Sunday, April 11, 2010

Kneaded Bread vs. No Knead Bread - a comparison and some camping ideas

I've been reviewing a cookbook I got out of the library called Kneadlessly Simple by Nancy Baggett.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, this cookbook might be better named "Needlessly Complicated", but it does provide some valuable insight on making breads that rely on a slow rise as opposed to kneading.   I am convinced that all around, a kneaded bread recipe is easier to make, but I'd love to use no knead breads for camping.   I can mix things up ahead of time, and leave them in the cooler for their initial rise, and then in the sun for their second rise.  I'd like to make more breads in my camping Dutch ovens this summer.   Ms. Baggett suggests that any regular kneaded bread recipe can be transformed into a no knead bread recipe by comparing it to a similar recipe in her book and adopting some of the same techniques.   So I am going to try comparing my favorite white bread recipe with one of hers in the book.   Here's how the recipes compare - the KS technique requires a little less flour an a little more water.  Using the no knead technique, all of the dry ingredients are mixed together, and then they are mixed with the wet ingredients and stired.   The dough should be stiff, but sticky.   Cover the bowl, and it can be refrigerated for a while, and then left to rise for the first time for 15 - 20 hours.   For a camping trip, I could see mixing up the dough on a Thursday night, and then refrigerating it until it was time to leave.  Then, I'd put it in the cooler, and when we got to our final destination on a Friday evening, leaving the dough in the car to rise overnight.    Then, in the morning, I'd punch it down and cut the dough in half and let half rise during the day for dinner.  I'd put the other half back in the cooler and take it out before bedtime to rise again in the car for breakfast rolls the following morning.   Similarly, one could make one loaf one day and then save the other half in the fridge to make the next day.  I am wondering if the dough could be frozen before the second guess is that it could, but I am not sure.  I'll have to experiment!

For the baking part, for the KS recipe, preheat the oven to 425, then lower the temp to 400 F. Bake for 35 - 45 minutes, until the top is nicely browned.Cover the top with foil and make another 15 - 25 minutes, or until the tem reaches 208-210 F with an instant read thermometer.    The MS recipe is about the same....For Dutch oven cookery, I found a handy trick on this website:
  •   Virtually everything needs to cook at 350F, and here's the magic number 2 for Dutch oven cookery.
    •  2 coals per inch of oven diameter
    • place 2 more coals than the oven size on the lid, and
    • place 2 less than the oven size under it.
  • I have a 12 inch oven and and a 10 inch oven, so that would mean I would use 24 coals for the 12 inch oven, and then I'd put 2 more coals on top (14) and 2 less on the bottom (10)  
  • To successfully brown breads, however, you must alter the cooking process for the last five to eight minutes of the traditional 25-30 minute, 350° baking time.
    • Put a light coat of oil on the interior of a cool oven (including the lid), and let the rolls or bread complete their final rise in the oven prior to applying the coals.
    • Place the oven on the coals with the proper number of coals on top as noted earlier. Remember: no coals directly under the center of the oven.  Putting them under the center of the oven will make a hot spot and it will burn.  They should be placed 1 inch apart in a circle under the oven.
    • When there are five to eight minutes left in the cooking time, lift the lid, lightly brush the tops of the breads with butter, replace the lid, then take all the coals from under the oven and distribute them evenly on the top. With all the heat now on the lid, check the bread every couple of minutes until you think it looks perfect. After brushing the coals and ashes from the lid, remove it, tilt the oven over a bread board, and your perfect bread will gently fall out.
I can't wait for camping this summer!

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