Making Peace with No-Knead Bread

The ongoing education of a wannabe devoted home bread baker.

Why, you may wonder, would I ever resist a technique that produces wonderful results with the lightest workload?

If I could answer that question, every aspect of my life would immediately improve. Also, I’d  have resumed regular home bread baking sooner than now. As it is, I’ve resorted to buying the best bread around (commerical La Brea loaves) for longer than I ever expected. Purchased bread was a temporary condition during the craziest time in my life when making toast was nearly beyond my reach.

Years ago (before kids), I was a committed sourdough bread baker, even entertaining notions of opening an artisan bread bakery. Having trained in France, I honored the sacrament-like traditions with bread dough and relished all those marvelous shapes–from boules (rounds), bâtards (footballs) and épis (wheat shafts) I had been trained by master bakers to form by hand.

When the no-knead method came along, I believed in it since I had tasted originator Jim Lahey‘s spectacular Italian-style breads, and I even understood the basic science of it. (Skip this unless you’re a food science geek: Gluten, which is formed from glutenin and gliadin in the presence of a liquid to create the network that traps CO2 and rises the bread develops its elasticity in three ways: mechanically, i.e. mixing/kneading, chemically, i.e. oxidizers, like ascorbic acid or fermentatively, i.e. during rising. Learn more.)

But I wouldn’t try it.

The way no-knead bread works is that while you’re toiling at the office, blogging, hiking, lying around watching movies, whatever, the dough is doing exactly what it needs to in order to become chewy, crusty bread once baked. The only downside is that the gluten structure is not strong enough to make those eye-catching self-supporting bread shapes.

About his no-knead sourdough, my friend Rob raved about the crust he achieved at last. My friend Cory shared the formula for the dough, which I scribbled down and never looked at again. But you can’t make shapes, I protested to no one but myself. Was it my education, my ego or brain patterning?

Resistance is a funny thing. Often, It is without reason, only rooted in habit and familiarity. Overcoming it takes a tiny leap of faith, and then comes change.

Recipe: Easiest Multigrain Bread

(The tartine in the photo is my favorite breakfast or lunch: lightly toasted multigrain bread, goat cheese and my tomato jam.)

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