Novice baker has questions RE "No-knead" bread and getting properly aerated bread:

(g0g0) #1


Novice baker has questions RE “No-knead” bread and getting properly aerated bread:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

(Paul) #2

There is a lot to unpack in your questions and I don’t have time for a lengthy response right now, but here is a resource:

(easummers) #3

Item 1 comes to the conclusion (last sentence), that results are fine with kneading in a stand mixer.

Item 2 notes that while taste is “fine”, the results are dense, i.e. a closed crumb vs an open crumb.

Everyone does not have a stand mixer. See a recent post: Must Haves for new Baker No stand mixer on the lists.

**Warning personal anecdote: I’ve been a home bread baker for 42 years and have had a stand mixer for only the last 2 years (in May). As far as bread baking I use it for ciabatta (a VERY wet dough) and enriched brioche type doughs that have eggs and butter. Otherwise, hand mixing.

On the front page of this website, the No Knead Sourdough Bread recipe has a lot of explanation regarding all of your questions. If you are using commercial yeast vs sourdough/natural leaven, there is a link in that post to the original commercial yeast recipe. But technique, explanation, photos and video in the sourdough recipe (link above) apply to both types of leaven and both recipes.

And I just saw Paul’s post. I was going to include that site also. Again videos as well as technical explanation.

(easummers) #4

A somewhat non-specific follow up:

Although there is a lot of science in the process of bread baking, there are also a lot of variables and there is not ONE answer to getting the results you might want. If you look through the threads on this forum as well as some of the posts on the main site, you will see many variations, experiments, hypotheses about what works and what doesn’t and what we’ve all tried.

A few of the variables: how you measure flour (scale is best as volume can vary by method, humidity, flour), oven temp and oven “sealing”, baking vessel, weather, water if that is the liquid used.

Additionally, if you read the tomes of the many successful professional bread bakers, you will see a variety of technique and method.

In addition to the result part of hand mixing and slowing things down, i.e. the artisanal process, there is - at least for me - a joy and enjoyment in a slow, simple, process of producing a delicious staple.

(g0g0) #5

Thank you. Grateful for the response.