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Minimalist No-Knead Bread Technique (Part 1)

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I was unable to make another after my first, very successful, loaf due to not being around over the last few weekends.  (Went to Atlantic City last weekend....luckily did not lose too much money) My plan this weekend is to mix up a dough tonight to start the initial rise (just the regular recipe with added salt).  Save some of the dough for future batches.  Bake the original off tomorrow night.  Add the saved dough to a new batch tomorrow night to bake off on Saturday.  Making another batch on Saturday to bake off on Sunday (with taken off dough from the previous one).  Does that make sense?  Maybe add some WW to the second or the third batch.  Will that work?  Should have enough bread for Christmas Eve and Christmas day dinners.

I used my LC 5 1/2 qt dutch oven for the first loaf but have recently purchased a Lodge preseasoned 5 qt cast iron that I plan to use now.  Should I do anything different?

Sounds like you are right there with the rest of us!

Hope it all comes out well for you.

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I was unable to make another after my first, very successful, loaf due to not being around over the last few weekends.  (Went to Atlantic City last weekend....luckily did not lose too much money) My plan this weekend is to mix up a dough tonight to start the initial rise (just the regular recipe with added salt).  Save some of the dough for future batches.  Bake the original off tomorrow night.  Add the saved dough to a new batch tomorrow night to bake off on Saturday.  Making another batch on Saturday to bake off on Sunday (with taken off dough from the previous one).  Does that make sense?  Maybe add some WW to the second or the third batch.  Will that work?  Should have enough bread for Christmas Eve and Christmas day dinners.

I used my LC 5 1/2 qt dutch oven for the first loaf but have recently purchased a Lodge preseasoned 5 qt cast iron that I plan to use now.  Should I do anything different?

I've been using the 5 quart Lodge oven (about $30-$40 at the Corningware outlet!) and the only thing that I would recommend is to make sure the lid is on properly. One time, the lid got slightly caught on the metal handle and it kept the lid from being seated properly. I don't think that loaf was as good as the others.

jayne

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I baked two loaves yesterday - 1 white and 1 spelt. This time I tried baking the white at a higher temperature and thought I had overdone it, but it was great. For the spelt I used less water than last time - I think it produced a better loaf.

Both loaves (spelt on the left):

gallery_25849_641_45063.jpg

gallery_25849_641_40317.jpg

Close-up of the Spelt:

gallery_25849_641_34485.jpg

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Just love this bread. Made three loaves to serve New Year's Eve with a cassoulet.

gallery_44782_4067_397642.jpg

These are my 6th, 7th and 8th loaves.

Happy New Year everyone!!!!

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Beautiful loaves, everyone!

For my New Year's loaf, I finally tried the parchment trick that somebody recommended upthread, and it worked great! Very easy, and I got a nicer looking loaf because I didn't make a total mess transferring it to the pot.

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I'm less enamored of this method now than I was when I started trying it. Yes, the loaves are beautiful, with lovely holes. But I have two main complaints: first, the floury mess I always seem to make of my kitchen, mainly in the process of transferring the proofed dough into the pre-heated pot; and second, the continued lack of bread flavor. (My last batch I baked as a focaccia, topped with walnuts and caramelized onions, and I didn't taste anything other than the topping.) I think I'm going to make two more attempts: using a bit of old dough that I'll try to remember to save the next time I make bread, and also using some of my sourdough starter. If I don't get decent bread flavor after that, I'm officially dumping the recipe. Seems like a shame too, considering the great texture. But if I can't taste the bread, it's not worth dusting my kitchen.

Yes, it's frustrating!

MelissaH

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I'm less enamored of this method now than I was when I started trying it. Yes, the loaves are beautiful, with lovely holes. But I have two main complaints: first, the floury mess I always seem to make of my kitchen, mainly in the process of transferring the proofed dough into the pre-heated pot; and second, the continued lack of bread flavor. (My last batch I baked as a focaccia, topped with walnuts and caramelized onions, and I didn't taste anything other than the topping.) I think I'm going to make two more attempts: using a bit of old dough that I'll try to remember to save the next time I make bread, and also using some of my sourdough starter. If I don't get decent bread flavor after that, I'm officially dumping the recipe. Seems like a shame too, considering the great texture. But if I can't taste the bread, it's not worth dusting my kitchen.

I'm a convert to the parchment paper trick - that solves your first complaint completely. As for the second - I'll be curious as to the results of your experiments, because I'd like to get more flavor too. I've started adding semolina, and that's definitely an improvement, but there's still a long way to go.

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I'm less enamored of this method now than I was when I started trying it. Yes, the loaves are beautiful, with lovely holes. But I have two main complaints: first, the floury mess I always seem to make of my kitchen, mainly in the process of transferring the proofed dough into the pre-heated pot; and second, the continued lack of bread flavor.

I dont end up with any mess at all when I make this bread. If you are enjoying this otherwise, please dont let the mess stop you - just change your technique a bit. My dough never touches a countertop, and I dont wreck my towels. Here is what I do:

1. Weigh ingredients directly into my mixing/rising bowl.

2. Stir well with a wooden spoon. Leave the spoon in place.

3. Place towel over the top and rise for about 18 hours (my challenge is keeping an even 70 degree temp)--my bowl is big and the towel doesn't touch dough. If it did, I would place loose plastic over the top instead.

4. Stir down with the spoon, while adding a large pinch of flour--could do this with hands or spoon, but either way, there is not much excess flour,

5. Cover and rise another 2 hours or so at a bit warmer temp (my oven with the light on is a steady 80 degrees)

6. Preheat oven with my cooking pot inside. Sometimes I grease it, sometimes I don't.

7. Dump, slash, cook with lid on. I am going to start adding toppings. At first I worried about losing heat, but cast iron holds its heat pretty darned well.

8. Finish cooking with lid off.

As to flavor, increasing the salt and substitutng some of the white flour for semolina, wheat, etc. is the way to go. The basic recipe is very bland. I find that a shy 2 t salt is good, except when I use wheat flour, when that is a touch too salty.

Good luck

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I've actually found this recipe unmessy, relatively speaking.

Flavor was the issue for me, and judging from other posts the issue for everyone else as soon as they bake this. Inserting flavor into bread, a blank canvas, isn't too terribly hard. I am thinking subbing in buttermilk for some of the water, but the sour I have living on the counter is doing a great job for now.

The ease and ability for anyone to make a loaf of bread is magical to me. I appreciate it. Staff of life and all that.

However, if I did not have some of the physical limitations that I do have, I would prefer to work with more sophisticated recipes and doughs and methods and whatnot.

That's why I cook. It's fun to play!

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What about increasing the 18 hours to 22 or so? I liked the bread more when I gave it a good 22-24 hours for the first rise.

I don't use any towels - just plastic wrap and parchment paper - and I prefer plunking the dough, with the parchment right into the pot. I just let the dough do it's second rise on a plate with a piece of parchment on it.

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My first loaf with the bran--I'd been using semolina--was a lot easier to clean up after than the ones using semolina--the bran doesn't soak through and turn to glue like the semonlina, and forms a nice barrier between bread and towel that holds even when damp. No muss, no fuss.

And still a nice crust. Even a pretty crumb.

<a href=" Inside (bread) title="Photo Sharing"><img src="http://farm1.static.flickr.com/137/341264316_15e57583a2.jpg" width="500" height="333" alt="Inside (bread)" /></a>

And I'm getting plenty of flavor with 100% white whole wheat flour in a 20-22 hour rise.


Edited by Wholemeal Crank (log)

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My first loaf with the bran--I'd been using semolina--was a lot easier to clean up after than the ones using semolina--the bran doesn't soak through and turn to glue like the semonlina, and forms a nice barrier between bread and towel that holds even when damp.  No muss, no fuss.

And still a nice crust.  Even a pretty crumb.

<a href=" Inside (bread) title="Photo Sharing"><img src="http://farm1.static.flickr.com/137/341264316_15e57583a2.jpg" width="500" height="333" alt="Inside (bread)" /></a>

And I'm getting plenty of flavor with 100% white whole wheat flour in a 20-22 hour rise.

Lovely picture. Well done, and a great slice of life.

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I've just finished catching up with everyone's progress tweaking this recipe. I made several loaves (some with changes) in November and was not particularly impressed with the results. I usually bake levain-based breads and find them to be infinitely more flavorful. Of course, the process is more time consuming. Now I read that there is a revised article in the NYT but access is no longer available to non-subscribers. Could someone please post the changes Bittman made. And, have these changes improved the flavor?

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There are so many variations of this delightful, easy loaf of bread. I make this bread about every other day, and it gets gobbled down. Thought I would post pictures of my clay pot, during cooking, and final product.

As a farmer, this loaf satisfies the feeding of the family, as well as my time constraints.

gallery_43892_2899_8240.jpg

30+ year Römertopf Clay pot

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"Look Ma!, I am a big bread loaf now!"

gallery_43892_2899_38190.jpg

Yum, especially made into a bologna sandwich.


Edited by Andi Pena Longmeadow Farm (log)

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I've revised the original recipe so that I keep everything in just one bowl - initial mix, rise (anywhere from 18-48 hours has worked for me), second rise, and then straight into a heated pot - hardly messy. I have also started keeping 1-2 tablespoons or the wet and risen mix for making a starter, keeping it in the fridge and feeding it with water and a bit of flour. Also, I always use 2.5 cups of King Arthur Bread Flour and .5 of KA Whole Wheat.

gallery_39170_2381_15290.jpg

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My mess invariably comes from the point where I dump the bread into the pre-heated pot. I haven't wrecked any towels: neither rice flour nor potato starch turns to glue in the washing machine the way wheat flour can. I've had great success in taking my dusty towel out on the deck, and shaking it out there. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The problem: how to maneuver the dough into a hot pot without undue harm to anyone. My first loaf was quite a bit messier than following attempts, because I forgot that I'd somehow have to move the dough across the kitchen. In subsequent attempts, I made things easier by putting my towel on my pizza peel, so I could actually carry it across to the oven with solid support underneath.

But that still doesn't solve the problem of how to get the dough into the hot pot. I've been more or less gathering the towel up, and dumping the contents of the towel into the pot. The dough goes in, and the dusting from the towel goes all over the kitchen. I'd be willing to live with dusting my kitchen if the bread tasted like something.

I've acquired some semolina flour, as well as some barley flour. I have some rye flour waiting as well. I'm hoping that by playing with these and my starter, I might actually get some taste into my bread. I'm also thinking that a few more folds and a little less water in the dough might also make the dough a little more manageable, possibly even to the point where I could actually pick the dough up with my hands to get it in the pot. (I know, I could use parchment. But after an unfortunate episode a while ago where the parchment embedded itself into a fold of dough, never to be removed, I prefer to save the parchment for flat applications.)

Until we all get this figured out, should I just buy stock in the flour company?

MelissaH

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I always do the second rise in a greased bowl. I know it's not supposed to be as good, but it's way less mess and the breads come out great.

It's also really easy to transfer the bread - I just turn the bowl upside down over the pot and it slides right out.

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I pick the dough up by the parchment, then the whole thing goes in the pot - parchment and any extra flour included. No mess.

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I have to say that I still don't understand some of the "not enough flavor" complaints. Complainers: Are there other "flour, water, yeast and salt only" recipes you've used that you feel produce a more flavorful result? I will say that most of us who are used to sourdough are likely to find commercial yeast doughs underflavored, but I don't gather that this is the main complaint.

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You will get more flavour if you make a sponge with the yeast, and say half the flour and ferment that for an hour or two beforehand; or add old dough; or retard overnight in the fridgel also pre-mix the water and the flour an hour or two beforehand

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I have to say that I still don't understand some of the "not enough flavor" complaints.  Complainers:  Are there other "flour, water, yeast and salt only" recipes you've used that you feel produce a more flavorful result?  I will say that most of us who are used to sourdough are likely to find commercial yeast doughs underflavored, but I don't gather that this is the main complaint.

I think you've hit the nail on the head here. When people complain about the flavor, they're not comparing apples to apples. Easy to do, since this looks like - and has the crust of - a fine artisanal loaf. But few if any of those are made using only commercial yeast rather than a starter of some sort.

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You will get more flavour if you make a sponge with the yeast, and say half the flour and ferment that for an hour or two beforehand; or add old dough; or retard overnight in the fridgel  also pre-mix the water and the flour an hour or two beforehand

These are all good recommendations with respect to a normal bread dough technique. Experience would indicate, however, that the impact of these additional steps is minimal in the context of a dough that is bulk fermented for 18 hours.

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Ah I'd forgotten that.

I can't see any reason why the bread should not be flavourful - cooking in a cloche won't inhibit flavour, and the salt content looks about right.

Maybe add 10% rye flour.

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My mess invariably comes from the point where I dump the bread into the pre-heated pot. I haven't wrecked any towels: neither rice flour nor potato starch turns to glue in the washing machine the way wheat flour can. I've had great success in taking my dusty towel out on the deck, and shaking it out there. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The problem: how to maneuver the dough into a hot pot without undue harm to anyone.

MelissaH

I just tried the bran he recommended originally for the first time, and was impressed by how well it worked. And bran did fly about as I upended the towel into the hot pot, but was easy to clean up--not a starchy or glutinous mess like the semolina or cornmeal has been.

And I'm using 100% whole wheat flour, and my loaves have plenty of flavor. I think the flavor is almost as good as I get with sourdough, except that there is no sour component--good deep wheat flavor, but not tart--and the overall preparation fits much better into my schedule than a sourdough.

I'll put up with some flying wheat bran for that.

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