Thursday, January 1, 2009

Whole Wheat No Knead Bread

I was looking for an easy way to make bread and came across this article and this video from the NY Times.  It's easy, but didn't work well with whole wheat flour.  After a little research and tinkering (thanks Anthony) we've come up with a recipe that works for whole wheat flour.  I now use this as our primary bread.  It's good for sandwiches and takes very little time.

Whole wheat flour, as I discovered, absorbs more water than white flour because of the bran.  So if you use the online recipes for white flour, the dough doesn't rise properly.  The yeast needs room in the dough to move around, so if the bran absorbs all the water, the yeast doesn't propagate well.  So the biggest difference between my recipe and the white bread ones is an increase in water.  I also don't let this dough rise as long as the white flour recipe as it yields a more fermented taste which I don't think fits the sweetness of the whole wheat too well.  I'll include the recipe and the link for the method.

You'll need a cast iron pot with a lid (Dutch oven).  Mine measures 9" wide by 3.5" deep.

470 grams whole wheat flour, the one I like is quite fine but not as fine as pastry flour.  The fineness of the flour will effect the amount of water needed.

585 grams water (about 2 2/3 cups) at about room temp.

1/4 tsp yeast

1/2 tsp salt

1 T honey or sweetener of choice.  (I've used molasses successfully too).  I dissolve this in the water.


Lots of flour for folding the dough.

Ground flax or cornmeal for dusting.

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and cover except the folding and dusting flours.  The consistency of the dough should be like wet cement.  You just stir it all up with a spoon.  Stir it really well. Allow the dough to rise at room temperature for 7-12 hours.  When the dough fills the bowl, spread a thick layer (about 1/4 inch) of flour on a clean surface.  You'll want to start your oven preheating to 450 F with the Dutch oven in the oven.  Pour the dough out onto the flour.  Sprinkle the dough with flour and spread it out into a circle about 12-14" wide and about 1.5" thick.  Fold the dough in thirds like a business letter.  You'll now have dough that is long and skinny.  Fold the long ends in toward the middle so that you have a square or round ball.  Lift the ball into a bowl that is lined with a clean cloth napkin or dishtowel that has been heavily dusted with cornmeal or ground flax seed.  The dough will be super super soft and wet and you'll have to move it really fast or it will slip through your fingers.  At this point you can either bake it right away or wait an hour.  I think it's better if you wait, but you don't have to if you're in a hurry.  Lift the napkin out of the bowl and gently roll the dough into the pot. Put the lid back on and set the timer for 40 minutes.  Take it out and let it cool.  It needs to cool before bagging.  The bread doesn't cut too well when it's hot, although who can resist a taste?!  I refrigerate my loaf to slice it and then leave it out in a bag on the counter.  It stays good for about 3-4 days.  If I'm waiting longer than that I'll refrigerate it until we're ready to eat it or it will get a fermented taste.

The Dutch oven creates a humid atmosphere while baking that creates a superb crust and nice texture to the loaf.  Happy baking!