No-Knead Bread Success!

I’ve been baking bread at home for a while now with mixed results. This weekend, I finally made some very good bread:

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I used the no-knead technique made famous by Mark Bittman and Jim Lahaney (video here), but I incorporated some tips from America’s Test Kitchen.

Here’s the recipe:

    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)
    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.

I didn’t excerpt any more of the recipe above, because they dumb it down too much and include several unnecessary steps.

I used King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour, so I had to add more beer and water until the dough was the right consistency. I let mine set for about 20 hours. After that, I kneaded it about 20-25 times to firm up the dough ball and add some more flour. For the record, I used Michelob Ultra Amber to flavor the bread. If I’d had some Amberbock, I’d have gone with that instead.

Let it rise again for a couple of hours. Make sure you oil the bowl well, or else the dough ball will stick and you’ll have to shape it all over again. Here’s my dough ball:

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For the last half hour or so, preheat the oven to 450° with an enamel-coated, cast iron dutch oven inside (the recipe calls for a 6 or 8 quart dutch oven, but I used a 4 quart and it came out fine). The dutch oven traps in the moisture so the dough steams as it cooks. That is the genius behind this recipe. If you’re planning on putting your pot in the oven often, then you should replace the plastic handle with a metal knob.

After two hours, the dough is ready to go into the well-heated dutch oven. Sprinkle some four on top of the dough and spray some non-stick spray all over the inside of pot:

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Next, cut a half-inch deep slit across the top to allow the steam to escape and drop the dough ball in the middle of the pot. Then place the pot (with lid) back in the oven. Lower the heat to 425° and set the timer for 30 minutes.

After half an hour, take the lid off the dutch oven and set the timer for another 30 minutes. The bread is ready when the internal temperature reaches 210°.

I should point out that I messed up when I reset the timer for the last 30 minutes of baking and accidentally reset it to the default 350°. I ended up having to bake it covered and uncovered for another 30 minutes at 450°, meaning to took me almost 90 minutes to finish my bread. My dough didn’t crust up at all for the first hour. I should also mention that my instant-read thermometer never reached 210°. I could only get it to 200&#176. Maybe my thermometer isn’t properly calibrated?

This recipe is apparently very forgiving, since I screwed up and it still come out great. Look at the light and airy interior:

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I made this 1 1/2 lb loaf on Friday afternoon and it’s already almost gone. I made some fresh bruschetta topping (oven-roasted tomatoes, peppers, shallots & garlic, blended with parmesan) to spread on the sliced bread. Every time I turn around, my wife is cutting off another piece. At this rate, it’ll be gone by tonight. I’ll definitely make this again, and soon. Next time I think I’ll substitute Dundee’s Honey Brown for the lager and use apple cider vinegar instead of white.

No-Knead Bread Success!
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