Beginner's Bread Making Class 🍞
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Tracy's 'No Knead' To Worry Method
There's been a bit of a bread revolution going on in the States for the last couple of years. It's all about making real bread (not full of chemicals or additives or 'special' ingredients), but doing bread smart and doing it quick, so that you can manage making your own and making it authentically, but in a fashion that fits with a busy, modern life...
There are quite a few versions of this basic idea around and you can find quite a few books and magazine articles on the subject if you have a bit of a hunt for them under 'Artisan Bread', 'No Knead Bread', 'Quick Bread', etc. I've been searching out these recipes for a good 6-8 months now and adapting them to suit the wood fired oven, and this recipe - a composite of those techniques that work best in the WFO - is just about foolproof I reckon.
It's incredibly adaptable - you can play with the time, the batch size, the type/s of flour, the loaf shape and add all sorts of ingredients and no matter what you do, it'll still work out delicious.
The big advantage of a no-knead recipe though (apart from the obvious!) is, if your just starting to learn about your oven AND just starting to learn about baking bread, then that's quite a lot of variables to be juggling at once and you can make (and eat!) a lot of not-so delicious bread while you work it all out. A no-knead recipe lets you concentrate on practising your oven techniques like how to soak the oven with heat, how to remove the coals, how to use your door, how to use a mop to create moisture and be confident that you understand the effects of your actions, without having to stress about your bread at all - it's going to be no drama and it's going to taste great - there really is no-knead to worry!
The only disadvantage I can see to a no-knead recipe is that it takes up a lot of fridge room. Essentially, you're swapping the mess and fuss of kneading for a slow dough rise in the fridge, so you might have to make a few sacrifices (let the beer be warm, let the chocolate melt, but keep the dough cold!).
No Knead Bread Dough
Okay, well first things first, you need a lidded container for your dough to live in. Anything will do, as long as it's large enough to hold the expanding dough (triple the original dough-mass) and it has a lid that will sit on top, but doesn't have to be totally sealed or tight (if you seal up a preserving jar-type lid for instance, you could potentially create a dough bomb and the power of bread should only be used for good, not evil!).
I find the 7 litre rectangular Sistema Klip-It plastic containers with the blue trim (available from supermarkets everywhere here, see pictures) fit the bill nicely AND they're made in New Zealand, which is nearly as good as being Aussie made, isn't it?!
No Knead Bread Dough Ingredients
- 2 ¾ cups lukewarm water
- 1½ flat-ish tablespoons granulated dry yeast
- 1½ heaped-ish tablespoons coarse sea salt
- 6 loose cups of bread flour
Okay, into your container place: 2¾ cups lukewarm water, 1½ flat-ish tablespoons granulated dry yeast, 1½ heaped-ish tablespoons coarse sea salt. Stir it around to combine, but don't worry too much about any little yeast lumps – they'll disappear.
Dump in 6 loose cups of bread flour and use a wooden spoon or wet hands to combine the dough. Now remember, this is a no-knead dough, so don't work it. All you're after is a vaguely uniform consistency to your mud pie – the mix is going to be mushy and wet and won't hold into a ball or anything – just mix it for a minute or two so there's no great lumps of dry flour and THAT'S IT!
Well, that's not really it, but its pretty close. All you have to do now is to just put your lid over the top and put your container in a warmish place and leave it there for 2-5 hours (you want the dough to rise up and collapse down slightly) then put it in the fridge and forget it for at least a day.
How good is that? Bread made, no mess to clean up AND you can make your dough up to 10 days in advance and the taste will just get better – told ya we'd only use our powers for good!
Dough Mixed ~ from side.
Dough Mixed ~ from top.
Dough Risen ~ from side.
Dough Risen ~ from top.
On Baking Day
So, when baking day rolls around, IT'S ALL ABOUT THE OVEN.
See our FAQ section on - Readying Your Wood Fire Oven For Bread Baking
You don't knead/need to worry about your bread until about 30 mins before you want it to go in...!
When you're nearly ready to bake, you're going to want a nice bit of clear, dry, bench space, an open packet of bread flour and a small, pointy serrated edged knife - a steak knife is ideal - or, if you are doing industrial/commercial sized dough amounts, then you need our dough cutter instead.
Take your dough out of the fridge, open the container, dust the knife blade and the top of the dough with flour and then cut the dough into 4 equal pieces. Flour the bench fairly well, then flour your hands and scoop one of the pieces of dough out and onto your hand (flour side down), then flour the other side (the side that was the bottom layer in the container and is now on top).
This can be a bit scary first time you do it because it's a very soft dough, but trust me, it'll be ok! Don't worry about the quantity of 'dusting' flour you are using either - you'll see if you read further that I'm pretty liberal with the old flour but because there is no-kneading, it won't make the dough too doughy, the excess will just fall off…
Okay now, here you are, holding your dough ball in your two hands. This next bit is a bit hard to describe but, bring your thumbs in till they nearly touch above the centre of the dough ball and then put your thumbs down on to the dough and use them to gently stretch/drag the mix from the centre top of the mass around while at the same time using your other fingers to kind of tuck the stretched bits up under the rest of the dough ball.
Bring your thumbs in till they nearly touch above the centre of the dough ball.
Use your thumbs to gently stretch/drag the mix from the centre top of the mass around.
Use your other fingers to kind of tuck the stretched bits up under the rest of the dough ball.
Rotate your dough ball a quarter of a turn and repeat from step one above until ball is smooth.
Be a bit gentle - you want to stretch the strands of dough, not break/rip them too much. Do this at least four times - rotating the ball a quarter turn each time - until the top of the dough ball is nice and smooth, the shape is round and the bottom is a lumpy mass of ends all neatly tucked up and hidden from view (actually eight times, or two complete rotations might be more realistic before it looks like the pictures here!).
Flour the top and bottom of your ball again, then put it down on your (floured) bench. Leave your dough balls to sit out on the bench for no more than half an hour to relax slightly and when you're ready to put your loaves in the oven, use the point of your (floured) knife to make 3 parallel slashes across the top of the loaf. You want the knife to go about a third of the way through the dough.
BTW, if you don't want to bake all four loaves at once, get the container with the remainder of the dough in it back in the fridge as soon as possible. Remember, your dough will keep in the fridge for at least ten days and in fact, the longer you leave your dough to slow rise, the more complex and finer textured your bread will be.
Variations on a Theme
Once you've got your basic bread cooking technique down pat, it's easy to go off and try more complicated/traditional bread recipes, because you'll be confident that you know how your oven behaves. That said, this no-knead bread is very tasty (remember, the longer you leave the dough in the fridge, the more complex and sour-dough like it becomes), easy, consistent and the possibilities (both savoury and sweet) are endless.
Why not try:
When you add your flour to the yeast mix, stir in a couple of tablespoons of fennel seeds and a big pile of diced Kraft/Coon cheese (you know, the sliced sort you put on kiddies sammies? - for some reason, this ultra bland sort of cheese works really well in bread). Once this loaf comes out of the oven, I defy anyone to leave it cool, it's just not possible! If you actually make enough of it that you want to eat it with something (as opposed to just by itself), think ham sammies or make small, long loaves and cook some nice pork sausages and serve really flash German-y hotdogs with it...
Or, just to prove how versatile this recipe is, how about making yourself a loaf or two of the world's best raisin toast? All you have to do is, the day before you make your dough, soak a packet of raisins or sultanas in a mix of Medium Dry Sherry and/or cold black tea. Leave them to soak for half a day, strain the liquid off (keep it for use as a glaze) and then leave the fruit in a bowl, sitting uncovered on paper towel, in the fridge for the rest of the day to drain.
When you go to make your dough, just use ½ the salt in the yeast mix and when you add your flour, also add 1 cup of sugar and your raisins/'tanas before you stir the mix together.
The only other thing you may need to watch with making sweet dough this way is not to leave the dough out for too long - just leave the dough out for 1 - 1½ hours on the bench and then get it in the fridge. At room temp., sweet dough won't collapse once it's risen a bit, it'll just keep growing until it takes over your whole kitchen!
Oh nearly forgot, you don't need to do this, but if you keep 2 tablespoons of your sherry/tea liquid and add 1 tablespoon of sugar to it, this makes a great glaze. Just paint some over your dough before it goes into the oven and again when it comes out and you'll have that wonderful dark, traditional raisin bread crust.