Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Discovering No-Knead Artisan Bread

Karen, over at That Mom posted a while ago about the book, "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day," saying she was about to change our lives. I checked the book out from the library. She was right about changing my life, but the authors were a tad sneaky with the five minute part. That's about how long it takes to mix up the dough. There's a little more involved, but not much and unlike what they say, a pizza peel is unnecessary. I still use my old banged up pans rubbed with lard and coated in cornmeal. And it's okay to turn the dough over after removing it from the container it rose in, form into a log, give it a quick knead or two and evenly cut it up.I tried Five Minute's way of pulling out a grapefruit size ball with well floured hands - the artisan part. Frankly, it started looking like the mess GG and the boys get into when they don't remember to keep the moist cut part of the dough, away from their hands. Like I've Said Before, always keep that sticky part turned into the dough center. Five Minutes uses flour to control this, so if you choose to go that route, do the same. I use lots of flour too, but also a very sharp knife and weigh scales.When I'm ready to remove the dough from it's container, I coat the dough top with flour and using a spatula, ease it away from the walls of the container. It will begin to deflate by about half. Flip the container upside down onto the work surface and the whole thing slides out. Flip the sticky part into itself, forming a log. Next, I cut it into three even balls, keeping out what I want to use right away and place the remainder back into the container to use later. When it comes time to use the remaining dough, it handles easier and needs less flour to manage it. I also coat the container lid with lard to keep the rising dough from sticking.Years ago, I looked at doing no-knead bread but thought, "no way." I now have an 8 litre container of dough quietly waiting in the back of my fridge to be turned into pizza, or buns or loaves at a moment's notice. Forty minutes to rise and 15 - 20 to bake at 400 F, pizza is quicker. There is no need to wait around for pizza dough to rise a second time. The dough being thinner will rise sufficiently in the time it takes to prepare and apply toppings.When making Five Minute's basic white, rye and pizza doughs I realized when looking at the proportions, I've been making the same thing for years but kneading it instead. The day I went to try their pizza dough, GG had sniped the book, so I just used their basic recipe adding the same amount of oil I always do with my recipe.It seems the higher moisture to flour ratio is what produces the gluten, in place of kneading. A bread with a higher moisture content will bake just fine. I know this, but never took that observation further. So for the last thirty plus years, I've stood kneading and kneading on rainy days and feeling guilty all for naught when finally slamming that uncooperative "artisan" lump back into the bowl, knowing full well it supposedly, "wasn't ready." The only real difference with the breads coming out of Decadent's kitchen of late, have been the chewier crustier crusts without any effort at all. If a harder crust is desired, brush the bread with cold water just before placing in the oven and then squirt water into the oven to create steam at five minute baking intervals. But it really isn't necessary. If you like bread rough looking - just reach into the bucket with well floured hands and pull out some dough without weighing. I need breadmaking to be a little more precise than that. I can still make it look artistic, but it's nice to know that the remaining little ball of dough in the fridge will produce exactly enough pizza or buns needed for the next round of lunches.
I took a look at all my recipes and saw that they could easily adapt to a no-knead method. So now you know why it's been a little quiet here of late - busy in the kitchen. The basic Five Minutes recipe was just shy of what I needed in raw dough weight to produce the end-products I need. Therefore, I increased the flour and liquid requirement in their basic recipe by a quarter. This made three balls each weighing 1 and 3/4 lbs. I reduced the salt as we thought theirs was too salty. I also use less yeast than they do, but more sugar. One tablespoon of yeast is plenty per batch and conveniently is the same amount in a packet of yeast. For some of the doughs, I've interchanged oil or beaten eggs, both counting as part of the total liquid. We tried pizza using dough which had neither oil nor eggs and it worked just fine. However, we prefer it to include one or the either. But that same oil-free, egg-less dough turned into rolls, was just like the wonderful little Portuguese rolls we get in Town - actually better.Free-form loaves have always been a hit here, and Violinist, who likes working in the kitchen, asked specifically for these directions. Thus far, I've used my same old bake times and temperatures except for the rye which needed Five Minute's higher bake times and temperature. Their pizza and buns bake times were too high and we ended up with a few burned bottoms. Of course, after taking a look at my disgusting oven I realize that may have something to do with it.
Keeping extra dough in the fridge is something I've always done. But now, it's fast and easy to mix up, skipping the kneading seems to produce a better crust and I no longer debate baking bread on a rainy day. Thank you, That Mom, for putting me onto this.


Caution Flag said...

Goodness, Decadent, you're way beyond my abilities. Don't you have a Little Caesar's nearby?!

You've probably talked about this before, but why do you prefer using lard in your baking?

Jeanne said...

I love all you share..........
Love you

Decadent Housewife said...

Lard doesn't smoke and burn the way a vegetable shortening will. It also leaves a thin crispiness to the bottom. Most if not all solid veg. shortenings on the market are hydrogenated. Hydrogenation is not a real good thing health wise. I don't use much lard to make it a health issue either.

Yes, Little Caesar's is here. The other day we went to a different pizza place and vowed never to return. Said that before - now we mean it.

Mental P Mama said...

Wow! I can almost smell that deliciousness all the way down here!

Leila said...

I'm loving the looks of that pizza...I could just take a bite!

I tried the no-knead and what I got out of it is -- use less flour! And let the dough ferment.

Now I do "low-knead" because I do think that some kneading helps the texture, but it's definitely better if you keep it "low".

It's amazing how much I can keep learning after 30 years of baking bread, isn't it?

Decadent Housewife said...

I know, hard to believe isn't it? I agree with the low knead too. This winter is going to be bread, bread, bread. I'll be 200 lbs. by January, for sure.

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