Wednesday, June 29, 2011

2 Different Methods of Making Bread

In short: Kneading vs. No-Knead.
Growing up, we always kneaded our dough, believing that it was necessary to develop the gluten and produce fluffy results. While this is true, kneading is not the only way to create the 'elastic-y' stretch in the dough before it moves onto its second rise.
TIME works in just the same way. If you create a wetter dough -- mixing to combine instead of kneading -- then let it sit for 18 hours, results will be just as good, if not better.
My new favourite recipe is Jim Lahey's no-knead bread. 
While it takes quite a bit of time to prepare, the actual hands-on time is very little (around 15 minutes).
It's taste, texture and crust are the closest I've come to good-quality restaurant bread.

Once in a while I'll make kneaded bread for sandwiches (I find it has a smaller hole-size and a softer crust), but for bruschetta, dipping in oil, eating on its own, etc, I'll make the no-knead version.
The first two pictures are of the kneaded loaf, and the third photo features the no-knead results. 

Jim Lahey's No-Knead Bread

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.
1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.
Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.

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