Cook's Illustrated No-Knead Bread

I guess I'm a little late jumping on the No-Knead Bread band wagon, but better late then never I say. I've always been a bit intimated working with dough, but after making this loaf, I can't wait to make my next one - bring it on!!

I'm pretty selective when it comes to bread - often times I'll remember restaurants based on the bread they serve. I was hoping the recipe would produce an airy-like ciabatta, but the end result was a lot more dense. However, the texture and flavor were spot on so I didn't mind it's denseness. Don't know if that's a word, but I'm new to this country :) The crust had a nice crunch to it and the flavor was similar to a sourdough - it really did taste like something you'd get from the market. While the bread was baking, it perfumed the house with smells you would only get from a bakery. I equate the smell to the sensation you feel when walking into a Subway sandwich shop - I guess that's a bit ghetto - so just imagine the smell of fresh bread exuding from a cute french bakery. If you've never attempted to make your own bread from scratch, I highly recommend it. It's not as intimidating as you'd imagine and if I can do it, yoooou can dooooo it!

Cooks Illustrated Almost No-Knead Bread
Adapted from the recipe originally published in the January 2008 issue of Cooks Illustrated

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (15 ounces)**, plus additional for dusting work surface
1/4 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water (7 ounces), at room temperature
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons mild-flavored lager (3 ounces) (I used Heineken)
1 tablespoon white vinegar

Whisk flour, yeast, and salt in large bowl. Add water, beer, and vinegar. Using rubber spatula, fold mixture, scraping up dry flour from bottom of bowl until shaggy ball forms. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 8 to 18 hours.

Lay 12- by 18-inch sheet of parchment paper inside 10-inch skillet and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface and knead 10 to 15 times. (I thought kneading it would make it more dense so after removing it from the skillet, I proceeded with the next step) Shape dough into ball by pulling edges into middle. Transfer dough, seam-side down, to parchment-lined skillet and spray surface of dough with nonstick cooking spray. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until dough has doubled in size and does not readily spring back when poked with finger, about 2 hours. (Mine took one hour)

About 30 minutes before baking, adjust oven rack to lower third part of oven, place 6- to 8-quart heavy-bottomed Dutch oven (with lid) on rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees. Lightly flour top of dough and, using razor blade or sharp knife, make one 6-inch-long, 1/2-inch-deep slit along top of dough. Carefully remove pot from oven and remove lid. Pick up dough by lifting parchment overhang and lower into pot (let any excess parchment hang over pot edge). Cover pot and place in oven. Reduce oven temperature to 425 degrees and bake covered for 30 minutes. Remove lid and continue to bake until loaf is deep brown and instant-read thermometer inserted into center registers 210 degrees, 20 to 30 minutes longer. (I removed mine at 207 because the top was browning too much) Carefully remove bread from pot; transfer to wire rack and cool to room temperature, 2 hours.

**I actually weighed my flour on a scale

*I changed the recipe a bit. I put my dough in the fridge after eight hours. By then it had risen pretty well and there was little holes across the top. I then left it in the fridge for another 36 hours and cooked it the following day. I read this develops the flavors of the bread more and mine was very tasty. For the second rise, I gently removed the bread from the bowl and shaped it into a ball. I read if you punch down the dough or knead it too much it will produce a dense bread. I guess it really didn't matter since my bread came out dense anyway. I then only let the bread rise for an additional hour instead of the two stated in the recipe b/c after I gave my dough the finger :) the impressions stayed for a few seconds so I knew it was ready. Happy baking!


Me! said...

What kneading and punching the dough does is it breaks the large air pockets into lots of small ones. It also helps distribute the yeast more, especially with a no knead dough. Then when you bake it, you end up getting more, smaller, more evenly distributed air pockets. It should actually make the dough less dense. Hope that helps!

NuM NuM said...

Thanks ME! Good to know. I'll try it next time.