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No-Knead Bread: round 1


Finally! After much hemming and hawing and expert procrastination, I have finally made the famous (infamous) No-Knead Bread! Yes, the very yeasty monster that so many have tried before, most raving about the results. Mark Bittman, a writer for the New York Times, featured the recipe of Jim Lahey, a breadmaker from the Sullivan St. Bakery in New York. What makes the recipe special is that it involves no kneading (yes, as the name suggest preamp, I know) and a long (12-20 hours) rest period. But of course, you already knew that seeing as to how I am probably the last to attempt this.

As you can imagine of a recipe that effectively nixes what is seen to be the most onerous part of bread-making, it took off like a rocket and spread like wildfire. Everyone tried it. It was simple, it was easy, you could do it with one hand! And best of all, it worked. People who had never made bread before were turning out boules straight out of a Montmartre boulangerie. I had to have a piece of the action.

Two things though: First, I actually like kneading. It relaxes me tremendously and, along with shopping, is my only form of exercise. Second, I am, if you haven’t yet figured out, a horrible procrastinator. If you are one too, then you know how it can be – rationalization and avoidance are our weapons.

I don’t have a Le Creuset/enamel/cast iron pot! (the vessel where you are to bake the bread) That was my common refrain (excuse). My friend M (Bond isn’t the only one with an M you know) quickly laid that doubt to rest as she made her No-Knead Bread in a crockpot bowl covered with a ceramic plate in a turbo broiler. Yes, I know she rocks. It was soon a moot point though because I bought two cast iron faux creusets (my wallet is not yet ready to spring for the Patek Philippe of enamel/cast iron French/Dutch ovens) in IKEA during a trip to Hong Kong. So no more excuses.

And if I still was the least bit hesitant this post totally won me over. There are more no-knead blog posts out there then you can shake a stick at, but if you need to be convinced to make this bread right now, just take a look at this. I love Jaden of Steamy Kitchen – love her recipes and her story-telling – but most of all I love her two adorable sons! Technically, it wasn’t Jaden that convinced me to get my tush in the kitchen and bake this bread...it was Andrew. See him in action...you won’t be sorry :)

So! Faux creuset at the ready, I started. As Jaden says (and Andrew demonstrated) it is simpler than boiling pasta: 3 cups flour, 1/4 teaspoon yeast, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water, stir! Then cover the bowl and leave to rest for 12-20 hours. After the rest, dump it on a floured surface and with wet hands grab the dough and fold the ends towards the middle, then flip it over and tuck the dough ends under so you get a taut surface. Cover and let rest again for two hours. Half an hour before the rest ends, preheat your oven to 450F and stick the covered pot into the oven. After the dough has rested custom embroidery, remove the pot from the oven and dump the dough into the pot (I put a bit of parchment in to avoid sticking as Jaden advised). Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for a further 15-20 minutes. You’re done! (please see Jaden’s post for a more detailed procedure and photos of the dashing Andrew making the bread)

Now. The reason it says “round 1” up there is because it did not turn out as perfect as I dreamed it would, but it did turn out good enough for me to keep at it until it does. If there are expert No-Knead Bread bakers out there (and I know there are!) or any kind of bakers at all, your advice would be seriously appreciated.

Here’s my result:

This is by far the best crust I have ever had on bread that I have baked.
I like the hole-y interior...again, bigger holes than I’ve ever baked before.
The depth of flavour was superior to any of my past breads.
It was soft, hearty, with a good chew but too gummy.

As you can see, the good outweighs the bad...but it still needs some work. I’ve consulted with M and she mentioned that it could be too much water (causing the gumminess), which is very likely as we live in an amazing amount of humidity. Extra (too much) moisture in the air is something we need to deal with constantly, wreaking havoc to our baked goods and our hair. So one thing to think about for the next round would be to lessen the water from 1 1/2 cup to 1 1/4 cup.

Any other suggestions? Temperature, baking time, baking vessel? Did I bake it too long? Too short? Did it rest too long (I let it rest for 19 hours)? Do I actually need more water (who knows)? The dough looked just as wet as it should compared to the photos I’ve seen around...

Help please! :) I am already half in love with this bread...if only I could turn out a less gummy crumb!

Another reason for my excitement and determination: As soon as I am done cutting my teeth on No-Knead Bread, I will move on to Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day! Yes, I have bought the book and I’m ready to eat homemade bread for the rest of my life! Ok Ergonomic furniture, a dream maybe, but Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François (the authors) are actually making it possible!

Just so you know, I still plan to knead every once in a while. I mean, a girl needs her exercise right? :)
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