April 23, 2020

No-Knead Bread

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No-knead bread became popular in 2012, if I remember correctly, when Jim Lahey made a demo and published a cookbook. I've never made it until today to know if it really makes flavorful bread. The Jim Lahey method leaves the dough to ferment for 12 hours at room temperature then the dough is shaped and baked in a covered preheated cast iron Dutch oven. He updated it to shorten the fermentation to 3 or 4 hours by using very hot water, about 130°F, and adding ¼ teaspoon red wine vinegar.

I didn't want to waste bread flour so I made only half a recipe adding a few drops of apple cider vinegar to the dough in place of red wine. The recipe below is a full recipe for one boule. Total time from preparation to baking is less than 5 hours. I baked it in a cast iron loaf pan and used a second cast iron loaf pan as cover. The result is surprisingly good. Crust is crunchy and crumb is chewy and flavorful, almost like breads made with preferment or sourdough starter. I didn't expect to like it but I do. I think the small amount of acid made a difference in flavor.

No-Knead Bread
3 cups bread flour
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons kosher salt
1½ teaspoons sugar
1½ cups very hot water, 130°F
¼ teaspoon red wine vinegar
extra flour for dusting
  • In a glass bowl, stir together dry ingredients with a wire whisk. Add water and red wine vinegar; mix with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until all the flour is moistened and incorporated. It will be sticky. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and leave on the kitchen counter for 3 hours. 
  • Transfer dough onto a lightly floured surface. With a dough scraper, fold several times until dough is smooth, adding more flour if too sticky. Form into a ball.
  • Line a bowl with parchment paper; dust with a little flour. Place the dough ball seam side up on the parchment paper. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.
  • Place a 6 quart cast iron Dutch oven and lid in the cold oven. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  • Remove plastic wrap from bowl and wear oven gloves. Lift parchment paper and dough and carefully plop into the preheated Dutch oven. Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Remove cover and parchment paper and continue baking for another 15 minutes until crust is golden brown.
  • Transfer bread into a wire rack. Cool for 1 hour before slicing.

A rant
In this age of Chinese virus pandemic lite, it seems I'm always behind in knowing the latest items being hoarded by certifiable crazy and absolutely greedy people - flour and yeast being the latest items. It started in the UK, I learned, and hoarders in the US followed suit and it's been going on the past 2 or 3 weeks. I never understood toilet paper hoarding and now friggin' flour. Not one grocery store has flour and yeast in their shelves. Costco still has 50 pound bags of flour but who the heck buys 50 pounds of flour??!! Stupid unscrupulous people looking for a quick buck started buying all the $3.00/5-pound bags of flour and all brands of yeast that they resell at Amazon and eBay for 10 times the price. There is a special place in hell for these idiots!

I gave up looking for bread flour and instead bought vital wheat gluten which by the way is also out of stock in stores and being sold at astronomical price by price gougers. Fortunately, South Korean all purpose flour are in shelves in the Korean grocery store which insane people haven't discovered yet because they are in a different section of the supermarket. At least for now I have a 5-pound bag of AP flour that should last me until this insanity is over. I have a small quantity of SAF instant yeast that is expiring very very soon. I used to have sourdough starter in the refrigerator but I let it die a few year ago when I took a break from baking our daily bread. I started a new one which will take at least 1 week to be usable, if successful.

I hate China. All they make are crap, deadly viruses, and chaos!


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