Monday, 10 December 2012

Lazy No-Knead Sourdough Spelt Bread



In the lead-up to Christmas, there's always loads of recipes for treats and cakes floating around the web and in the magazines and free papers, threatening my promise to be Santa's good girl. After two chocolate cakes in a week, I think it's time to practise a bit of self-restraint. Even with vegetables thrown in (best-ever beetroot chocolate cake recipe here), or with the flour taken out (chocolate orange almond cake recipe here), too much cake is too much cake. But I missed having the oven on-- the ritual of creating wonderful smells and something tasty from nothing; and well, frankly, the heat from the oven (it is mad freezing here)-- so I made bread.

And one would think I must be a really talented baker to have made my own bread, and by bread here I don't mean banana bread (not that I look down on banana bread, I love banana bread) but a proper artisan loaf of sourdough spelt bread. I'll be the first to admit that baking is not my thing. They come out alright when I follow the right recipe, and very often do taste good, but you would never get me making symmetrical tarts or perfect pies. So if I can do this, you probably can. If you've ever seen bakers make bread, or have ever attempted making bread on your own, everything about this dough feels wrong, but it works.

Though I usually believe good things come out of a bit of bicep work and sweat and tears, the no-knead technique surprisingly turns the worryingly wet dough into a loaf with an open crumb and large holes that many people dig. I thank the (lazy) genius who discovered this and shared this with everybody in  the original New York Times article, and the subsequent geniuses who then excitedly adapted this for other types of flour and for sourdough. This is not really no-knead, but you only need to do a series of 'stretch-and-folds' i.e. no manly muscles involved. I like spelt because it has a wonderful mellow nuttiness without the heaviness of most other wholegrains, and this ancient grain is also better digested than normal wheat and ; the sourdough method gets rid of the anti-nutrients found in the wholegrain flour, plus, sourdoughs just taste freaking good.

You do need a strong, bubbly sourdough starter to make this bread though, which really, is just a fermented mix of flour and water that you can make easily or beg/steal/borrow from your favourite artisan bakery.

LAZY SOURDOUGH SPELT BREAD
(adapted from Breadtopia- he has a video too, very helpful if you're still scared; and Cheeselave.)

Ingredients
You can use all-whole spelt too, in total 530g, as in the original recipe. I mix it up for a lighter loaf.
350g whole spelt flour
200g white spelt flour + more for sprinkling
350g water
10 g (1 1/2 tsp) unrefined sea salt
60g (3 tbsp) unrefined sugar or honey
1/4 cup active sourdough starter (fed and bubbly, 100% hydration)

You also need
a dough whisk (makes mixing wet sticky doughs easier, but it's possible to use a very large fork...)
a large mixing bowl
a dough scraper (or some plastic card)
a proofing basket (or a colander + thin dish cloth)




Method
The night before,
1. Add the sugar/honey to the water, then mix in the starter.
2. Mix the flour with the salt.
3. Mix the dry and wet ingredients together, using a dough whisk or the large fork. You'll realise the dough is like a very stodgy batter that's quite impossible to knead.
4. Cover with a plastic bag, and leave for 30 min to an hour.
5. Wet a dough scraper, scrape and separate the edges of the dough from the bowl just so you can lift up the dough. It's still quite slack, but you should be handling it very gently anyway.
6. Do a stretch-and-fold i.e.stretch the dough slightly, then fold each side into each other. Repeat in the other direction.
7. Repeat steps 4-6 three more times. 15 minute intervals work too if you're a bit impatient.

The next morning,
8.  The dough would have risen quite a lot*, yay! Using a wet dough scraper again, scrape out onto a floured surface, then using floured hands, gather all the sides in and pinch at the top to seal (should seal easily because the dough's quite sticky). Sprinkle more flour over.
9.  Place the blob into a floured proofing basket or dishcloth-lined colander, seam-side up. Cover with another dishcloth and leave for its final rise, about 1 to 1 1/2 hour, or till doubled.
10. 1 hour in, pre-heat the oven to 230 degrees celsius. Put the cast iron pot in (with the lid on) so it gets really hot. WEAR MITTENS when you take it out!
11. Turn the risen dough out into the very hot pot (now the seam-side is down), then place in the oven. Immediately turn the heat down to 200 degrees celsius.* Bake for 35 min covered*, 10 min uncovered to brown the crust.
12. Let cool for an hour before slicing into it. It continues to cook as it cools and become less gummy, so be patient. I know it's hard to resist warm bread fresh from the oven, but it's worth it.

Notes and tips
*How much your dough rises depends on how good your starter is and how warm your kitchen is. It will take a lot longer to rise here in dreary cold London than, say, in sunny Singapore.
*All ovens work differently so you may have to adjust the temperature and timings according to your oven. You might need to turn it down lower than 200C, or bake for slightly longer.
*The amazing thing about using your cast iron casserole pot is that the tight lid creates a steamy environment making for a crisper crust. Other recipes I've seen that use a baking stone (obviously not for a no-knead sort of bread) will put a tray of hot water at the bottom of the oven to create steam; this one has no need for that.



In Europe, bread is considered the staff of life, but if you told me three years ago that I can never eat bread again, I probably wouldn't give a hoot (I will die without rice though #asian). That was before I discovered real bread-- warm golden crusts and the wonderful yeasty smell of slow-fermented sourdough. It still amazes me that you can build something like this out of 3 basic ingredients: flour, salt, and water. Now when I need a quick bite to start the day, or a peckish nibble to break up my hum-drum day in front of the computer, I understand why one can really be happy simply with bread and butter (and a dollop of jam, or better yet, kaya, if one has it).


See also
Farewell, my hero (and how to make your own no-fail sourdough starter) 
Sourdough (Crepe), that was easy!

33 comments:

  1. Lovely-lovely--no biceps, I'm in! (I have none to speak of--haha)...what can I say, great minds! =)

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    1. hehe i do believe good things come out of a bit of bicep work usually, but this takes the scary factor out of breadmaking!

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  2. i need to try making bread again looks great and love the no knead method

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    1. I love this method too because it's hardly any effort. It takes time, but not much ACTUAL movement time (:

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  3. This bread looks so delicious... and I will seriously die without bread #french ;-) And Pablo, who already asks for "Beurre" for his "pain", will surely appreciate this one! I might just make it for our Xmas eve dinner, actually. Visualizing dipping in au jus sauce from the roasted capon... not a bad image to conclude the day!

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    1. hahaha hashtags hi-5!

      pablo sounds like he's growing up to be a real foodie already! i'll be super honoured if you actually make this for Xmas eve, imagine, a #french, making bread from an #asian! :O

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  4. Hi, your bread look good. Thanks for sharing lazy no-knead recipe. I'm one of the lazy person who don't like to knead bread dough, I usually dump everything in the breadmaker. LOL

    Have a nice day.

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    1. Thanks amelia! I don't have a breadmaker though, so this is as old-school as you can get while being still completely lazy (:

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  5. The bread looks amazing Shu Han. I love the pictures with the butter and jam, it's making me hungry. Being gluten free I don't get to have lovely breads like this anymore but I can still appreciate the look of them. I too would hate to be without rice! Also the chocolate orange almond cake recipe looks perfect for me. Might have to try that for Christmas. :)

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    1. I don't take that well to wheat, but spelt, being lower in gluten,sits well with me (: It's a pity you have to give up breads like this, but do try the chocolate cake (: have a good xmas!

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  6. Shuhan, I am seriously impressed! I am one of those scared of making bread... even though I do prepare yeast cakes (although sourdough sounds even scarier). Your bread looks fabulous and I love the photos. Congratulations!
    Otherwise, it seems we are all feeding on chocolate recently ;-) It's probably this time of the year...

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    1. I am scared too! Really, sissi, I am the worst at baking, I assure you this will work, especially for someone who grew up with a bread culture like you! I use sourdough because (until recently) I don't even own yeast in the house; sourdough's pretty much just made of flour and water, which I do own.

      ARGH don't remind me, I just finished another chocolate cake. I promise, the last!

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  7. I am always amazed to by how 3 simple ingredients can create something so special. I love making bread and it always features in some way when I am teaching. It makes you feel happy!

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    1. It does make me feel good! You're such an accomplished baker you probably make bread a lot more than I do, so for me, it's even more of an accomplishment (:

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  8. Hi Shu Han,
    Yes we need to keep our oven working in order to gain some heat for this cold winter!
    The bread looks good and the cute pics, hehe. Am not sure if I am patient enough to make this bread.

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    1. It does take patience, but not much effort. I'm sure you can make it! (: Hee I just realise why I'm so cold, my windows weren't shut properly, argh !?#$!@

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  9. Love this idea, especially the addition of delicious, nutty spelt.

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  10. i can't live without both rice AND bread. and i love how the left bicep looks like a bread ;p

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    1. Haha that was completely intentional, I hope the others got it. Ok I totally agree about the rice but I still can live without bread... I think.. but I will miss it.

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  11. I've been recently in a kind of masterclass about bread and I'm not sure to be ready for that challenge yet ;-) You are a star!

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    1. I am not !! Trust me, I am not the best baker out there, but this recipe is dead simple!

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  12. i just love you share the "how to"...i also love your shots and recipe. and a curious coincidence we share the same love for the title's post lettering. :)
    ehehe

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  13. This is my kind of bread, and you make it look so easy!

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  14. I have to admit, I actually like kneading dough - it's very satisfying work - gives you time to ponder life, but I certainly wouldn't reject a loaf just because I couldn't knead it - looks lovely... bet it's great with some butter or jam or... dare I say... a slathering of Marmite :D

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    1. eee... Marmite is not my thing unfortunately. I do like kneading dough, it's great stress relief haha. But this does make breadmkaing less daunting!

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  15. Wow! Awesome recipe & loooks tasty with lovely texture! Finally I can make a bread without elbow grease! LOL

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  16. After my 1st attempted of apple yeast starter, have yet to start again , I like this kind bread using sourdough starter. Thanks for this no knead recipe .

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  17. Wow, what a lovely recipe! Thanks so sharing! =D

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  18. Hi Shu Han, drop by to wish you a very Merry Christmas and happy holiday. Have a lovely week ahead,regards.

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    1. thanks amelia, merry christmas!! (:

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  19. This was the best bread I have ever baked. Worked out gorgeous for me. I used different flour - 200 gr. white, 200 gr. half white and 150 spelt.
    https://fbcdn-sphotos-b-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-xap1/t31.0-8/p640x640/10548073_810370445697339_1535514969887340540_o.jpg

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    1. That looks beautiful Kamola!! So glad it turned out well for you. I'm not the best baker but this bread is so easy- it's my go-to recipe :D

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