I knead help! ha ha ha
November 10, 2007 8:15 AM   Subscribe

I am finally getting around to making No-Knead bread, however I am not sure I have the proper vessel for baking it. Please help me figure out what to use.

I have a 4qt Pyrex baker with a lid, but I guess that's too small. I also have a cast iron skillet, but alas, it's without a lid. I do have a medium sized clay baker (aka Romertopf), but I'm not sure how to use it. Should I soak it before baking? Can I still preheat the baker as per the recipe without breaking it? Although I want to get a cast iron Dutch oven, I can't do right away, and TODAY (well, tomorrow) is when I want to bake it. What would you do?
posted by missuswayne to Food & Drink (19 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You absolutely need to soak the clay baker before you use it, and you need to bring it up to temperature with oven. I haven't used mine for bread yet, but I hear they work extremely well. I'll be trying it about the same time as you, and I plan on taking the lid off a little earlier than I would with a dutch oven. I also glaze this bread with a little egg yoke, water and salt.

The pyrex might work, but you would need to keep an eye on it to make sure the bread isn't touching the lid. The bread ends up being just slightly large than it is when you form it into a ball after its first rising. Have the pyrex ready to eyeball the size.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 8:28 AM on November 10, 2007

I don't know which of those would work, but what I did was go to Target and buy a big pyrex bowl for $3 and then use a cookie sheet as a lid. It works fine, although I have to be careful not to burn myself with the cookie sheet. Could you maybe use the cast-iron skillet and improvise a lid?
posted by craichead at 8:49 AM on November 10, 2007

You can improvise but making this bread right requires an over safe pot with a tight fitting lid. The reason why this works so well is that the steam coming off the bread is used to baste the outside, resulting in a nice crust. This is as close as a home baker can get without using a steam injection over. It is also hard to get a good oven rise without a lid. Anything less than a tight seal will always result in a less than perfect oven rise.

Try one of the suggestions today but go get a dutch oven asap.
posted by special-k at 9:17 AM on November 10, 2007

a steam injection over

bleh. That's steam injection oven. Haven't had coffee yet this morning.
posted by special-k at 9:18 AM on November 10, 2007

I made it for months with a big spaghetti pot and a heavy baking sheet placed on top, before going out and buying a Le Creuset french oven. Other than the shape, there's no real difference. So I think putting a cookie sheet on top (perhaps weighted down) would be fine.

I also expect 4Q would be big enough, but you can always give it a shot and see.
posted by raf at 9:39 AM on November 10, 2007

Is the fancy french pan really functionally better than the dutch oven, or is it the culinary equivalent of spinning wheel covers for your escalade?
posted by mecran01 at 10:19 AM on November 10, 2007

mecran01: Not really. The dutch oven is just perfect.
posted by special-k at 10:32 AM on November 10, 2007

I didn't want to shell out for an expensive pan to use with a recipe I'd never tried. So I bought a "Club" brand aluminum dutch oven at Goodwill for $2.50. It holds 4.5 quarts, is a little more than 4" deep, and is 10" in diameter at the top and 8" at the bottom. The metal is 1/8" thick. A bonus is its retro-1970s brown color and lid graphic. It works like a charm despite its light weight. Maybe Mrs. Santa will bring me a dutch oven for Christmas, but now, I don't really need it.
posted by partner at 10:41 AM on November 10, 2007

Response by poster: Oh, well I have a gigantic (8 qt?) All-Clad stainless Dutch oven. Should I just use that? There was no mention of using stainless in the recipe, so I just assumed that it was not a good choice.
posted by missuswayne at 10:48 AM on November 10, 2007

The dutch oven is probably fine. I've never made this recipe, but so long as the lid fits on tight and the pot is fairly heavy, it should work. As it's an All-Clad, I'm sure it works fine for those two conditions.
posted by mccarty.tim at 10:54 AM on November 10, 2007

I think the All-Clad will work fine. The tight lid is a plus.
posted by partner at 11:09 AM on November 10, 2007

You can make it in that. I've made it by following all the instructions, then dumping the dough out and shaping it into baguettes, no cover at all. (If you do that, throw ice in the bottom of the oven, and mist your bread when you put it in, to encourage the chewy-crispy crust of goodness.)
posted by headspace at 11:18 AM on November 10, 2007

FYI, Cooks Illustrated from February 2007 did a rating of Dutch Ovens. While the All-Clad Stainless (8 quart, $260) and the Le Creuset (7 1/4 quart, $230) came out on top, the Chefmate Round Enameled Cast Iron Casserole for Target (5 quart, $40) was 3rd place. It got the Best Buy and basically the main downfall was its size. Something to consider if you're in the market for an enameled Dutch/French oven but price is an issue.
posted by barnone at 11:38 AM on November 10, 2007

Response by poster: Wow, great advice. MeFi comes through again! I'm going to try the dutch oven and see how it goes. Thanks!
posted by missuswayne at 1:16 PM on November 10, 2007

I didn't want to buy anything expensive or one-use when I started baking no-bake bread, so I got two identical four-quart pyrex bowls for about $4 each. I stack one inverted on top of the other during baking, not always a perfect fit and definitely not a perfect seal but the bread turns out great. And the rest of the time, I have two mixing bowls I can use for just about anything.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 2:01 PM on November 10, 2007

I don't know about this no-knead bread I keep hearing about, but when I made french bread, I just shaped it into a loaf and put it onto a cookie sheet. You roll the loaf in a bit of cornmeal to keep it from sticking.
posted by !Jim at 2:44 PM on November 10, 2007

You've probably made your bread by now, so I guess I am asking the other respondents, but would this work? I've thought about trying no knead (that's for you !jim, if you're interested) and have hesitated because of the pot size.
posted by nnk at 8:42 AM on November 11, 2007

Response by poster: Well, I used the All-Clad 8 qt Dutch Oven, and the results were very good. Although I wasn't thrilled with the rise or the crust - I'm guessing that cast iron would create a chewier crust. And I used 1/2 all-purpose flour and 1/2 white whole wheat flour, so that might have affected the rise. BUT I will definitely be making this again.
posted by missuswayne at 6:19 PM on November 11, 2007

Some people have used a smaller pot to get a better rise. 8 qt might just be too wide to get some vertical rise in. I'm very new to this too, but I've done some reading on it. And some people say to keep the whole wheat to 30% of the flour total. I found a Le Creuset at a Kohl's and it's been awesome for this. I just wrap the knob in a few layers of foil and it's been fine.

Try folding in some other ingredients - olives, rosemary, etc. It's delicious.
posted by barnone at 1:51 PM on November 16, 2007

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