Novice baker has questions RE “No-knead” bread and getting properly aerated bread:
I have seen many recipes recently for no-knead bread, especially recipes ordinarily considered in the category of artisan bread baking. Forgive this novice if this question seems exceedingly naïve: Apart from saving the labor of kneading by hand, can anyone tell me if there is any other claim made, theoretical or practical, for a superior outcome with “no-knead” recipes as compared with recipes made with conventional kneading methods?
I suspect the answer is No, but of course I could be wrong. Leaving aside individual/anecdotal claims, is there any general consensus in the baking community, amateur and/or professional, for superior results with no-knead recipes?
If the answer to these first questions is No, I’m puzzled: Most amateur bakers with any serious interest in this hobby own a stand mixer. If one owns a decent stand mixer, no claim can be made about even saving the labor of kneading. I have made a number of no-knead recipes and “no-knead” certainly is not equivalent to “no-labor.” No-knead recipes involve substantial and often strenuous labor in stirring and mixing wet ingredients, although admittedly not for nearly as long as kneading-by-hand methods. I’ll concede that no-knead is less work, but not no-work.
Am I missing anything else? Why would anyone with a stand mixer use a no-knead recipe? My current practice in fact is to use the ingredients and fermenting/shaping/baking instructions of many no-knead recipes, but to knead the bread in a stand mixer. Results are fine.
My second question is specific to outcomes: I typically see a recipe on a web site or in a cookbook for artisan bread picturing an attractive loaf intact and usually also a photograph of its cut surface. Almost always the cut surface of artisan bread in these displays features a Swiss cheese-like appearance of multiple large and small holes resulting in a highly aerated and light loaf. That’s not what I’m getting, no matter how closely I think I have followed the recipe. My typical result is a dense loaf with little or no aeration and few/no areas of cavitation within it, a little like what one would expect taking a photo of a cross-section of the White Pages. I have no complaints about the taste of such bread, but it’s my sense that I should be able to reproduce the results I see in the photographs. This appears to be a point of pride, a Holy Grail nowadays. What am I doing wrong? What is the absence of this Swiss cheese pattern in the substance of the bread a symptom of? Please be as specific as you can in your comments on this. If you can refer me to more detailed literature, I would be grateful.
Many thanks in advance for comments from this group.