Sunday, June 6, 2010

Sourdough No Knead Bread

I bake a lot when we are on board, items for us to enjoy, to share with friends, or to exchange with fishermen. I have traded cookies for crab, sticky buns for halibut, French bread baguettes for salmon, and sourdough boules for prawns. Lately, even while up on the hard, I've been baking cookies and bread and the galley smells terrific. Cookies are immediate, and the boatyard crew seems to enjoy them, but even with its two-day wait I think we relish the sourdough more. It's become a Rhapsody tradition, and the sight of the red bread pot puts a smile on the captain's face.

Over the past few years I have seen SO many blogs, books, articles and YouTube videos that rave on about No Knead Bread, that I don’t remember which riff off the original Jim Lahey recipe came from where. I just know that we love this loaf - it’s tang, its crunchy crust, it’s chewy texture. We eat it as a snack, use it for sandwiches, toast it for breakfast, and prefer it to all other croutons or bruschetta bases. It makes an interesting savory French toast too.  

We enjoy sourdough with the addition of fresh rosemary and walnut halves. Feta cheese and whole, pitted Kalamata olives are pretty tasty too. But the dough really doesn’t need any additives, it’s all about the textures and that sourdough tang.

My starter is pretty thick, and the following quantities create a loose, shaggy dough that isn’t too stiff. With a looser starter, I’d decrease the water and/or increase the flour. Experiment, get a feel for it - sourdough is really forgiving. It even holds well in the refrigerator after mixing, before the second rise, and may develop a deeper sourdough flavor.  

I begin with a heaping cup of well-fed starter, pulled from a jar that has been standing at room temperature for a couple of hours.

Add 1 ¼ cup of warm water and whisk it in. Add 1 tsp salt and whisk some more.

Then, a cup at a time, whisk in a scant 3 cups of AP flour, mixing well after each addition and switching to a wooden spoon when it gets thicker. Towards the end when the mix gets really stiff, use a dough scraper to work in the dry flour at the bottom of the bowl, folding and mixing until a very shaggy ball forms. And then fold and work it some more, resisting the urge to grab that sticky stuff and knead it like crazy. I suppose you could knead it, but you just don’t need to. It’s No Knead Bread.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit overnight at room temperature for 12 hours or more. Be sure to give it a lot of space to expand since it can get pretty frisky.

The next morning punch down the dough and work it with the dough scraper, rolling and folding the sides into the middle over and over. Or you might give in to that irresistible need to knead, again with the help of the dough scraper ‘cuz that sticky stuff wants to adhere to everything. Coming from someone who, as a young bride, hated to get her hands gooey to make meatloaf, this urge to knead dough is unexplainable. (Yes, I have moved past the meatloaf-making aversion.)

Shape the dough into a ball, pulling the edges into the middle over and over, and place it on parchment paper in a skillet that’s roughly the diameter of your Dutch oven. The paper will flop over the sides, and that’s a good thing. Spray the dough lightly with cooking spray and cover with plastic wrap. 

Let it sit at room temperature until it rises, roughly doubling in size (anywhere from 2 to 6 hours depending on room temperature) and it doesn’t spring back when poked with a finger.

At least 30 minutes before baking, adjust oven rack to the next-to-lowest position, place a 6-to8 quart heavy-bottomed Dutch oven (and its lid) on the rack, and heat the oven to 475 F degrees.

Lightly flour the top of the dough and use a sharp knife to make a ½-inch deep slit or two along the top of the dough. Carefully remove the pot and lid from the oven. Pick up the dough by lifting the parchment overhang and lower into the pot, letting any excess parchment hang over the pot edge. Cover the pot and place in the oven. Bake covered for 30 minutes. 

Remove the lid, reduce the oven temperature to 425 degrees, and continue to bake the loaf until it is deep brown in color, about 20 to 30 minutes longer. A quik-read thermometer should register between 200 and 210 F.

Carefully remove the bread from the pot, transfer to a wire rack and cool to room temperature, about 2 hours… or until you can’t wait any longer to sample the first chunk.
 Oh my, it's especially good slathered with butter and sprinkled lightly with sea salt. I think I might be a breadaholic.


  1. I can't wait to taste it!!!! My mouth is watering just thinking of the cuisine on the boat. Yummy....


  2. Thanks for positive comments, Laci. We thought about you when we enjoyed sourdough pancakes this morning.


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