I had been a fan of Artisan Bread in 5 for a while, when I realised I’d never actually baked any of their recipes. Part of the fun of making bread for me (and also because I’m a bloke) is the working of the dough with your hands, and yes, I have even worked in a couple of martial arts exercises into the kneading of dough. No-knead bread has always struck me as rather odd, because the gorilla in me says, “Why wouldn’t you want to pummel it?”
Nevertheless, I thought I’d give it a go and followed their master recipe as best I could.
The recipe uses 3 cups of water to 6 1/2 cups of flour a 46% water to flour ratio, which is very different from the 60% ratio loaves that I normally bake. It’s more or less 2% salt with the 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt going into it.
Flours differ and I had to use a lot more water than 46%, because that amount of water left it a rather solid mess. There really wasn’t any give in the dough at all. In fact, it didn’t even feel like dough and looked more like a rock than the photo that’s on the website.
I stuck it in a bowl with a lid big enough for it to rise.
I couldn’t help checking it every twenty minutes and at first it looked like it was never going to work, but, over time it eventually became the silky dough that’s shown in the photos on the website, just like they said it would.
When time was up, I took out about half the dough, and shaped it into a loaf. It went straight into the oven, and the result is what the monkey in the picture is greedily eyeing up.
It was easy to make, didn’t take a lot of time and all it needed really was a bit of attention when you baked it.
What I couldn’t get used to was the tasted of it. It didn’t quite taste right. Rather than the rich flavour I’m used to from even the white loaves I’ve made, I got something much more subdued, almost bland. There’s something in the kneading, rising and then proving of bread that gives it the taste we’re familiar with. Maybe it’s the flour I used, or maybe I just have to do it enough to figure out the art of making this bread. It’s still streaks ahead of any of the cardboard you get in the shops, and its wonderful with nutella!
As for the other half of the dough, I left it in the fridge for a couple of days and then baked it. It made a nice enough loaf, but the strange subdued taste seemed to have accentuated itself.
This doesn’t mean that I’ll not do it, or that I don’t like it at all. I’ve never made bread this way, and like anything else, it’s a skill that you have to cultivate. I’m sure results will be different if I change the flour, or use a different yeast. For now it’s a great bread to make when you are short of time or when your toddler is having a growth spurt and has just eaten his way through two 800g loaves you’ve baked at the weekend and need something to tide him over to the next weekend when the big bread bake happens.