No need to knead bread

I was in a situation over the last week where I had to take time off work for personal reasons.  Sitting on my sofa trying to find things to do, I decided to search Netflix to see whether they had added any new cooking programmes.  Alas, despite every effort, I was unable to find any new programmes so decided to watch further episodes of Martha Bakes.   Watching the ‘bake it dark’ episode, Martha reminded me of the simplicity of no-knead bread and the fact that a few months back I dabbled in making a few varieties:

  • White no-knead, Dutch oven bread
  • Cinnamon & raisin artisan bread
  • Crusty wholemeal loaf, made with wholemeal and eight grain flour

My brief foray into this bread making method is documented in my Dutch Ovens, Pizza Ovens blog post.

Watching Martha make ‘no-knead seeded overnight bread’ got me thinking a bit more about no-knead bread.  Initially it was because, although she provided all of quantities of ingredients provided for the bread recipe, she omitted the quantity of yeast required.  A search on www.redstaryeast  suggested the following ratios of flour to yeast:

Flour (cups)                                                           Dry Yeast (grams)

0-4                                                                                     7

4-8                                                                                   14

8-12                                                                                 21

12-16                                                                               28

16-20                                                                               35

Feeling very proud of myself for finding the missing piece of the recipe (I had written down the rest of the recipe while watching the episode), I suddenly thought to myself (a bit too late, I know) that maybe I should have just checked whether Martha had just posted the recipe for the bread.   And sure enough, she had.  I could have simply followed the recipe online.

Although I could have made things all the more simpler, looking at flour to yeast quantities piqued my interest in the nature of no-knead bread.  According to Wikipedia, no-knead bread is a “method of bread baking that uses a very long fermentation (rising) time instead of kneading to form the gluten strands that give the bread its texture.  It is characterised by a low yeast content and a very wet dough.  Some recipes improve the quality of the crust by baking the bread in a Dutch oven or other covered vessel”.  The article goes on to mention the method adopted by New York baker, Jim Lahey, as described in his book My Bread.  His method suggests that one loaf of bread is made by mixing 400 g bread flour, 8 g salt and 1 g (¼ teaspoon) instant yeast with 300 ml cool water.  “The dough is allowed to rise, covered, for 12 to 18 hours until doubled in size and covered with bubbles, then scraped onto a floured surface, given a few folds, shaped, then allowed to rise, covered, for another hour or two.  It is then dropped in a pot that has been preheated in an oven at 230 °C. The bread is baked in the covered pot for 30 minutes and, with the lid removed, for another 15 to 30 minutes until the crust is a deep brown, then removed from the pot and allowed to cool for an hour”.

Although Lahey’s recipe offers a recipe for a straight-forward white bread, Martha’s recipe (as mentioned above) is for a seeded loaf.  Although I have not as yet attempted the recipe, I thought I would write it down so that I (and you) have it to hand when we need it.

Ingredients

  • ½ cup rolled oats
  • ½ cups cold water

Method

  • Stir together 3 cups whole-wheat flour, bread flour, oats, salt, yeast, 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, and 2 tablespoons each flax, poppy, and sesame seeds in a large bowl. Whisk honey into water in measuring cup, then stir into flour mixture. Drizzle a thin layer of oil over top of dough, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate 2 hours, then let rise at room temperature 12 to 18 hours.
  • Coat the inside of a large Dutch oven or ovenproof pot with oil and sprinkle evenly with 2 tablespoons whole-wheat flour. Stir dough to deflate, then quickly form into a ball and place in pot. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon whole-wheat flour and smooth into dough with your hands. Brush with egg white and sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon each pumpkin, flax, poppy, and sesame seeds. Cut an X in top of dough with a sharp knife. Cover; let rise in a warm spot until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.
  • Preheat oven to 240 °C with a rack in lower third. Lightly sprinkle top of dough with water, cover, and place in oven. Reduce oven heat to 230 °C. Bake until browned, about 45 minutes. Remove lid; bake 15 minutes more. Let cool in pot on a wire rack 15 minutes, then turn bread out onto rack to cool completely. To store, wrap tightly in plastic and keep at room temperature up to three days.

(Source: www.marthastewart.com)

Happy Baking!

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