There seems to be a resurgence of the No-Knead breads that were popular a few years back. People have played with the recipes and come up with more and more ways to make a simple recipe even simpler. An idea begun by Jim Lahey has come around once more. |
The original No Knead Bread was started by Jim Lahey. Jim learned bread baking in Italy in the 1990s but developed the no knead process much later. In 2006, Mark Bittman of the New York Times was invited to witness the ease of making this bread at Laheys Sullivan Street Bakery. The rest is history.
This history was all new to me in the summer of 2011. I went to the local farmers market and bought a loaf of what was called Mark Bittmans No Knead Bread. I love artisanal breads, with the crusty exteriors and plenty of chewiness on the inside. I did know of Mark Bittman, and I was curious. I brought home the loaf, tasted it and fell in love. I looked online to see if I could find this recipe and saw that it was available everywhere. I did not find out the recipe was from Jim Lahey until much later.
Mark Bittmans recipe differs from Laheys in some slight nuances. I have used the recipes both ways and can say that I prefer the Bittman version, at least in my home oven. Lahey adds less water and uses a 500 degree oven. Bittman uses a little more water and a 450 degree oven. I do not like blackened crusts, so I stuck to the 450 degrees. The matter of water is a choice. With 2 tablespoons more water, the result is an interior with far larger holes. Using less water the interior grain of the bread is more even. The bread is still plenty chewy made either way and the oven temperature and time are easily adapted.
My Experiences with No Knead Breads
I made Mark Bittmans version of the bread for over a year, sometimes 3 times a week when we had guests. I then got curious and went to the local library. I checked out the book My Bread by Jim Lahey and discovered another new world of breads. To that same basic recipe, Lahey added things for flavor. I made a few of these breads and all are marvelous. One had the addition of walnuts and raisins and was just delightful. One was called Jims Brown Bread and was a take on Irish Bread, using beer in the dough. Another recipe had 1/2 pound of cubed cheese added in. Yet another had chunks of fried bacon added. Every recipe was just delicious. The bacon bread was nearly a sandwich all by itself.
If you have not jumped onto this bandwagon yet, I urge everyone to try. The one requirement is a very heavy duty pot that will withstand oven temperatures of 450 to 500 degrees. This means an enameled cast iron pot, a clay baker with a lid, or a Pyrex glass baker with lid. The size must accommodate 6 to 8 quarts in order to contain the bread as it bakes. The reason for this type of lidded pot is so that steam from the very wet dough is trapped inside. The bane of any home baker trying to create that artisanal crusty exterior is the inability to trap enough steam to accomplish it. When the dough is inside a small closed environment at high temperatures, the pot accomplishes the steam needed for the perfect crust. When removed from the oven, the bread literally sings. The bread snaps, pops, wheezes and makes many interesting sounds as it cools and is a delight to hear.
The recipe is found all over the internet, and my favorite method is the one by Mark Bittman. He has now come out with some more interesting nuances on making this bread. I have the time at home to work with the bread, so I am not looking to make this a shorter process. In fact the entire process of around 16 to 18 hours, requires a total of about 15 minutes of actual attention. Mix up the 4 ingredients the night before, cover and let it do its thing overnight while you sleep. Turn out onto a surface in the morning and let stand another 15 minutes. Form into a loaf and set to rise. One and a half hours later, place the empty pot in the oven to heat for a half hour. Take out the pot, toss in the risen dough, put the lid back on and bake for 30 minutes with the lid on, Then continue baking another 10 to 30 minutes without the lid, depending on your preference. In between, you can accomplish a host of other household activities. Try out this recipe, because it does not disappoint.
Thank you for taking the time to read my article. I hope it was informative and helped you along your own culinary journey. Visit my Web site A Harmony of Flavors my Blog at A Harmony of Flavors Blog my Marketplace A Harmony of Flavors Marketplace or Facebook page, A Harmony of Flavors. I hope to see you there soon.
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