Monday, 6 May 2013

Artisan no-knead bread, success finally

Woohoo, I have finally mastered the artisan no-knead bread. This recipe pops up everywhere and all the comments to all blogposts just rave about how easy and failsafe it is. Well, so far I haven't really had too much success, although I have to admit the first time I tried it I didn't have a Le Creuset to make it in. I just baked it like a regular loaf of bread, and it wasn't bad even if it didn't quite blow my mind. Then there was the disaster in the picture below. Not only did the bread not rise at all, the cheese stuck to my Le Creuset really badly. After that cheese incident I decided I would definitely use parchment paper in the future.
And now finally, I have conquered the no-knead bread. I'm not quite sure still what went wrong in the past, I think my dough might have been a bit too runny. But this time the bread finally looked like bread, nice and round with a perfect nice domed top. And surprisingly, this batch was made using brown and whole wheat flour, so I thought it would end up hard and dense, but it didn't. Admittedly after a few days, it was only nice after toasting, but it's still one of the most successful breads I have made without using any white flour. I did end up adding about a tablespoon of gluten to the dough and I think that helped a lot with the texture.

There are two really good blog posts about how to make this bread here and here. There is a huge list of questions and answers, alternative ways to bake the bread if you don't have a Le Creuset, and many options on flavouring choices. There are  also much more detailed instructions for how to make the bread over on Simply So Good, so I warmly recommend you hop over there to have a look. It's a really great blog in general, so be prepared to be lost in browsing for a while. 
No knead artisan bread (makes one loaf):
3 cups of all-purpose flour (I used two cups brown wheat and one whole wheat)
1/2 teaspoon instant or rapid rise yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups cool tap water 
1 tbsp wheat gluten (optional)
The howto:
Mix all ingredient until a rather soggy dough forms. Let stand 12-18 hours (or a bit less or a bit more, mine usually hangs around for about 24 hours before being baked). Preheat oven to 225 degrees C (450 F) and pre-heat your enamel pot for half an hour. During that time, shape the bread into a round loaf with well floured hands and place on a parchment paper to proof until the pot has heated up. Place in pot and bake with the lid on for 30 minutes, take the lid off and bake for another 15 minutes. 
The verdict:
Like I said, I have finally conquered the no-knead bread. I think there has been various reasons for my failures in the past. A few times I think I have left the dough a bit too runny, it's supposed to be rather soft but you should still be able to make a round loaf out of it. A few times I haven't been able to shape the dough at all, and just ended pouring it into the pot in the form of a big blob. If that happens, try adding just a touch more flour the next time. It's a live and learn type of thing. And trust me, you will get there. 

Usually when I bake bread, I like to use at least a third or so white flour, as usually heavier flours tend to result in a more dense bread, at least in my hands. Which is why I was really surprised that this bread turned out nice, soft and chewy. After a few days, it did become a bit dry and crumbly, but I used it to make a few oven-sandwiches (smother bread with mayo, add some tuna and grated cheese, and bake in the oven until the cheese has melted and is nice and golden brown). I'm so happy I finally managed to bake this bread properly, as it has really been nagging at me. Why does everyone else come up with these beautiful perfectly domed loaves and I only manage to produce horrible pancakes. This one loaf could obviously be a fluke, so I will have to try again soon to see if I can manage to repeat my success.

Card of the day:
The card of the day is a simple birthday card. I stamped the Tim Holtz hand written script using Distress Clear Embossing ink and Hobbycraft black ink with the Tim Holtz Heart n soul stamp and then heat embossed using clear powder onto ivory cardstock. I used ink blending foam and distress inks for the background, the colours are Wild honey, Worn Lipstick, Broken China, Peeled paint and Fired brick. The sentiment is from the Hobbycraft clear sentiments set, stamped using Hobbycraft black pigment ink. I added a layer of purple glittery paper for the background (I don't know the brand as I got it from a friend) and also used ink blending foam and Dusty Concord Distress ink around the edges of the sentiment. Finally I attached it all onto a white card.

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