Lispian Random meanderings on whatever catches my fancy

Experimenting with Lahey’s No Knead Recipe


I love baking. It’s wonderful to be able to bake something and then have others enjoy it.

But sometimes it’s just a pain to do the usual breads I learned at Le Cordon Bleu and so I sometimes use Jim Lahey’s No Knead recipe to create a loaf with little fuss. Just mix the ingredients together and let it sit on the counter 12 – 20 hours.

But something is missing from the loaves, something deeper that I think comes from a ferment. So, I’ve been experimenting with adding in a ferment with the no knead recipe and the results have been wonderful. I’m still figuring out exactly which proportions to use, but it seems you can’t really go too wrong.

At the moment the proportions are fairly simple: 300g starter, 650g white flour, 350g water, 17g salt, 5g fresh yeast. I dissolve the starter and additional yeast as best I can in the water, then add the flour and the salt and mix it until it’s fairly well incorporated — as per Lahey’s instructions. I then let it sit 12 – 18 hours on the counter. The next day I fold it upon itself once and let rest about an hour and then put it onto a well floured counter and form a boule the best I can, place that onto parchment paper and dust well with flour and cover with plastic wrap for 1 – 2 hours so it’s risen well. In the meantime I set the oven for 450F and place a large Dutch Oven within. Once the dough has risen I drop the dough, parchment and all (but not the plastic wrap) into the Dutch Oven, cover that, and place it back into the oven for 30 minutes covered, then an additional 15-20 uncovered.

I have found that you don’t need to slash the dough as it cracks well but if you do slash it it comes out looking quite professional (see picture above).

I’m going to continue experimenting. ┬áNext up is using long Dutch Ovens to create pseudo-baguettes. More on that when I have some results — and the ovens!

Note that the picture above is a no-knead dough that I hand formed into a boule and then baked traditionally (instead of in a Dutch Oven). It held together much better than I would have expected and eliminates the need for the Dutch Oven. The dough is still very wet but the gluten is strong enough to hold its shape, as seen below prior to baking. It does require quite a bit of tucking but once done comes out wonderfully. And you don’t have to deal with that ridiculously hot pot :).

Here’s the difference between typical no knead and what I did here.

  • I let it slow ferment overnight in the fridge, then let it sit at room temperature about 4 hours.
  • I then I turned the dough on itself in the bowl about a dozen times until it held its shape fairly well. Then let it rise for another 2 hours.
  • I then formed it into a boule using a typical boule making technique until it held its shape reasonably well with the result as you see it on the cookie sheet in the photo below.
  • I let it rise while the oven pre-heated to 450F at which point I slashed the boule and put it in the oven.

It think it came out beautifully.

Of interest, the crust was soft and the interior very moist, which was very surprising. It held its shape quite well. And, the dough is actually dark in colour which was utterly surprising considering it was mostly white flour. Must have had something to do with the long ferment.

I think baking it longer might well form the crust better, but that awaits a further experiment as its got me curious.

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July 2012
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