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more no-knead bread variations

more no-knead bread variations

Artisan Bread in a Hurry

With the frantic holiday season behind us, now is the perfect time to putter around the kitchen and try recipes we've been meaning to get around to. One recipe I've wanted to try is Simple Crusty Bread, a recipe The New York Times published in November. The recipe was adapted from a new book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. The book simplifies artisan bread techniques by creating a no-knead bread dough that can you mix up in advance and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Then whenever you're in the mood for fresh bread, you tear off a piece of the dough, shape it, let it rest, and bake. What could be easier? Click here to watch the authors of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day demonstrate their recipe for Simple Crusty Bread in this instructional video for the Minneapolis/St. Paul Star Tribune.

The Dutch Oven Bread Baking Phenomenon

I was excited to try the new Simple Crusty Bread recipe after having had excellent results with another simple bread recipe, the now-famous No-Knead bread by Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery. When The New York Times first published his recipe last year, it took off like wildfire, appearing in articles and hundreds of blogs around the world. It was a revolutionary recipe. Here was a foolproof and practically effortless recipe for thick-crusted, crunchy, country-style bread that anyone could produce in a home kitchen. The original No-Knead bread dough contains just a tiny amount of yeast and is allowed to rest for 12-20 hours, which gives the bread a slightly tangy, sour dough flavor. It's baked (for part of the time) in a covered pot or Dutch oven.

For those of you who haven't tried the original Jim Lahey No-Knead bread recipe, here is a link to the recipe as it appeared in The New York Times, along with a follow up article with tips and variations on the recipe. To watch Mr. Lahey make his bread, here is a link to a video in which he demonstrates his technique.

Testing the Latest Simple Crusty Bread Recipe

I recently tested the Simple Crusty Bread recipe a couple of times, following the instructions exactly. While the results were acceptable, the bread just couldn't compare to Jim Lahey's No-Knead bread recipe. The main problem was that the bread wasn't very crusty.

However, since the Simple Crusty Bread recipe was so convenient, I didn't want to give up on it right away. I loved the idea of having bread dough on hand in the refrigerator, ready for baking at any time.

A Hybrid Solution

It seemed to me that the secret of the No-Knead bread's crust was in the covered pot cooking technique. So I decided to try cooking a loaf of the Simple Crusty Bread using this technique. It worked beautifully. The new hybrid bread (shown in the photo above) had a thick crunchy crust, similar to the No-Knead bread. Also, I found that the flavor of this bread improved quite a bit after the dough had a chance to ferment in the refrigerator for a week or so.

Here are the instructions for the hybrid method:

Prepare the bread dough for Simple Crusty Bread. Follow the recipe's instructions for letting the bread rise, and if you wish, for refrigerating and letting the dough rest. Use the same quantity of dough for each loaf (the recipe makes 4 loaves).

Then follow the baking technique from the No-Knead bread recipe which calls for heating up an oven-proof covered pot for 30 minutes in a preheated 450 degree oven. The bread is baked in the covered pot for 30 minutes. Then the cover is removed and the bread continues baking uncovered for 15 minutes or more until it is nicely browned.

So Which is the Better Recipe?

Based on taste, if I had to choose, the better bread would still be Jim Lahey's original No-Knead bread. The small amount of yeast combined with long fermentation really does result in the best flavor. However, baking Simple Crusty Bread in a covered pot is a good balance between convenience and quality. Delicious crusty bread, ready to bake whenever you want it - is there anything better than that?