DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!
Aug 11 2010

Kneadless Effort

by Dea Anne M

I’ve been baking bread at home on a weekly basis for a few years now. I had always wanted to explore this aspect of cooking, but I was held back by kitchens that never had enough counter space to mix, knead, and shape dough.  Once that situation changed, I became a happy and enthusiastic baker though my earliest efforts left a lot to be desired. The brick-like loaves that I turned out at first would have worked quite well in a construction project. Texture finally mastered, my next series of loaves resembled nothing so much as a parade of hippopotamuses and camels – quite edible but sporting weird, bulbous ends and middles.

Due to practice and some patience, today, I turn out well-textured, properly shaped loaves with ease.  I don’t really even bother to measure out ingredients anymore. Still I’m always curious about new approaches to this most basic, and satisfying of foods. I’ve been hearing about “no-knead” methods for awhile, so recently I tried it for myself.  At its most basic, the procedure involves mixing a dough which is wetter and floppier than one that is “kneadable.” The dough then sits in its covered mixing bowl for anywhere from 12 to 24 hours. After the initial long rise, the dough is shaped for the final rise and baked in a very hot oven. The result is a chewy “artisan” style loaf with a crunchy crust and an irresistable flavor. This is no grocery store sandwich loaf. This is bread that makes you really understand the phrase “staff of life.” Most exciting to me is the fact that no knead bread require so little in terms of equipment and space. Had I known about this method back when I was living with postage stamp size counter space and shoe box cabinets, I would have been baking bread long ago.

Think you want to try it? DCPL has resources to help.

My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method by Jim Lahey.

Lahey is the owner of New York’s Sullivan Street Bakery and might be the best known proponent of the no-knead method.

Artisan Bread In Five Minutes A Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois.

The authors present an exciting variety of shapes and flavors.

No Need To Knead: Handmade Italian Bread in 90 Minutes by Suzanne Dunaway.

An Italian approach!

Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Everyday: Fast and Easy Recipes for World Class Breads by Peter Reinhart.

Not strictly no-knead, the author presents a versatile yet approachable method to great breads. Mario Batali has called Reinhart the “Leonardo Da Vinci of bread.”

No-knead methods can put home baked bread within your reach and I urge you to give it a try. Once you taste your results, I’m sure you will agree that there is nothing quite like that fresh baked texture and flavor. Happy baking adventures!

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Joseph M. August 12, 2010 at 11:12 AM

Very cool, I may have to try this out!

Anonymous August 12, 2010 at 3:30 PM

I love hot-from-the oven bread, and the smell of my mother’s homemade rolls is one of my earliest childhood memories. I will certainly try this method, although I confess that I find kneading cathartic and stress relieving.

Ev August 27, 2010 at 1:58 PM

Home made french bread is heavenly. That stuff you buy at the store just doesn’t compare.

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