No Knead Bread Nirvana Conclusions

Bread #10 is coming up on Monday but I can't wait any longer to post my findings so I will post again soon after my final test. I plan to try my new Lodge 5 quart enameled cast iron Dutch oven which I strongly anticipate to be the ultimate baking container for this bread. And because it will limit the sideways spread of the dough, I am able to try increasing the hydration of the dough to 80%--close to my ciabatta--to have even more open holes in the bread. Meantime here are my findings and tips to date:

Pros: Speed of mixing, flexibility to fit into your time schedule, excellent texture and good flavor. Baking in a preheated Dutch oven is ideal for those who don’t have baking stones.

Cons: Decreased shelf life, less flavor dimension. My Favorite Container for Baking this Bread Baking the bread on a baking stone with steam (see below) results in a 9 inch by 3-1/2 high loaf but using a 5 quart enameled cast iron or seasoned cast iron Dutch oven results in 7-1/2 inch by almost 4 inch high loaf which is my preference. In a larger Dutch oven the bread will be the same size as on a baking stone.

Steam: If not using a Dutch oven: Using the steamer together with the steamer lid (see below) resulted in the shiniest crust, best color, thinnest most crisp crust, and most chewy crust and crumb. The steamer is also very effective if using an oven stone without the lid and cracking open the oven door just enough to insert the nozzle and steam the oven for about 1 minute. A hand-full of ice cubes, tossed into a preheated cast iron pan set on the floor of the oven is the next best thing to the steamer. Though not as effective as the steamer it is much better than spritzing which causes the oven temperature to fall a good (actually I mean BAD) 25˚F every time the oven door is opened.

Additions I find that using 100% white wheat flour results in the largest holes. 7-1/2% whole wheat flour closes the holes somewhat but adds lovely flavor. When I add whole wheat flour I use 1/2 tablespoon more water (total 360 grams).

Tips Use your fingers to mix the dough, reaching to the bottom to ensure that all the flour particles get moistened, without overworking the dough. I’ve stuck to the 18 hour first rise at 70˚F/22˚C. and 2 hour shaped rise at 80˚F/26˚C. I’ve found in general that a warmer shaped rise results in a more open crumb. The dough is ready to bake when you poke it gently with your fingertip and it fills in slowly. I’ve found it to be consistently 8 inches by almost 2-1/2 inches in size at this point.

To keep the sticky dough from sticking to the towel, it’s best to use a coarse-weave towel and bran. Flour absorbs too much into the dough. To avoid bran flying all over the kitchen, brush any excess from the towel. The top of the dough should feel slightly dry but if not, dust it with a little flour. Use the towel to invert the dough onto the counter and with floured hands, lift the dough and gently lower it into the pot, being very careful to avoid touching the hot sides. In my oven,

I bake the bread at 450˚F/230˚C. for 20 minutes. Then without the lid for 10 minutes. To keep the bottom from over-browning I set the bread on a baking sheet and return it to the oven for 5 minutes with the door propped partially ajar. (This allows moisture to escape and helps to keep the crust crisp.)

My (Almost) Final Recipe Weights and Volume

Harvest King flour or half unbleached all-purpose half bread flour: 468 grams (about 3 cups)

room temperature water: 354 grams, 1-1/2 cups (I’m trying 382 grams/1- 2/3 cups water for an 80% hydration in my new Lodge enameled cast iron Dutch oven next)

instant yeast: 0.8 grams/1/4 teaspoon

salt: 10 grams/1-2/3 teaspoons

The New Steamer I adore this steaming device for rustic loaves not baked in a Dutch oven, and use it in my Wolf oven with oven stone in place and without the lid. But in my country Gaggenau I’ll use it with the accompanying lid because even when not set on convection the fan vents out the air and moisture along with it. (Moisture is vital during the first 10 minutes of bread baking for the best crust and crumb.)