Edited to add: Okay, I didn’t realize Cook’s Illustrated *also* dubbed their version of no-knead “No Knead 2.0.” Whoops! FYI, this post does not describe the CI recipe, but rather the one printed in the Washington Post.
By now, most home cooks are familiar with “No Knead Bread,” at least in name or concept if not in practice. Mark Bittman’s 2006 article on Jim Lahey’s novel technique sent curious bakers and novice knead-a-phobes running to their kitchens to master the art of crusty, delicious, homemade bread, sans fuss.
I may be the only enthusiastic baker in America who has yet to try Mr. Lahey’s technique. I know, I know, what have I been doing, right? Well first I didn’t have the right pot…then I did…and then life sort of got in the way.
But then a few weeks back, two different articles appeared — one in the New York Times, one in the Washington Post — that attempted to best the original No Knead recipe, making the process even simpler, even “no kneadier.” Luisa at Wednesday Chef had iffy results with the Times recipe, so I ditched that one.
But Nancy Baggett’s recipe in the Post looked promising. Whereas the latest Times recipe claimed “No Knead” results could be accomplished in half the time, Baggett’s recipe didn’t cut the time much at all, but it cut out the need to touch the dough entirely. Even Jim Lahey’s recipe required a little futzing, just gently shaping the dough before the final rise. But the Post recipe required no kneading at all — none. I think she should have called it, “No Knead, for Reals.”
Does that make it more clinical and sterile? Yes. Admittedly, sometimes I really like kneading dough. Rough week at work? Family giving you a hard time? Take it out on the dough. I also consider it a workout, justifying the copious quantities of bread I will soon eat.
But sometimes, you just want delicious bread without the cleanup. Although I’ve never made Lahey’s recipe (I will, I will, I promise!), his method does require a special pot and just a touch more “cleanup” than Baggett’s recipe. That said, Baggett’s method yields a rectangular loaf, not the rustic boule shape that makes the original No Knead Bread so beautiful. The Post recipe yields more of a sandwich bread or loaf for morning toast than something you’d make for guests.
So, compelled by my guilt for not trying this method the first time around, I gave Baggett’s whole wheat loaf a try for breakfast this weekend. The verdict? Very, very tasty, and I’ve been enjoying the loaf for breakfast all week. The texture is soft and the exterior has a wonderful crunch. Sadly I cannot compare it to the Lahey bread (the shame!), but I suspect it’s a very different type of bread prepared using a similar method.
Next time I have a dinner party, I will give Lahey’s method a try. And I have a delicious, old-fashioned, knead-to-your-heart’s-content bread recipe I will be sharing soon. But for an average morning after a tiring work week, this recipe does the trick.