21 June 2012

No-Knead Bread and Equipment Review - Wusthof Classic 10-Inch Bread Knife

Bread, as you know if you've been reading Delightful Repast for any length of time, is my one weakness. I could live on bread and tea. I love everything about it--the look, feel and smell of it at every stage, as well as the taste. Making homemade bread is even more satisfying than making pies. I get just as giddy now over the magic of yeast as I did when I made my first loaf as young girl.

And I love the kneading. It's like a meditation for me. So why make no-knead bread? Because it's an entirely different bread than you get with kneading. This is a rustic bread--crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside with lots of big holes. If you are someone with arthritis or neuropathy in your hands who cannot knead, this is one homemade bread you should try. And if you are someone who does not own a food processor or heavy-duty stand mixer, this bread's for you; all you need is a bowl and a spoon to mix it up.

Though I sometimes use gluten-free and whole-grain flours, the only white flour I ever use is unbleached all-purpose flour. Life is simpler when the gluten-free and whole-grain flours are in the freezer and there is but one white flour in the cupboard. Why keep cake flour and bread flour on hand when any recipe can be adapted to unbleached all-purpose? Also just for the sake of simplicity, I make all my bread with instant yeast, sometimes called rapid rise or bread machine yeast.

This is my version of the famous Jim Lahey baked-in-a-pot no-knead bread that became a phenomenon of the blogosphere in 2006 when Mark Bittman wrote about it in The New York Times. I got around to trying it a few months later and made the first loaf according to the recipe, then immediately starting experimenting and improving it (or making it better suit my needs, I should say).

I've made the loaf larger (9 inches in diameter and 4 inches high in the middle) and eliminated some of the messy steps. Don’t let the “24-Hour” bit scare you off; it’s really just a few minutes of work and 24 hours of waiting. And it doesn't have to be exactly 24 hours either; it can be several hours less. But when you're trying to figure out how to make it come out at a certain time, it's easier to do the math with 24 hours! 

What are you going to use to cut this big, crusty loaf?

Good kitchen equipment, as you know if you've been reading Delightful Repast for any length of time, is also my one weakness (any Lark Rise to Candleford fans out there?). I'd been on the hunt for a really good bread knife, having been dissatisfied with several over the years, when the Wusthof Classic 10-Inch Bread Knife 4151 was sent to me for review.

I've tried all sorts of bread knives: expensive, cheap, long, short, offset handle, regular handle, straight blade, curved blade, scalloped teeth, regular teeth, combination teeth. They all either squash my bread or don't cut at all! Perhaps my being left-handed has something to do with it? 

The Wusthof Classic knives, which were always razor-sharp, are now 20 percent sharper and will maintain their edge twice as long, thanks to new technology. I'll let you read all the technical details at Wusthof's new microsite. It's quite interesting, but the burning question that needs to be answered here is: Can the Wusthof bread knife cut bread, crusty on the outside and soft on the inside, without squashing it?

Yes, it can! If you saw my review of the Wusthof Classic 8-Inch Cook's Knife, you know I love the way the Wusthof Classic handle feels in my hand. And this 10-inch blade is the perfect length for a bread knife, handling loaves of any size and splitting cake layers beautifully.  

24-Hour No-Knead Bread
Adapted from New York baker Jim Lahey's famous recipe 
(Makes one round 34-ounce European-style boule)

4 1/2 dip-and-sweep cups (22.5 ounces/638 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
2 cups water, room temperature

Note: I use my Le Creuset Enameled Cast-Iron 5-1/2-Quart Round French Oven with 9-inch bottom interior diameter and a 9-inch parchment round sprayed with cooking spray. My pot has the stainless steel knob, so no worries about it cracking at high temperatures. If your pot has the phenolic (plastic) knob, you might try covering it with foil or just order a Le Creuset L9403-45 Stainless-Steel 2-Inch Replacement Knob.

1 Start dough 24 hours before you plan to serve the bread. In large bowl (I use a straight-sided 4-quart glass bowl so I can easily tell when the dough has doubled), whisk together flour, salt and yeast. Add water and stir with dough whisk or large spoon until the dough just comes together into a shaggy, sticky dough. Cover with lid, plate or plastic wrap and let stand 18 1/2 hours on countertop. 

2 Sprinkle a tablespoon of flour over the dough (right in the bowl). With floured hands, pat the dough gently to deflate it a bit. Fold it in thirds (very irregular thirds as this is a very slack dough), then in thirds again, sprinkling on a teaspoon of flour with each fold. Cover with lid, plate or plastic wrap and let it rest for 2 1/2 hours. When you’ve got about a half hour left, place pot (without its lid) in the oven and preheat to 450 degrees. 

3 When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size. Remove hot pot from oven. Put a round of cooking-sprayed parchment in the bottom (sprayed side up) to prevent sticking. Using floured hand or a untensil, dump the dough into the heated pot. Cover and place in oven. Reduce heat to 425 degrees, and bake 40 minutes. Uncover, bake another 25 minutes or until the crust is beautifully golden and middle of loaf is 210 degrees.

4 Remove and let cool on wire rack for 2 hours. If not eating right away, you can re-crisp crust in oven at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. It's best the day it is baked but can be kept, wrapped in foil, at room temperature for up to 2 days. Or keep cut side down covered with a towel to preserve the crust's crunch. This bread makes terrific toast!

5 My favorite way of slicing a boule is to cut the loaf in half, turn the cut side down and slice, but you can make long slices if you like.

Note: You might like some of my other bread recipes. Look under Breads on my Recipes/Reviews index page.

Disclosure: If pertinent to the post, I will sometimes mention a favorite piece of equipment or other product, with a link to that item on Amazon.com. If you purchase something from Amazon through one of my product links, I receive a small commission that does not cost you.


Cranberry Morning said...

Crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside? I've been looking that since buying bread on the streets of Cochabamba, Bolivia! I've gotten close with homemade French bread, spritzing it with water now and then while it's baking. But this sounds wonderful! I usually eat gluten free, but there are times I just must make a real hearty bread!

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Thanks, Judy! Yes, I eat a lot of gluten-free baked goods, but sometimes I simply must have some really good homemade wheat bread.

Richard Sheppard said...

I remember seeing videos on NYTs about Jim Lahey's no kneed bread via Mark Bittman. It always sounded really good! But I have yet to try it. Jean, you always get me going on things so I'll have to try this recipe out too. But first I have to get my oven fixed. The broiler works but the oven stopped baking for no reason (that I know of)!

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Yes, Richard, do get your oven fixed and try it. But do it MY way! The original recipe was good, but it had some messy and unnecessary steps and made a tiny loaf.

Richard Sheppard said...

I'll definitely try it it your way! It looks so crusty and bubbly. I just want to take a bite out of it right now!

Angie's Recipes said...

Jean, this is one bakery perfect loaf of bread! Yummy!

Angie's Recipes said...

Did you change anything on comment setting? It's different now. Before the comment was on the same page, now a new page pops up.

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Thanks, Angie! I like that - "bakery perfect." And, yes, I did make a change to the comment setting some time ago. Hope it will consistently work for you (and others).

Anonymous said...

Dear Lefty – you almost have me with your paean to pan (bread)! Such descriptive excellence! You really should write a book, you know. Cookbooks are the perennial best-seller, and methinks you are reaching evermore toward the anecdotal slants that could make for an interesting slant on that project. And then there's the bread knife. Cool toy for a mental midget like me. But in the end, you know we are thesis and antithesis on that staple, the staff of life. Not that I don't like bread; just that I don't like it enough to give up something else. What I really end up wanting to know is can it mop up spills as well as Bounty quilted paper towels?



Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Thanks for the vote of confidence, Sully. But about the Bounty, no, it would take a bread with a closer crumb than this one to mop up spills! :D

Sippity Sup said...

I feel I should try this method because I avoid making bread because of the floury mess that the kneading process entails. GREG

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

I hate making a mess! The original version of this was pretty messy - including flouring up the counter and then flouring up a kitchen towel - no thanks! Not necessary. Do it my no muss no muss way! Let me know how it turns out for you.

Cheryl Gebhart said...

This bread sounds good. I bake all of our bread, but I use whole wheat flour that I mill myself and a Bosch mixer to knead it. That bread knife looks great too.

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Cheryl, thanks! I love whole wheat bread too. Especially for breakfast. The sort of nutty flavor of whole wheat toast goes great with my almost-daily oatmeal. I've heard great things about the Bosch mixer too.

Anonymous said...

I like how you got rid of the towel that was part of the original recipe. That was so messy, I never tried it a second time!

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Caroline, thanks! That was the first change I made to the recipe. If I'd had to make that mess every time I made the bread, I wouldn't have made it again either!