Monday, April 21, 2008

No-Knead Bread: Variations And Improvements

From a comment in my previous post:
Unfortunately, Jim Lahey's no-knead bread recipe is pretty flawed; it works for some, but a lot of us followed it to the letter and produced flat, gummy discs. Cook's Illustrated recently published a corrected version that is total perfection--*that's* the one you should use.
I found the following comments re: the Cook's Illustrated variations/fixes for Lahey's No-Knead Bread recipe (The CI site requires a subscription):

Cook's Illustrated does their thing with No Knead Bread

Looks like they made some minor changes that resulted in a better-tasting loaf. A little vinegar, a little beer, and a quick knead (which also reduced the rise time from 12 to 8 hours).

Cook's Illustrated this month has an article on No-Knead Bread. Instead of 1-1/2 c. water, they used 3/4 c. plus 2 T. water. Then they added white vinegar (1 T.) and a little beer (1/4 c. plus 2 T.) to add a little more taste.

It was great, probably the best I've made. I used Bud Light, since that was the only mild-flavored lager I had. CI suggested mild lager and we usually have ales or porters on hand.

A great suggestion from Cook's Illustrated is to let the dough do its second rising after shaping on a 12 x 18 piece of parchment paper sprayed with Pam and placed inside a 10" skillet. Let it rise there for 2 hours lightly covered with plastic wrap. The skillet keeps it from spreading out too much. Then when your cooking pot is hot (this time I used a 5qt. Mario Batali Dutch Oven) lift up the parchment paper and set the whole thing, dough and parchment, in the pot. Cover and bake, 30 minutes covered, and 20-30 uncovered. When the loaf is done, just lift out the parchment and the bread comes out easily.

I tried the basic "New" recipe from CI about a week and a half ago and I did think the beer and vinegar added to the flavor. CI has you doing minimal kneading - I still did the one bowl, fold the dough in the bowl method with no kneading. I have plans to try their WW and rye variations, too. Here are variations that CI mentioned:

Olive, Rosemary and Parm
Add 4 ounces (about 2 cups) grated Parm and 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary leaves to the flour mixture in step 1.
Add 1/2 c chopped green olives with the water.

Seeded Rye
Replace 1-3/8 cups (7 ounces) AP flour with rye flour and add 2 T caraway seeds in step 1.

WW Bread
Replace 1 cup (5 ounces) AP flour with WW flour. Stir 2T honey into the water in step 1.

Cranberry Pecan Bread
Add 1/2 cup dried cranberries and 1/2 c toasted pecan halves to the flour in step 1.

Because of my dry climate I used 4 ounces of beer (Samuel Adams Boston Lager here) and a little more water. My loaf got a quite dark crust (tasted great but not so photogenic) so I didn't take a photo, but it was good.

Just this past weekend I made a No Knead bread. I was in a time crunch, if I had waited the 12 hrs for the first rise, then allow 2 more hrs. for the 2nd rise, I would have had to bake it off @2am. I didn't schedule it correctly, for sure.

Here's what I did & it worked for me. In a 2 cup glass measuring cup with 1-1/4 cups of water & placed in the microwave to boil, then placed the hot cup in the corner of the microwave. The "NKD" was in a plastic bowl w/its cover, I then placed the bowl as far away to the opposite corner of the MW as possible, there was approx 6" between the two. I did not open the "MW" door until I saw that it had risen.

An additional factor was, the oven was on for a good part of the afternoon. With the "MW" sitting above the stove, it may have been getting radiant heat to some extent, as well. If the oven wasn't on, then I probably would have reheated the water after 1.5 hrs., of course removing the bowl of dough.

In approx. 3 hrs. it was doubled, then placed the dough in the pot for the second rise. It all worked just fine for me. Saving a lot of time that I didn't have that particular day.

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