No-Knead Whole Wheat Bread
October 26, 2014 § Leave a comment
I took a bread class last week and this week–two Tuesday nights for three hours each–at the local adult education center. When I told one of my b-school classmates about it, he said that its location is what steered it into the pathetic category. But…I learned A LOT! Plus the class was way more affordable, hands-on, and smaller than a class you would take at a fancier place. All in all, adult education center for the win!
The instructor knew a ton about the science behind baking bread. My brain and science don’t always get along, especially during the week of midterms, but I did absorb a few key things.
One: yeast is like a finicky younger sibling. You can’t expect it to the behave the same way all the time, or do exactly what you want it to do (I’m looking at you, Jenn). For example, if your room is warm or humid, the dough will rise more quickly. If the room is cold and dry, the dough will rise more slowly. So, patience and flexibility are necessary when approaching bread baking, much like being a nice big sister.
Two: there are three kinds of yeast, although there are two you use most in a home kitchen–instant yeast and active dry yeast.
Sometimes the lines between these two types of yeast blur. Technically instant yeast does not have to be dissolved in water (“proofed”) before being added to the rest of the ingredients, whereas active dry yeast does. However, some say, including King Arthur Flour, that proofing isn’t really necessary even with active dry yeast these days except to check that your yeast is alive. Also, most no-knead recipes around the web say it doesn’t really matter if you use instant yeast or active dry yeast.
All that to say…if yeast is a bit scary to you and active dry yeast is what you have on hand or find in the grocery store, proof it just so you know it’s alive and will do its thing. Otherwise, you can swap them for each other fairly interchangeably in a 1-1 ratio.
This bread develops incredible flavor because it sits for a good long time on your counter–up to 24 hours if you’d like! Any recipe where time does the work instead of me is my kind of recipe. Baking it in a dutch oven gives it an incredibly crispy, crackly crust. If at any point you want to slow down the process because your real life, as opposed to your dream life as a bread baker, gets in the way, you can always pop the dough in the fridge to put the process on pause.
Fresh bread doesn’t last long because it has no preservatives, so if you plan to eat it within 1-2 days, slice it up and then wrap it in a clean, dry, lint-free towel and place it in a paper bag.
Do not, as my mother did, wrap it in a wet towel. I think she heard me say wrapping it in a towel would keep the bread moist, and translated this into using a moist towel. It was an Amelia Bedelia moment. If you plan to keep it around longer than 1-2 days, you can freeze it. (Slice it, wrap each piece in parchment or tinfoil, and place in freezer bag).
This bread goes very nicely with minestrone soup, especially if your mom makes it for you while you watch Nurse Jackie on the couch.
No-Knead Whole Wheat Bread
Adapted from The New York Times and guidance from my bread class teacher
Note: I used all whole wheat flour, but you could use 2 cups whole wheat and 1 cup of another whole grain flour, such as buckwheat, rye, or cornmeal. You could also stir in chopped nuts, seeds, or dried fruit. My mom has requested a cranberry-pecan variety next. To speed up the process, you can use 1 1/2 teaspoons of yeast, and reduce the first rise to 2 hours and the second rise to 1 hour instead of 2. See above for how to store the bread.
- 1/2 teaspoon yeast (instant or active dry yeast is fine)
- 1 1/2 cups water, plus more if needed
- 3 cups whole wheat flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- If you are using active dry yeast (not instant yeast) and you are risk-averse, you will want to proof the yeast. Add the water to a liquid measuring cup. Stir in the yeast and add a pinch of sugar (food for the yeast!). Let sit for a few minutes. A bubbly foam should form at the top. This is how you know your yeast is alive. If no foam forms, pour out the mixture and start again with a new packet of yeast.
- Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Add the proofed active dry yeast along with the water, or the instant yeast and water, and stir until blended. You want the dough to be very wet, almost like a batter, so add a bit more water if it seems dry.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit in a warm place (any place in your house is likely fine, just keep it away from any drafty places or windows if it’s chilly out) for 12-24 hours. The longer the rise, the deeper the flavor. The dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles.
- Place a piece of parchment paper on your counter, flour it, and then dump out the dough on the paper. Sprinkle the dough with flour and then fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let sit for 15 minutes.
- After 15 minutes, coat a lint-free clean towel with flour, and have another towel on hand.
- Lightly flour your hands just enough to keep the dough from sticking, and shape the dough into a ball. This video is great if you need some help, I found this part tricky during my bread class.
- Place the dough seam side down (when you shape dough into a ball you end up with a seam on the bottom) on the floured towel, dust the top of the dough with more flour, and then cover with the other towel. Let sit for another 2 hours. You will know the dough is ready when it does not quickly spring back when you poke it with your finger.
- Place a 6-8 quart oven-safe heavy pot with a cover (I used my dutch oven, but here are some other ideas) in the oven and heat the oven to 450 degrees. To save time, you can start this when the bread has about 30 minutes left to rise.
- When the oven is heated, carefully remove the pot from the oven. Uncover the bread, slide your hand under the bottom towel, and flip the bread into the pot, so the seam is up. Shake pan once or twice to distribute the bread in the pan, but don’t worry what it looks like. It will bake up just fine no matter what.
- Bake the bread with the cover on for 30 minutes, then uncover and bake for another 15-30 minutes (I only needed 15) until the bread is nicely browned.
- Remove the bread from the pot (I wedged two spatulas underneath the bread to do this) and place on a rack to cool before slicing it up and devouring it.