No-Knead (Flat) Bread

So I’ve decided to jump on the bandwagon and make the No-Knead Bread.
Except French flour is different than American flour.

Dramatically.

Consequently my first batch turned into No-Knead Flatbread….

flatbread.jpg

But I’m not quitting yet…

noknead2.jpg

To be continued…

(Continued 12/11/06: Batch #2 came out like #1. You can see Batch #3 of No-Knead Bread here, made with lots of grains and seeds. It tasted great, but didn’t rise much. Will try again with stronger flour…and more of it!)

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45 comments

  • I’m on the no-knead bandwagon as well.. I just get my boyfriend to do the kneading! I love a bit of slave labour in the kitchen…

  • Okay, that’s actually flatter than my gluten-free failed version of the no-knead bread. Ha! I don’t feel so bad anymore, now.

  • Clotilde already dealt with this saga in Paris. Check out her eventual success here.

    Bonne chance!

  • David, I hate to break it to you, but that first shot looks like Granny Clampett without a bra.

  • Looking forward to seeing how this all works out for you. It’s nice seeing you on eGullet, btw. :-)

  • I’ve been thinking of giving this a go myself but never even thought of the flour differences; will wait now until you have more success… mind you if Clothilde has been playing as well I should nip over there and have a look.

  • Keep trying! I made it with French flour and had no problems. I look forward to reading your success story….

  • New Zealand flour obviously is too. My first attempt was a disaster, second attempt only marginally better.

  • I like the kneading process.

    And believe me, I’ve had those same results with kneading.

  • Thanks for your encouragement.
    Well, everyone except Kevin…

    I’m finding that by adding 1/4 cup (40 gr) extra of French ‘bread’ flour (called Farine pour Pain de Campagne) to the recipe made a dough similar in texture to the original recipe, which uses American all-purpose or bread flour.

    Clotilde used some T110 flour, which I couldn’t find. I think I need to go to Natralia.
    (Or maybe she’ll swap me some for some chocolate…)

    My second and third attempts (shown) are made with Gold Medal American flour, and French bread flour, respectively. Will be baking ‘em off tonight.

    Then my only problem will be with what to do with all this bread around here!

  • A number of people complained that the Mark Bittman version called for too much water and they too got soup, not sandwiches (so why did they naively add it all at once?) They agonized, they got indignant, they calculated hydration ratios for different flours. It cannot be that hard. Can it? Somehow, most of the world can make bread anyway. Go by feel, not measurements (room for a cheap retort in there…it’s still good advice) Start with however much flour, yeast and salt you want to use, and add water gradually while stirring just until you get the consistency that feels like the kind of dough you want (in this case “loose but shaggy”, not batter)–that way you don’t swamp your presumably limited supply of flour. If you decide to knead your dough further, I highly recommend the sandwich-baggie-over-the-hand technique–a lot less sticky and a lot less lost. Good luck–

  • I want pancakes.

  • I was in the Le Crueset shop at the ‘outlet center’ here in New Jersey on Friday and asked for the pan that you…the store clerk finished the sentence by saying “bake the bread in”. It was $200.00. I am looking for my old lodge pan to try it. I think the story of the no-knead bread has got more hits on the internet than TomKat’s wedding!
    By the way, Trader Joe’s has ‘Trader Jacques’ Fleur de Sel Caramels!

  • I have been successful in baking my Italian breads here however, while most Italian bakers indicate that US flour has a higher gluten content, I found that to make my recipes work I had to add 1 tbs gluten for every 4 cups of All-purpose flour.

  • I didn’t realize you could simply pick up gluten at the store. Do most supermarkets in France carry it? And for the people in the US, has anyone seen it there? (I currently in the US)

    Thanks!

  • I can’t wait to try this recipe. I have no luck making breads but this recipe should encourage me. I heard to use less water than the original recipe asked for. David, I can’t wait to see the final result.

    Cheers.

  • It was on my second try that the NKB baked up as nice as the pictures on the NY Times. The first loaf had a decent enough crust and crumb, but no flavor. The second time I added in more salt and that made the difference. And I baked it directly on stone, instead of in the crock. My bread buddies call it the “holey” bread, for the beautiful texture. Next time I will add some sourdough starter and maybe some white whole wheat from King Arthur. Keep trying, a crust like this one delivers is well worth the effort.

  • Hi Debbie: Since I’ve never made a no-knead bread before, I have no idea of what the dough should ideally look like, but you’re right…I ain’t getting into that hydration-group. (Bread people are more obsessive that pastry-makers!)

    I watched the video but getting my dough to that consistency would have required adding quite a bit more flour than the recipe called for, almost an extra cup. So I’m working with the dough to try to learn the right consistency-I think it’s supposed to be like oatmeal (?)

    Matt: You are three words away from ending up like…um, well…like someone else around here.

    Let’s just leave it at that.

    Nancy: $200 bucks? And that’s at the outlet? I see on Amazon they have the Mario Batali cast iron casseroles for far less than Le Creuset. (Darn exchange rate!… will people please start investing more in America?) I think they sell it at Sur La Table stores. I’m sure it works just as well.

    Paula Wolfert also had great success with this bread in one of those unglaze Romtopf cookers, and I’ve seen similar casseroles in Mexican and middle eastern stores too. Cheap!

  • I don’t mean to boast, but with my French flours I have already made it 3 times and it worked every time…even when it stuck to the towel, it was slightly flatter but still great. Hope you get there soon!

  • Hi Julie: Well, your recipe said you used 400 gr flour. (The NYTimes advised 430 gr), and Clotilde posted her adaptation, which called for 470 gr. A professional baker in the US told me to use 500 gr.

    Will everyone make up their mind?

    I’ve got my third loaf almost ready to go in the over. It looks very soft; the recipes keeps talking about the ‘seam’…but my dough is rather wet for any seam.

    How soon can you get to Paris? : )

  • David,
    This as you know is my favorite medium in cooking(bread baking)I just made a bread using a levain recipe, it’s ok if your in a rush and want to try something new? I prefer to do it the old fashioned way, kneading, folding etc…art of baking is so much more then plopping in a pot! Check out http://www.sourdough.com.au and you will see how fascinated everyone is on the pot baking!

    Thanks, and glad you joined the home boulanger crowd, if you need some sour just give me a ring!

    Jeremy

  • I have been making this bread every night for the last 4 nights . Less water is the key, I use regular yeast. I like the roulpat the best instead of the floured tea towel. Very good with rosemary and basil added. Safe a quarter cup for the next batch, for more flavor.

  • it’s because you used a spoon. you are meant to use your fingers. duh!

  • Since I’ve donated my blog to Menu For Hope III, thanks for all your advice and encouragement (except for Matt..) and we can carry on the conversation here.

    So…I made 2 more loaves this weekend: One with US flour, and one with French bread flour and lots of grains and seeds, which you can see here on My Flickr. I think I need to add a lot more flour, since the dough was extremely runny (again.)

    Next I’m going to 470-500 gr flour, which is a whopping 1/2 cup more than the recipe suggests (435 gr), and just make it to what I think looks right. Damn the recipe!

    Now back to the kitchen…

  • I tried the no-knead bread yesterday using Clotilde’s measurements and it worked great. My parents compared it to Ciabatta, because the taste fell a bit flat, the texture and crust turned out perfect. I guess I’ll just use a bit more salt next time.

  • I used the francine bread flour from the supermarket (not the pain de campagne one, just the pain one). Except for adding more salt, I followed the Bittman recipe to the letter and it has come out well every time! Not sure what you’re doing wrong for it to come out flat, but would be glad to help if I can!

  • I made four loaves of NKB, and most of my tinkering involved work-arounds with timing and use of baking sheets under the pot to avoid burning the bottom crust in my cranky old oven. No monkeying with measurements, beyond reducing the water a tiny bit after the first trial and switching from all purpose flour to bread flour.

    For one loaf I did the second rise on parchment, which I baked on a baking sheet (with pan of water on oven floor to create steam) hoping for a nice flat ciabatta. It turned out to be my most voluminous loaf yet, rising as high as the pot-baked loaves and covering the baking sheet. The crumb was chewy, with lots of nice holes. As the loaf cooled the thin crust went a bit flabby, but on reheating it crisped right up.

    Right now the kitchen is dedicated to chocolate, so I’ll get back to the baking next month.

  • and how was it?

  • I’ve done very well with the NKB with the adjustments Mark B added in his second article, and by using a chunk of “old dough” from the previous batch for more flavor. I’m not much of a bread baker, but this one has made a believer. There is a photo on my blog from a couple of weeks ago.

    I also bought a $39 cast iron enamel ChefMate 5 qt pot at Target to use for the bread. :) I couldn’t justify spending the cash on the LC just for bread, as much as I’d like to do so.

    Good luck with the French flour, David. I have the upmost faith in you.

  • I consider flour and water measurements of any sort to be guidelines in my breadmaking. I think the key, at least in traditional technique, is to learn the difference between sticky and tacky. Sticky dough hasn’t incorporated the water fully into the dough; tacky dough may coat your hands and be unpleasant to handle, but it will produce a superior loaf. Adding a bit of honey will help to speed and increase the hydration. Books and recipes _can_ only be guidelines, since the ratio of flour vs. water depends highly upon the humidity in your kitchen, and the age and brand of flour. My advice would be to worry less about the recipe and spend time paying attention to the appearance and consistency of the dough. It will teach you all you need to know.

    Be careful with the gluten. It’s an important tool, but too much will yield a tough loaf. Perhaps add 1T to start and adjust from there.

  • here is the best dissection of the method that I have come across and gives good weights, her flour amount 468g is similar to your plans

    http://www.realbakingwithrose.com/2006/11/holy_bread.html

  • No offense, David, but if I ever make it to Paris I think I’ll stick to the boulangeries ;-) Seriously, though, I knead to jump into the fray and try that recipe.

  • Hi David-
    Tried this one twice now and have gotten decent results, even though the bottom crust ends up mighty thick. I’ll be giving it another go soon, but any ideas on how to save the dishtowel? Despite oodles of flour this little experiment has cost me two of them. OH WON’T SOMEONE PLEASE THINK OF THE DISHTOWELS??!! ;) cheers
    rai

  • Rai – Don’t use flour, use bran on the dishtowels – the flour will be absorbed by the dough, which isn’t the point at all. A nice thick layer of bran will save your towels, however sticky the dough, I promise!

  • Rai: I used a Silpat silicone mat instead of a towel, and covered the dough with a sheet of plastic wrap. I agree: Save The Dishtowels!

    Anyhow…on to Batch #4 which I just started, using:

    3 3/4 cups (480 gr) flour (About 2/3 bread flour, 1/3 strong wheat flour)
    1 1/2 cups (12 oz) water
    2 t grey salt
    1/4 teaspoon regular yeast

    As per a previous commenter’s mention, I went to Rose Berenbaum’s site (since she is meticulous) and saw her picture of the dough, so I made mine roughly the same texture…although mine is perhaps a bit shaggier than hers. I didn’t feel comfortable adding too much more flour. A bread expert in the US told me I can go to 500 gr, which is really straying from the recipe.

    (I don’t understand those of you in France who made it with 3 cups/400 gr flour? If I hadn’t seen your pictures, I wouldn’t of believed it.)

    Now it’s resting, like me, and I’ll bake the bread tomorrow.
    This is no longer bread-it’s a lifestyle!

  • How can we ever hope to acheive world peace when the countries of the world can’t even agree on a consistant type of flour?

  • I’ve made 10 loaves of the no knead bread — all turned out very good. The recent clarification in the NYT based on weights makes a great difference. Also the longer second rising time is much better. (I stumbled upon this, because I would out and my 2nd rise was 4 hours.) Once you get an idea of the slackness of the dough, it’s easy to make variations — cornmeal (toasted), whole wheat, rye, and oatmeal are all variations that have been successful for me. ALso if you can get some whey, this is a great and very tasty substitute for water.

    Almost all european flours don’t have enough gluten to bread using american measures — however they do make excellent strudel dough and biscuits, akin to lily white flour in the states. Europeans grow a soft wheat, rather than the hard wheat grown in the US.

    The King Arthur website used to have a very good explanation of the gluten content of different flours from around the world.

    Good luck.

    p.d. My best crust was baking the bread in a pyrex casserole. I had been using a cast iron pot. Perhaps a side-by-side comparison is in store.

    Great website and comments which I always enjoy reading.

  • David,

    Since you have donated your blog to Menu for Hope at the moment-does that means that there will be no new entries until the 22 of December?

    Becuase I don’t think I can cope with that…Yes-I am addicted to your blog and like every other junkie I need my daily fix!;-)

    But good luck with the Menu for Hope anyway!

  • We may not be able to agree on flour ……..
    but we have all agreed to bake NKB there is hope.

  • David:

    You said you used “bread flour” and “strong wheat flour”. Which types are you referring to? T-65?

    I live in Luxembourg and have been having a devil of a time trying to make American bread recipes with the French and German flour I have available. Even T-65 is not available here.

    Any suggestions for either substituting or where I could mail order some?

  • I don’t know what brands of flour are available in Luxembourg, but I would imagine French products are, and Francine-brand makes bread flour (Farine pour Pain), which is available in supermarkets. I was unable to find out what ‘type’ it is, since it doesn’t say on the package or their web site. (Anyone know?)

    Yesterday, I went to the health food-store, which as full of skinny, scary people.

    (Until I realized they had mirrors everywhere…and it was me I was looking at.)

    But they had lots of flour, listed by type. I bought Type 80, labeled as ‘semi-polished wheat flour 80%’, the percentage being the hydration.

    But I think just find a flour that’s stronger than the regular flour that you get, or go into a bakery and ask for the strongest flour they have (mine gave me regular flour…the knuckleheads). Don’t know anything about mail-ordering flour in Europe, although King Arthur in the states will ship, but it’ll be expensive.

    Loaf #4 just came out of the oven, and it’s gorgeous! Will report back soon…

    (I’m thinking of compiling photos of people’s failures for a future post, the opposite of what Adam did…any interest in showing off your bad sides anyone?)

  • Sorry David, My sad failures are just that, failures. They end up on the cutting room floor.
    I attempt them again & then take photo’s of what works.

  • Oh my. I think your bread dough just needs some chocolate. : )

    Or. . . I hate to even bring this up, but since I don’t think anybody else has yet–are you sure your yeast is fresh?

    I’ve been loving this bread, though after the first batch I ditched the dutch oven and have been using my baking stone to no detriment as far as I can tell. That way I can make a double batch and end up with 2 to 4 loaves.

    Almost everything in the universe can affect the wetness of your dough. I always use the same amount of water in a recipe and make adjustments with the amount of flour until the dough is right. Depending on weather (esp. humidity), type of flour, humidity of flour, batch of flour planetary alignment, etc. I may use quite a bit more (or sometimes less) than a recipe calls for.

    Sounds like you’re already having better luck, though. This should not have to be a lifestyle! Or at least such a time consuming one.

  • You’re in Paris for god’s sake. Go to the corner bakery, buy yourself a boule, pick up some cheese around the block, go home, open a bottle of wine, relax and think deep thoughts. Or just stare into space vacantly.

    It has to be said, with apologies in advance, but “no need to no knead”…

  • Nico – if you’re looking for gluten in the US, try a health food store. Look in the refrigerated section near any flour they might store there.