No-Knead Country Bread

The latest King Arthur Flour catalog came in the mail this week, and it includes this recipe for No-Knead Country Bread. We’re out of bread, and this looked good, so I thought I’d give it a try.

I haven’t jumped on the no-knead bandwagon yet. For one thing, I’m happy to knead bread dough. For another, I have machines that can do the work for me and I’m willing to use them if the dough is hard to handle or I’m short on time. I did get Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day from the library awhile ago, but I wasn’t inspired to make any of the recipes. It almost seemed like more trouble than making the kind you have to knead. It reminded me of maintaining a sourdough starter: You always have to remember it’s there, and you always have to be doing something to take care of it. Yeah, once it’s set up it’s only a few minutes a day, but it’s a pretty constant thing. I can mix, knead, and bake a loaf of bread with a total elapsed time of about 3 hours and hands-on time of about 20 minutes, and then I don’t have to think about it again until we’re out of bread.

However, two things about this KAF recipe caught my attention. One was the ingredients: It’s not just boring white bread, it’s about 35% whole wheat, and there’s flax meal in it. The other was the baking method: You put the loaf in a cold oven, set the oven for 450℉, and let the bread bake that way.

You can get the dough together at night and then bake it in the morning, but it was more convenient for me to start it in the morning and bake it in the evening. You mix the ingredients by hand or in a stand mixer. This isn’t kneading, but the instructions do say to mix for several minutes, so there is some labor involved. I dumped everything into my stand mixer, which is a 4.5-quart KitchenAid. If you’re not familiar with stand mixers, this is the little one; the standard size is 5 quarts, and in my dreams, one day I’ll have a 7-quart Viking. But I digress. Here’s the dough:

Dough mixed and ready to rise

Dough mixed and ready to rise

You let it sit on the counter for 8 hours; I just left it in the bowl of the stand mixer. After about 4 hours it had risen quite a bit, but over the next 4 hours it didn’t rise any more, and it might’ve collapsed a little.

Rising dough

Rising dough

I suppose it was developing flavor. Anyway, I fought the impulse to fold it, and I just followed the directions. Once the time is up, you turn it out onto a floured surface

Dough on the floured counter

Dough on the floured counter

and then form it into a ball:

The ball of dough

The ball of dough

That’s some sticky dough. I floured it so I could handle it, but it was still a mess. Then you pop that into a baking vessel with a lid. I used a dutch oven, which is sort of the right size measuring across the bottom, but the volume is much larger than they’re looking for.

The ball of dough in the dutch oven

The ball of dough in the dutch oven

I’ll try this again in an enameled cast-iron saucepan and see what happens. You put the lid on the vessel, whatever you’re using, and the dough rises for another hour, then it goes in the cold oven. You set the oven for 450℉, and after about 45 minutes you take the lid off and give it another 10 minutes or so. The bread was done by then and it looked okay, but it didn’t rise very high. That might be because I needed a vessel with a smaller diameter.

No-knead bread

No-knead bread

The crumb looks okay, though:

The crumb view

The crumb view

It tastes pretty good. I have to say, though, that this was at least as much work as regular bread, so I still don’t get the point of not kneading the dough.

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