Bread baking is a very different set of skills than making cakes and master bread bakers devote their lives to making the perfect bread. I’m not a master bread baker by any means but the way flour transforms from a powder to a completely different ordered structure is fascinating.
This bread recipe makes me feel confident, it’s originally a Jim Lahey recipe (which is very famous) that’s been adapted by David Leite of Leite’s Culinaria and works superb (there are lots of version’s of this no-knead bread on the internet that I tried and this is the one that gave me success and explained what to watch out for)
No-knead breads as the name suggests, removes the need to knead bread which saves some time. This particular dough contains a large amount of water and is called a high-hydration dough which makes it sticky. The dough requires very little yeast to start with, this is because the bulk fermentation is long (and I doubled mine from the time listed in the recipe), because yeast replicate exponentially. If you start with too much yeast all the nutrients that yeast need to survive and grow will be eaten up very fast and your bread will rise fast and fall, the end result will not be good.
When working with high-hydration doughs, knowing how to shape them is important. Watch this video from the San Francisco Baking Institute before you shape. It does an excellent job of showing how to handle the dough and shape it. Before I watched this video, I had a lot of problems shaping it and my bread didn’t rise properly once baked because I didn’t work it enough.
Follow the recipe on David’s site but these are the changes I made.
Add 3 Tbsp of whey from an active culture yogurt when you add the yeast. This is to build up some more lactic acid and other flavor molecules.
Bulk ferment for a long time – 24 to 26 hours is perfect in my experience. I do this in a food-safe plastic container with a lid.
Use a cocotte or Dutch-oven of the right size. Too wide and the bread has more room to spread as it bakes. My 5.5 quart [ 5.2L] cocotte (Staub) is 10.24 inches [26 cm] wide and worked fantastic for this amount of dough.
Make sure you coat the towel with plenty of flour, semolina, or cornmeal. This is a high-hydration dough and there’s also water being produced by the bacteria and yeast due to their metabolism. If you don’t coat the towel well, the dough has a strong tendency to stick to the cloth and it will be a pain when you peel the cloth away.