I first discovered no knead breads when I was pregnant. I craved fresh baked bread, and yet kneading was uncomfortable for me. Sometimes I used the bread machine, but on a whim I checked out a book from the library on no knead breads – Healthy Bread In 5 Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. The taste of the master recipe from that book didn’t wow me, but the technique intrigued me, so I used interlibrary loan to borrow the first book, Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. Then I was hooked.
I now own Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day, but haven’t been using it for months, because kneading is no longer uncomfortable, and there are some drawbacks to the method. You have to mix up the bread dough the day before you want the first loaf. Each recipe is for two to four loaves, though, and once dough is in the fridge, it’s about as instant-gratification as homemade bread gets (shape, rise and bake). The room temperature rise/rest periods can be lengthy. I also had a hard time getting a good texture – my loaves were often dense, though the flavor was good.
On the plus side, the hands-on time is very short (and hands-on time is what the 5 minutes in the title refers to). Since this month is Nanowrimo and I’m devoting large chunks of time to writing toward a goal of 50,000 words, I decided to give no knead bread another try, and to try some of the different recipes in the book. Although I like the master recipe (and it makes a good pizza crust), I always intended to try more of the recipes than I got around to.
The master recipe from Artisan Bread in 5 is available for free here on the King Arthur Flour website. They recommend using a pizza stone, but if you don’t have a pizza stone, a cookie sheet will do. They also recommend using steam in the oven, which is also optional. Both things can improve the final product but not so dramatically that you need them just to experiment with the recipe.
There are also several books by other authors featuring no knead techniques, and other recipes available online. Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois have a website with recipe variations from the books and tips, videos, etc. as well.
This time I was in a bit of a hurry after the dough was shaped. I let it rise in the pan at room temperature for about 45 minutes, then I decided to speed things up by putting it in a warm oven for 15 minutes, then removing it while the oven preheated.
I have noticed before that in their recipes for loaf pan breads, they say that the recipe will make three 1 1/2 lb loaves, in 9″ x 5″ x 3″ pans. I find they make two loaves in 8 1/2 ” x 4 1/2″ x 2 1/2″ pans. If I tried to make three loaves, they would be very flat loaves.
The loaf is still a little flat. I’m not sure if that is because I didn’t follow instructions well in regards to rest/rise time, or if it is just that there is still not quite enough dough to fill the pan.
The bread is a little dense, but not overly so, and the flavor is good. The recipe called for maple syrup – I confess I don’t keep any on hand, so I used regular pancake syrup.
To me, there was the slightest hint of maple flavor, but the Dearest Husband didn’t know what went into the bread, and he didn’t pick up on it. I’m glad there wasn’t much maple flavor or sweetness. I don’t like breads to be noticeably sweet unless they are for something like cinnamon rolls.
I also like that this recipe has some wheat flour, oatmeal, oat bran, and wheat bran in addition to white flour. Makes me feel more virtuous as I slather a slice with butter. Or Nutella. Mmmmm.
I’m glad I’ve got another loaf’s worth in the fridge ready to go when this loaf is gone.