Noknead Bread

Thanks to Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery and Mark Bittman from the New York Times the world has been introduced to noknead bread. Ever since this article, the popularity of this easy-bread baking technique has spread around the world.

I was introduced to it via a Dutch cooking blog in the NRCnext newspaper, by Janneke Vreugdenhil, and it worked! Yes, it is easy, yes, you only need time, flour, water, salt and yeast, a very hot oven and some ovenproof pan with a lid. It has never failed me to produce an airy, thick crackling crusted rustic loaf. It also works to create the perfect pizza dough, and many other possibilities await.

I’ve made several versions, with different amounts and sorts of flour, usually mixtures between whole grain, all purpose and spelt. The idea behind this bread is that a very small amount of yeast is needed, which takes more time, with a larger amount of water, to form the same type of gluten needed for an airy loaf. If you use the regular amount of yeast, or lukewarm water instead of room-temperature, the dough will rise much faster, and there is less time for the wonderfull flavours to develop.

After 6-7 hours the rising dough smelled like watery flour, with a hint of yeast. After 12-18 hours (overnight), the dough was more fragrant, with (perhaps my imagination) a slight sourdough smell to it. It is possible to ‘enhance’ the dough with a squirt of lemon juice (supposedly more airy/bouncy) and/or a tablespoon of oil.

Today I used:

400 g flour, spelt, wholewheat and all purpose,

8 g salt (2% of the flour weight, so 10g salt for 500 flour)

1 g yeast, a small teaspoon, or even less

350 ml water, which makes it quite a wet dough. Lukewarm water will kickstart the yeast.

-500g flour, 10g salt, 1 g yeast, 400ml water will do the trick as well-

Mix in a bowl, cover the bowl with a cloth and put a plastic bag over it. Peek after several hours to see the progression, if the process goes to fast, put in a cooler place. Leave for 12-18 hours untill bubbly and doubled-tripled in size.

Cover a working place with a lot of flour, scrape out the dough, fold a few times, and leave for another 30min-2hours.

Place an empty ironcast pot with lid in the oven, and preheat the oven to 230-250 degrees C, which will take about 20 minutes.

Wear ovenmittens!!! Take out the pot *hot*, dump the dough in the pot and place in the oven, first 30 minutes covered with the lid, then about 15-30 minutes without, until crust is nicely brown, and bread makes a hollow ‘poof’ sound when you tap it.

Allow to cool on a rack.

Infinite possibilities to eat, still warm with butter and brown sugar, with cheese accompanying beer, with a nice soup…..