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No-Knead Bread Variations: Basic Loaf (Improved)

November 3rd, 2011

No-Knead Bread Improved
Basic No-Knead Bread (Improved)

This loaf has a slightly irregular top, because it was baked with the “seam” of the dough facing up.

Ever since I had my first taste of no-knead success, I’ve been compulsively baking a loaf of bread almost every day. That would make me more addicted to making this bread than to drinking coffee! Quite a bold statement I know, but it’s true. I didn’t bake any on Tuesday, and sorely missed having fresh bread in the house. Even the fact that working with raw flour makes my nose and throat itch hasn’t deterred me, but I could never open a bakery because of it, so instead I’ll share my favourite variations with you! Because I’m using a small (2.25qt) Dutch oven as the baking vessel, I’ve halved the original Jim Lahey recipe for my purposes. This makes a smallish loaf of bread that can easily be finished in a day between 2-4 people, for maximum freshness.

I started making little changes to the recipe, experimenting to see how different ingredients (vinegar, beer, eggs, fats) would affect the dough. The first loaf, though a fantastic start, hadn’t been exactly what I wanted. I found the crumb a little too glutinous, a tad too gummy – and there wasn’t much flavour in the loaf. The crust was also a bit too hard and thick for my taste.

My second loaf was altered with the addition of malt vinegar into the dough, and the use of olive oil to grease the bowl for the second rise. I found this much improved the flavour of the bread (though very subtly; you’d never actually taste the vinegar), produced a slightly thinner crust with a hint of olive oil flavour, and made the crumb less gummy, though the delightful chewiness and the large, open holes I love to see were maintained.

Basic No-Knead Bread

Basic No-Knead Bread

For the third loaf I decided to give the Cooks Illustrated adaptation of no-knead bread a try. Their modifications to the recipe involved vinegar and beer. My little sister liked this one better than the second loaf, but I liked it less.

Here is the recipe for the second loaf, which makes a good basic plain bread:

Basic No-Knead Bread

Combine all and let sit, covered with cling wrap, for 12-18 hours:

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp yeast
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
3/4 cup warm water
1 tsp malt vinegar

For the second rise:

Pour dough out onto a floured working surface. Shape it gently, by folding the edges into the center, then flipping it over and gently smoothing the sides into the bottom of dough, so that the surface becomes taut and smooth. This should all take less than a minute.
Instead of flouring a towel, coat the inside of a bowl in 1 tbsp olive oil for the dough to rise in, with cling wrap or a towel draped over the top of the bowl. Let the dough rise again for 2-4 hours (I’ve left it for longer and it’s still fine).
Put a heavy, oven-safe lidded pot (I use a 2.25qt Staub Cocotte, which is oven-safe even in very high temperatures) in a cold oven and preheat to 475F. Once the oven is fully heated, put the dough in the pot and bake, covered, for 25 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 15 minutes. Let cool for 30 minutes to an hour before cutting.

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