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Monday, April 19, 2010

Everyday Bread #10

Brot ohne Kneten
German No-Knead Bread

The other bread that caught my eye this past weekend while I worked nights was a Brot ohne Kneten, a German No-Knead bread.  This was another bread that was supposed to have a long fermenting period -- of 18 hours minimum.  I made this bread more or less alongside the Bauernbrot during this past sleepless weekend.

The dough amounts are roughly the same as those that Lahey uses for his method of baking in a Dutch Oven; however, the hydration percentage in this German recipe looks to me to be a bit more wet.

But the interesting thing about this bread, to my way of thinking, was not that it is baked in an enclosed Dutch oven or Casserole dish in a very hot oven, very similar to Lahey's method, or that the hydration was slightly different than his.  What intrigued me were the comments of several people who tried the recipe and really liked the results: one said that they didn't have to heat the Roman pot before baking.  Another said that they even decided to forego the shaping step, and they merely fermented the dough and cooked it right in the same pot!  Well I had to try that! 

Fitting the 18 hour fermentation into my schedule was a bit trickier.  I decided to bake it in on Monday morning, when I got home after working my final night.  That meant I would mix it up on Sunday afternoon when I awoke.  The fermentation period was about 18 hours, give or take an hour.

  • 400 g Flour (1/2 rye, 1/2 wheat)
  • 320 ml Warm Water
  • 1 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/4 tsp Dry Yeast
  • 1 pinch Vitamin C

    Mix dry ingredients and add water.
    Mix by hand until nothing is dry.
    Cover the bowl with foil in a cool basement for 18 hrs.
    The dough should be bubbly.
    Knead only as envelope fold and put in Dutch Oven.
    Heat oven to 250 degrees C (482 F).
    After 5 min in 250 degrees C, reduce heat to 230 degrees C (446 F).
    Bake 30 minutes.
    Then take the lid off and bake 18 minutes longer.

Most of the ingredients are in this picture.  I also later crushed a vitamin C pill and tossed in a pinch of that to the flour mixture too, before adding the hydration.  In the comments to the recipe, in a response to a question, the author wrote "Vitamin C is a 'propellent', it makes the dough softer and increases the volume."  He did say that it wasn't absolutely necessary to make this bread, though.

The directions say to mix it up with the hands. But I didn't have to: it mixed up with a spoon quite easily - which you can't really do, with Lahey's dough. To my mind, that was because there was more water in the German recipe than Lahey's recipes, making the German recipe easier to mix up. Or did the German recipe require more water because their flour is different from ours? I wouldn't know the answer to this until the bread was baked.

I did use my hands to kind of shape it a tiny bit, in the bottom of the crock pot, but I wouldn't exactly say that I was forming it into a ball.  After all, it still had to rise 18 hours.  I just wanted it to be fairly cohesive so that I could compare the dough at the start with the dough in the end.

After the 18 hours, this dough was not really bubbly.  It looked rather dense.  No real rise during the fermentation that I could see.  I was dubious about it.  But the pot where I had mixed it up and let it rise still had its lid on, and there was moisture dripping from the inside of the lid.  So the dough is moister than it looks in the picture.

I baked it in the same pot, skipping the stretching and folding stages, and omitting the preheating of the crockpot - just to see what would happen,

It baked, but there was no oven spring.  That wasn't the worst of it, though.

It wouldn't come out of the pot.  Whereas with Lahey's methods, I just invert the pot and the loaf comes tumbling out of the pot into my expectant oven-mitted hands like a newborn, this loaf was well and truly stuck.  I spent a good ten minutes just trying to loosen the sides around the loaf with a bread knife.  After getting burned on the very hot crock pot a few times, I decided to let it cool down and I went to bed.

When I awoke, I tackled getting the loaf out of the cold crock pot.  There was no way it was going to come out intact, so I started digging.

A short time later, I had this mass of crumbs and moist bread bits strewn about the kitchen counter, and a vast clean up job on my hands.  Was this nothing but my latest bread failure?

I nibbled a few of the pieces before tossing them in the bin.

Hey.  Not bad.  Kind of moist.  If I could cut some of these a bit thinner, they might toast up nicely, I thought.  This will go good with some old cheddar.

And I was right about that, at least.

Notes to Myself:
  • Shaping the loaf (either with the letter-fold technique, or some other method) will add to the oven spring effect.  Don't ignore this step, no matter how wet the dough: think of a way to stretch the dough that will impact the dough's crumb the least.
  • Pre-heat the pot you will cook it in.  The time it takes to do this will easily offset the time you will save in clean-up.  And the bread will be better for it.
  • This dough is worth another try, the taste is wonderful.  There is no molasses in the recipe, but it almost tastes like it, the rye is so sweet and moist.

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