No Knead Artisan Bread

I’m a starch junkie. There is no way Atkins would ever be the diet for me. My Achilles’ heel in the food area is bread, scones, pastas and rice.

I’d heard a lot about Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day and decided to give it a go. It’s Sunday, the ovens on, I’m baking and  also making up another batch of this wonderful bread.

 As I write this, Amazon shows 949 customer reviews with a 4.5 rating out of five. The author’s concept builds on the basic no knead bread making recipe (they’ve been around forever and pop in and out of favor; earlier I’d blogged failures and listed a dense whole wheat no knead bread from a used cookbook I have with a 1981 copyright – it would’ve made better dog biscuits – the kind they clean their teeth with). Mark Bittman (former NY Times food writer and cookbook author) highlighted Jim Lahey’s My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method - and drove renewed popularity for the no knead method with foodies (their basic bread is baked in a heavy dutch oven as no knead bread is wetter and a pan helps give it shape, the dutch oven also yields a nice crust). Better no knead recipes require mixing one day – then not baking until the next day or later – the longer rise/rest takes care of what kneading and all that physical exercise and mess would. It’s always a sticky batter (when covering, use plastic, not a towel unless you plan to wash and soak the sticky doughy towel pronto).

No knead has an attraction – but, for those equipped with a Kitchenaid mixer, it’s not such a big deal (mix everything in the bowl of the mixer – let the machine knead -  you’re set except for rise and shape that you do with no knead as well). The bigger attraction for me with the “5 minute” approach is mixing up enough for four to five loaves (or more smaller loaves) all at once and keeping the dough in the refrigerator to dole out and bake one loaf at a time. I don’t know about others, but I manage to get flour everywhere when I am mixing up bread recipes. The time saved cleaning up after my messy self is a huge plus. I’m sure everyone also experiences times when due to work, or simply a day of too much fun, they’re too weary to put effort into cooking or baking. If you’re a morning person, you shape your loaf and leave it in the refrigerator to rest during the day. If you’re an evening person, you shape your loaf and let it sit 40 minutes before baking.

The above photos show the dough after it’s initial long rise and ready for refrigeration.  As I write this, I cannot access the website for Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a day. I’m hoping they didn’t take it down as it’s a wealth of information with many recipe variations, each of which has a slew of comments that further elaborate the method. The master recipe (detailed at Mother Earth news) takes only 4 ingredients – water, salt, yeast and flour (Plain Flour, or American All-purpose). The authors also created YouTube videos walking through their process.

The bakery in town charges about $6 per loaf of wonderful, flavorful breads. What I notice about most home baked breads is they have a much stronger yeast flavor than my bakery supplied versions where a walnut bread has the predominant flavor of walnut instead of “yeast first”.  I understand fresh yeast can help this (as opposed to dry, it has a very short shelf life but can be frozen). Not being in a metropolitan area, fresh yeast isn’t readily available (I keep thinking I’ll drag a cooler along when I visit the bay area, fill it with ice and find fresh yeast- but haven’t gone that route yet). A longer rise means you can use less yeast and adding sourdough starter also means you can add less yeast. Once comfortable, you can play with the amount of sourdough or yeast depending on your tastes.

I show sourdough starters at the bottom of this post. The alcoholic “hooch” that separates and floats to the top is bursting with rich sour flavor. Some recommend pouring it off (egads no!). Not sure who started that (it does look gross, I’m the first to admit). The look might not sit well with “median American tastes” some strive for. Stir it back into your starter – feed that and then let it bubble and rise if you want a flavorful starter. You will not end up with “alcohol” in your finished loaf. Also, starter can be very simple – gold miners carried it about with them. My fridge is cold -I may not get around to feeding my starter for 4 months. It’s lived. Just keep chlorinated water away from it, do feed it on occasion and it should be quite happy. I see some who make it a very effortful process requiring attention and detail – not me. You can start from scratch (potatoes and more) or pick up a commercial packet. It increases in flavor and depth the longer you have it. I’ll have to do a full post on starters one of these days.

The authors added two cookbooks to the one linked above. One of those is for whole grain. They recommend you get Vital Wheat Gluten to help the loaves rise. It was a few cents short of $8 at my local grocery for the Bob’s Red Mill packet. Sorry to say, I really disliked their Whole Grain Master Recipe that takes ¼ cup of it. I fed the entire batch of loaves to the birds. Too yeasty tasting for me. Some are concerned that commercial bakery use of vital wheat gluten is why we have so many folks with gluten allergies today (do I need to say, I’m not a doctor and this is just something I see bandied about?).  Also, know anyone I can gift the vital wheat gluten packet to? I’m thinking of just making a separate whole wheat batch  with that gluten to feed the birds every time I make a batch for me. 

My recipe started with the regular all purpose flour master recipe. For a light flavored loaf and to have enough gluten for the bread to rise, I keep more all purpose than whole wheat flour. Whole wheat flour absorbs more water, that’s adjusted as well. And, I’ve got a nice sizable bit of sourdough.

My version without the gluten comes out a bit flatter after its rest (all of the 5 minute recipes spread while resting after you shape – how much depends on room temp plus time you let rest), but is absolutely delectable. For sandwiches, just cut it horizontally like focaccia.  You can buy pans, like a Kaiser bread or braided ring mold if you’re making no knead breads and want them to have a certain “look” easily. I bake a small deep dish pizza version in my 8 inch round cake pans. After looking at various bread molds, I’m thinking of trying some of my fancy bundt type pans as well.  

 

Adjusted Basic Recipe (Sourdough with Whole Wheat)

Makes 4 One pound Loaves
3 1/4 cups lukewarm water (don’t be afraid to add a tablespoon or two more water if your dough isn’t really sticky)
1 tbsp granulated yeast (1 packet)
1 1⁄2 tbsp coarse kosher or sea salt
2 cups of activated sourdough starter (I stir here a bit, then add the flours)
4  cups+ unsifted, unbleached, all-purpose white flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
Cornmeal for pizza peel (or upside down cookie sheet)

Follow the instructions I’ve linked from Mother Earth News. I generally let mine get to the sitting the first day in the fridge, then add about 1/3Cup flour to each bowl (thus the + in the flour notation above). Let it rest another day in fridge and you’ll have yummy, light bread.

I was ready to run out and buy the plastic pail or dough stirring hook recommended on their website, but decided it’s easier to just mix the dough in one bowl, then dump into two large bowls (the colored bowl is a Pyrex 10 cup / 2.5 liter; the clear just a tad bigger ) for the rise and refrigeration (otherwise a big ol bucket will demand a lot of refrigerator space on a pretty spacious top shelf). I just used plastic wrap with a few pinholes so it could breathe as instructed. Noticed they use wooden spoons in all the videos, also decided to skip the special stirrer. I have a pizza peal but never use it – I rely on parchment paper (I slide my loaf to the back of a cookie sheet, then slide it from there onto my pizza stone that’s warm in the pre-heated oven).

If you’re a fan of crusty bakery breads – do give this a try. You’ll be pleasantly surprised. And, if their site comes up and you’re a mom, check out Zoe’s  softer crust loaf baked in a loaf pan to make sandwiches for school lunches. Not all the kiddies enjoy a crunchy crust on bread.

This post is participating in Sundays in My city.