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Almost No-Knead Bread

by Bill Huebl

Being of inquisitive mind, I have discovered an easier way of making ANKB...

4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour; about 1 lb
1 cups other flour or ingredients; e.g., about 1/4 lb Ezekiel flour
1 cup San Francisco starter; or tablespoon of yeast
1 tablespoon table salt
2 cups Water 70-80 F; at room temperature
1/4 cup Goya Malta or lager beer; optional
1 tablespoon white vinegar; optional

Warning: you will be operating your oven at near maximum temperatures and you ALWAYS need to remember that pots, pans or other baking vessels and lids are extremely hot and can cause burns almost instantaneously:- treat everything like it just came out of a bonfire - no matter what your habits or how familiar they may be to you.  Don't have children or others around while you bake and any other adults working with you need to be cautioned about the hightemperatures as well.

Note: this bread can be made from plain flour or a mix of flours and otheringredients like Ezekiel flour. I tried a whole 12 oz bottle of Goya Malta with this (doubled) recipe and wow what a wonderful result. But I suspect you could use half that amount (that is the amount in this recipe) and it would be just as good. Most Latin markets carry Goya Malta, a very sweet drink containing malt and other sweet ingredients.

I tried kneading the bread a bit longer than the 10 - 15 times recommended by the method... more like 50 times and worked in a more flour as it was too sloppy to deal with. However, the result was no tastier nor was the texture any different from totally no-knead bread made the same way.

1. Whisk flour, yeast, and salt in very large bowl. Add water, beer or Goya Malta and vinegar. Using rubber spatula, fold mixture, scraping up dry flour from bottom of bowl to get a very sloppy "consistency." Add more water if you need to. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 4 to 18 hours or until at least doubled.

2. Lay 12- by 18-inch sheet of parchment or wax papers inside 2 10-inch skillets or bowls and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Transfer dough to floured work surface and knead 10 to 15 times or more - note the kneading is optional. Shape dough into a flat ball by pulling edges into middle. Separate into 2 parts. Transfer each dough, part seam-side down, to a parchment-lined skillet or bowl and spray surface of dough with nonstick cooking spray. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until dough has doubled in size and does not readily spring back when poked with finger, about 2 hours.

3. About an hour before baking, adjust oven rack to lowest position, Place 2 each 6- to 8-quart heavy-bottomed Dutch ovens (with lids) on the rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees. Note: bowls and other heavy open containers without lids can be used in a steam oven. (A pan of water will create the steam you need.)

Once the oven is up to temperature, lightly flour the top of the dough and, using a razor blade or sharp knife, make one 6-inch-long, 1/2-inch-deep slit along top of dough. Carefully slide shelf with the pots out from oven but do not remove all the way from the oven--remove lids. Pick up dough by lifting the parchment overhang and lower into each pot (let any excess parchment hang over pot edge).

Last minute notes to recipe

I have noticed that sometimes the dough rising can take as much as 18 hours - and that can cause either parchment paper or wax paper to become so weak that you cannot pick the dough up from where it is rising. I have then poured the dough directly into very hot bowl or pot and it works very well. No, the bowl has not shattered - I believe the air in the dough acts like an insulator so there is not so much of a shock to the bowl. But you may want to stick with a metal pot if this temperature shock is of great concern to you.

So please note, with this method, you can skip placing dough into a bowl or pan lined with wax or parchment paper. Just let to dough rise in a large bowl and pour it into the hot bowl or pot in the oven when the oven is up to temperature.

Cover pots with hot lids and slide back into the oven. Bake for 30 minutes and then reduce oven temperature to 425 degrees and remove lids and continue to bake until loaf is deep brown and instant-read thermometer inserted into center registers 210 degrees, 20 to 30 minutes longer. Carefully remove bread from pot; transfer to wire rack and cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.

4. NOTE: If baking in a steam oven, just remove bread from bowls or containers after 30 minutes reduce temperature and turn over to brown on bottom and sides. It can take up to another 30 minutes to brown completely.

Again, even after you turn off your oven, everything will be extremely hot including the bread. So be careful!

The parchment should easily peel off each loaf.

A note on my recipe - you may want to mention that any kneading you do will increase the amount the dough rises during baking....