Monday, October 13, 2008

Back to no-knead bread, speedier version

It's bread-baking weather again, after a long hot summer of not wanting to turn the oven on. I mixed up a batch of no-knead dough last night.
To recap, it's 6.5 cups of flour, 1.5 Tbs yeast, 1.5 Tbs salt, and 3 cups of water. I dissolve the yeast and salt in the water before mixing it into the flour (picture at left). Let it sit on the counter for a couple of hours, then put it in the fridge at least overnight, where it will continue to rise. The right-hand photo is from this morning; you can see how it has expanded. The dough will keep in the fridge for a week and continue to develop character.
Now, the original recipes, both Lahey's and Hertzberg's, call for shaping the dough and letting it rest for a couple of hours, then baking it in a 450-degree preheated oven. But Bittman's column the other day had a letter from a reader who, pressed for time, didn't do a second rise and didn't preheat the oven. The dough was shaped and plopped into a cold pot in a cold oven. The reader turned the oven to 450, baked for half an hour covered and half an hour uncovered. So that's what I'm trying today. Let's see how it comes out.

OK, it's an hour later and here's lesson No. 1: Don't get busy with weeding and fail to check the bread. Half an hour with the lid off is way too long:
The crumb is also not so lofty, though it tastes all right.
I'm going to try this again tomorrow and keep a closer eye on it. But I suspect that the two-hour rise on the counter before baking is needed if you want an airier loaf. On the other hand, starting with a cold pot and oven does still yield a crispy crust, so that may be a good energy-saver.

Bittman's Minimalist column also links to a different speedy version and even a whole-grain version, using rye and cornmeal. If you like whole-grain breads, you might give that a try. I'm a philistine and prefer white.

For previous versions of no-knead bread (with Nutella! with cheese!) click on the "Bread" tag below.


  1. It's good to know about the cold oven thing. I never really bake breads because of the gas stove thing... pre-heating wastes (very expensive) gas. lol.

  2. yum! where I come from you want to see a bit of burned-y on the crust = rustic! yummy!

  3. I think you've inspired me. I always think that I really want to make more bread, but I rarely make the time. I'm going to do it this season, darn it.

  4. I still haven't tried this, but it sounds like a lot of fun -- especially the quick version. I've been playing around with the Artesian Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. So far, the bread is pretty amazing.

  5. It looks like it would taste great dipped, in soup maybe? Or an olive oil/herb mix? Kudos to you for trying again, and for getting those weeds out too!

  6. I have a Cuban bread recipe that uses two cups of very hot water poured into the dry and mixed using a stand mixer, then a 15-minute rest, and finally baked with a cold-oven start for an hour. No covering and uncovering and it turns out very well. It's the quickest and easiest bread recipe I've ever tried.


  7. I am yeast phobic. Yeast never ever seems to work for me. Yet I keep trying and this actually seems do-able.

  8. As my grandmother used to say, "that looks delish-mouse". Glad to see wifey is committed to it this fall!

    Rick in VT

  9. Mimi, betts, kelly, manisha and JGH, I'd hold off on trying the cold-oven method based on my attempts, since today's batch burned, too. (Post coming up on that.) The original recipe is no-fail, though. Click the bread tag to find that recipe and see earlier loaves. I was yeast-phobic before I tried that, too. Kelly, this is the Artisan Bread recipe, modified. I always bake it in a pot, not having a pizza stone.

    Duck, db and Joanne, it was not bad-tasting, but not as good as it could have been.

    Molly, burned bits just don't appeal to me, alas.

    Dani, sounds good! Care to share the recipe?

    Rick, maybe you should make it!