Bread Diaries Day 2: No knead artisan bread

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Okay everyone we’re here to answer the real question: Can you be lazy and still make good bread?

Or another variation of that question: Can you be incredibly busy with very little time to invest in making bread and still make good bread?

The answer is yes.

Does it taste better than bread (i.e. sourdough) that requires kneading and proper proofing?

No (sorry).

But it is better than the bread you buy at the supermarket so that is definitely a win.

The process

I use a combination of these two recipes:

  • I do a hybrid because I like King Arthur’s recipe and process better, but I wanted to bake in a Dutch oven. Why a Dutch oven? The secret to super crusty bread lies in a steamy bake, and Dutch oven’s are great at trapping steam. 
  • I am also thankful because this recipe calls for all-purpose flour. It’s the only flour I have on hand, and there’s a flour shortage out there right now due to COVID.
  • I halved the King Arthur recipe and made 2 slightly smaller loaves, which were the perfect size for 3 people
  • I let my second loaf sit in the fridge for 2 days, which markedly improved the flavor and texture.
  • I replace the kosher salt with table salt. Here I make a mistake – you cannot sub kosher salt with table salt in a 1:1 ratio. You need less table salt. 

The results?

Considering all I did was mix flour, water, and yeast in my stand mixer and then let it sit, I would say the loaves turned out pretty great.

What went well – They were nice and crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The loaf that had an extra 2 days in the fridge came out with a deeper, more complex flavor and springier crumb. All in all a very enjoyable loaf of white bread, and I have a suspicion this recipe would make a great pizza crust.

What could be improved – Well, the flavor was off for two reasons: 1) I put in a bit more salt than I really should have and 2) my flour had taken on the odor of the medicine cabinet, so the loaves had a weird, vitamin after-taste. They got a little softer on the second day after baking, so this loaf is definitely best enjoyed hot from the oven with lots of melty butter

.Overall this recipe is so low maintenance, and so difficult to screw up, I would definitely make it again if I just needed to wow dinner guests with homemade bread. It requires a little forethought, especially if you want it to rest in your fridge for 2 nights*, but the payoff is satisfactory. 

*And did you know that the improved flavor comes not just from the dough fermenting a bit, but also from the gluten having a greater chance to develop? Usually kneading develops the gluten so you’re swapping out the kneading for a larger time investment. So if we want to be metaphorical… in life, there are no shortcuts, that which requires less effort now will require a different investment in the future.

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