Week 62: Low-Knead Bread

I don’t know what I enjoy more: eating bread or baking bread. But sometimes, when I set out to make it because I really want to eat it, I run into a problem with timing. Oftentimes, there’s a long stretch of time between starting the process to consuming the bread. Most artisan loaves aren’t ready on the same day as you prepare the dough because they require an overnight rise, and if you don’t get around to starting until late in the day, there’s not enough time for all of the steps.

Last week I tested a work-around that produces a delicious, satisfying, impressive loaf in 5 hours from start to finish. It’s as beautiful as a sourdough, but a lot less complicated, and not as time-consuming. It’s easy like the no-knead method, but incorporates a bit of “stretch & fold” kneading (see #2 Kneading During Proofing video here) to speed up the process of strengthening the gluten, thereby avoiding the overnight soak, i.e. autolyse*.

Back in 2006, the New York Times published Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread, which revolutionized bread baking. Two years later, Cook’s Illustrated introduced us to J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s version, Almost No-Knead Bread. And just last month, in May of 2021, he gave us No-Knead Bread, Revisited, which is what I’ve based mine on. I didn’t use vinegar, added some honey, substituted whole wheat and rye for some of the white flour, cut the time down by 30 minutes and used a Dutch oven to bake.

Rest times are 1 hour + 1.5 hours + 1 hour, so perfect if you work from home, and doable if you work away from home because you can make it in the evening, pop it in the fridge after the final rise, then bake the next day.

STEP 1: Make dough

  • 300g bread or all-purpose flour (or substitute 50g with whole wheat or rye, or 25g of both)
  • 7g salt
  • 3g yeast
  1. Measure dry ingredients in a bowl and mix (I use a whisk) to combine.
  • 225g warm water
  • 11g honey
  1. Add honey to water and stir to combine
  2. Mix honey water into dry ingredients, using the handle of a wooden spoon, or your hand. Make sure there are no dry bits.
  3. Cover and rest 1 hour

STEP 2: Knead & Proof

  1. Keeping dough in the bowl, do a round of stretch and folds, then cover and let rest 30 minutes. See kneading during proofing, and shaping videos here. (#1 stretch + fold | 30 minutes rest total so far)
  2. Repeat this two more times. Each time you can pull the dough out a little longer, but not too much so that it tears. Only do four stretch and folds each round. (1.5 minute rest so far)
  3. Do one more stretch + fold, then leave to rest for 1 hour.

STEP 3: Final rise

  1. Carefully remove dough to a lightly floured surface, without deflating it.
  2. Pull sides to shape into a tight ball, then turn over, and with cupped hands, tighten surface some more.
  3. Place in lined and floured proofing basket seam side up and cover
  4. Proof 1 hour or until finger test, and preheat oven to 500. It’s better to be under proofed than over proofed, so check often:
    1. Dough is under proofed when you poke a finger in it and is springs back quickly
    2. Dough is proofed when you poke a finger in it and it springs back slowly
    3. Dough is over proofed if you poke a finger in it and it doesn’t spring back.
  5. Cover with parchment, then a cutting board and turn over
  6. Slowly remove basket and score. Score round loaves symetircally and mostly on the top, so they rise up, not out
  7. Bake, covered, at 475 for 25 minutes
  8. Remove cover and bake for 10 minutes.
    1. Put a cookie sheet on the lowest rack to redirect the heat so the bottom doesn’t burn
  9. Let cool completely before slicing

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