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Minimalist No-Knead Bread Technique (Part 1)


cdh
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Thank you, Mark - or should we call you Max? It's so good to have you join us!

Can we talk about the wetness of the dough? Given that flours vary (even though a lot of us are using King Arthur AP, ambient humidity varies a lot regionally) was the 42% water mentioned in the article really what we should be shooting for? Because, assuming the calculations mentioned above are correct, that's 18 oz of flour, and that gives a dry dough. So, "a dough almost too wet to handle" is the target?

I'm starting some more this afternoon, and I'll get it wetter, get some semolina in there, and take it to 210 instead of the 205 of my first loaf. I have an LC terrine pan, but given the amount of oven spring, I don't think it would be wise to put a whole batch in there. Maybe I'll make a recipe and a half, put half in the terrine and do the other half as a boule in my cloche.

Actually, we are kind of science-y around here, many of us being true food geeks.

Edited by Abra (log)
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Wow, this is really great. So many of us trying the same thing with slight variations :smile:

I baked my first loaf just as I thought the recipe called for, but using bread flour rather than A/P. I agree with almost everyone else, needed more salt, but I loved the crackling after I took it out of the pot. By the way, I used a cast iron dutch oven and it works great!

My second loaf was 2/3 bread flour and 1/3 semolina...this produced a nutty taste which I loved. It really came out great, had a little more substance to it, next one will also have sesame seeds...hope they don't burn. Also, I'm going to try this with sourdough...oh the variations are endless... :biggrin:

Just a simple southern lady lost out west...

"Leave Mother in the fridge in a covered jar between bakes. No need to feed her." Jackal10

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Rapid rise yeast is the same as instant yeast.

Rapid rise yeast is more finely granulated than active dry yeast, so it does not need to be dissolved in a liquid first. It can be added directly to the dry ingredients.

To the best of my knowledge, this is not entirely correct. AFAIK, "rapid rise yeast" is actually a strain of yeast that was created to rise faster (i.e., have faster metabolic activity) than regular active dry yeast. It may also be more finely granulated, and thus an "instant yeast," but other "instant yeasts" like SAF Red are not necessarily "rapid rise" (in fact, some of instant yeasts, such as SAF Gold, are specially formulated to be slow-rising).

With respect to the wetness of the dough, I think others have pointed out that the wetness will depend on the gluten content of the flour. The higher the gluten content, the more dry the dough will be for a given percent hydration (I note that most everyone who complained of an overly soupy dough and/or a wet crumb in the finished loaf used AP flour instead of bread flour). This is why, as Mark Bittman suggests, one should view the recipe formula as an approximation and adjust the dough with additional water or flour until a target texture is achieved. There is no way to assure that the wetness will be the same unless the same flour is used (there is also the effect of humidity and how wet or dry the flour is before it is used, but this should be fairly negligible in a three-cup recipe).

Today I am experimenting with combining this technique and my usual "workday bread" technique. I fermented the dough for 18 hours, then this morning I formed the dough into a boule and put it into a cloth-lined banneton. I put a plastic bag around the banneton and put the whole works into the refrigerator to retard. I'll take it out while I'm preheating the oven once I get home this evening. This, I've found to be a good method for having a proofed loaf ready to go into the oven when you get home from work.

--

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Okay, here are my good, but by no means superlative, results:

gallery_7493_1768_461107.jpg

gallery_7493_1768_112550.jpg

Crust was certainly crisp -- too, crisp. That was probably the result of my pre-heating to 500F and cooking under lid at that temp; when I removed lid and saw how color was progressing I dropped temp down to 475. But next time I'll just use the recommended 450.

My timing was 30 minutes under the lid and 40 minutes uncovered. Bread came out just a tad moist, but not off-puttingly so. My ingredients: 17 oz flour (Whole Foods all purpose 365 brand), 13 oz water, 2 T DC kosher salt, 3/8 tsp long-out of date (would you believe 18 months!) active dry yeast, and coarse cornmeal for dusting, which did a great job in preventing dough sticking to a fairly tight weave cotton kitchen towel.

Next time I'll use instant (and fresher) yeast as called for by the recipe. Still, even with the ancient yeast and 20 hours of initial development time I managed to get a bit of a rise (bread baked to 3-inches high at center); probably would have bit a tad higher had I not used a rather broad eight-quart cast iron dutch oven. BTW, absolutely no sticking to this well-seasoned cooking vessel, and it simply needed a dumping of the crumbs and a dry paper towel wipe to clean.

The dough didn't seem that wet when I mixed it, but by the time I took it out to fold and then shape the next day, it was as wet as described. Just barely this side of a batter.

The flavor was decent, I got nice sized holes and, as I noted, a moist, slightly chewy texture.

Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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More intelligence resulting from error: I screwed up and left my oven at 350 (where it was set) for the third batch. Noticed about 15 minutes in and turned it up to 450, then left the lid on for five or ten extra minutes. That didn't compensate, and the good crust didn't develop. This is obviously to be expected, but thought I'd report.

Also, it didn't do the volcano-like thing that I got in my second batch, and that's quite visible in Abra's loaf. It was smoothly dome-like. I like it when the top breaks like that--makes for more crunchies.

I chickened out and did *not* bypass the second rising--though I cut it down to 1:15 cause I had to go pick up the kids.

Result was pretty much the same, hole-wise. A fine loaf, just not great cause of the less-then-crunchy crust.

This recipe seems remarkably resilient to variation. Has anyone else noticed that the loaves we're seeing are very similar, despite variations in proportions/wetness/type of flour, etc.? (I use Albertson's bread flour and Fleishmann's active dry yeast, btw.) Strikes me that the opportunities are for major variations (sourdough, rye, olive, baugette shape, etc.) using the wet-dough/lid-on method.

In particular, I'm thinking that the folding/handling has little or no effect, except to make the recipe and cleanup somewhat more work. Thoughts?

My Le Creuset handle didn't melt at 450. I got it from my mom, who's been using it for forty or fifty years, and I'm confident it's gone through most possible oven settings. It remains unmelted. I found that just soaking the pan in water made it easy to clean. (I don't really care what the outside looks like.)

Steve

Edited by SparrowsFall (log)

"Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon." --Dalai Lama

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In particular, I'm thinking that the folding/handling has little or no effect, except to make the recipe and cleanup somewhat more work. Thoughts?

Steve

folding or "punching down" serves a couple of purposes (at least): it helps to develop gluten, it redistributes yeast so it can get to food and thus create more fermentation gas which in turn gives your dough/bread good rise/oven spring. redistributes the gas so you get a bit more even crumb structure.

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Hopefully a real baker will step in here, but I think the folding and handling is not just voodoo. As the dough proofs and gluten develops, it's oriented, right? And folding and shaping tangles and re-orients the gluten strands, right? So the texture will be different if you just dump the dough straight into the pot, right? Or not?

Oh, I see that Alana and I were posting at the same moment. Different explanation, same conclusion.

Edited by Abra (log)
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Can we talk about the wetness of the dough?  Given that flours vary (even though a lot of us are using King Arthur AP, ambient humidity varies a lot regionally) was the 42% water mentioned in the article really what we should be shooting for?  Because, assuming the calculations mentioned above are correct, that's 18 oz of flour, and that gives a dry dough.  So, "a dough almost too wet to handle" is the target?

Watching the video again, the dough after fermentation hardly looks too wet to handle.

And I guess I'm having a hard time with figuring out how to shape a batter like dough into a boule.

Onto the 3rd try!!

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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So the texture will be different if you just dump the dough straight into the pot, right?  Or not?

One way to find out... <g> The theory makes sense, but do the results vary with this recipe? HSM and my experiments suggest not, or not much.

Steve

Edited by SparrowsFall (log)

"Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon." --Dalai Lama

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Hopefully a real baker will step in here, but I think the folding and handling is not just voodoo.  As the dough proofs and gluten develops, it's oriented, right?  And folding and shaping tangles and re-orients the gluten strands, right?  So the texture will be different if you just dump the dough straight into the pot, right?  Or not?

Oh, I see that Alana and I were posting at the same moment.  Different explanation, same conclusion.

Well, not a real baker, but in my opinion, the creature that comes out of the 18 hour fermentation, and the creature that comes out from under the folded towel two hours later, are entirely different in appearance and characteristics. I am inclined to agree with you and Alana.

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the creature that comes out of the 18 hour fermentation, and the creature that comes out from under the folded towel two hours later, are entirely different in appearance and characteristics.

Yeah, but what about the creature that comes out of the oven? Any (significant, predictable) difference?

re: "it helps to develop gluten, it redistributes yeast so it can get to food and thus create more fermentation gas which in turn gives your dough/bread good rise/oven spring. redistributes the gas so you get a bit more even crumb structure."

Stirring it down has the same effects, no? (Except maybe developing gluten, but in both cases the handling so minimal as to have questionable effect, and in any case the brilliance of this recipe is that the fermentation builds the gluten.)

Edited by SparrowsFall (log)

"Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon." --Dalai Lama

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the creature that comes out of the 18 hour fermentation, and the creature that comes out from under the folded towel two hours later, are entirely different in appearance and characteristics.

Yeah, but what about the creature that comes out of the oven? Any (significant, predictable) difference?

One thing at a time! I just got up the gumption to dump whole wheat in there! In the oven and smelling lovely, right now. Anticipation building.

That's the thing about this community. Everyone can report back on their own experiences, and the total is greater than the sum of the parts!

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Yeah, but what about the creature that comes out of the oven? Any (significant, predictable) difference?

re: "it helps to develop gluten, it redistributes yeast so it can get to food and thus create more fermentation gas which in turn gives your dough/bread good rise/oven spring. redistributes the gas so you get a bit more even crumb structure."

Stirring it down has the same effects, no? (Except maybe developing gluten, but in both cases the handling so minimal as to have questionable effect, and in any case the brilliance of this recipe is that the fermentation builds the gluten.)

folding not only helps redistribute the gluten, but in the last rise, it folds air into the loaf so that you get a more airy crumb structure. Each time you fold, you are creating an air pocket. If you pound the dough down you take the air out. That's why it's important to handle the dough minimally. If you break up the gluten strands with aggressive mixing once it's risen, you will get a very tight loaf. The goal of the rising and folding is to increase the strength of the gluten and add air to the bread.

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One of the things that happens in a long bulk fermentation is that the gas produced by the yeast exceeds the dough's capability to contain it. This is why the dough at this stage is very delicate and spongey, and why it has a tendency to collapse dramatically when agitated. When you reshape the dough, you give the bread another chance to contain the fermentation gasses and inflate. One thing that the folding does -- even miminal folding such as suggested for this technique -- is to help provide a better structure for containing the fermentation gasses.

One tip for shaping extremely wet doughs: I have found that the best way to do this is to flour the board, gently turn out the wet dough into a rough oval, roll the dough up the long axis into a "cigar," then roll the cigar up its long axis. At this point, the dough should have enough structure for a quick, light turn to stretch the gluten across the top. As always with wet doughs, if you want the big holes and irregular crumb, it's best to handle/deflate the dough as little as possible when shaping.

--

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Bittman reported that a Le Cruset lid handle will melt at 500 F. NOT IF you wrap the handle in tin foil as I do. I also avoided burning the bottom at 500 F but I had the Le Cruset on top of a baking stone. (This was by happenstance, it was there, I kept it in).

I went 500 for 15 minutes, 480 for 15 minutes. No burning on the bottom.

I also disagree with Bittman on flavor: even at 18 hours, this dough lacks flavor. Using a chef (piece of old dough) or a 1/4 cup of sourdough if you have it lying around will dramatically improve flavor. You will also get far more flavor if you mix a little flour, water, pinch of yeast and let it sit a few hours before you make this dough. OK - that's maybe not minimalist - it adds one step, but this also improves flavor dramatically (it's known as a 'poolish').

You will get a browner crust faster with whole wheat. Know people are trying it - I would start with 20 percent whole wheat and up the hydration slightly.

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No pix here, but I made this dough using King Arthur AP, but shaped in a baguette/batard banneton and baked on a stone. Despite some rather dramatic moments getting from peel to stone (quite a bit of spread out on the peel), I got great oven spring and plenty of yummy, crispy crust (I baked for about 35 minutes at 450F, until internal temperature got to 210F and stayed there for at least 5 minutes).

I'm going to try an overnight fridged retard instead of a normal second rise and see what happens. The point here is that the dough method and the baking method can be divorced.

Jake Parrott

Ledroit Brands, LLC

Bringing new and rare spirits to Washington DC.

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One tip for shaping extremely wet doughs:  I have found that the best way to do this is to flour the board, gently turn out the wet dough into a rough oval, roll the dough up the long axis into a "cigar," then roll the cigar up its long axis.  At this point, the dough should have enough structure for a quick, light turn to stretch the gluten across the top.  As always with wet doughs, if you want the big holes and irregular crumb, it's best to handle/deflate the dough as little as possible when shaping.

Good tip, Sam...I'll give it a try on my next batch...

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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I also disagree with Bittman on flavor: even at 18 hours, this dough lacks flavor. Using a chef (piece of old dough) or a 1/4 cup of sourdough if you have it lying around will dramatically improve flavor. You will also get far more flavor if you mix a little flour, water, pinch of yeast and let it sit a few hours before you make this dough. OK - that's maybe not minimalist - it adds one step, but this also improves flavor dramatically (it's known as a 'poolish').

I haven't tried it with this particular recipe, but experience suggests to me that using a poolish or biga won't make a dramatic difference in this recipe given the length of the rise.

It is also worth pointing out that those of us who are used to working with natural leavening (aka "sourdough") will likely find most any straight white flour/water/commercial yeast dough to be underflavored. The same would be true for those who prefer herbed breads or breads made with specialty grains. I think there is something to be said for the flavors of a well-fermented straight white flour/water/commercial yeast dough, though. It's just not going to have the same impact as the others.

--

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For a long rise like this, it also may help to use a small amount (maybe 1/2 tsp) of diastatic malt powder. This contains enzymes that will gradually break down some of the starch in the flour into sugars that the yeast can use for food.

--

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Hmmm...I'd like to try out this recipe. The only thing I'm wondering is how well-seasoned a cast iron pot would have to be for this recipe. Mine is reasonably seasoned but I still wouldn't consider the surface appropriate for over-easy eggs.

I'd hate to get to the end and have a stuck loaf. Any thoughts?

personally i haven't had any problem with my cast iron skillets or dutch oven with breads sticking. been using them for baking bread for years. but if anyone is anxious about this there's no rule that says you can't lightly oil the heated pot with an oily cloth or light mist. :wink:

Judith Love

North of the 30th parallel

One woman very courteously approached me in a grocery store, saying, "Excuse me, but I must ask why you've brought your dog into the store." I told her that Grace is a service dog.... "Excuse me, but you told me that your dog is allowed in the store because she's a service dog. Is she Army or Navy?" Terry Thistlewaite

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Hopefully a real baker will step in here, but I think the folding and handling is not just voodoo.  As the dough proofs and gluten develops, it's oriented, right?  And folding and shaping tangles and re-orients the gluten strands, right?  So the texture will be different if you just dump the dough straight into the pot, right?  Or not?

Oh, I see that Alana and I were posting at the same moment.  Different explanation, same conclusion.

Well, not a real baker, but in my opinion, the creature that comes out of the 18 hour fermentation, and the creature that comes out from under the folded towel two hours later, are entirely different in appearance and characteristics. I am inclined to agree with you and Alana.

Right On Anne! I found that what came out of the bowl was much like a poolish, yet after folding and rising, what was on the towel was a dough.

Just a simple southern lady lost out west...

"Leave Mother in the fridge in a covered jar between bakes. No need to feed her." Jackal10

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I haven't tried it with this particular recipe, but experience suggests to me that using a poolish or biga won't make a dramatic difference in this recipe given the length of the rise.

It is also worth pointing out that those of us who are used to working with natural leavening (aka "sourdough") will likely find most any straight white flour/water/commercial yeast dough to be underflavored.  The same would be true for those who prefer herbed breads or breads made with specialty grains.  I think there is something to be said for the flavors of a well-fermented straight white flour/water/commercial yeast dough, though.  It's just not going to have the same impact as the others.

Well, someone should try. I veered off and began playing with this recipe with a natural levin so someone should try it with a chef or poolish... I'm curious. My instinct is that old dough added to new always improves flavor, even with a long rise, retard, etc. I would do it myself but I hit the road tomorrow and won't be baking for a week.

Sam

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my results...

this photo was taken about 16 1/2 hours after dough was made:

gallery_8173_3280_77108.jpg

it was VERY runny, more like the consistency of my starter than a finished dough. I punched it down, and didn't bother with the first mini rest of 15 minutes, just 'folded' a few times and placed on a heavily floured towel. There wasn't a whole lot of actual folding however, it was really too loose and sticky...but I did the best I could.

After about 2 1/2 hours, the dough looked like this:

gallery_8173_3280_199462.jpg

I turned it out into my reallyreally hot cast iron pot (it's not actually reallyreally hot in the photo):

gallery_8173_3280_287976.jpg

and it left quite a bit of dough on the towel.

in the oven for 30 minutes with lid on, then another 40 with it off and then out of the oven. I let it cool for about 3 hours and I get this:

gallery_8173_3280_21233.jpg

the color: I guess i should have left it in for a bit longer. Golden, but not the deep caramelized brown that I love about good bread.

the crust: great. It took a couple of strong armed saws with my shitty bread knife to get through it.

the crumb: nice and airy...good chew.

the flavor: a bit lacking. Definitely needs more salt and I think I will incorporate some of my sour next time.

"Godspeed all the bakers at dawn... may they all cut their thumbs and bleed into their buns til they melt away..."

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my results...

this photo was taken about 16 1/2 hours after dough was made:

gallery_8173_3280_77108.jpg

Now see, this is much looser than what I am getting. But as I said before, I am not measuring the liquid (I know, fat lotta good that does everybody) but rather just moistening the flour until it balls up. For what it is worth, I am having no trouble folding, and leaving no dough on the well floured towel, although my fermentation resembles yours texturally, if that makes sense (?).

I have noticed unincorparated flour in several pictures and one mention. I have not experienced this as of yet personally. Has anyone else had this come up? I am pretty aggressively hand mixing (I am not shy with getting my hands dirty) both the dry ingredients and incorporating the liquid, though.

Have you tried that lovely blue casserole? Looks like the equivalent of the casserole I am using. I said LC earlier, but it is actually Descoware. No plastic.

The whole wheat is out and cooling, and has sung its song. As soon as hubby comes home, will photograph and slice. It is interesting, in that it did not flatten out as much as the all bread flour version, but bounced up taller. More tension with the whole wheat introduction? The folds are very visible on the exterior of the baked loaf. Will be interesting to check out the interior. The crust looks fine, a little darker than the all bread flour version, but with the same texture and appearance.

This does seem to be a very forgiving recipe indeed. And considering my personal bread making skills, that is exactly what I require! :biggrin:

Anne

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