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.

{ 622 comments… read them below or add one }

Rich Witt January 4, 2009 at 4:58 pm

Hi Karil

Now you’ve got me thinking! Back in the 1970s I used to bake a couple loaves of cinnamon/raisin bread for my kids. I’m pretty sure I used a cinnamon/sugar mix with the raisins, and “jelly-rolled” the stuff into a loaf and baked it. This however was a very conventionally-prepared loaf, using regular powdered yeast – probably around 1 1/2 -2 teaspoons yeast placed in about 2/3 cup of warm water and left until it became active. I now think I am remembering using the milk to brush on the top of the crust and sprinkled with sugar just before baking time was complete.

The bread had a beautiful swirl of cinnamon and raisins through it that spiraled around about 1 1/2 circles. If you noticed in my picture, the swirl only makes about 1 circle. Every thing about the pictured loaf was fine, except the taste. The taste, while not terrible, just isn’t right.

The apple cider sounds interesting. I was thinking rather than ANK bread, I might try just NK. With that recipe you don’t do all the folds before proofing.
I could flatten the dough just after the rest time and roll the ingredients in and place it in the bread pan for its final proofing before going in the oven.

I’ll use straight cinnamon without the sugar mixed in it, and sugar the top of the crust just before the baking is complete.

I saw a cinnamon/raisin recipe with the NK artisan type breads, and the cinnamon and raisins were mixed with the dough rather than the swirl that I’m looking for.

Thanks for your input.

Rich

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Karil January 4, 2009 at 1:17 pm

Hi Rich

I’m not too sure about the milk. Don’t loose sight of the fact that the ANK recipe is an “artisinal” slow rise bread with only very little yeast or sugar and virtually no added fat. Milk is usually added to enriched doughs that have more yeast and whose character is not dependent upon the alchemy of the slow rise. Also, I am not sure whether milk, eggs, etc. might not develop unwelcome organism and an off taste while rising slowly.

If you want to continue with sweet additions such as raisins, why not substitute apple juice or apple cider for the beer and vinegar. (You can even soak the dried fruit in the juice.) Leave out any sugar or honey, so there will not be too much sweetness to interfere with the yeast activity. I’ve had wonderful dried fruit and nut artisinal bread included red wine in the the preparation, though I have not yet made any.

Also, Rich, don’t forget to look into the existing No Knead Recipe Variations on the site that include the addition of raisins and other dried fruits, nuts, spices, parmesan, etc.

But, also, don’t let all that daunt you. Enjoy your experiments as much as the feasting!

Greetings,
Karil

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Amy K January 4, 2009 at 11:04 am

http://www.flickr.com/photos/akbakes/3167348696/

Tried your ANK sandwich bread and have attached a picture from Flickr. Still on cooling rack so haven’t tasted it yet, but smells wonderful. It’s certainly looks beautiful. I let it rise the stated 18 hrs and it’s pan rise was only about 1 1/2 hrs with 50 min in oven. Can’t wait to taste! Amy K, Johnson City, TN

Amy's Almost No Knead Sandwich Loaf

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Rich Witt January 4, 2009 at 7:08 am

Eric, Karil, Jeffrey

Thanks for your comments.
Eric: I have forwarded 3 pictures to you to add to this commentary.
Karil: I did use parchment paper to transfer the dough to the cloche.
Jeffrey: lucky for me the sugar didn’t turn black; I baked st 400F. It took about 45 min total time – 15min with the cloche cover removed, but tented with foil so the crust didn’t get too dark.

As previously mentioned, I made the conventional CI ANK exactly as the recipe calls for up until the final 2 hr proofing. After folding the dough about 10 times, I flattened it out to a roughly rectangular shape, sprinkled it with cinnamon/sugar mix and added about 1/2 – 2/3 cup of raisins.

I then rolled it up like a jelly-roll and pinched the seam and the ends shut.
There was no seepage of the ingredients.

The crust is nice and crunchy/chewy and the inside is chewy, but has a pretty small/tight crumb. The flattening of the dough after the folding may have squeezed all of the air trapped in the dough.

However, the sourness of the beer & vinegar clash with the sweetness of the cinnamon and raisins. As you will see with the pictures, the distribution of the cinnamon & sugar is not quite what it should be either.

For the next go-round, I think I will go back to the basic NK recipe, and bake it in a loaf pan. I will use water only, though I was thinking about a little milk, maybe about 2 oz. I will probably use more liquid than the 10 oz, or increase in proportion with the other ingredients as suggested by Eric in his sandwich loaf ANK video.

If you have any comments about adding milk, I’d appreciate reading them.

Also, as a final step when baking the next loaf, I think I will brush the top of the crust with a little egg white wash and sprinkle a bit of turbinado sugar on it, at the last few minutes of bake time.

Rich

Rich's Cinnamon Raisin

Rich's Cinnamon Raisin

Rich's Cinnamon Raisin

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Jeffrey January 3, 2009 at 2:29 pm

Anything with sugar in it (including milk-sugars found in milk) should probably be baked at a lower temperature than that suggested in the video/directions. While the high temperature does a great job in caramelizing the sugars released from the dough during fermentation, resulting in a nice rich brown color, sugar will probably turn black at the same oven-setting. Most of the sweet-bread recipes I’ve seen recommend temperatures around 350 F.

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Breadtopia January 3, 2009 at 2:28 pm

Good point, Karil.

Rich – if it works out, I hope you’re up for sharing the details and maybe a couple pictures if you have a digital camera.

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Karil January 3, 2009 at 2:16 pm

However, if using a parchment sling to transfer the loaf onto the Clôche, the parchment would protect the Clôche from whatever ooooozes out. Sounds good either way!

Karil

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Breadtopia January 3, 2009 at 12:08 pm

This sounds like a great idea and I can’t wait to hear how it goes.

If the sugar/cinnamon mixture oozes out, you might run into a sticking problem with the cloche vs a bread pan. Might be worth a try though. ;)

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Rich Witt January 3, 2009 at 8:52 am

Eric & Jeffrey

Thanks to both of you for your responses.

I am going to try the KAF white whole wheat flour soon.

Right now I am making a cinnamon-raisin version of the CI ANK bread.

Prior to the final 2 hr proofing I am going to lightly roll the folded dough out flat, sprinkle it with sugar/cinnamon and raisins, then roll it up, pinch the ends and rolled edge, then let it proof for the 2 hrs and bake it in the oblong La Cloche. I’m doing this for the grandkids, but I’ll have to give it a taste test first.

Do you think it would be better to do it in a bread pan, like in Eric’s ANK Sandwich loaf video?

I’ll post here on how it turns out.

Rich

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Breadtopia January 3, 2009 at 6:49 am

Okay, now I just saw that Jeffrey already answered the question. You’d think I could follow my own site. Thanks Jeffrey.

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Breadtopia January 3, 2009 at 6:37 am

Hi Rich,

Just saw your post asking about white whole wheat flour. White whole wheat performs pretty much the same as regular whole wheat flour so I would use the same 1/3 – 2/3 ratio.

White has a slightly lower protein level than red whole wheat and lacks the bitter tannic acid that gives the red wheat its color, but can be substituted one for one in recipes calling for whole wheat.

At least that’s my understanding.

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Dave December 30, 2008 at 7:06 pm

I love this bread, but could never get the spring rise that I thought I should. For my birthday my wife got me one of your scales, a whisk (awesome) and a new bread knife. I just made a loaf following the recipe exactly and the rise was spectacular. It really helps to be able to measure things by weight. It is so nerdy to be this excited about bread.

Thanks for the great site!

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Jeffrey December 30, 2008 at 2:44 pm

Just for clarity’s sake, For turning in the bowl, each time you grab/pull/flop the wet dough, you rotate the bowl 1/4 turn.

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Jeffrey December 30, 2008 at 10:14 am

Hi, Jillian

Two ways of kneading wet dough (more properly called “turning” the dough):

Invest in a dough knife and piece of granite you can use as a kneading surface, and use the dough knife dipped in water to scrap the dough off the granite and flopping/folding it over itself, letter-style. Or you can do the same on a lightly floured surface, dipping the dough knife into flour. You aren’t actually “kneading” the dough, but stretching and folding it to achieve the same result.

Instead of turn the dough on some sort of surface, turn it in its container: after mixing the bread, leave it mixing bowl and let it rest for several minutes (anywhere from 3 to 30). To knead it, wet your fingers (to keep the dough from sticking), then grab the dough at the far side of the bowl, pull it straight up then towards you, then let it flop over the top of the dough. Rotate the bowl 1/4 turn and repeat 3 more times. With so little yeast in the mix, you can repeat this operation a number of times before letting it go into an undisturbed first rise.

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Jillian from North Dakota December 30, 2008 at 7:32 am

I’ve just made my first ANK sandwich loaves. What great flavor these breads have! Loaf 1 was 2/3 stone ground whole wheat and 1/3 all purpose flour (by weight), no sugar. The ww flour was a little old and dry and I ended up with the dough too moist, but went with it anyway–couldn’t knead it it was so wet! Decided to use the cast iron Dutch oven instead of the loaf pan. Second rise was in a no-stick aluminum foil shape I made that was the same size as my 10 inch/7qt. Dutch oven. The loaf didn’t raise too much, even for ww, but it was a wonderful surprise–a little dense but it would have been a real brick any other way! This dough really is quite tolerant of variations!

Some have mentioned problems with the crust burning with the cast iron dutch oven. I have a small galley kitchen and use a large ‘Nesco’ type roaster for baking. The heating element is around the walls, not just on the floor. Makes for great even baking (or cooking). The crusts on my loaves were even throughout, with no symptoms of overbaking.

Loaf 2 was 100% spelt (whole wheat style, not white), no sugar (a friend is sensitive to ‘modern’ wheats and can only tolerate the ‘ancient’ types). The dough was very dry (again, older flour in a dry climate) and I had to add about 1 ounce of water. I again used the no-stick alum. foil form (this time loaf pan size) for the second rise. I preheated the loaf pan with the oven preheat. The loaf raised beautifully, and my friend just came over for soup and bread breakfast ‘cuz she didn’t want to wait ’til lunch to try it. It was too fun.

A tip I learned from a professional baker: for the first rise, transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, instead of keeping it in the bowl it was mixed in. It slides out much easier at the end of the rise.

Thanks for the site and for all the input, I’m looking forward to trying the recipes y’ll have developed.

Jillian

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Jeffrey December 29, 2008 at 11:16 am

White whole wheat is still whole wheat – it’s just milled from a different kind of wheat. The KAF wesite says: “Milled from white whole wheat, rather than red, unbleached King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour has all the fiber and nutrition of traditional whole wheat, with milder flavor and lighter color.” It ought to act the same as red whole wheat, so issues of gluten and bran content would be the same.

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Bob Packer December 29, 2008 at 11:00 am
Rich Witt December 28, 2008 at 11:13 am

Breadtopia

Eric

While waiting for the oven to pre-heat, to bake my ANK whole wheat loaf, a couple of questions came to mind:

In the video, you use 1/3 whole wheat flour with 2/3 white flour. I used Ceresota whole wheat flour, but I also bought King Arthur “white whole wheat” flour. In using the KAF to make whole wheat bread, do you recommend the 1/3 – 2/3 flour ratio, or since the KAF is “white whole wheat” would you use it straight and use no whit flour

BTW the La Cloche does a perfect job. I brought a loaf for Christmas dinner and there was an appetizer that was to be served on french bread. After trying my ANK bread, no one ate any of the purchased french bread.
I asked for a critique and everyone said they liked the crunchy/chewy crust and the chewy inside. The next question that several asked was “when are you going to bake a loaf for me?”

Rich

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Rich Witt December 27, 2008 at 1:19 pm

Bob

The link for Stefan Block’s website you mentioned in your message is not shown.

Will you please post that when you get the chance? Thanks.

Rich

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Bob Packer December 26, 2008 at 1:37 pm

Rich and Jacob,

Here is the link to Stefan Block’s website. If you look in the index at the left, click on recipes. You can then do some searching.

Jacob, these are the recipes I used. The Lebkuchen is outstanding.

Rich, he has a recipe for Stollen. It is not the one I use, but it looks very good. I will dig out the one I use for you.

If you all look at Stefan’s site, you will also find great recipes for schnitzel, which for the uninformed (lol) are breaded cutlets (usually veal, but pork is good substitute). The saurbraten recipe look authentic, also. The Black Forest Cherry cake is a just a bit different that what I am used to.

If you have trouble finding the recipes on the site directly, let me know as I have them bookmarked here.

Bob

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Jacob V December 26, 2008 at 10:00 am

Hello Bob Packer,
Could you please, PLEASE send me your recipes for Lebkuchen and Pfeffernuesse?!?!? I’ve been searching for a good Lebkuchen recipe for years…
My email: drtisbeter@msn.com
Thank you, thank you!

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Rich Witt December 26, 2008 at 8:04 am

Bob

In your post above you refer to Stolen (Stollen?) If you are referring to the pastry-like concoction? Can you provide a recipe. I really love stollen, but is difficult to find a bakery that has a good one, in the area in which I live.

Thanks,

Rich

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Bob Packer December 26, 2008 at 7:42 am

“Stolen” idea, I assure you!

Speaking of Stolen, mine turned out quite well this year. Bake 5. Also did Lebkuchen and Pfeffernuesse for the first time. Lebkuchen were just like I jused to get in Germany.

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Karil December 26, 2008 at 7:39 am

Thank you Bob, that is an excellent solution! I have some enormous washers that would fit over the hole and the rest of the hardware on hand. I will try that out.

Karil

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Bob Packer December 26, 2008 at 7:28 am

Karil,
If your flower pot has a drainage hole in the bottom, you can get an “eye” (augenschraube) bolt, two washers (dischtungringe ?) and a nut (mutter). Put one washer up against the “eye”, push the bolt through the hole, put the other washer on the bolt, then the nut. Makes a little handle for the pot. You can then use a pair of pliers to lift the pot.

Bob

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Karil December 26, 2008 at 6:19 am

Thanks for the IKEA “Stil” tip. We just made plans to go to IKEA with friends next week, so I’ll look into it. We call this a “Römertopf” in Swiss and in German cooking—it is claypot cooking in an unglazed terracotta pot. (One soaks it in water and places a chicken, onions, etc. into it and bakes it in the oven—a bit like claypot cooking in Africa.) It is certainly an excellent and cheaper alternative to the clôche, and an improvement over my flowerpot, which is a bit clumsy, because it has no handles on it.

I prefer oblong loaves, because the cut surface is smaller (less exposure and drying out) and it is easier to slice. In Europe, the tradition is that the large round loaves are first cut in half and then the half is quartered and sliced with one of the sliced surfaces facing down on the cutting board.) The remaining quarter and the half loaf are then stored. This results in a lot of exposed surface. Then again, our loaves are not quite so large, and they disappear too quickly to dry out or go stale.

Karil

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Rich Witt December 25, 2008 at 8:36 am

Karil

Merry Christmas!

As a substitute for the flower pot, IKEA [I know they have the IKEA stores in France] has a 2.7 L. clay baking pot with a cover. It looks like it can be used with the cover on the bottom and the pot portion on the top. I don’t know if it is of satisfactory size for baking a bread. I will take a look at it when I go to IKEA after the holidays. The product name is STIL. You can probably check it out on-line: http://www.IKEA.com.

I am using the oblong La Cloche, and it does a beautiful job. I might consider ordering the round one too, but I am, storage space challenged.

Rich

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Karil December 25, 2008 at 6:51 am

Hi Rich

It sounds like your following the right path—also trusting in your sense of dough consistency rather simply the measurements—courageous you!

I don’t have a cloche. I’ve never seen one available here in the Provence, France. Perhaps I’d find one in Paris, but I doubt it. For the past year and a half or so I’ve been using a dome-shaped terracotta flower pot placed onto a terracotta underpot, the diameter of which is a couple of centimeters larger than the pot. I plugged up the hole with a thick piece of aluminum foil. However, I have some specially formulated stoneware clay for making oven-proof ceramics. (Indeed, it is even intended for top of the stove ceramic vessels, such as fondue pots, etc.) I intend to make a couple of long-shaped cloches when the better weather returns. I’ll ask a ceramicist friend to fire them for me.

When I use the convection oven for bread, I preheat it to the recommended temperature together with the cloche setup (and pizza stone, if using one), then before opening the oven door to put in the bread, I reduce the temperature by about 20°F. (I only preheat to the higher temperature to accomodate for the heat loss that occurs when the oven is opened to put the bread in.) Generally, one reduces the oven temperature by about 20°F when using the convection oven.

Also, I bake the bread covered in the cloche for the entire baking time. I find that my bread browns more evenly if I bake it in the covered cloche for the entire time. If it doesn’t register the proper temperature at the end of this time, I might keep it in the oven a bit longer without the cloche cover, but this is usually not necessary.

There are so many factors that one can experiment with.

Bonne Noël / Joyous, Festive Holiday Baking to you and Jeffrey, and of course to Eric and to all of you Breadtopia participants! May the coming year bountifully bless you all with perfect loaves!

Karil

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Jeffrey December 24, 2008 at 3:41 pm

One more point about sourdough:

As I mentioned before, the sour taste of sourdough comes from bacterial action. The rising effect comes from natural yeasts in the sourdough. An important fact about these two different organisms is that the bacteria take longer to develop the sour taste than the yeast does to rise the dough. In order to get the sourest taste, yeast growth has to be retarded by refrigerating the dough, in order to give the bacteria time to develop the sour taste. Refrigeration also serves a dual purpose by allowing the more-sour aceto-bacteria a better environment for development.

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Jeffrey December 24, 2008 at 3:35 pm

Just an aside, since we’re talking water:

Every recipe I’ve tried from _The Bread Baker’s Apprentice_ has called for far too little water. Some of the recipe’s in _Artisan Bread_ by Maggie Glezer likewise don’t do what the descriptions say they should unless you add more water. For both boths, that means increasing it by as much as from about 5 to 15%.

Water really is the key to large crumb. Unfortunately, more water means slacker dough, so doughs wetter than the NK recipe are difficult to make successfully without some form of kneading, to highly develop the gluten structure.

I was talking to one of the bakers from Wheatfields bakery in Lawrence, Kansas, and he said that his country-french-type loaves were about 78% water (the same as the NK basic recipe), that he kneaded his dough probably for a total of 20-25 minutes by hand (for personal loaves), with several resting intervals of 15 minutes or so, that he didn’t not use any additional flour once the dough was mixed, but relied on a granite kneading surface and a dough-knife, and finally once the loaves were shaped, allowed them to rise overnight in a refrigerator. Very nice results, with a remarkably sour taste (from the long rise in the refrigerator).

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Rich Witt December 24, 2008 at 1:59 pm

Karil & Jeffrey

While I have a built-in convection oven, I use the conventional one to bake the bread. This is mainly because I don’t know what temp setting to use.

I baked a loaf – a long one instead of round, because I received my oblong La Cloche. I did everything else the same, but used about 1 oz. more water than called for in the Cook’s Illustrated A-N-K recipe. However, after pre-heating at 500 F., I reduced the baking temp to 425 F., after 30 min, I removed the top of the La Cloche and as the bread temp was already 200F., I only baked it un-covered for 5 more min.

On removing the loaf to the rack, I decided that it looked beautiful and couldn’t wait to cut into it. I ignored the idea and left to do some shopping.

On return I had lunch, and cut a couple of slices of the bread. The bread was less dense, with a larger crumb. The crust was crisp-chewy and the inside was kind of chewy. I thought it tasted very good.

I later made a dough with with a bit more water & beer than before; Unfortunately, I didn’t measure how much more, I went by the dough consistancy. It is proofing right now so I will let you know how it turns out.

Rich

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Jeffrey December 24, 2008 at 1:25 pm

“burden of proofing” – I like that. As a recovering lawyer (I’m a member of AA – Attorney’s Anonymous), I always like good lawyer-based humor.

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Karil December 24, 2008 at 7:34 am

Sorry, Jeffrey, I meant my comment to be addressed to Rich Witt.
Karil

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Karil December 24, 2008 at 7:31 am

Hi Jeffrey

Just a note about oven temperatures. I don’t know if you are using a convection oven, however, remember to reduce the oven temperature if you are. I find convection is great for baked goods (except for pies and filled pastries), however, you have to reduce the temperature by about 15-20° F.

Increased water will certainly go a long way to solve the density/crumb problem. Also, don’t overproof. My first loaves were a bit overproofed, without my realizing it. Then, once I prepared a batch of two loaves and needed to let the second one proof longer while the first one baked. I put the first one into the oven a bit earlier than I usually would have done, and wow, what a difference in the oven spring and in the texture from my earliers loaves (which had still been really good). And, the second loaf came out like the earlier ones. So, although the fermentation window is very flexible, proofing requires more judgement and finesse—The burden of proofing.

All the best,
Karil

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Rich Witt December 22, 2008 at 12:11 pm

Jeffrey

All ingredients were weighed just as it was done in the video. I don’t have an elecronic scale [on order] but I used a mechanical kitchen scale with the containers for the flour and the liquids zeroed out.

The yeast was received from breadtopia a week ago.

Maybe the oven temp is off, but even though stove [Kitchen Aid] is about 10 years old, it is electronically controlled and seems to work properly. I’ll check it with an oven thermometer if I can find it.

The heat could be too high in the dutch oven. I have La Cloche coming this week.

I did a rye loaf and the bottom crust was black – not burn’t, but black, and the bread was dense, but I expected it to be, since rye bread is typically denser than white or whole wheat.

I think the next time I will see if your suggestion about the amount of water in the mix works. I’ll increase the water about 10%. I think I’ll reduce the temp about 25 F. and just let it bake a few min. longer as necessary.

Thanks for your response.

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Jeffrey December 21, 2008 at 5:18 pm

Hi, Rich

Did you measure the ingredients or weigh them? In my experience, the denser crumb is due to insufficient water, which can easily arise when you measure flour and don’t weigh it – some bread books say that 1 Cup of flour weighs 4+ ounces or so, while others say it weighs about 6+ ounces. Another possibility is insufficiently active yeast – too old, for example, maybe exposed to too high heat somewhere along the line.

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Rich Witt December 21, 2008 at 12:23 pm

Eric
I made my first loaf of A-N-K all white flour bread, precisely following your instructions in the video. I used bottled spring water & Stella Artois beer. The result was a nice looking loaf, but the bread had a much tighter crumb, not like the loaf in your video. The initial rise was 14 hours, and the 2nd rise was 2 hours, with a 30 min. dutch oven pre-heat at 500 deg.

The bread seemed a bit too dense. Do you have any suggestions on how to get a lager crumb and less density.

I live in the Chicago area, so there is no altitude problem. The room temp was probably 69-70F. The rise was done in a S.S. bowl that the dough was mixed in. The mixing was done with a Kitchen Aid hand mixer with dough hooks, and covered with GladWrap for the rise. I’m pretty sure the oven temps were fairly precise, since my stove is an electric Kitchen Aid with an electronically controlled oven that signals when the selected oven temps are reached. I used Reynolds parchement paper which got rather brown from the heat, and my dutch oven is the all cast iron enameled Le Cruiset (sp?)

I think the bread would have been perfect if it had a bit less density and larger crumb like that of the one shown in the video.

I took pictures of it that I could send if I could attach to this.

Rich

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Jeffrey December 16, 2008 at 3:23 pm

A few more comments about more sour sourdough:

1. If you make a drier starter by combining the 1/4 C. starter with enough flour to make a sticky ball, then let it sit for several hours, when it comes time to add the rest of the ingredients, add all the water first, and dissolve the ball in the water as best you can, then add the rest of the flour, etc.

2. If you retard the dough in the refrigerator, you may need to fold it as per the video after removing it when preparing to bake.

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Jeffrey December 16, 2008 at 12:08 pm

Hi again, Gia

For reference, I suggest looking at/buying Classic Sourdoughs by Dr. Ed Wood. The section on the care and feeding of sourdough starters is certainly worth a gander, especially how to resurrect a long-dormant culture. (I once let a culture sit in my refrigerator for over a year, and brought it back to life easily.)

One drawback to the book is that it doesn’t list ingredients by weight, which I prefer over volume measurement. (Dr. Wood does list some figures in one of the appendices which gives weights for various ingredients, just not in the recipes themselves.) Another is that it lists recipes using a “liquid” (wetter) starter or a “sponge” (drier) starter, which is kind of confusing.

Breadtopia sells a sourdough culture, I believe.

You can also buy a variety of different cultures from around the world at Dr. Wood’s website:
http://www.sourdo.com/culture.htm

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Gia December 16, 2008 at 9:52 am

Wow, thanks for all the info. I did brew up my own sd starter and I am trying for a more sour taste. I will try buying one to see the difference. I don’t think mine is very sour. Meantime I would like to use the starter to make other breads in place of the yeast. I have not played around with any other bread recipes besides the nk sd one.

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JEffrey December 15, 2008 at 6:48 pm

Hi, Gia

In my experience, you can use sourdough starter for anything you can use dried or fresh yeast in – though I haven’t tried using sourdough in very sweet breads yet, such as cinnamon buns. Simply from a handling point-of-view, I actually prefer sourdough starter over yeast – sourdough activity seems slower, so there’s a bigger time window during which SD bread is at its peak. Also, I seem to get bigger holes in my bread, which I like.

I’m not sure exactly what you mean by “improve” the sour taste. Do you want your bread more sour or less sour? Or do you want a different kind of taste? If you want a different taste, you might want to purchase some sourdough starters on the internet. I currently have a French starter and an Alaskan starter, both of which I really like, and a San Francisco starter, which I reserve for more sour breads. I tried making some of my own starter, but didn’t like the taste. And I had a (purchased) Russian starter I didn’t care for.

It’s my understanding that the beer, etc. are added in order to replicate the taste of sourdough while using yeast. If you’re using sourdough starter, you wouldn’t need to replicate that taste, as it would already be present, so the beer, etc. would no longer be necessary. But then, if you like the combination of beer and sourdough taste, continue to use it, though I don’t know how it would affect the rising power of the starter.

For sourdoughs without beer, etc., the sour taste comes from two kinds of bacteria in the starter, one which produces lactic acid and one which produces acetic acid. The less-sour lacto-bacillus (“LB”) is more active in warmer, wetter environments, while the more-sour aceto-bacillus (“AB”) is more active in drier, colder environments. The Breadtopia recipe is very wet, and the process occurs at room temperature, and is more favorable to the LB.

One way to encourage the AB is to make a drier starter to use – combine 1/4 Cup starter with enough flour from the recipe to form a slightly sticky ball of dough, let it rise for a few hours to get it going (refrigerating it if you run out of time), then use it with the rest of the recipe ingredients to make the bread.

Another way is to make the entire recipe, let it proof for about 10-12 hours, form the loaf by folding it, then place it back into a greased bowl, cover it and refrigerate it until the next day (morning or night). Remove it from the refrigerator about 1 hour before baking. Remove it from the bowl carefully and let it rest for 15-20 minutes before baking.
(The timing on this is a guestimate on my part, and it might take some experimentation to find the optimum proof/refrigeration times.)

For a less sour taste, the trick is to coax the bread into rising more quickly, as by placing it in a proofing box (I use my oven with the light turned on). The problem here is that quicker rising times means less development of the gluten, which give the bread its structure, and most certainly requires some, if not a lot, of kneading. So, if the NK sourdough recipe is too sour, then you’d probably have to resort to some kneading if you want to take steps to reduce the sourness.

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Gia December 15, 2008 at 10:46 am

Okay, everyone here seems to be accomplished breadmakers. I AM NOT, but looking to be. This ia a great site! I have forwarded it on to family who also love it and have renewed the love of breadmaking. Just wanted to say that. Here is my question. I started with the sourdough bread NK (love love it) Still messing around with the starter to improve “sour”. Can I use the starter in place of yeast for sandwich bread? Do I omit the beer and such or still use it for flavor. Basically just trying not to use instant yeast. Use what I have instead. Or use beer and water for liquid and omit vinegar?

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Breadtopia December 10, 2008 at 6:07 am

That’s funny, I thought it was already on Youtube. Thanks for asking. I’ll do that but it’s going to take a while as I’m way behind on a bunch of things.

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Ed December 9, 2008 at 8:23 pm

Are you still planning on putting the sandwich version on Youtube?

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virginia December 9, 2008 at 4:45 pm

i just maid the best almost no need bread ever…my family is loving it…thanks bruce….cant wait till i get my order ….never ever am i going to buy bread again…virginia

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Renee December 8, 2008 at 9:24 pm

Hello. I love your website and your helpful videos! Feels very friendly here!

I made this bread this past weekend and I wanted to let you know how good it is and how impressed I am with it! The crust was perfect and the crumb was perfect. I made the whole wheat version. Thanks so much for the website!

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hipkip December 7, 2008 at 4:27 pm

I just completed my first almost no knead loaf today…perfect to go with soup tonight on a cold rainy day in the PNW. I do not have a La Cloche, so I put mine on a pizza stone with parchment uncovered for 40 min. The top crust came out great but the bottom was a little softer than I wanted…next time I will go with out the parchment. overall a great loaf….thanks Eric!

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Nathan Smith December 7, 2008 at 2:10 pm

Hello,

I am fairly new to breadbaking. I have made about 5 loaves of whole wheat bread straight from the Tassajara Bread Book, which came out progressively as a 3 inch high brick and finally a 5 inch, almost edible brick… Quite dissapointing. I finally got a decent whole wheat, but I was perplexed why I couldn’t get the high rise and spacious crumb in pictures. Now I know more about whole wheat versus white, but moving on…. I found the no knead method. First time was a cinch, though I got rid of the towel idea pretty quick. The bread looked great and tasted wildly different from anything else I had made.
Then I found this website…. How amazing! I am no making my first sourdough starter, which is almost done, and I made my second loaf of Almost no Knead with sam adams winter lager, malt vinegar, half whole wheat, and some agave nectar. My slashes are a bit off, but I could not be happier. I finally feel good about my bread, including its taste. I also like being able to work with the dough a bit, and I am more confident about trying whole wheat recipes again now too. Thank you breadtopia and all the great posts I have read on this site, it has been a big help!

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Nance M December 2, 2008 at 5:07 pm

Eric,

The Super Peel arrived today and we are excitedly looking forward to trying it out on pizza tomorrow night. Thank you so much!

Made 7 loaves of different no-knead breads for the family to try with our Thanksgiving soup celebration on Saturday. Made the white and the whole wheat, the steel cut oat, the cranberry/pecan, and the rye all from recipes on the site. Then branched off and using the sandwich bread recipe, I added about 3/8 of a tsp of Italian seasonings and 1 1/2 Tbs of chopped fresh rosemary to a loaf that tasted a LOT like Macaroni Grill’s Rosemary bread that they serve. When it was done I sprinkled a bit of Kosher salt on top….mmmmm! For the last one used the steel cut oat recipe only instead of the oats I added 1/2 a cup of Bob’s Red Mill 5 grain cereal and a combination of herbs for a whole grain herb bread. Used parsley. thyme, oregano, sage and marjoram. Also very yummm.

Now have a couple grand children who want to come to the farm and learn how to make this. Smile. See what you started? A whole family hobby! LOL!

Thanks again…
Nance

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Jeffrey November 28, 2008 at 9:32 am

Hi Eileen, Eric

I second the use of instant read thermometers (which still take a couple seconds to read temperature, but compared to standard thermometers are virtually instant) – thought I don’t know what temperature rye bread should be cooked to. I recently baked some rye (1/2 rye, 1/2 bread flower, with some vital wheat gluten added) to about 200 F., and it was very dry. What should be optimum temperature for rye bread be? And does that translate over into any whole grain bread?

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