Saturday, February 28, 2009

No-knead bread strikes again!

(click on the image to see the book on
Just as we thought we now knew more than we ever would need or want to know about no-knead bread and painless artisan bread, here comes a new book with a new method and plenty of well-researched recipes and, listen to this, it rocks!
Serious amateur bakers who love to mix their dough just on this side of enough, make sure it comes out at the right temperature (usually somewhere around 75 F/24 C), like to give it some strength (but not too much) by folding it once or twice while it is rising, treat it like bone china and are rewarded by crusty crusts and holey crumb will be horrified to learn that pouring ice water onto the flour and mixing it until just incorporated, adding flour so that the dough becomes very stiff, then sticking it in the fridge for up to 10 hours, then letting it rise at cool room temperature for 18 to 24 hours, then adding yet more flour not only works, but works great!
It is easy to see that the author spent years baking the traditional way before going on to experiment with this method. She is clearly on solid grounds when talking about bread "science".
Her goal is to make it possible for everybody to bake good bread at home using a simplified Reinhard/Gosselin method (for more info on this method, please refer to The Breadbaker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhard).
Bagget minimizes the number of steps and opportunities for mistakes and explains how to adapt traditional recipes to her method. Generally speaking, she goes a long way towards simplifying artisan baking at home.
Her book contains many different recipes, covering a wide variety of grains and other ingredients.
I can't vouch for her baking method which I didn't follow as I don't like the idea of doing the second rise directly in an ovenproof pot or casserole. I like to use baskets or to just shape the loaves on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper and then, transfer them to a Dutch oven just before baking. Also, the San Francisco style sourdough bread recipe is the only one in the book that uses sourdough. Since I prefer baking with natural starter to baking with commercial yeast (I like the crust better and the shelf life is much longer), I converted to sourdough most of the recipes I tried. They still work, which says a lot for the soundness of the method, however out of the beaten paths it may sound.
It was fun to try the recipes and find out time after time that the bread came out just as I wanted it. The only part I take exception with is that the process is rather long. This is not a spur-of-the-moment let's make bread for dinner tonight kind of book. The actual worktime is quite short but you need to plan ahead a little bit. On the other hand, if it were at all quicker, this no-knead method would probably produce mediocre breads, so it is a trade-off.
I like the fact that, in most cases, there is only one bowl, sometimes two, to clean but I regret that the ingredients are mostly measured in volume (although ounces are indicated for the flours). I hope that in another edition (or a follow-up book), grams will be given as well.
For people who watch their sugar intake, some of the breads may contain too much sweeteners such as honey or molasses. In my experience, it is possible to considerably reduce that amount or to skip the sweetener altogether.

1 comment:

  1. Delighted to hear that my recipes work for you. Also very interested to hear that a starter can be incorporated and will produce good results. BTW, the initial 3-8 hours in the frig is entirely optional--skipping it will still yield good bread if you wish to speed things up. You can't skip or skimp on the countertop rise though--that's when the dough kneads itself.

    Happy Baking!

    Nancy Baggett



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