Feb 4, 2012

No-Knead Bread Variations

A little over two years ago, I discovered Jim Lahey's no-knead bread recipe (which I blogged about here), and I loved it so much that I've made it again and again since that time. I make it for family dinners, for friends and neighbors, and just for myself. It is so good, whether served with butter and jam, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, cheese, or whatever. It's also delicious toasted or made into French toast.

As much as I love this recipe, I've also also wanted to tinker with it, to create something new. I've seen all kinds of interesting variations online, with add-ins including herbs, nuts, dried fruit, and even chocolate chips. But because I love the original recipe so much, I've only tried a few variations so far that I'm happy with. Actually, I also tried a whole wheat version that was a miserable failure. That loaf was virtually inedible. I don't know what I did wrong.

Anyway, the first variation is simply a minor adjustment in the measurements of the original recipe so that I get a larger and slightly more flavorful loaf; it is now my standard recipe. I even adjusted the measurements on the original post to correspond with this. This version was suggested by Mark Bittman.

Revised No-Knead Bread Recipe
4 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
A scant 1/2 teaspoon instant or rapid rising yeast
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups water at about 70 degrees
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed (I usually just use flour and sometimes a little cornmeal)

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast, and salt. Add the 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. Put dough seam side down on floured work surface and dust with more flour, bran, or cornmeal. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and a cotton dish 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 in the oven while it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove heated pot from the oven. Gently move the ball of dough with your hands from your work surface and drop it into the pan. It may look like a mess, but that is okay. 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 minutes (Note: I often like a less dark and crunchy crust, so I'll usually reduce the final baking time by about 5 minutes), until loaf is beautifully browned. Remove the bread from the pan and cool on a wire rack.

No-Knead Bread Variations
Garlic Parmesan
This is probably one of my favorite variations. After I combine the dry ingredients, I add 1 1/4 cups grated Parmesan cheese, 1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes, and 1 tablespoon dried sliced garlic (I found this at Costco) and mix all of that in. Then I add the water and follow the instructions above. The cheese and garlic are a wonderful combination.

White Chocolate Chip/Cinnamon Chip
I tasted this variation for the first time at a free bread-making class at a local kitchen store. It was terrific! And the clear favorite of the 20 students, though I still love the original recipe. The instructor added 1/2 cup white chocolate chips and 1/2 cup mini cinnamon chips (they sold these at the cooking store) to the dry ingredients at the beginning, as well as an additional 1/4 teaspoon of rapid-rising yeast. I made this recipe at home and it turned out very delicious, but I found that the white chocolate chips tended to burn a little at the high temperature you bake this bread at.

No-Knead Bread with Sunflower Seeds
I love seeded breads, so I tried using sunflower seeds. I used the recipe above, but I substituted one cup of oat flour for the all-purpose flour. I also added 1/2 cup honey. Then I stirred/folded in 1/2 to 3/4 cup sunflower seeds and baked the loaf as normal. Very delicious result.

Oatmeal No-Knead Bread
Another version I am pleased with includes steel-cut oats. Again, I used the revised no-knead recipe above, but made a few alterations. I substituted 1 cup whole wheat flour and 1 cup steel-cut oats for 2 cups of the all-purpose flour, and I added maybe an extra 1/4 cup water.

With these variations, the mixing/raising/baking instructions are basically the same.