Thursday, April 7, 2011

Let's Knead the Dough

What! After all this talk about no-knead bread, you're now suggesting we start kneading dough again? Well maybe. Check out this video that I find quite seductive. Of course, the setting really helps with a spectacular view of the ocean. Watch the way the accomplished baker handles the dough to strengthen the gluten fibers. His wood-fired oven is truly a humble one, probably not insulated and without a "real" door, and yet, in spite of it's limitations, it bakes bread. We can avoid so many complications if we could just keep it simple.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

No-Knead Bread Again and Again

As I've said before, Jim Lahey's formula for no-knead bread has changed the bread baking landscape for the home baker.
For me, and for a lot of other bakers, the most difficult procedure is getting the dough into the hot Dutch oven without suffering a third degree burn.
I've been experimenting with a different method of getting the dough into the Dutch oven, and it's been working fine.
To make a 1 kilo (a magic weight for me) loaf:

5 cups unbleached white flour
2 teaspoons salt
3/8 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 1/2 cups water

I'm assuming everyone knows the basic method of preparing the dough (I've gone over it previously on this blog) so I won't repeat it again.

 Risen dough

On day #2 loosen the dough from around the edge of the bowl, and as you do this, add flour around the gap you're temporarily creating. This makes it easier to release the dough into the oven.
 Creating gap for extra flour

Preheat the oven with the Dutch oven inside at 500ºF. for 30 minutes.
Remove Dutch oven and add cornmeal to bottom.
Using your dough scraper to assist, dump dough into Dutch oven to bake.
 Turning dough into Dutch oven

Dough in Dutch oven

(The dough never touches the counter, nor does it go onto a cloth or into a basket)

Bake 30 minutes with cover on at 500ºF.
Bake 15 minutes with cover on at 450ºF.
Bake 15 minutes with cover off at 450ºF.

 Baked loaf

If your loaves are burning on the bottom or become rock hard on the bottom, then you need some insulation. Add extra cornmeal or, as I do, put an insulated baking sheet on a low rack to deflect heat.