Cook’s Illustrated Almost No Knead

A Clever Variation of an “Old” Theme

My hat is off to CooksIllustrated.com for formulating a worthy variation to the now famous New York Times no knead recipe. They call it their “Almost No Knead” bread since it involves a bit of light kneading, but another key step in the process is streamlined so overall their recipe is still a cinch to make.

If you’re already familiar with the “traditional” no knead recipe, I think you will find the final results of this one significantly different in almost all respects. This crust has a nice crunch to it but is much thinner and easier to chew and the interior crumb is tighter (smaller holes) and softer. I wouldn’t classify this bread as “rustic” like I would the NYT version.

But what really sets this recipe apart is its flavor. The addition of a few ounces of beer and a tablespoon of white vinegar creates a unique and pleasing flavor all its own.

In these videos I cover the Cooks Illustrated plain white flour and whole wheat flour versions.

This recipe also converts extremely well to sandwich loaf bread. In the third video below, I do just that.

I’m looking forward to hearing what you think of this bread – please leave your comments below.

Update: See Virginia’s comment post of 8/22/08. She made a few changes to get great results with a rye version (click link) of this recipe.

White Flour Recipe:

3 cups (15 ounces) all purpose or bread flour
1/4 tsp. instant or rapid-rise yeast
1 1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. (7 ounces) water at room temp
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. (3 ounces) mild flavored lager
1 Tbs. white vinegar

Whole Wheat Recipe:

2 cups (10 ounces) all purpose or bread flour
1 cup (5 ounces) whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp. instant or rapid-rise yeast
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbs. honey (I used 2 Tbs. raw sugar)
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. (7 ounces) water at room temp
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. (3 ounces) mild flavored lager
1 Tbs. white vinegar

Note: The beer can be non-alcoholic.
Also, regarding the use of sugar and the ratio of white to whole wheat flour in the ‘Whole Wheat’ recipe, see the post from Beatrix below. She used 2 cups of whole wheat flour and 1 of white and it still came out light.

Baking Instructions: For both these recipes, preheat your oven with Dutch oven or Cloche inside to 500 degrees. Reduce temperature to 425 when the bread dough goes in and bake covered for 30 minutes. Then remove cover and bake an additional 15 minutes or until the internal bread temperature reaches about 200 degrees.

Almost No Knead

Almost No Knead

Almost No Knead Sandwich Loaf Recipe

The thinner crust and softer, tighter crumb of the Almost No Knead recipe, combined with its subtle flavors, makes it a nice candidate for a sandwich loaf. Here’s a video of the process with the the adjusted ingredient quantities.

18 ounces (~3 2/3 cups) flour. Use all white or a combination of white and up to 6 ounces whole wheat.
1 3/4 tsp salt
3/8 tsp. instant yeast

1 cup (8 ounces) water
1/2 cup (4 ounces) beer

1 1/4 Tbs white vinegar
2 1/2 Tbs honey
(I use raw sugar instead). The honey is suggested only when baking the whole wheat version of this recipe.

Baking Instructions: Preheat oven to 425. Place bread pan with risen dough in oven and reduce temperature to 350. Bake for 55 minutes or until internal bread temperature is about 200 degrees. Note that in the video I’m using a Pyrex bread pan. A metal bread pan would probably bake a few minutes faster.

Note: some have reported an issue with the loaf sticking to the bread pan. After buttering/oiling the baking pans, cornmeal can be sprinkled liberally on the insides and bottom of the pans. This eliminates the bread sticking to the sides while baking. Thanks to Tom & Melody DeGraziano for this tip.

{ 613 comments… read them below or add one }

Rusty June 3, 2014 at 9:56 pm

I tried the white flour version 3 times, with different lager beers and for the life of me, neither I nor the family could taste even a hint of beer or added flavor from the beer. We decided it was a waste of beer. The vinegar is very subtle; I add a very generous tablesoon. Distilled, cider, red or white or champagne wine vinegar, vinegars are all a bit different; experiment! Balsamic is very odd, good, but odd. Balsamic makes the bread look like whole wheat. It also seems as though the vinegar keeps the bread tasting fresh for longer, although I don’t know why.

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Cindy May 13, 2014 at 1:37 pm

This bread is wonderful! My family (and dog-who got up and stole a bite), loved it and finished it off in one day! I have to say I enjoy adding the beer. Not only for the success of the bread, but also the fact that as the cook – I got the finish the bottle! I used LandShark Lager. It has a light flavor and was perfect in this bread.

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Barbara March 30, 2014 at 10:58 pm

What am I missing here? The instructions go straight from the ingredients to the baking — where are the mixing/kneading/rising instructions?
Apparently no one else had a problem with this??

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Branch March 31, 2014 at 5:49 pm

The written instr are too brief. My version (for white or whole wheat round): Mix dry ingredients in large bowl. Blend in wet ingredients until shaggy ball forms. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 12 hours. Turn out on floured board. Knead 10-15 times and shape into a tight round. Put parchment sheet in medium fry pan. Spray with oil. Place dough on parchment. Spray with oil, cover loosely with plastic wrap, let rise for 3 hours (should almost double). Sprinkle on a bit of flour for decoration and slit top 6″ long x 1/2″ deep across top. Heat enamel dutch oven with cover for 40 min at 525. Use parchment to put dough into dutch oven. Cover, reduce temp to 425, bake for 30 min, remove cover, cook another 40 min or until internal temp is 210. Turn out on wire rack. Cool 3 hours.

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Branch June 17, 2014 at 3:11 pm

I’ve made several loaves with half whole wheat flour. Seems to work just fine. I use 3oz of stout and 1 TBS of honey (half buckwheat/half cover), which seems to give a robust flavor without being too sweat or too malty.

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Medbh March 5, 2014 at 3:15 pm

I’m interested in trying this recipe with sourdough starter rather than commercial yeast. Any idea whether you can just sub in 1/4 cup as you do in your no knead sourdough recipe?

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Dharma March 5, 2014 at 4:30 pm

I tried this with my sourdough starter & it failed miserably… But it may have been my starter, which seemed a bit weak & probably needed a lot more time.
Also tried it with whole wheat sourdough starter & it worked but tasted awful.
If you get it to work, please post what you did! :)

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Jeffrey March 5, 2014 at 7:04 pm

Sourdough starters have to be revitalized before being used, which means feeding them and allowing them to grow before using them to leaven bread.

I usually keep small amounts of starter in the refrigerator, since I don’t bake very often. When I plan on baking, I use a little of the refrigerated starter added to flour and water, and see how it does. If it hasn’t at least tripled in volume within 8 hours, I repeat the operation until I get a very active starter. I use part of the activated starter in my bread, and the rest I again feed and water, and replace the old starter left in the refrigerator, discarding the old starter, washing out the container, and putting the new, activated starter in its place.

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Laura June 16, 2014 at 4:43 pm

Dharma, I made the whole wheat version a while back w-untasty results. It was another year b/f I was willing to try again. This is the conclusion I came up with after finally making a loaf that tasted great. I only use light beer & I don’t let my dough go past the 10 hour mark. I personally think 18 hrs is too long. Oh & by the way my loaf was made w-instant yeast. W-that said…I returned to this website to see if this could be done w-sourdough starter. See Eric’s link above the white flour recipe that’ll take you to Virginia’s rye version of this recipe.

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Anna February 20, 2014 at 1:19 pm

For the whole wheat bread why do you need to mix whole purpose flour? Can you make bread with only whole wheat flour or mix it with other flours like oat flour or quinoa flour?

Thanks.

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Breadtopia February 20, 2014 at 1:46 pm

The more whole grains you use, the denser and heavier the bread. You can use whatever flours you want, it just changes the recipe.

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Anna February 21, 2014 at 8:53 am

Thanks.

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Branch January 1, 2014 at 6:05 pm

I’m new to this. Tried the CI recipe. 1) I got some initial rise in 18 hours but not double 2) I got some additional rise after kneading and a 2 hour rest but again not nearly double. I used slightly more water (2 TBs) than recipe in order to moisten dough and Hodgson Fast-Rise yeast andI proofed the remainder of the pkg and it looked OK. My room temp is about 68. I baked in a enamel Dutch oven starting with a cold oven and heating to 425, with the lid removed for the last half hour. I got a good crust and 110 internal temp and let it rest for 2 hours. The inside was doughy and heavy and undercooked with small holes, like Wonderbread. Not eatable. Oven seems to run cool so I bumped it up a bit but I don’t expect that to be the real culprit. Any suggestions. (It’s my New Year resolution to bake a decent loaf.)

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Branch January 1, 2014 at 6:34 pm

OOPS. I believe the bread temp was 210, as the recipe says. (But is there any chance that it was only 110–I doubt it could have been that cool after an hour in a hot oven but I’m beginning to question my memory. )

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Bob Johnson January 2, 2014 at 8:55 am

1. Have never gotten doubled rise for this recipe.
2. Preheat oven to 500 with pot in oven covered. If you can an enameled cast iron pot works better than non-cast iron for me.
3. Using parchment sling put dough in preheated pot and reduce oven heat to 425. Bake for required time covered. ,
4. At end of initial baking, uncover pot and continue baking till you have 203-206 internal temp.
5. Baking to 110 is entirely too low and will result in exactly what you got.
6. Consider a thermometer for the oven to get reliable readings and an instant read thermometer to check internal temp of the loaf.
7. Hope this helps, recipe produces a wonderful bread, have been using for years, have not found a better one yet.

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Branch January 2, 2014 at 12:45 pm

Bob, thanks for the excellent advice. Your loaf looks about 50% larger than mine, so I think there is something wrong in my rise. My loaf was about 6″ diameter and 3.5″ high. It gained maybe an inch in diameter and height from the original dough ball. (My typo on the internal temp–it must have been 210 not 110.) Other than preheating the pot and oven, my process seems like yours. (I did used a separate oven thermometer and an instant read .) I’m going to try the preheated oven/dutch oven method, but only if I can get a decent rise.

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Branch January 12, 2014 at 7:32 pm

Success. Fresh flour, new yeast, warmer “room temp”–thanks for all the help.

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Branch March 5, 2014 at 8:27 pm

Have made a couple of times with the whole wheat recipe–excellent results. I substituted Kaliber (non-alcohol dark stout) for the lager in the whole wheat and think it improves the whole wheat flavor–just a bit richer from the roasted barley malt.

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Dharma January 6, 2014 at 10:03 am

I’m not organized enough to remember to start bread the night before I need it, so I use this recipe all the time to start in the morning or even at lunchtime if dinner will be a bit later… Always with excellent results. The difference is that my oven has a warming drawer with a “proof bread” setting that I let it rise in. OR I’ll stick it in the drawer without turning it on & use the oven of something else, which keeps the drawer warm enough. I cover the bowl with a damp towel instead of plastic.

I also typically use all whole- grain flour, so I add a smidge extra yeast with no discernibly overly-yeasty flavor. I raise it in this semi-warm environment for about 5 or 6 hrs., knead a few times like the video & throw it onto the parchment & back into the drawer for another hour or 2. I’ve never had it not fluff right up as it should.
Today I discovered that hubby polished off all the beer over the weekend AND I’m trying a mix of 3 new heirloom whole-grain flours so we’ll see what happens. But using the slightly-warmer rising temp seems to give me a consistently positive result even when I make the dough too wet at the beginning & have to knead in extra flour (which I seem to do a lot).
Good luck!

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Laila December 19, 2013 at 12:12 am

Does this bread have any beer taste to it? I have tried other items with beer as part of the recipe, and not only can I taste it, but it was a vile flavor (I hate beer!). Is there a substitute for the beer? I have never made bread, and this recipe looked like an easy one to do for a rank beginner.

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Mary L. December 19, 2013 at 7:32 am

I don’t taste the beer or the vinegar at all. The purpose of these is for their acetic and lactic acids (somebody please correct me if I’m off the mark here) which are normal by-products of the long cold rise and help create deeper flavor. You can leave it out and just use water if you’d like.

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Dharma March 5, 2014 at 4:25 pm

I’ve never tasted the beer or vinegar either. And I also don’t like beer, so I’d be sensitive to that.

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Char December 17, 2013 at 8:53 pm

I made this bread today with good old Gold Medal flour, an O’Doul’s non-alcoholic beer, and malt vinegar. Everything else was just as shown. I started it at 8:30 this morning and by 2:30 pm, it was more than doubled in size, so I dumped it out, kneaded a dozen times, turned into the Dutch oven lined with parchment, and waited for it to rise. One hour and 50 minutes later, I put the top on the Dutch oven, put it in a cold oven, and set the temp at 425*. It took about 15 minutes for the oven to come to full temp, at which point I turned it back to 350* and set the timer for 30 minutes. Then I uncovered and set the timer for another 20 minutes. Took the internal temp and it was at 203* so pulled the loaf. It was beautiful! Round, full, not quite as dark as I expected, but a nice crust nonetheless.

I sliced into it for dinner an OH MY the flavor. Swoon! DH says this is the ONLY bread I should make from now on, and don’t bother to buy storebought sourdough any more! It’s THAT good! :)

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Mary Lynch December 18, 2013 at 12:29 am

I noticed it rose more vigorously with my malt vinegar and beer as well. When using the ABin5 method, the mixed dough normally sits on the counter for about 2 hours until it doubles, even triples, then goes in the fridge. Since I use the beer/malt vinegar, I just wait for it to triple and put it in the fridge that much earlier. Using the Lahey method, I leave it to rise 12 hours max. Glad you liked the taste, I think the malt vinegar is great….

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Rich Price December 10, 2013 at 7:39 pm

Here’s my best one yet using the Cooks Illustrated method. 2 1/2 cups white flour + 1/2 cup rye with beer & vinegar. Still working on the sourdough starter. What do you think about the San Francisco sourdough starter?

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Bill Doyle December 2, 2013 at 10:34 am

I have a DCS duel fuel oven.
I also have a 3/4″ pizza stone that literally covers the full sheetpan sized lower rack with about a 1″ air gap around all edges.
If I use the convection setting it works great for making pizza at 425-450 degrees. However when I heat the oven to 450 and used the stone with a overturned Magnalite pan as my cloche top I got a horribly burned loaf. In the past; when I made this loaf; I used to Magnalite stockpot with it’s lid in an upright position en lieu of a cloche and still got a burned lower crust(a fantastic loaf-albeit with a burned bottom crust that needed to be scraped off before it was deemed edible). Is it just the fact that I am using the convection setting and shouldn’t?

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Bill Doyle December 3, 2013 at 11:59 am

Fixed it!
I simply stopped using the convection setting and also kept the oven at 450. Still got a slight amount of charring on the bottom. Certainly not enough to make it inedible but I can work on that!

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Adele Caemmerer July 26, 2013 at 8:25 pm

Can the dough from this recipe be doubled and kept in the frig for baking later? If so, are there any variations to the recipe?

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Mae July 24, 2013 at 11:24 am

I can’t watch the 3rd video. Fr your instructions seems like you only need to proof the bread once? Which is why I wanted the video so much. Been trying many recipes for soft white loaf bread but failed tremendously. My husband only likes white bread.

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TOM June 14, 2013 at 12:21 pm

Previously I left a comment on the ANKB by Cooks Illustrated about not having to preheat the oven or cast iron pot as listed below. I did try it and it worked fine. Has anyone else tried it and what do you think about this since you didn’t mention it in your new video. See original post and reference below:
TOM May 10, 2012 at 2:18 pm
New post in Cooks illustrated APIRL, 2012 states you can put covered pots w/bread into COLD oven, heat to 425 and then WHEN TEMPERATURE IS REACHED,reduce temp to 350 AND START TIMING for 30 min then with top off for another 20 to 30 min to brown. Good energy saving tip and less fuss.

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millie bostic June 14, 2013 at 9:18 am

Just a tip that works for me. I buy a pkg of shower caps and use them to cover my mixtures when rising. I reuse them and if one gets dough on it they are so cheap that I can afford to waste one. I always save the ones when i go traveling which is once a year with my daughters. I am 90 yrs old and have been baking since I was a little girl. I use beer and my sour dough starter.

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Mary Lynch June 6, 2013 at 12:08 pm

I borrowed the idea of adding beer and vinegar, I always use it when making my ABin5 recipes. I decided to use malt vinegar rather than white, which seems to add a touch of nice flavor. For an ABin5 recipe that usually calls for 3 cups of water, I substitute 1/4 cup of the water by placing 1TBSP of malt vinegar in a measuring cup and adding beer up to the 1/4 cup line.

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Rob L April 24, 2013 at 12:37 pm

Here is a pic of a slice from the white sourdough “almost no knead” recipe.

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Rob L April 23, 2013 at 3:18 pm

These videos are EXCELLENT. I just made two loaves and got food ovenspring on a stone. I want to get a bit more sour taste however. I added some sourdough starter to the recipe and I’m thinking of either adding more of it or, more vinegar this time around, just don’t want to mess up the ratios.

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Jeffrey April 24, 2013 at 1:17 pm

If you’re using a sour-dough starter, one way of getting more sour taste is to extend the rise time by putting the bread in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight. This slows the action of the natural yeast while allowing the bacteria that impart the sourness to continue acting. Obviously, you need to extend the timing of the whole operation. By how much depends on the temperature of the room once the bread is removed from the refrigerator.

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Anna April 19, 2013 at 5:22 pm

I am new to bread making, have made a few loaves, this last one’s crust was as hard as a rock, only good for putting into soup! I don’t know what made the difference. Can you give me an idea as to what might have caused this?I did handle it a bit more this time as I was putting roasted garlic and red pepper bits into it. I’ll keep experimenting and learning. Also, I am curious as to what brand scale you use and where is the best place to buy one? I live Northern California.
Thank you, your videos are most informative.
Anna

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bstnh1 April 21, 2013 at 7:59 am

The scale I have is a Taylor that I bought at Bed Bath & Beyond and I think it was about $20. It measures in both ounces and grams and from what I can tell, it’s very accurate.

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Phil March 15, 2013 at 5:54 pm

This might be a lame question, but I didn’t realize measuring liquids by weight was the equivilent of measuring them by volume. When the recipe calls for, say 7 oz of water, I would have thought in terms of a liquid measuring cup. It does look really slick measuring onto the scale (and the results are obvious), but I’m just a bit confused. I am definitely going to try this though!

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bstnh1 March 16, 2013 at 6:59 am

Measuring by volume and weight are not the same and do not produce the same results. An 8 oz cup of moulten lead would weigh a lot more than 8 oz. by weight. If you use a recipe that gives quantities in volumes stick with volumes. If it gives weights, stick with weighing the ingredients. 8 liquid oz are not the same as 8 oz. by weight.

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Breadtopia March 16, 2013 at 8:12 am

It works for water, but not necessarily other liquids, as bstnh1 points out.

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Sarah March 4, 2013 at 2:34 pm

I’m trying the sandwich version of this loaf. I found that I had to add quite a bit more liquid to make everything come together. I live in a very dry climate at high altitude, though, so I’m hoping that is a factor! We’ll se how the loaf turns out!

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Sarah March 5, 2013 at 7:13 pm

This didn’t rise very much at all for the second rise. I split it into two smaller loaves (did the sandwich variety) and I was so diappointed! I have two little bricks of bread. I might give it one more shot.

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Rhonda Thibault February 13, 2013 at 1:23 am

Hi Jay, I always recap the beer and refrigerate it for my next loaves, particularly if I’m baking several times a week. It’s perfectly fine. Of course, you could always drink the rest!

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Jay J. Schneiderman February 12, 2013 at 5:01 pm

Hi gang…….
Being quite familiar with most of the techniques and recipes, here at Breadtopia, I figured it was time to give this cook’s ANK recipe a go around. Well, it creates a smaller, slightly denser loaf than the NKM I’ve been used to, but quite delicious, to be honest. In fact, I’m going to make another loaf again tonight!
The only pain in the rear end, about this recipe, is having to open a perfectly good bottle of beer, for only 3 oz. , but the flavor of the finished loaf is really quite nice. I wouldn’t say that it gives the bread a sourdough taste, just a different very appealing taste/flavor.
If you haven’t tried this recipe yet, do so, you’ll like it.

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Natalie January 29, 2013 at 7:12 pm

Hi Eric!
I am so thrilled with this bread that I just had to write and share a photo of my results and thank you for the videos. Just today I successfully baked both the wheat version and the white version. Strangely and opposite of your video, my wheat version rose better/more during proofing than my white version although the end results were great. I deviated from the instructions in only one way which might be helpful to other readers:

After shaping the wheat version I was concerned about it keeping its shape and since I do not have an oval basket I placed the loaf on parchment paper and then placed the whole thing in the bottom of my oblong cloche to rise, covered with plastic. Obviously, this only left me with the top of my oblong cloche to preheat. When the oven was ready I just placed the preheated top on the cloche bottom and baked as normal. It worked wonderfully.

Texturally, the white version reminds me a lot of San Francisco sourdough, but not as sour which I prefer. The flavor of the beer came through more on the wheat version. This will remain a keeper in my repertoire as it is super easy with really foolproof results. Thank you again!
-Natalie

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Breadtopia January 30, 2013 at 8:27 pm

Gorgeous bread, Natalie. With those results, I’d be happy too.

Great tip on your cloche preheating method too. Thanks!

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bstnh1 January 22, 2013 at 8:30 am

Has anyone tried freezing this dough? If so, when in the process do you freeze it? Thanks!

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Bob Johnson January 19, 2013 at 9:34 am

After trying all sorts of tools for scoring, I’ve come back to the good old scissors…knives, lames, serrated, non-serrated, et al. I cut my crosses about 1/2″ or a bit more deeply and simply walk across the top of the loaf with the scissors. When the loaf is baked you cannot tell how it has been scored and the result looks exactly like a straight edge was used. Very simple, easy, and no frustration level..try it you’ll like it!!!

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Jeffrey January 19, 2013 at 1:32 pm

I’ve never tried scissors before. Will give it a go next time I bake something that can be scored. I often bake very wet doughs, like Ciabatta, which rise higher, but can’t really tolerate scoring – if I score them, they tend to collapse. The extreme hydration makes scoring unnecessary. But I’ll try the scissors on one wet loaf, to see what happens. It will still taste good.

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Bob Johnson January 19, 2013 at 5:37 pm

Jeffery,
Haven’t used the scissors on a very wet dough yet. My loaf of choice is the almost no knead bread which doesn’t tend to be very wet. Would be interested to read about how it works for you. By the way, I have developed my own doubled version of
the above bread. 6 cups AP, 4 tsp salt, 20 oz liquid, 1/2 tsp instant yeast, sometimes vinegar sometimes not. Larger loaf is much better for toasting and for sandwiches, in my opinion.
Thought I’d share…sharing is good!

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Jeffrey January 20, 2013 at 12:11 pm

Thanks for the sharing. I don’t know when I’ll get to trying it. We moved recently, things are still not where they’re supposed to be. Also, flour is considerably more expensive here on the east coast (NC) than in either Kansas or Texas, where we moved from.

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rhonda January 17, 2013 at 4:25 pm

for some reason I had trouble scoring my loaf, I found that it was just easier to score them with the razor while they are still covered with the saran wrap…we will soon see if it workes out, I have 2 loaves in the oven as we speak

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Jeffrey January 18, 2013 at 8:01 pm

I’ve found that bread scoring works better with a serrated knife dipped in water, rather than with a razor blade, using a very light and quick touch, sometimes going back over the score in some places. I use a steak-knife with a serrated tip. The water-dipping is important, to keep the dough from dragging at the knife.

Scoring also depends on the amount of pre-bake rise and the hydration of the bread: really light loaves or those with lots of water in them don’t take to much scoring very well, if at all. It also depends on the gluten content – less gluten means less supportive structure to the bread, so that scoring will cause the bread to flatten, rather than help it bloom in the oven. Rye bread with very little wheat flour in it is a good example of something I’m reluctant to score.

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