Wednesday, February 18, 2009

No Knead Whole Wheat Bread

No-Knead 100% Whole Wheat Bread

Adapted from the New York Times and Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery

Time: About 1½ hours plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising

(The metric measurements are more accurate.)

3 cups (430 grams) whole wheat flour, plus 1/4-1/2 cup more for dusting
¼ teaspoon (1 gram) instant yeast (or 1/4 plus 1/16 teaspoon active dry yeast*)
1¼ teaspoons (8 grams) salt
1 1/2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
2 cups minus 1 tablespoon (430 grams) water
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed

1. In a large bowl combine flour, instant yeast, salt and vital wheat gluten. Add 1 1/2 cups water and stir until blended. Keep adding water until the dough is shaggy and sticky, like a stiff muffin batter. It should not be so wet that it’s pourable. You will probably use all of the water, but different brands of flour are more absorbent. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Liberally flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.

*If substituting active dry yeast, let it proof in 1/4 cup of lukewarm water (reserved from the total water) for 10 minutes. Add the yeast with the rest of the water when mixing it in the dough.

Because the dough is so sticky, you need about an extra half cup of flour to dust your hands and shaping surface.

Also, because the whole wheat dough is wetter, you need about an extra 10 minutes in the oven.

If you don’t have a heavy oven-ready pot or don’t want such a flat loaf, you can use a standard loaf pan. Cover the top with an upside-down casserole dish or a tent of foil so it doesn’t brown too quickly. A trick to getting nice crust is to preheat a pan (not glass-it will shatter) on the oven floor and fill it with hot water during baking. I think it’s worth the extra step.

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