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Sunday, March 04, 2012

introducing whole grains to improve "no-knead" bread



update 03/05/2012: flour and water measurements adjusted slightly -- recipe writing is, indeed, a process.


I've been continually baking homemade bread for a few weeks now, ever since I finally tried Jim Lahey's "no-knead" bread. along the way, I've made some slight changes to the technique. I've scaled down the basic recipe to use a little more than 2 cups of flour/batch (which makes a loaf both my roommate and I like), and I've also been maintaining a lively sourdough that I use that to raise the bread. it's easy to substitute for yeast -- use about 1/4 - 1/3 cup recently-fed, vigorous loose starter (I keep mine about the thickness of pancake batter just because it's easier to deal with) to substitute for the 1/4 teaspoon yeast called for in the recipe, and adjust the amounts of flour and water down a bit to accommodate. I do add the tiniest dash of yeast to ensure the dough will rise in a reasonable amount of time (which for me is 8 - 16 hours); I could just as easily leave that out and allow a full 16 - 30 hours for a slow rise (part of that in the refrigerator, to develop flavor and keep from exhausting the yeast), but I prefer to keep my bread proofing on the countertop. I've scaled the flour and water adjustments below to work with a mixture of King Arthur Bread Flour and King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour to get some whole grain into my daily bread, and the flavor and texture are excellent. please do remember that flour is different everywhere and dough acts different almost every time you bake it -- you're looking for the same dough characteristics at the beginning (sort of wet and shaggy) before the bulk rise, and will add more flour after that when you actually CAN do a little bit of kneading if you want , although you really only need to do a couple of folds. when I fold, I use a roll-up fold, scroll down a bit after you click the link to see it. when I'm in the mood to knead, after the fold I just give it a bit of a knead, just a few times. you don't want to knock all the bubbles out. proceed with the recipe technique as in my own variation on the classic "no-knead" recipe, but use the following ingredients to add flavor, some whole grain and interest to your loaf:



  • 1/4 - 1/3 cup sourdough starter** (and I often, OFTEN augment this with the tiniest dash of Red Star active dry yeast -- maybe 10 grains?). if you don't have sourdough or just don't feel like feeding it, use 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast.
  • 1-1/4 cup King Arthur bread flour
  • 1 cup King Arthur White Whole Wheat flour (*a note on this flour: it uses a different variety of wheat and is ground finer than regular whole wheat flour, but still uses the whole grain. it produces a creamy, ivory-colored flour with a wonderful whole-grain flavor that's more refined than regular whole wheat flour -- I love it! and the crusts of the finished loaves come out the most gorgeous burnished, shiny brown color, with an off-white/ivory crumb)
  • 1 cup filtered water
  • 1 teaspoon mild rice vinegar (*optional, depending on the sourness of your starter; if not desired, add another tablespoon filtered water if needed)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
the dough will seem a bit wetter than regular no-knead at first -- that's because it takes the white whole wheat flour a bit longer to absorb water. mix it together well with a wooden spoon, cover with plastic wrap and bulk-ferment overnight (8-16 hours -- it's flexible), then check the texture and you should find it's just right. if anything, it may need a sprinkle of flour to knead.

the finished loaves are tasty and lovely! I'd love to hear what you think.

**I'll post on creating and maintaining a happy sourdough starter with a minimum (or no) waste very soon -- this latest one is the simplest, liveliest and the most effective sourdough I've ever used.

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