Whole Wheat No-Knead Bread

Summers in the mountains means bread.

I rarely make bread at home in New York City. Not that I couldn’t. After all, this bread is easy enough to make, and despite it’s long rise time, requires very little of my attention.

But thinking about making bread does require, for me at least, a relaxed, open mind. And the inward assurance that in 18 hours I will still be available to move the bread on to it’s second rise, and then to it’s baking. Coordinating that with my schedule in the city makes the bread making feel like a chore and not the joy it is when I undertake it here at the cottage. Here, the day and the next lay ahead of me, open and lazy. The only things on my must do list today are a morning lake trail walk and if its warm enough, a swim. Maybe a bike ride into town to the farm stand market to hunt for inspiration for dinner.

I put this bread up to rise last night at 10, just after we arrived. This morning we read, then I put the bread out for its second rise around 1. We stocked the beach locker with clean towels and then went to town for lunch and to check out the local shops for the first time this season, stopping to hear some bluegrass on the porch and chat with friends outside the Common Ground. After that, I came home and baked the bread while Mr TBTAM cleaned the gutters and mowed the grass and I read some more. By 5 pm the bread was done. It’s in the bread box now, awaiting tomorrow’s breakfast and lunch.  The salmon is marinating, we’re drinking wine and getting ready to start a fire. (Obviously it was too cold to swim today…) Tonight will either be a scrabble or a card game, and something made with the peaches I found at the farm market for dessert.

As I’m thinking about it now, bread making gives a kind of structure to an otherwise completely unstructured existence here on the mountain. It doesn’t depend on the weather (though it may vary a bit depending on temperature and humidity), and needs no one but me to make it happen. If we have company, as we will for much of the rest of the summer, I can adjust the timing accordingly, or make the shorter rise version. But every weekend will have it’s loaf at some point.

The bread making is a touch point for me, a way of grounding myself and transitioning from the hectic overdriven life in the city to the lazy days in the country. It gives me a sense of having accomplished something without demanding that I actually do very much at all.

And it tastes amazing.

NO-KNEAD WHOLE WHEAT BREAD

This recipe is from Mark Bittman, inspired by Jim Lahey’s now legendary No-Knead bread making technique. Before making this bread, watch this video of Mark and Jim making this bread together, and this video of Jim teaching Mark for the first time how to do it. Even better, read Jim’s book, which was what I read today while my bread was rising. And read my previous blog post on my experience making this amazing bread.

This was my first try at making a whole wheat no-knead bread. The results were fantastic – a light, tasty, moist and chewy interior with a crunchy crust. Not as hard and thick and crunchy as Lahey’s white bread crust, but this may have been because I mistakingly baked the bread at 450 degrees instead of the recommended 500 degrees Fahrenheit. (Lahey seems to go back and forth between these two temps a lot – find which is best for your oven and stick to that). 

I went to whole wheat flour looking for something healthier. To that end, my next foray will be to the land of the heritage wheats.  I ordered some Einkorn flour today, and will see what kind of no-knead bread I can coax out of it next weekend.

Stay tuned.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 2/3 cups bread flour
  • 1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp yeast (Active dry or instant)
  • 2 cups water.

INSTRUCTIONS

Whisk dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Pour in water and mix well with a wooden spoon. Cover with plastic wrap or a towel, and let rise for 12-18 hours at room temp till well-risen, with a bubble foamy top and the beginnings of darkening color.

Scrape out onto a well floured surface, and with floured hands fold over ala’ Lahey. Place seam sides down on a clean non-terry towel generously dusted with wheat bran or corn meal. Fold the towel over top the bread and let rise another 4 hours, till doubled in bulk.

During the last half hour of the rise, preheat a 4-5 quart cast iron or ceramic french oven on a pull out shelf in a 500 degree Fahrenheit oven.

Open the oven door, pull out the shelf and take off the pot lid. (If your shelf does not pull out, take the entire pot out and place on top of the stove or on a heat proof counter to accomplish the next steps, but work quickly.) Gently place the bread-filled cloth onto an outstretched palm and walk over to the pot. Remove the lid and lay the bread, seam side up, into the pot. (Watch the videos for this technique.) Shake the pot a bit if you need to settle the dough into place. Place the lid back on and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake another 15-30 minutes to develop the dark, almost burnt crust. Remove pot from the oven and remove bread from the pot. Let the bread “sing” as it cools for another 15-30 minutes before even considering cutting into it.

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More TBTAM Bread Making 

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