Thread: 1.
The Gardener’s easy No Knead “French” bread.
Lots of people have asked to know how I make these:
2. First, this is not real French bread. But it is an easy bread to bake for Sunday breakfast. And it tastes as good as it looks. Several people have the method and have made it successfully. It works. If you want proper baguettes:
3. There are some things I have which you may not, but I will suggest how you can do it without them, as I have in the past. I “invented” the method of doing it a few years back, and have evolved it. This is the latest version.
4. The Night before:
Mix up a yeast starter. I use dried yeast, but you can use fresh. Don’t use “easy” “quick” or any yeast with “improvers” or additives. They are totally unnecessary, and just a way for manufacturers to make more money out of you. Plain bakers yeast
5. In a small bowl put 1-2 ozs (28-56grams) of “strong” white bread flour (the only bread flour you’ll use). Next, very important. A teaspoon of any honey. Warm water (hand hot). You will use about 180 mls for the whole recipe, take some of it reserve the rest.
6. Notes. French bread flour is not very “strong” flour; the gluten content is lower than eg. Canadian wheat bread flour. Just the bit in the yeast starter is enough, the rest is plain white flour.
7. Honey. Lots of people will tell you you can use sugar. But the rise will not be as good. Why? I guess because yeast is a natural organism and knows good stuff when it finds it. Honey is good stuff. Refined white sugar is yuk. I never use refined white sugar in bread.
8. Mix your starter quite sloppy with some of the water, reserve the rest and leave it in a warm place for 45 mins to an hour. It doesn’t matter if you leave it two hours. It should look bubbly and frothy when you use it, that’s all that matters. Like this:
9. Next
For 2 small French loaves for breakfast (3-4 people)
6ozs (180 grammes approx.) of ordinary plain white flour
½ to 1 scant teaspoon of salt, according to taste.
10. Mix your flour and salt in a bowl. Pour in your yeast starter, add warm water, to make a very loose dough, almost a very thick batter. Don’t worry about a few small lumps, they will disappear overnight. Just beat the whole lot together with a wooden spoon. Like this:10
11. Cover the bowl with cling film, and pierce three times with just the point of a small sharp knife. Why? Your yeast is going to start fermenting and will produce a little Co2. If you seal the gas in tight, the gas pressure will rise and suppress the rise of the dough.
12. Put the bowl somewhere, doesn’t have to be warm, and go to bed. The next morning. Look in your bowl. The batter/dough should have risen up, and there should be some nice big bubbles breaking at the surface, rather like your starter
13. Scatter flour generously on a surface for shaping the loaves. Scrape the dough/batter out of the bowl onto the floured surface. Now, you can do this with your hands, but if you have them the best thing is a couple of flat hand held paddles or “scrapers”.
15. Do the next bit gently, you don’t want to “knock down” too much, keep as much of the gas in the dough as you can. Flip your batter/dough around in the flour so it comes away without sticking to the surface. Roughly divide it in half lengthways.
16. If you have it, add some semolina to the flour to coat the loaves and make them less likely to stick. Using your hands (or scrapers) Roll each half, shaping it into a small sausage shape, the length you want. Mine are quite small diameter, say 1.5-2 inches, 3-5cms
17. I made that batter very wet. That’s fine if you have a good hot oven, and a “French bread tray”. Mine goes up 230 degrees for bread baking with steam. Contrary to what you might think, steam makes your crust crisp, not soft.
18. You can make steam by putting a tray in the bottom of the oven, letting it get hot, then adding some ice cubes.
Or you can use a hand held spray with clean water in it, and puff a fine mist into the oven about three times during baking.
19. If you don’t have the French bread tray, I would advise you make the dough a little stiffer so it has some hold. You do this by adding more flour in the morning, and kneading the dough a bit. You also need to prove the dough before putting it in the oven in this case.
20. Then put your loaves in a “couche”. A tea towel folded into a UU shape will do, but just plain washed, no fabric conditioner. Or you can use a heavier linen. Cover and set aside to prove for about 30 mins in a warm place.
21. With the French bready tray and a hot oven, you don’t have to prove at all, just into the tray and into the oven at full heat. It inflates like a balloon.
22. Put your oven on as hot as you can get. I’d recommend at least 220 in a conventional oven, hotter is fine.
If you’re using the tea towel, gently roll the loaves on to an ordinary baking sheet ( gets easier with practise). Put in oven.
23. If your batter is very soft, you don’t have a tray, and your oven doesn’t get that hot, you’ll still get nice bread, but it will be flatter, more like Ciabatta.
24. If your dough is very soft, you don’t “slash” the tops. The bread rises and the outside starts to form a crust, but because the inside is still rising, it breaks through the crust, and gives you ragged “slashes”.
25. If you’re using a stiffer dough and a couche you can slash with a very sharp knife, or better a “lame” (a razor blade in a holder). Other more dangerous methods at your own risk. For some reason Twitter isn't letting me add another tweet. More coming

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