Regular readers (Hi Ma!) may recall I’ve been playing with no-knead bread recipes, trying to create one of those crusty, artisanal, country style boule loaves you might see at the Sullivan Street Bakery in NYC or,closer to home, up the road at Olaf’s. The frugal side of me would like to think I can do it for less than the $7.50 market rate for good bread.
And here’s the upshot:: The no knead white bread recipe by Jim Lahey/Sullivan Street Bakery is a definite keeper. No fluke. It’s good, really good. It’s my new go-to bread recipe.
The pros are:
- It really is the closest you’ll get to making a real ‘artisan’ country style white boule, especially in my kitchen, with my crappy old oven (the Bermuda Triangle of my kitchen renovation)
- It’s seriously bragworthy in appearance. If you’re shallow and approval seeking like me, this counts
- The inside ‘crumb’ is moist and appropriately slightly holey. It is the bread which disappears from the bench before all others.. It’s delicious and I find it better, more authentic than the artisan bread in five minutes per day method, probably due to the longer fermentation period.
- The kids like it. They like to risk dismemberment with the serrated knife and cut it themselves. The crust is chewy and thick and the minions like to walk around chewing them
- It’s damned easy with the smallest possible hands on time. Five minutes to mix, then five minutes shaping plus baking time.
- While some people will laugh at the idea of a bread which has been left for 12-18 hours to ferment being called easy, or quick, the fact is, it bubbles around in a bowl for 99.8% of that time. If you’re the sort of person who regularly uses a yoghurt maker or remembers to take meat out of the freezer the night before (yeah, sometimes me neither), then you can do it!
- Makes tasty toast
- Cheap. Three cups of flour, 1/4 teaspoon of yeast and some salt aren’t going to break the bank anytime soon.
- It feels good to make good bread!
The cons are:
- Sticky business: the fermented dough is quite wet and sticky to handle which takes a little getting used to handling.
- Burny hot! If you check the method here you’ll see that the loaf’s caramel exterior and moist interior are created by the atmosphere within a lidded metal casserole inside your oven. Getting a red hot metal casserole or ‘dutch oven’ in and out of the oven is a bit tricky. Those suckers are heavy! If you have removed the knob from the lid, then levering the lid on and off again is trickier still. If your knob is metal, then you’re fine but the black bakelite type ones don’t handle above 240c well, so I have had to remove it and fill the screw hole hole with foil to maintain the seal. As a result, I have been eyeing up those daft silicone non slip oven gloves with a little more serious consideration than usual.
- It’s a round boule shape, so it’s not conveniently shaped for your lunchbox (that’s a future mission)
- Not a quick fix. It’s still bread. If you’re in a hurry, make scones.
I tried three mixes: The white, whole wheat and rye flour. What I learned (a no brainer really) was that the recipe is designed for the properties of white flour only, the others were difficult to handle, very wet and not entirely successful. I have Jim Lahey’s book My Bread now, so I’ll take a closer look at how he handles whole wheat recipes.
However the big surprise was the rye bread. As rye contains very little gluten, I didn’t expect much of a rise, and as you can see here, it’s pretty flat. However it was delicious, moist, and flavoursome, slightly tangy and chewy. It also stayed fresh and edible much longer than expected. Sliced, it was perfect with avocado and a little haloumi or smoked chicken (all conveniently oblong shaped foods!) It also made really yummy toast. I would definitely make it again, although I will look at some mixes with higher gluten flours for a more ‘high-rise result’.
If you want to have a go yourself I’d really encourage you. Clearly, kneading is not necessary and you can surprise yourself with some pretty delicious and impressive results. Not to mention saving yourself a bill at the bakery.
Check out the recipe here.
Let me know if you’ve had a play around with no knead recipes. I’d be keen to hear about any old favourites. And please let me know if you have a good reliable sandwich loaf recipe.