A Clever Variation of an “Old” Theme

My hat is off to CooksIllustrated.com for formulating a worthy variation to the now famous New York Times no knead recipe. They call it their “Almost No Knead” bread since it involves a bit of light kneading, but another key step in the process is streamlined so overall their recipe is still a cinch to make.

If you’re already familiar with the “traditional” no knead recipe, I think you will find the final results of this one significantly different in almost all respects. This crust has a nice crunch to it but is much thinner and easier to chew and the interior crumb is tighter (smaller holes) and softer. I wouldn’t classify this bread as “rustic” like I would the NYT version.

But what really sets this recipe apart is its flavor. The addition of a few ounces of beer and a tablespoon of white vinegar creates a unique and pleasing flavor all its own.

In these videos I cover the Cooks Illustrated plain white flour and whole wheat flour versions.

This recipe also converts extremely well to sandwich loaf bread. In the third video below, I do just that.

I’m looking forward to hearing what you think of this bread – please leave your comments below.

Update: See Virginia’s comment post of 8/22/08. She made a few changes to get great results with a rye version (click link) of this recipe.

White Flour Recipe:

3 cups (15 ounces) all purpose or bread flour
1/4 tsp. instant or rapid-rise yeast
1 1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. (7 ounces) water at room temp
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. (3 ounces) mild flavored lager
1 Tbs. white vinegar

Whole Wheat Recipe:

2 cups (10 ounces) all purpose or bread flour
1 cup (5 ounces) whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp. instant or rapid-rise yeast
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbs. honey (I used 2 Tbs. raw sugar)
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. (7 ounces) water at room temp
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. (3 ounces) mild flavored lager
1 Tbs. white vinegar

Note: The beer can be non-alcoholic.
Also, regarding the use of sugar and the ratio of white to whole wheat flour in the ‘Whole Wheat’ recipe, see the post from Beatrix below. She used 2 cups of whole wheat flour and 1 of white and it still came out light.

Baking Instructions: For both these recipes, preheat your oven with Dutch oven or Cloche inside to 500 degrees. Reduce temperature to 425 when the bread dough goes in and bake covered for 30 minutes. Then remove cover and bake an additional 15 minutes or until the internal bread temperature reaches about 200 degrees.

Almost No Knead

Almost No Knead

Almost No Knead Sandwich Loaf Recipe

The thinner crust and softer, tighter crumb of the Almost No Knead recipe, combined with its subtle flavors, makes it a nice candidate for a sandwich loaf. Here’s a video of the process with the the adjusted ingredient quantities.

18 ounces (~3 2/3 cups) flour. Use all white or a combination of white and up to 6 ounces whole wheat.
1 3/4 tsp salt
3/8 tsp. instant yeast

1 cup (8 ounces) water
1/2 cup (4 ounces) beer

1 1/4 Tbs white vinegar
2 1/2 Tbs honey
(I use raw sugar instead). The honey is suggested only when baking the whole wheat version of this recipe.

Baking Instructions: Preheat oven to 425. Place bread pan with risen dough in oven and reduce temperature to 350. Bake for 55 minutes or until internal bread temperature is about 200 degrees. Note that in the video I’m using a Pyrex bread pan. A metal bread pan would probably bake a few minutes faster.

Note: some have reported an issue with the loaf sticking to the bread pan. After buttering/oiling the baking pans, cornmeal can be sprinkled liberally on the insides and bottom of the pans. This eliminates the bread sticking to the sides while baking. Thanks to Tom & Melody DeGraziano for this tip.

634 thoughts on “Cook’s Illustrated Almost No Knead

  1. Beth in UT

    I’m sending them to you. I was really impressed with how forgiving this recipe is. I used sourdough and it rose WAY too much over night. I refolded it and it rose again within only a few hours. Sooooo pretty!

  2. Hi Beth,

    That’s great!

    I’d love to put up your pictures. You’ll need to email them to me and I’ll attach them to your above post. Thanks.

  3. Beth in UT

    Woo Hoo! My first loaf of poolish bread is in the oven, almost done. It looks beautiful! I used the parchment sling and I am so happy with the results. It kept its shape perfectly, I’ve always struggled with moving it from a proofing basket. It was looking a little dark, so I turned the heat down from 500 to 400 about 20 min. into it. I’ll use my instant read therm. to check for done-ness.

    I’d love to post pics, but I can’t remember how to get them on the site. Reminders, anyone?

    Beth's Almost No Knead Bread

    Beth's Almost No Knead Bread

  4. Beth in UT

    Richard, Don’t quit your day job! :)

    Let me re-phrase: Could I freeze the dough and then thaw and use according to directions?

    Better?

  5. Richard L Walker

    Eating frozen loaves can be hard on the teeth? (ducking)

  6. Beth in UT

    Malcolm, is there any reason that the dough couldn’t be frozen?

    All of you doing this the sourdough way, can you think of a reason not to freeze the “loaves”?

  7. Jeffey

    Couple thoughts after reading some of the recent posts in this thread:

    My understanding of several recent bread books is that slashing the dough enables higher oven-spring by giving the dough more room to expand in baking. The wettest doughs (ciabatta, for instance) are not slashed, mostly I think because 1. they’re so wet, they don’t cooperate at all with the knife, razor-blade or lamé, and 2. they will deflate a lot.

    It was a surprise to me to learn that water weighs about 8.35 ounces per 8 liquid-ounce cup. I did a little more math, and worked it out that the difference represents about 2 tsp. water per cup of water used, which translates into about a 1% difference in hydration for simple recipes (flour, water, salt, yeast). For some artisnal breads, that’s a meaningful difference.

    But all this only has real significance if you venture into the more ‘refined’ art of making certain artisnal breads. Even in those instances, getting a feel for what’s right has a lot more to do with producing great bread than the accuracy of any measuring device (scale, cup, spoon, hand, egg-shell, etc.) For the most part, even artisnal bread is very forgiving, and such vagaries in measurement won’t change the outcome.

  8. Karil

    Hello Carolee

    I am not one of the pros, but as I understand it, crusty artisan breads need a vent to allow steam to escape from the more hydrated dough—especially during the oven rise and the crust formation. If a vent is not provided, the crust will tear in a random way that may not be very attractive to the loaf. Therefore, the slash is both functional as well as aesthetic. In addition, it can provide information—a kind of signature. Some bakeries also use different slash patterns to identify different kinds of loaves, just as confectioners have their various swirls to identify what you will find when you bite into a chocolate confection.

    Greetings,
    Karil

  9. Richard L Walker

    Ha! Got me. It might be as simple as dictating where you want the separations in the bread to occur while baking … but in truth, I don’t know. I’ll defer to one of the pros. This is one of those things I’ve just always done.

  10. Carolee

    I went back and read all the posts and found the Cornbread recipe, but I have ANOTHER beginners question. Does cutting marks in the top of the loaf serve a purpose other than just being pretty? Thanks, again.
    carolee

  11. Carolyn

    Richard & Ken,
    Thanks for the responses. I have now done what I should have done before asking, i.e. I looked up the actual weight of water and did the math. Although a liquid cup of water weighs a bit more than 8 oz. , it’s only 8.34 oz.

    MY cup of water weighed LESS than 8 oz., and yes, I did zero the scale before I added the water. So I’ve learned that when I use my measuring cups for either flour OR water, I may be off. All the more reason for using my new scale, huh?

    Mystery solved.

  12. Beth in UT

    So, all of this talk (I get an email each time :) ) is getting me excited! I never tried the poolish, truthfully, it looked daunting. But, after reviewing Malcolm’s instructions, I am ready to give it a try. I am proofing tonight and can’t wait to give it a go!

  13. Richard L Walker

    I just got a thought. Did you put the measuring cup on the scale, zero it out and THEN add the 8 oz water to weight it? 8 oz volume should be about 8 oz weight (with water) after you have gotten rid of the influence of the weight of the measuring cup

  14. Ken Trease

    I just checked my scale and water is very close to 1 oz liquid measure = 1 oz by weight. I have always used the measures as equal for water-but not for any other ingredients.

  15. Richard L Walker

    For a recipe that has “weight” specifications, the ounces specified by the recipe is by weight and would be what the scale shows. If the recipe is specifying everything by volume, 8oz would be volume. Pure water is what folks calibrated by with the 1 gm = 1 cc or 1 fluid oz of water is about 1 oz weight. When you pick another liquid it is like changing flours. They weight differently. It gets confusing when you talk about 8 oz of anything. When you hold a measuring cup in your hand you tend to think volume. When you go to a scale you tend to think weight. They aren’t the same. if you end up confused, check out different recipes and you will find a definite weight vs volume comparison and be able to figure out what to apply to your own recipe.
    Good luck.

  16. Carolee

    Thank you,Richard, for answering my question. My scale does go back to zero. I’m going to try a batch tonight. Thanks, again.
    carolee

  17. Carolyn

    Hi, I just got my scale for Mothers Day, my hubby was a sweetheart and ordered for me here at Breadtopia! Now I, too, have a question. In one of the videos I recall seeing liquid added, I can’t remember how much, but let’s just say 8 oz.. The scale was being used to measure this. I thought it odd at the time, because I know 1 cup is 8 LIQUID ounces. So I weighed 1 cup of water — it does NOT weigh 8 oz.

    So my question is… are these recipes for Liquid ounces or ounces measured on a scale?

  18. Richard L Walker

    Any accurate scale can be used. The advantage to a scale made for cooking (and some others) is that they can be set to zero after a bowl or container is placed on them. That way you just measure what you want in the recipe. If there is no way to set it to zero with a container on the scale just weigh the container separately and be certain to include that weight to any ingredients you are weighing.
    Have fun.

  19. Carolee

    Another beginners question, any reason why I can’t use my large postal scale to measure out the ingredients?

    carolee

  20. Carolee

    I am new to the site and just received my dough whisk that I love. I am totally enjoying the posts as well. I am going to try the CI ANK bread tomorrow. I saw a yeast cornbread mentioned but did not find a recipe. Can someone point me to where I might find it? Thanks heartly to Eric, Malcom and Bruce and all for all your information.

    many blessings, carolee

  21. Bruce

    Hello friend Malcolm Kronby:

    The press of making a living has kept me from baking much for the last two months. But I’m back to the kitchen now.

    Your posts regarding the methods you follow have been an extremely helpful addition to the no-knead phenomenon.

    I have stumbled across a site where a woman named Bryanna has attempted a synthesis of the NYT no-knead method and the parallel “five-minute-bread” method popularized in a recent book. She respects the Lahey/NYT no-knead and baking methods but believes that cold, slow storage greatly improves the flavor of the bread. You should see the picture of her most recent loaf at:

    http://veganfeastkitchen.blogspot.com/2008/03/5-minute-no-knead-yeast-bread-and.html

    I recommend that all of Eric’s faithful readers give Bryanna’s recipe a try. Or at least a half recipe.

    Bryanna’s resulting method is strikingly similar to the Malcolm approach. She doesn’t use a poolish and she ferments the dough at room temperature for a couple of hours before retarding in the fridge (which to some extent mimics your poolish at room temperature). Her hydration is a little higher. Her only addition to the four basic bread ingredients is a little bit of olive oil. Other than those differences, she is a Malcolm Kronby devotee! She claims that she can keep her dough in the fridge for two weeks, baking off portions whenever she has the time, need and desire.

    Bryanna only proofs her loaves for 45-60 minutes before baking them using the Jim Lahey NYT dutch-oven method. I’m not sure that she has discovered parchment paper slings yet. By the way, I think your longer proofing times makes more sense.

    Great minds do think alike!

    I am convinced that no-knead formulas which include extended storage in the fridge are the key to better flavor and keeping quality. You are a trail blazer. Thanks.

    And, as always, thank you, Eric, for all that you do. I wouldn’t be making NKB in any style without your encouragement.

    Best, Bruce

  22. Hi Sandy. Not a dumb question at all. Yes, you can. What I do is just place the dome of the cloche directly on the stone. So I don’t use the cloche base in this case.

    Just remember to bring the stone and cloche up to temperature together.

  23. I have a bakers stone that is very big, covers my whole oven rack. I am ashamed to say, I have never used it. Dumb question. Can I use the LaCloche on the bakers stone? Or is the bakers stone just to be used by itself? Also, finally got to watch a few of the videos today, they are so great, thank you so much for them. I learned a lot! sandy

  24. Ed

    I like this version much better than the “easy bread” version on youtube. I still didn’t get a great 2nd rise but I may have let the first rise go too long. Very flavorful and not crumbly at all.

  25. Hi Rosemary,

    Thanks for the nice post and compliment.

    Bread baking on the Mendocino coast – what could be better? I’m hosting a small bread baking workshop this afternoon as part of an Eco Fair going on in town this weekend. I’ve got a loaf of Parmesan/Olive in the works (with sourdough starter originated in San Francisco). That’s my attention getter, they won’t stand a chance ;).

  26. Rosemary C

    I had tried the New York Times recipe and ARTISAN BREAD IN 5 MINUTES A DAY, and then discovered your web site. I grew up in San Francisco, a few blocks from Boudin bakery and so I am so stoked with your recipes and videos. We have a beach house at Sea Ranch on the Mendocino Coast, so last week I brought my cast iron pot and your recipes up there. I did a lot of experimenting, and my husband loved it. Our favorite was the steel cut oat bread. Thank you for your wonderful site and terrific videos. I’m trying the Parmesan /Olive next.

  27. I guess I should do that. Does the video on my site not work for you?

  28. Ed

    Are you going to put the sandwich version on Youtube?

  29. B Pack

    Wow, the best damn sourdough bread i have ever tasted. Whole grain recipe. Thanks, Berkley her in Utah

  30. Jeffrey

    >> Carolyn wrote: “The only consistent problem I’ve had is a bottom crust that is way too dark. I’m using a Lodge enameled cast iron dutch oven.”

    I haven’t tried this, but maybe instead of changing oven temperature, you could put a cookie sheet or something similar on the rack underneath your dutch oven thus increasing the bottom insulation. I once made the mistake of baking a pie on a cookie sheet. Very gooey crust.

    I noticed that the oven used in the videos is a gas oven. I think electric ovens have different baking characteristics, even if an oven-thermometer says the temperatures are the same, and it may be helpful to reduce the recipe temperatures by 25 degrees F.

    I use a La Cloche (which I got at Williams-Sonoma for more money, darn it. “cloche” is French for “bell”, BTW.) They are truly wonderful. Anyway, as I recall, the instructions (which I’ve lost & can’t reference) said to preheat the oven to 475 degrees F., to put the un-preheated, room-temperature La Cloche with the dough in it and lid on into the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, turn down the oven to 400 F. and bake another 15 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for another 5-10 minutes or until the crust is the right temperature.

    This set of instructions has worked wonderfully well for me. I get lots of oven-spring and beautiful breads. The method is a bit safer, vis-a-vis buring yourself. However, I am going to try the video instructions just to see what will happen.

  31. Yes! I think the REAL solution is a new Wolf or Viking oven .

    Good question on why the high temp. You can bake it at a lower temperatures and longer time, but you probably wouldn’t get the "artisan" effects of the thicker, crispy crust and good oven spring that gives the open hole structure (big holes) to the same extent as with high temps.

    The higher temp more closely simulates a hot wood burning hearth oven that many feel produces the best artisan breads.

     

  32. Carolyn

    Ok… I checked the setting vs the oven thermometer today. Settings of 450, 475, and 500 the therm. reads about 12 degrees higher. At lower settings of 350 and 400 the therm. reads 20 degrees hotter.
    So… I guess I need to turn down my oven settings about 15-20 degrees when I’m baking. (Another argument in support of buying a new stove! hee hee hee.)

    This site is the first place I’ve seen instructions to measure the internal temp. of my bread. Great suggestion to take the guesswork out of the equation!

    So now I have another question… What is the purpose of starting the oven at such a high temp? Why not just 400 (as an example) for the full time?

    Thanks for all your help!
    Carolyn

  33. Hi Carolyn,

    Richard Walker responded to your question with this (it came via email)…

    I checked the temperature of my oven (against what the oven knob was set at) with a couple other oven thermometers and found that my oven temperature was 50-75 degrees hotter than what it was supposed to be. I made a little chart of actual oven temperature vs. the oven knob setting and that eliminated all the burned food. I now set the knob to about 275 in order to get an oven of 350 degrees F.

    Thanks Richard.

  34. Carolyn

    Hi,
    Having found this site a few days ago I’ve become addicted. Thank you for making all this wonderfully helpful information (and videos) available! I started with the basic recipe for Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes, which baked nicely but lacked flavor. Then I moved on to the basic Almost NKB which tasted much better and looked lovely. Yesterday I tried the Whole Wheat Almost NKB, but substituted a sourdough starter for the yeast. Yummy!

    The only consistent problem I’ve had is a bottom crust that is way too dark. I’m using a Lodge enameled cast iron dutch oven. I preheat it to just 475, reduce it to 425 when the dough goes in. I take the lid off after 30 min. and continue uncovered for another 20. I’m also using the parchment paper sling to move the dough into the dutch oven so there is parchment under the dough. The inside of the loaf is great, I check the temp. and cook to about 205. The top crust is a bit tough perhaps but otherwise all seems good. I’m a novice so don’t have anything to compare to.

    Can you suggest something to keep from scorching the bottom of my loaf?

    Thanks so much!

  35. That’s excellent, Sherman. Great information. Simple and good bread, I love it. Thanks.

  36. Sherman Janes

    Hi All;

    I have been making the almost no-knead bread with sourdough and getting very good results. What I do different is I use the cooks-illustrated hydration and methods including the kneading. But I replace the beer and vinegar with just plain water. I end up with a very good sourdough bread with a more sandwich like crumb. My kids ask for 2 inch slices because they like the crumb so much. I have done the white and whole-wheat versions and they have worked fine for me. And it still takes very little effort.

  37. Dana

    I’ve just come across the CI ANK recipe video via a podcast I found on iTunes. I thought that I’d Google for a copy of the text and found this thread. I’m fascinated by the many "takes" on the recipe that all of you have brought to the party. I’m heading out to my kitchen now to start my poolish!!!

    Thanks for all of the great ideas!

     

  38. Hi Beth:

    The answer is: molasses.

    Malcolm

  39. Hi Beth. Here’s my take on your question…

    I have converted this recipe to sourdough by just adding a 1/4 cup in place of the yeast. If you do that, you might want to allow the proof to go closer to the 18 end of the range since it typically works more slowly than yeast.

    The barley malt adds flavor and a boost to the yeast since it’s food for the yeast too. I think someone mentioned molasses as a substitute for barley malt. But I think this is more a question for Malcolm and/or someone else.

  40. Beth

    Thanks, Malcolm (and Eric). Is there a way to convert it to sourdough instead of yeast? Also wonder if there is anything I can use in place of the barley malt extract? Is it functional or for color?

  41. Also from Malcolm…

    Beth:

    My recipe for a poolish is:

    100 grams of flour (I like to use rye flour)
    75 grams of water
    1/2 tsp instant yeast

  42. Hi Karil,

    I’m glad you like the dough whisk. I think for now on I will call it a magic wand.

    As for why it’s called a Danish dough whisk, I intend to find out. (For those who don’t know, it is manufactured in Poland). I’ll be seeing the owner of the company that imports them to the US this weekend at a housewares trade show in Chicago. I have actually written down your question. I’ve wondered myself.

  43. Karil

    Dear Eric

    Yesterday the postman delivered the Danish Dough Whisk I ordered last week. So I immediately set about preparing a dough (which is now proofing after an 18 hour rise). It is truly a magic wand—so effective and so easy to clean. Thank you, Thank you!

    Why, by the way, is it referred to as a Danish Dough Whisk?

    Greetings,
    Karil

  44. Karil Rauss

    Dear Malcolm

    Thank you for the enlightenment: I think I’ve got the picture now of the fermenting and proofing schedules with and without retardaton. The CI ANK dough is really very forgiving. I’ve made it several times now with various flour mixtures, and each time it was delicious. I made the last loaf replacing the whole wheat with rye flour and using apple cider and apple vinegar. It was very chewy and flavorful, but I missed the nutty flavor of whole wheat. At the moment I have a 100% whole wheat loaf proofing. When I got up this morning it had fermented 18 hours and was quite a bit more than twice the volume. I hope it has the punch for the proofing.

    Yes,the bread flour here is lower in protein. The flour that I buy in the local bio shop ranges between 10% and 11% protein, and both the white and the whole wheat bread flour ("Hovis"brand) that I can buy in the "Best of British" shop nearby is 14.2% (but, unfortunately, it is not bio). I tried using a bit less water, and that helps give a bit firmer dough without compromising the lightness or the crumb.

    Thank you again for your help.

    Karil

  45. Beth

    I have seen all of this talk about a poolish, but I missed the initial recipe and technique/procedure. Could someone point me in the right direction? Thanks! I’m excited to try another bread technique. Just more fuel for the…. addiction?

  46. Message for Karil Reuss:

    Schedule A and B: Just as you describe the process; both will work.

    Schedule C: I would not ferment the dough fully, and then
    refrigerate. Stick with A or B.

    If the risen dough is not in sync with my baking schedule, I just put it back in the refrigerator until I’m ready. I would not punch it down.

    BTW, I suspect that your bread flour is softer – has less protein – than American, which usually has less protein than Canadian flour (I’m in Toronto). That’s not bad, it’s just a a fact, and may account for the spread.

    Message for Bruce:

    You asked how long the refrigerated dough will remain good, or what is the point of no return. II have been away for a while, and baked a loaf with dough that had been refrigerated for at lleast twelve days. The bread was deliciously complex.

    Malcolm

  47. Malcolm is traveling out of the country but emailed this response and the one just below…

    Hi Lori:

    Just mix the reserved poolish into the new batch of dough, as you describe. No need to let it sit out.

    You’re doing it right.

    Malcolm

  48. Kirsty

    Hi,
    I just wanted to let you know that I have just tried a wonderful, moist variation on the recipe, using 140g White breadflour, 140g wholewheat, 80g spelt flour and 50g steel cut oats ( I used the conversion 1oz = 28g for us metric people in Canada)

    I have just started another with 140g each of white, spelt and graham flour. I want to try making the dough into buns – has anyone tried this and adapted cooking in the cast-iron pot successfully?

    Any feedback appreciated and thanks for sharing all this great information

  49. Ann Timms

    Hi Eric, so nice to hear from you. I had been thinking of asking whether you had tried the ANK bread but you beat me to it. Great videos, and nice to get the variations. My latest batch used another of your ideas – I used 3oz of steel cut oats and 3oz of white whole wheat flour. Made a delicious loaf and I think it will be my regular version. I don’t care for “sweet” bread so didn’t add any sweetener. Thanks again, best to you and Denyce, Ann.

  50. Lori

    This is a question for Malcolm Kronby,:-) I have a question about the ‘poolish’. I made the CI Ank bread and allowed the dough to sit out the 18 hours. I then took a portion of the dough and put it in the fridge to add to my next batch. Once I create the next batch, I’m assuming that I should take a portion of that mixed dough that includes the ‘poolish’ and set it aside for the next batch and so on. My question is, do I need to let the new ‘poolish’ sit out on the counter for any amount of time before putting it in the fridge so it can ferment more? Thanks for the help. Also, please tell me if I am doing this wrong. :-)

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