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

Week 59: French Sourdough

FRANCE: Pain de Campagne is a multi-grain French sourdough, made with white, whole wheat and rye flours. Back in the day, French villagers would bake very large loaves in communal ovens, which could feed the family for weeks. Some say scoring was a way to identify your loaf.

This recipe follows Maura Brickman’s method for Pain de Campagne introduced on King Arthur’s website (see video link below) whereby you can use your starter straight from the fridge. You don’t have to feed it the night before, and you don’t have to create a levain with an active starter. This removes two steps from a very long process.

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Week 58: Same Day Sourdough

Baking a sourdough loaf is a two-day affair, because there are so many stages in the prepping and proofing. I set out to find if it was possible to a.) make a loaf in one day, and b.) be 100% satisfied with the result. And, I’m here to tell you that there is! This is a method for baking a sourdough loaf with no overnight rise, and if you get started early enough, (8:00 AM) you’ll have a warm loaf to bring to the dinner table.

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Week 57: Sour Sourdough

Sourdough not sour enough? Try this shorter, less complicated method of making sourdough, that gets a sour boost from citric acid, which is what’s produced as your starter matures. It’s got a nice rise, sturdy crisp crust, and a chewy interior. It doesn’t have the extreme open crumb, but honestly, I find that annoying if I’m trying to make a sandwich, so that suits me just fine. I used all bread flour, but you can substitute some rye and/or whole wheat (see ratios below for a Pain de Campagne) without any adverse effects. My starter is made with rye flour, so there is already some whole grain mixed in.

So far, my soudough loaves have not been very sour. My starter is young, and I think that might have something to do with it. To make this have that familiar sourdough tang, I added 1/4 tsp citric acid. This resulted in a slightly tangy loaf; if you’re looking for more, bump it up to 1/2 tsp instead.

STEP 1: Activate starter (4~6 hours)

Feed your starter so you can use it when it is active/mature. Mine usually takes between 4~6 hours, depending on the temperature. Keep it close by, so you can monitor the rise, and use it when it’s mature, and not starting to fall. My starter is a 1:1:1 ratio, i.e. 100g flour + 100g starter + 100g water.

STEP 2: Prepare dough

  • 450g Bread Flour (all purpose is okay, too)*
  • 300g Water
  • 10g Salt
  • 1/4 tsp citric acid
  • 100g active starter

* To make a Pain de Campagne, use this mixture of flours:

  • 315g white
  • 90g whole wheat
  • 45g ryre
  1. Mix everything together, so the flour is thoughly incorporated into the water and levain. I do this by hand (just one, keeping the other one clean to turn the bowl) because it’s the best way to tell that there’s no lumps of wet levain or dried dough. Alternatively, you could use the stand mixer with the paddle attachment.

STEP 3: Autolyse (1 hour)

  1. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a dough scraper to get everything included.
  2. Cover and let rest for one hour, to properly hydrate the dough

STEP 4: Bulk Fermentation/Kneading (3 hours)

The dough should rest for 5~6 hours, with in-the-bowl stretch and fold kneading method occuring every 30 minutes. It helps to write down each time you complete a stretch and fold/30 minute rest period, so you don’t lose track.

  1. First stretch and fold: Wet fingers. Reach under a side of dough, lift it away from the bowl and pull it up and out to stretch, then fold it back over the top towards the opposite side. Pick up the opposite side and do the same, then repeat with the other 2 sides. Since this is the first knead, and the dough it prett tight, repeat it two times.
  2. Cover and let rest 30 minutes. (30 minute rest time total so far)
  3. Second stretch and fold: Do one rotation of the four stretch and folds (instead of the three that you did the first time around).
    • Don’t pull too hard, so as not to tear the dough.
    • Be gentle, and don’t press the dough down too much, because you don’t want to release the gasses forming.
  4. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes (60 minutes rest time so far)
  5. Third, Fourth, FIfth and Sixth stretch and fold: Repeat these stretch and folds, and 30 minute rests four more times (this will be 3 hours total rest time so far)

STEP 5: Finish bulk fermentation (2 ~ 3 hours)

  1. Cover, and rest dough for 2 hours, so that your total bulk fermantation is 5 hours. If the temperature is on the cool side, you might want to let it rest another hour. It should be just very slightly puffier, and have very slight movement if you shake the bowl. Very slight.

STEP 6: Shape dough and proof overnight

  1. Gently turn your bowl out onto a lightly floured surface.
  2. Follow the video instructions below on how to shape your dough into a batard shape, and place it in the proofing basket seam side up

Here is a video in slow motion

Step 7: Bake

  1. Next day, preheat oven and pot with a lid to 475
  2. When it’s ready, remove bread from fridge and score. This is a great scoring tutorial from Breadtopia, with four videos for visual instruction.
  3. Follow baking (and cooling) instructions below,
10:00Bake @ 45020 minutes
10:20Remove lid10 minutes
10:30Bake @ 42510-15 min
10:45Cool in oven with door open20 min

Week 56: Sourdough

If you do a Google search for sourdough recipes, you’ll get 25,600,000 results. There is a ton of information — and misinformation — to sift through. I tested five different methods and this version, from Full Proof Baking’s Kristen Dennis was the clear winner. Although it is time consuming, and a little tricky, the instructions are very detailed and the steps are demonstrated on the video, linked below. This is an all day affair — a perfect loaf for #bakingwhileworking.

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WEEK 13: Irish Soda Bread

IRELAND: Soda bread is a daily bread that was made by every Irish household with ingredients affordable to all. Dump everything in a bowl, mix it with your hand, and it’s ready to pop in the oven in under 5 minutes. I used 50/50 whole wheat and white flour; but it can be all white if you prefer. The method is so easy, you don’t really need a video, but Darina Allen’s instructions and history (she’s the Julia Child of Ireland) are worth viewing at least once!

Traditional Irish Soda Bread | Darina Allen, Ballymaloe Cookery School

Apparently, Irish measurements teaspoons are different from the U.S., so I’ve listed the proportions below.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees before your begin, so you can get it in as soon as the batter is mixed. And it bakes for about 30 ~ 35 minutes.

  • 2 cups whole wheat
  • 2 cups white
  • 1 teaspoon baking SODA
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • about 1-3/4 cup buttermilk (400ml) – I use Kefir – it’s thicker than US buttermilk

Week 9: Focaccia

ITALY: A thick, airy, flat bread with a lot of potential. It’s delicious with the traditional topping of olive oil, salt and rosemary. Or, you can join the Focaccia Bread Art movement and make it a meal. I tested a few quicker versions, with just one rise time, but this version, with a super wet dough and the addition of a salamoia (brine) is the most authentic. Plus, the four rises/folds ever 30 minutes are a great excuse to get up from your desk and move, if you’re working from home!

The Easiest Focaccia | Ethan Chlebowski

Rise time: 20 + 30 + 30 + 30 + 30 + 60
Equipment: None!

9 gramsyeast
335 gramswater (110 degrees)
450 gramsflour (all purpose or bread)
9 gramssalt
9 gramsolive oil
20 gramsolive oil
20 gramswater