Monday, February 16, 2009

attempt at no-knead bread

I'm coming to the no-knead bread party over 2 years late, but I felt strongly that I wanted to get traditional bread-making techniques down before "cheating." I'm a stickler for the long ways of doing things, like when I used to wearily lecture freshmen about the importance of understanding good grammar prior to writing a steaming pile of free verse. This meant trying to get proofing, kneading, and shaping under my belt before dumping it on the side of the road.

The basic concept of no-knead bread is this: in chewy things like bread, you want to create gluten structure in the dough (as opposed to light and airy pastries or pie crusts, for you which you want to avoid gluten at all costs). There are two ways to create gluten:
  1. You can knead (or stir with a stand mixer) dough until the gluten forms. Dough should be slightly sticky, smooth, and elastic by the time you're done.

  2. You can let a super wet dough sit for a super long time until the gluten structures form.

The latter is the concept behind no-knead bread; you mix the flour, water, salt, and yeast together, then let it sit for 12-20 hours. You turn it out, fold it a couple of times, and let it rest for another 2 hours. You then dump it in a oven-safe pot and bake it for 45-60 minutes.

No-knead bread
Finished loaf, with a face only a mother could love

Pluses: very little elbow grease involved; beautifully crisp exterior; moist, chewy interior.

Minuses: this took a LONG time; flavor was less astounding as compared to the other loaves I've made.

Plus, I feel satisfaction with kneading and getting my hands in the product. It's a similar feeling I have developing 4x5 film in the darkroom; you are physically touching and rotating the sheet film in the chemistry. There's a certain tactile involvement with the process that makes me feel like I have real ownership over the result.

I also don't feel like I saved any time with this. Usually, the limitation of making bread for me is wanting it ready at certain times (e.g., breakfast). I feel like this doesn't really solve that. I will probably go back to making traditional kneading breads, but may borrow the concept of using a Dutch oven for the baking; that seemed to lend itself to a beautiful crust that I haven't been able to exactly replicate with a pizza stone.

No-knead bread

1 comment:

Molly said...

I prefer the traditional ways of doing things, too. Like garlic. I have a thing against garlic presses. I get lazy and use them, but I much prefer chopping the garlic with a knife. Otherwise it seems like cheating.