs more than a casual flick. Give it a good turning-over with a tablespoon or other implement of choice, but there's no need to be obsessive about making sure every last speck of flour gets mixed in - the wetness of the recipe will take care of that as it sits waiting for you to use it.

It's the Jim Lahey style recipe

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And what flour do you use? I tend to use a half blend of all purpose and half strong flour. I like to mix it by hand which allows me to combine the flour better. If you add a little more water 2/3% you can slightly flour when done and shorten the proofing time. A slightly more humid dough has given me great results in terms of aeration in the dough.

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I have two pictorial guides on no knead bread in this thread (look about half way down this page). The second guide is on forming and baking the bread. The entire thread has many contributors, and I a great guide. This thread rekindled my bread making.

http://forums.egullet.org/topic/111794-artisan-bread-in-five-minutes-a-day-with-zoe-francois/page-17

Every flour is different (in terms of how much liquid is needed to reach the desired consistency). King Arthur flour is extremely consistent, across the U.S. If you follow the recipes in this thread and use King Arthur, it will absolutely work out great. Other flours (through personal experience) will act differently. I haven't found another flour that works better that KA..

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I've noticed the flour mix tends to affect the length of time it takes to get everything well-blended. Incidentally, not only do I mix however long it takes for full mixing, but I do it with a mixer (Yes. I know. Some regard this as heresy. But I started using a mixer ever since I broke my dough loop, and never switched back).


Michaela, aka "Mjx"
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My issue was more that when mixing i could not incorporate all the flour without having lots of dry lumps or just plain flour sitting in the bowl. For the record, I was using KA bread flour.

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I wonder if there's something about the water you're using. In my trailer travels around the country, I've learned that the water matters. I don't know what, chemically speaking, makes the difference - pH almost certainly, chlorine probably, hardness and the associated minerals perhaps. (I'd love to hear some ideas on this.) You might try using distilled water and see if that makes a difference. At less than a buck it's a cheap test.


Edited by Smithy (log)

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
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I wonder if there's something about the water you're using. In my trailer travels around the country, I've learned that the water matters. I don't know what, chemically speaking, makes the difference - pH almost certainly, chlorine probably, hardness and the associated minerals perhaps. (I'd love to hear some ideas on this.) You might try using distilled water and see if that makes a difference. At less than a buck it's a cheap test.

If the water is clean enough to drink, then yeast can drink it too. I routinely use a very hard, highly treated tap water to make bread---it is MS River water with the effluvium of an entire continent, from midwestern agricultural chemicals to local refineries. My water makes lovely no knead loaves. I have never noticed any absorption differences and have used bottled artesian water for demos with no problems. Ditto for tap water in other locales.

Keep stirring. It won't mix itself. No knead doesn't mean no mix. If the dough is super shaggy with wet and dry patches, give it a rest. The dough's hydration will even out after a few minutes and help you along. I teach a beginning breadmaking class multiple times a year, and so many of my students simply under estimate the sheer time required to perform the initial mixing. It requires effort and strength, even in a highly hydrated dough. Some students find hand-mixing too onerous and only use a mixer. Others prefer to use their hands directly in the dough.

Try making half batches and see if it gets any easier. As a final thought, your bowl or container may be too small to allow for thorough mixing.


Edited by HungryC (log)

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the bread formula i use is listed in the link. its fool proof.

i highly recommend an accurate digital scale to weigh your ingredients.

your hydration is low.

typical hydration I use with KA all purpose or bread flour is 75% (750 ml water per 1000gm flour), some people use up to 82% hydration.

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I used that ratio, 275g water: 400g flour, which is equivalent go 687.5g:1000g

I think this is the problem. If you look at the original Lahey recipe, it calls for 345 g water and 430 g flour, which is a hydration just over 80%. Your ratio isn't quite 69%. No wonder you can't mix it with a spoon. I've worked with that hydration for a kneaded bread. I needed a machine. :smile:

As for how much to mix, he says "Add water and incorporate by hand or with a wooden spoon or spatula for 30 seconds to 1 minute." I'd call that a lot more than "the merest stir."

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BTW, I don't think anyone has linked to the earlier marathon eGullet thread on the Lahey recipe. It's here. Of the many, many great insights in that thread, I found Joe Blowe's recap particularly useful. Although, I have to say, when all was said and done, I ended up going back to regular kneaded breads and use no-knead mainly as a suggestion for friends who want something easier.

And, yeah, I didn't post in that thread. I wasn't even a member then. But it was one of my inspirations to join.

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This isn't some mountain terrain where the marble only balances in two places, "knead" or "no knead". There's a continuum of possible techniques. My favorite bread making guide is the Tartine Bread book, with gentle folds in a bowl. Compared to my original preconceptions about kneading, that's closer to no knead.

No knead could appeal not because it's easier, but rather because it better fits one's schedule. If I miss by an hour or two the ideal schedule for Tartine bread, it doesn't come out as well.


Per la strada incontro un passero che disse "Fratello cane, perche sei cosi triste?"

Ripose il cane: "Ho fame e non ho nulla da mangiare."

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Keep stirring. It won't mix itself. No knead doesn't mean no mix... Others prefer to use their hands directly in the dough.

I'm big on using my hands for mixing doughs.

Same here. That way you get very personal with your food.


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This isn't some mountain terrain where the marble only balances in two places, "knead" or "no knead". There's a continuum of possible techniques. My favorite bread making guide is the Tartine Bread book, with gentle folds in a bowl. Compared to my original preconceptions about kneading, that's closer to no knead.

No knead could appeal not because it's easier, but rather because it better fits one's schedule. If I miss by an hour or two the ideal schedule for Tartine bread, it doesn't come out as well.

With all due respect, it sounds like you haven't made the Lahey recipe (link above). No, it's not much like the Tartine method. For an explanation of the former, see Bittman's original NYT article.

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This isn't some mountain terrain where the marble only balances in two places, "knead" or "no knead". There's a continuum of possible techniques. My favorite bread making guide is the Tartine Bread book, with gentle folds in a bowl. Compared to my original preconceptions about kneading, that's closer to no knead.

No knead could appeal not because it's easier, but rather because it better fits one's schedule. If I miss by an hour or two the ideal schedule for Tartine bread, it doesn't come out as well.

With all due respect, it sounds like you haven't made the Lahey recipe (link above). No, it's not much like the Tartine method. For an explanation of the former, see Bittman's original NYT article.

Frankly, the Tartine loaf is 1000 times better than the Lahey no knead loaf.....and the stretch and fold method results in far better texture than the straight no knead. I haven't made a Lahey no knead loaf since the initial craze swept through. It's a fun loaf, but better flavor and texture are out there. I think of it as a gateway loaf.....

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Frankly, the Tartine loaf is 1000 times better than the Lahey no knead loaf.....and the stretch and fold method results in far better texture than the straight no knead. I haven't made a Lahey no knead loaf since the initial craze swept through. It's a fun loaf, but better flavor and texture are out there. I think of it as a gateway loaf...

Totally agree with HungryC. I think it was Dan Lepard, who in these very pages proselytized about the wonderfulness of the stretch & fold technique.


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Actually, I'm no fan of no-knead, and said so in Post #16. But, as my mother likes to say, there's a reason Baskins-Robbins has more than one flavor of ice cream. Some people are dedicated enough for the Tartine method, others top out at no-knead, and many (that would include me) come out somewhere in between.

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With all due respect, it sounds like you haven't made the Lahey recipe (link above). No, it's not much like the Tartine method. For an explanation of the former, see Bittman's original NYT article.

Actually I have, and also the "5 minutes a day" protocol. It is very instructive to see what one can get away with not doing, making bread. Then one can figure out what one wants to do. Pizza is more forgiving than bread, and an easy spinoff with these methods. Everyone should try these methods, if just to have pizza regularly with less planning and effort.

Saying one idea is like or close to another idea is always a tricky business, as everyone sees different aspects of a situation. I'm a mathematician and I see this a lot. The strongest mathematicians I know see everything as one idea. The weakest ones pick up an idea one village over, and pass it off as their own. So I'm always struggling to see what's in common. Of course there are also differences.

I did mean what I said. There's one axis on which one can plot bread techniques, and that's the degree of agitation of the dough. I first learned to manhandle dough like some rough massage session, and that's pretty far from any of these techniques.

My own preference is to make slowly developing straight sourdoughs using mostly grains that I've ground myself, sieving out the bran. This flour includes fresh germ, unlike what one buys as "whole wheat" flour. I find this bread much more challenging to make than any beginner recipe I've seen in these books, but I love the taste and keeping qualities, and I get a loaf that I simply can't buy.

The revelation about the various no-knead approaches is that with whole grains, no matter how much bran one sieves out, there's bran left in the dough, waiting to slice through gluten like so many safety razor blades, if one agitates the dough wrong. No-knead avoids this damage. Stretch and fold avoids this damage. Kneading like a 50's sitcom doesn't work so well, and this appears to me to be a partial explanation.

Some people are dedicated enough for the Tartine method, others top out at no-knead, and many (that would include me) come out somewhere in between.

Yes, I see bread as a continuum, where one picks up elements of technique from each of these sources. That's why so many of us use a spreadsheet that we tweak as our recipe.


Per la strada incontro un passero che disse "Fratello cane, perche sei cosi triste?"

Ripose il cane: "Ho fame e non ho nulla da mangiare."

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