“For years we used to say that it was important to knead in order to "develop the gluten", but we now know this isn't entirely true. . . . So you can knead the dough fast, slow, or even not at all, and end up with similar results.” Bread baking expert Dan Lepard, The Guardian, November 24, 2007.
What is one of the biggest movements in bread baking today? The no-knead movement.
The newest wave of yeast aficionados embraces the idea that great bread does not have to involve lots of work or time. This revolution in thinking reached many people nearly three years ago when they read an article by Mark Bittman in The New York Timesabout Jim Lahey’s now famous no-knead bread recipe.
Hundreds of people went out and bought yeast—many for the first time—and blogged about this bread. This recipe makes bread “so easy a four-yr old can make it,” posted Steamy Kitchen’s Jaden in a post showing her adorable son Andrew whipping up this bread.
A year later, Nick Fox of The New York Times wrote about another no-knead recipe from the then recently released book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day (or ABin5), by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. While ABin5 did not set off same frenzy as Lahey’s recipe, it has developed many ardent fans.
Those fans love the basic idea of ABin5: take five minutes to stir together your dough ingredients, let it rest at room temperature for a couple of hours, and then stash the dough in the refrigerator. When you want bread, just pull out a hunk of dough from the fridge.
The ABin5 authors also provide lots of tech support for their book through their website. There are tons of great ideas for recipe variations there, too.
Even more shrewdly, the authors are staying on top of the trend by bringing out a new book this fall that features whole grain recipes: Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day:100 New Recipes Featuring Whole Grains, Fruits, Vegetables, and Gluten-Free Ingredients. And the recipes sound surprisingly decadent for “healthy bread”: pistachio swirled brioche, anyone?
I can’t wait . . . .
Extra: The only catch with these no-knead breads is that you have to plan ahead. And planning ahead is not everyone’s cup of tea.
So, what can you do if you want bread fast, without kneading AND without planning ahead?
I saw a neat idea on Andrew Zajac’s site Simply Enjoy Food for making bread the no-knead way, but super-quick. Here is the basic idea: you stir together your ingredients and place your dough in a warm (200 degree) oven for 14 minutes. Take the dough out and flatten it. Fold it in thirds (letter fold) and then fold again in thirds to make a square. Let it rise for another 14 minutes and do another set of stretches and folds. Rest for another 9 minutes, shape your loaf, and then let it rise for five minutes. Bake it for about a half hour and—boom—you have fresh bread.
I used this technique to make challah, babka, and a Danish braid, and it worked wonderfully. And it works with whatever your schedule may be, so you can take more time with the dough if you need to run out and do an errand in the middle.