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Saturday, September 22, 2018

Whole Grain No-Knead Bread - Recipe

Well, we just harvested another bumper crop of blue corn meal. We'll have enough this year to share with our CSA members and volunteers! Here's a re-post of an adaptation of No-Knead Bread that uses blue-corn meal.

Several years ago, a New York City baker named Jim Lahey developed and published a recipe for "No-Knead Bread". It is a very popular recipe and one that Chris and I used for several months while refining our skills at producing consistent results.

Original recipe of No-Knead Bread using pure, white bread flour and no whole grains.
Once we mastered the original recipe we experimented in adding whole grains, nuts and dried fruit. Here is our recipe in which we use blue corn meal we grew ourselves LINK-How to Grow Blue Corn Meal.

2 cups bread flour *
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup blue corn meal-finely ground**
1 and 1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dry yeast ***

1 7/8 cups mildly warm water

Mix all dry ingredients together thoroughly with your hands. It is important that the yeast and salt be evenly distributed both for flavor and effectiveness of the 'rise'. If you prefer, you can use a fork, but with your hands you can feel if all lumps of flour have been broken-apart and it just feels good to get your hands in the flour!

Mixing by hand insures that all ingredients are thoroughly mixed, with no clumping of any single ingredient.
Water should be about room-temperature. Too cold and it takes awhile for the yeast to awaken; too warm and it encourages a rapid-rise which can then collapse before you bake it. Use a large spatula to mix the dough. Add most of the water, stir well and add more as needed. It will be fairly wet - a little stiffer than hot porridge. This is important because the corn-meal and bran will absorb quite a bit of the water during the long, first rise. This whole-grain recipe uses a full 1/4 cup more water than the recipe using all 'white' flour.

Keep scraping any dry flour off the sides and bottom of the bowl and, using the flat side of the spatula, press down and lengthen the gluten strands that are already forming within the dough. Don't chop the dough at any stage of mixing as this breaks up the gluten-strands. Just keep folding and spreading the dough till all ingredients are thoroughly mixed and the dough has a spongy, springy feeling.

Cover bowl with plastic-wrap or a towel, and allow to rise in a mildly warm place without drafts. Ideal temperature for rising the dough is about 70 F (21 C). In the summer (when temps are naturally warm enough) and winter (when your house is heated) you won't need to add any heat but in autumn and winter, when night time temps might be too cool, put a few inches of warm water in a pan, put your bowl with rising dough in it and wrap the pan and bowl in a towel to keep heat in.

First rise: 12 to 15 hours - I usually start my bread at around 6:00 in the evening. It's usually ready for its 2nd rise about 9:00 the next morning.

Heavily dust a pan or tray with flour. Sprinkle flour around edges of dough so that as you use the spatula to scoop out the dough that it doesn't stick to sides of bowl (see picture below). The original recipe suggests you let the dough 'rest' for 10-15 min before working it but I haven't noticed much difference in results if I leave this step out. If I have the time, I do it. Also, if the air-temp is cool when I do this stage, sometimes I warm the pan/tray by running warm water on it (and then thoroughly drying before I pour out the dough). I think of the dough as a living entity (or community of entities - after all the yeast is alive!) and try to bring a sense of nurturing and caring for this community to bring about best results.

If you've made bread before, you might be used to a fairly vigorous process of kneading the dough for best results. This recipe requires a very light touch. As I read different bread-books I learned that you want to stretch the gluten strands but be careful not to tear them. Begin by sprinkling more flour on your lump of dough and pressing the dough out flat and long, gently pulling it longer. Fold the ends into the middle; press;, stretch. Fold sides into middle; press, stretch. Press out air-bubbles as you go or you could end up with a loaf that has air-pockets just under the crust (doesn't cut as easily...). Whenever it gets sticky, sprinkle a bit more flour. Gradually, in a few minutes, you'll have a piece of dough that is smooth and not sticky to touch.

Floured pan on left, to pour dough into. Note flour around edges of dough in bowl; this makes dough slide out of the bowl without sticking.
Grease a standard-sized bread pan and place dough in it. Allow it to rise in a warm, draft-free place for 2-4 more hours. When dough reaches the top of the pan, or crowns a little above it, it has risen enough.

Bake in 375 degree pre-heated oven for 35-37 min.

Allow to cool on a rack for at least 20-min. before eating (I know, it's so hard to resist cutting it open right away! But it will continue to bake slightly as it cools and it will be far easier to cut if you wait a bit!).

Here I am with a recent loaf. Whole grain breads don't typically rise as high as all-white loaves but, if you follow the recipe you'll be happy with how spongy and chewy your results will be!
If I'm making two loaves I mix two sets of ingredients in two separate bowls but you could experiment with doing the mixing, and first rising in one bowl. It would probably work fine.

Variations: Add dried fruit/raisins and/or seeds/nuts. If you add these heavier ingredients, add a tiny bit more yeast (1/8 teaspoon) and be sure they're distributed evenly in the dry-mix before adding water.

* - Look for flour with the highest protein-content possible; this will produce a higher gluten content and more stretchiness and 'rise' to your bread. All-purpose flour will work but you may not have as good of a result.
** - Fine-ground cornmeal: If you buy it and it's too course, use an electric coffee-grinder to further grind it. We have a coffee-grinder that we devote exclusively to grains, seeds and nuts so no strong flavors are mixed in. 
*** - Yeast: Add slightly more if you add dry fruit or nuts - but don't be tempted to go overboard. If you add too much yeast, your dough will rise too fast and then collapse before you bake it.

Everybody loves bread!

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  1. Thanks for the recipe. I have a No Knead bread recipe I love but it calls for white flour. I've done some whole grain experimenting with mixed results. I'll try this one. Bless you both!

    1. HI Gini - The key I've found to moderating recipes is to only change one thing at a time :-). That way you know what each change brings and can interpret your results. The trick with adding the whole-wheat flour and blue corn meal in this recipe seems to be two-fold: I added 1/4 cup more water as the whole grains seem to need more water to balance out the added bran, and the proportions of white flour to whole grains remains high--2:1. Don't add extra yeast though or you'll get too fast of a rise and the dough might collapse before you bake it. Much love - Llyn


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