I'm really having fun trying out more no-knead yeasted breads. I've picked up a few more books on the subject and I'm looking forward to trying them all out!
The first book I decided to try was Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: the Discovery that Revolutionizes Home Baking. This book by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois presents an innovative method of baking bread. You mix together the ingredients, let the resulting dough rise at room temperature for a couple of hours, and then move the dough into the fridge, where you can keep it for a couple of weeks. When you want to bake bread, you cut off a portion of dough (each recipe is designed to produce several loaves), shape it, let it rise for another hour or so, and bake it. While there is a lot of waiting time, there is hardly any active time involved.
I tried the basic master recipe, which only has four ingredients: water, yeast, salt, and white flour. It really did take only a couple of minutes to measure out the ingredients, mix them together in my stand mixer, and transfer the dough to a large plastic container to rise. The dough rose considerably (to about four time its original volume) after two hours at room temperature. After a night in the refrigerator, the dough had deflated to about half of its peak size. When I was ready to bake, the dough was extremely sticky and difficult to handle, but with a little extra flour, I was able to shape it into a round loaf and left it to rise at room temperature for about an hour. Most of the recipes in the book are baked on a baking stone (as opposed to in a covered dutch oven, like the Mark Bittman and Cook's Illustrated no-knead recipes), so the recipe instructs you to pour some water onto a preheated broiler pan to create steam. After about 35 minutes, I got a nice looking loaf.
This loaf looked just lovely inside and out, and the crust had a nice chewy texture. However, I was really disappointed with the taste. It was way too salty (my fault -- I used fine-grained salt instead of the coarse salt called for in the recipe and I didn't scale down the amount) and aside from being salty, was essentially flavorless (well, perhaps the salt was just drowning out any other flavors). It still tasted fine with jam and the such, but I wouldn't serve it plain. Apparently the flavor of this bread is supposed to develop over the time the dough spends in the refrigerator. I still have dough left over from this batch in the fridge and I will try baking it in a few days to see if the flavor is any different. I also want to try baking bread from this recipe in a dutch oven, since a broiler pan with water is not a very easy or effective way to create steam in the oven, and the steam is an important component to creating a chewy crust.
If you buy this book, be aware of the fact that the first printing contains quite a few errors. (I bought the book from Amazon.com last week and received a 2007 first printing, even though there have been subsequent printings.) You can find a list of corrections here, from the authors' blog. I also don't like the fact that the recipes in the book use only volume measurements instead of weights, which are both more accurate and easier to deal with (well, if you own a scale). I also wish the recipe would provide an ideal internal temperature for the finished bread, because otherwise it really is just a guessing game to see if the outside crust looks like it's the right color. My loaf probably could have used some more time in the oven, but who knows? Even though I wasn't completely satisfied with the results from this loaf, I'm definitely going to keep trying to improve on it and try other recipes from the book. The method is so easy that I don't have anything to lose!
Recipe: "Master Recipe: Boule" from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: the Discovery that Revolutionizes Home Baking by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois.