In the past X’mas and New Year holidays, I have baked a number of no-knead breads using recipes from the famous blogger Carol Hu. Some minor adjustments on the proportion of the ingredients and the fermentation time were added.
軟芝士乾果 Cream Cheese with Dried-fruit
免揉麵包做法則是利用較長的發酵時間代替傳統的麵糰搓揉。坊間有各式各樣的做法，重點是酵母份量稍為低，水份較高，及頗長的發酵時間 (12 至18小時不等)。
The texture of the bread is determined by how well the gluten strands are developed. When flour is mixed with water to form the dough, those enzyme in the air as well as the added yeast will “digest” the dough and release gas bubbles. Through the kneading process, a consistent structure of gluten strands will be developed wich help to provide the airy structure of the bread.
Unlike the traditional method of bread making, no-knead bread relies on long fermentation time instead of kneading to develop the required gluten strands. There are a lot of no-knead bread recipes available with slight variations. They are characterised by low yeast content, higher water proportion and very long fermentation time which typically lasted from 12 to 18 hours.
The no-knead method existed for quite a long time but got more attention and popularity in the past few years. Even you don’t have a bread machine or have no clue to the art of bread kneading, you can bake quality bread with the no-knead method.
Sound fantastic, but is it that easy to achieve?
Based on the last four no-kneading breads that I have made (including the one with not so good fermentation), I think the no-kneading method really does its magic. However, there are some variations in the baking process that will affect the final quality of the bread, which I believe more practice is required before you can master the no-kneading method.
I shared with you some of my experience on no-knead bread baking:
首先附上一個較通用的免揉麵包食譜 (取自美國紐約Sullivan Street Bakery的Jim Lahey的書“My Bread”)，這和Carol的食譜頗相近:
Let’s take a look at a very popular No-knead bread recipe (taken from the book “My Bread” written by Jim Lahey of the NY based Sullivan Street Bakery) that is similar to Carol’s recipe:
Basic ingredients include flour, salt, yeast and water.
材料 Ingredients 份量 Grams/ml 烘焙比例 Baker’s % 麵粉 Flour 400 100% 鹽 Salt 8 2% 快速酵母 Instant yeast 1 0.25% 水 Water 300 75%
Next followed by some of the variations that I have made in the baking process:
- 材料份量 Ingredients & Proportion
相比於以上的食譜，製作過程中會有一些差異，例如麵粉的疍白質含量（高筋麵粉，中筋麵粉/All purpose flour) 及酵母種類（乾酵母，快速酵母）等，大家要就實際情況作出修改。我用的是含14%疍白質的高筋粉，所以水的份量要加多一些。另一方面，因為我使用乾酵母，所以份量也要相對增加，亦需要事前把酵母叫醒。
Some of the variations are the type of flour (Bread flour or All Purpose flour) and yeast (Active dried yeast or Instant yeast) to be used. Adjustment will be required from time to time. In my case, I used high protein content (14%) bread flour and more water is required. In addition, as I also used active dried yeast, I have to increase the amount of yeast and activate the yeast.
- 麵糰處理 Dough Handling
Since no-kneading method has higher water content, the resulting dough will be so watery that is hard to handle. I have followed other’s suggestion to add some flour to my hands and the dough to make it less sticky.
- 製作時間 Bread Making Time
The No-kneading method requires a very long initial fermentation time that ranges from 12 to 18 hours. By including other time for mixing, dough relaxing, shaping, second fermentation and baking time, it may take nearly one whole day to make the bread. Comparing with the 3 to 4 hours found in the traditional method, good time management is highly desirable. Otherwise, you may have to wake up in the mid-night just like me to continue the baking work on the fermented dough. Life of a professional baker is really tough!
Ingredients of the basic no-knead method is very simple. The flavours of the bread are coming from the fermentation process and the salt. Good practice is required to master the fermentation process in order to release the best bread flavours. Moreover, the building up of the soft and airy bread structure will be totally relied on the mother nature to control the fermentation process.
One can only know whether the bread is good or not when the bread is baked and being sliced. Something just like taking picture with the good old non-digital camera that may bring some surprise.
For the past four no-kneading breads that I have made, I will give myself a passing mark of 70. They all looked good on the outside, however, more practice will definitely help me to master the fermentation process and the fine tuning on the ingredients.