Clark's Knearly Kno-Knead Artisan Boule

Several years ago, the NY Times Mark Bittman, published a  No-Knead artisan bread recipe that launched thousands of youtube and blog posts. It's really simple - flour, water, salt and a lot less yeast than you think you'd need, bake it in a cast-iron dutch oven in a 500 degree oven for 30 minutes with the cover on, 15 minutes with the cover off.  The result is a lovely, round "store bought" appearing loaf.  The crust is crunchy and the inside is moist and chewy.  A long rise time gives it a tangy, sourdough flavor. The magazine Cook's Illustrated, tweaked this recipe a year or so ago, adding beer and a some vinegar - allowing for a shorter rise time and a more pronounced sourdough flavor.

Mark Bittman's recipe never worked right for me, the bottom was always burned.  Also, because it was no-knead, I often found streaks of unincorporated flour in the boule - not cool.  Kneading for just about 2 minutes, will ensure this doesn't happen.  I have made several changes to his basic method that work for me and my oven and kitchen - YMMV (ye olde geeketh-speaketh for "your mileage may vary").  I reduce the temperature to 450 degrees, and decrease the final "un-lidded" baking is 10 minutes instead of 15.  I add 1 cup of whole wheat flour with 2 cups of all purpose or bread flour, instead of all white flour  - NOTE: I have tried all wheat flour and it was a door-stop - dense, dry, heavy, I tried 1/2 WW Flour and 1/2 unbleached AP, and it was okay, but I prefer 1/3 WW/2/3 AP flour best, I keep the addition of vinegar from the Cook's method, but left out the beer because it's too fussy.  I also use parchment paper to add and remove the boule to the pot, and it also protects the bottom from getting too browned.  Which probably sounds fussy, but I wouldn't bake bread without it. I might get into that in a future post. Parchment paper is God's gift to bakers.

Here's what the finished loaf looks like.  Pretty, right?  This too can be yours!

I usually bake it in the winter months, when I don't mind heating up the kitchen.

NOTE: You need a cast-iron dutch oven with a secure fitting lid for this recipe. Mine is a Lodge #10 1/4. It holds about one gallon. I bought it at Walmart sometime in the 1980s after the earth had cooled, but the dinosaurs were not yet wiped out by the massive asteroid - but I digress. The idea is that when the dough it cooking the steam is captured in the closed vessel - mimicking a commercial bread oven that injects steam during the baking process.  This makes the crispy, crust and chewy interior.

Clark's Knearly Kno-Knead Artisan Boule

In a large pyrex bowl dry-wisk together(you can see in the pix, that I used an 2 quart mixing bowl - Pamper Chef's finest!):

2 cups unbleached flour or bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 to 1/2 tsp of instant yeast (use a 1/2 tsp measure, and don't fill it all the really don't need as much yeast as most bread recipes call for, I have found)

When these ingredients are completely mixed together, stir in with a rubber spatula:

1 1/2 cups of warm water (it doesn't have to be hot, it just needs to be warm to the touch)
1 Tbls of distilled vinegar

Mix these together, adding more warm water if it's too dry.  Pour out on a lightly floured surface.  Knead for about 1 - 2 minutes, until the ball of dough is smooth and all the dry ingredients are incorporated.

Put the ball back in the glass bowl (you don't need to clean it out, it's unnecessary).  Put it in a warm space (I put it in my microwave), allow to rise undisturbed (well, if you need the microwave for something, go ahead and use it, just replace your boule when you are done) for at least 18 hours - longer is ok, though.  I made this one at noon on a Friday, and baked it at 9am the next morning, so it was something like a 21 hour rise.

Here's the ball of dough after 21 hours, it's roughly doubled in size and it's beautiful!  You wouldn't believe the wonderful, yeasty smell!

Put the lidded dutch over in the oven and preheat to 450 degrees. 

Pour out on a floured surface (just a little), and form the dough into a ball.  Put the round on a piece of parchment paper, about 10 inches wide, and long enough to hold both ends with the boule in the middle. Score the boule with a sharp knife, however you'd like. This pattern makes an interesting design when it's baked. Scoring helps keep the boule in a uniform shape.

Cover this baby with a clean cloth towel and allow to rise for about 30 minutes or so, while the oven and the pot are pre-heating.

Remove the lid from the dutch oven, and use the ends of the parchment paper to place the boule in the middle of the pot.  Replace the lid, and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove the lid, and bake for an additional 10 minutes. This is hard, because the boule looks done at this point, but resist temptation and bake it 10 more minutes uncovered anyway.

Then you're done!  Allow the boule cool, until it's not to hot to handle, and enjoy! You have a perfect loaf of artisan bread to serve with whatever your heard desires!  Hmmm, beef stew sounds perfect, right? How about a hearty, black bean soup with sausages...the possibilities are endless!



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