Thursday, 22 October 2009

Baking Fridays - Thursday Edition

First in an occasional series. Probably very occasional!

Today I tried out this recipe for baking no-knead bread. I have to say, I was very skeptical, partly because it's an American recipe, and the last time I went to the States, the shops there seemed to have no clue even what grain to make bread out of. Rice bread? Potato bread? Maize bread? What?

I was also skeptical because it seemed altogether too easy. Make a bunch of dough, put it in the fridge, cut bits off when you need to? Seems a lot easier than mixing, kneading, proving, kneading, proving again...

Also, since my breadmaker died I've been struggling to get my breads to rise properly, despite giving the allotted time to repeated kneading and proving.

So, I gave it a go.

Always unorthodox, I couldn't be bothered with just doing the plain master recipe, so I used wholemeal flour and added about 1/6th cup of maple syrup. I was wary, actually, that the recipe given in the link above doesn't include any sugar, so wanted to make sure that there was some in there even if there wasn't supposed to be. Finally, I did half the regular recipe, since this was a trial.

Finding 1 - I needed to add more water than the recipe gives in order to get a wet, 'shaggy' dough. About 1/4 extra cup.

You're supposed to give it at least 2 hours to prove at room temperature - I gave it exactly 2 hours in the airing cupboard, since winter is drawing in. The dough about trebled in size over this time, I'd say.

Finding 2 - it's difficult to get out of the bowl when so slimy. I covered one palm in flour and deposited the dough into that hand then covered the other before proceeding. I tried to take a grapefruit-sized portion but it was really too squishy to hold such a size. I made two smaller 'balls' that sagged quite flat in my hand.

It was hard to shape the dough as the instructions said - I couldn't really get any purchase on the dough to pull the top down, but once I got it right, I knew I'd got it.

I forgot to cut the tops, and only left it 20 minutes on the side (my partner was getting hungry!).

Finding 3 - 15 minutes in the oven at 230C was plenty - any more and there would have been serious burning. I generally find this true for all recipes in my oven, that I need to knock 20-30% off cooking times to get a non-black result. Yours may vary.

Finding 4 - it really works. The bread had a good open texture to it and a good crust, although it did not rise very much at all from the pre-oven size; maybe 50%. I ended up with two roundels about 6 inches across and 2 inches high at the tallest.

Tune in next week when I'll tell you how the dough in the fridge worked out. Maybe.

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