Beer and the No-Knead Bread


All of you remember the No-knead bread revolution that started last year when Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery revealed that the secret to great artisan bread is within the reach of the average home cook or even a four-year old. Having never made bread in my life before this (and that includes the bread machine) , I was highly doubtful that I could pull this off – but surprisingly I did and I had made the No-Knead Bread (NKB) a couple of times after that.

In the latest issue of Cook’s Illustrated (Jan/Feb 2008), they declared that they have developed a way to improve on the flavor and shape of Lahey’s NKB which they called No-Knead Bread 2.0  Personally, I thought Lahey’s version was pretty good, so I was wondering what else can be done to improve it? For the flavor issue, CI used lager which had the same yeast attributes found in bread and used less water which made the dough easier to form into a ball.

The resulting bread was mighty tasty but the crumb was closer knit unlike the original where it was perfectly airy.

I’m sorry for the lack of pictures, as I made this during a dinner party, the vultures descended before I was able to get a close-up of the sliced bread.

Just for giggles and because we did not want to waste beer, I tried ale in my next bread. Uh…the crumb was really close, the bread was heavy – it was tasty but it was as hard as a rock by day 2.

So, would I try this version again. No. I’d go with Lahey’s recipe – besides the times when I want to make this bread did not necessarily coincide with the time the “Hungry” Hubby might want to have a beer. The HH always says “Thou shalt not waste beer in this house.”

However, I would employ the method in the CI version of letting the dough rest, seam side down on top of parchment paper on a 10-inch skillet. This does make transferring the dough to a preheated Dutch oven easier. You do have to slash the top though.

No-Knead Bread 2.0

From Cook’s Illustrated Jan/Feb 2008

  • 3 cups (15 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus additional for dusting work surface
  • ¼ tsp instant yeast
  • 1 ½ tsp table salt
  • ¾ cup plus 2 tbsp water (7 ounces), at room temperature
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tbsp (3oz) mild-flavored lager
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar

Whisk flour, yeast, and salt in a large bowl. Add water, beer, and vinegar. Using rubber spatula, fold mixture, scraping up dry flour from bottom of bowl until shaggy ball forms. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 8 to 18 hours.

Lay a 12-by 18 inch sheet of parchment paper inside 10-inch skillet and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface and knead 10 to 15 times. Shape dough into a ball by pulling edges into middle. Transfer dough seam side down, to parchment-lined skillet and spray surface of dough with nonstick cooking spray. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until dough has doubled in size and does not readily spring back when poked with finger, about 2 hours.

About 30 minutes before baking, adjust oven rack to lowest position, place 6- to 8-quart heavy bottomed Dutch oven (with lid) on rack , and heat oven to 500 degrees. Lightly flour top of dough and using a razor blade or sharp knife, make one 6-inch-long, ½-inch deep slit along top of dough. Carefully remove pot from oven and remove lid. Pick up dough by lifting parchment overhang and lower into pot (let any excess parchment hang over pot edge). Cover pot and place in oven. Reduce oven temperature to 425 degrees and bake covered for 30 minutes. Remove lid and continue to bake until loaf is deep brown and instant-read thermometer inserted into center registers 210 degrees, 20 to 30 minutes longer. Carefully remove bread from pot; transfer to wire rack and cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to rat out the “Hungry” Hubby’s anal-retentive, mild OCD nature when it comes to kitchen cleanliness. Boy, do the Reynolds people love him! His motto is “the less to clean up, the better”.

Can you all imagine the look on his face whenever I tell him I’m about to fry or sauté something? He’d rather order take-out than have me cook just to avoid oil splatters.

During Cooking:


After Cooking:


I do admit his little trick does help especially when we have dinner guests coming over. 🙂

28 thoughts on “Beer and the No-Knead Bread

  1. Excellent post Veron! I was wondering whether or not I should give that CI recipe a try as I was very intrigued by the addition of beer. It's disappointing to hear about the crumb structure though.

    And my parents do the same thing with foil, but they only cover their backsplash! You're husband takes it to another level!

  2. Look at all that foil! Ever considered how much time it takes to get the foil just so and compare it to clean up? Nah..don't… I had a wide grin on my face.
    Glad you tried out the recipe, I'd heard about it. Since I didn't like the crumb on the original (too moist and gummmy for my taste) I don't think I'll try this one. Thanks for showing us!

  3. Well now I know what my airplane reading next week will be! Just added a copy of CI to my packing list.

    Love the picts of HH too! Yup, OCD alright but maybe he does have a point about the cleaning up.

  4. Your hubby is amazing, but I'm not sure I could function with all of the foil. I rely on sight when trying to regulate my burner flame (maybe it's my cheap stove!).

    And keep up the great posts. Your entries and your writing are fantastic.

  5. I've been meaning to try out this recipe, but alas, it is still far down on my list of important things to do…

    Love your method for keeping the kitchen clean, though! While I might have laughed a bit at the first picture, I have to admit, my own kitchen never looks that spotless… Even if I haven't been cooking like crazy!

  6. I love that my stove has a lived-in look (i.e., scratches, stains, etc.). But of course I hate the clean-up, so maybe your hubby is on to something…. I've had such good luck with the NKB that I'm reluctant to try the Cooks Illustrated method. Sounds like you're advocating the original NKB, too. Thanks for testing!

  7. I think I am the only one left that has not tried the no-knead bread. Maybe over my Christmas break!

    I have to admit – your husband is genius! I have never thought of covering things with foil, but I might be trying that!! I love the cooking part, but hate the cleaning, so this might solve my problem!

  8. I with Hannah here — I love kneading bread. I'm on a sourdough kick now, and don't mind spending 25 minutes with my bread over the span of two days.

  9. Obviously, as my wife's plan about exposing my relationship with foil in the kitchen has backfired, I get to enforce my way in the kitchen even more!! Thank you everyone!!! …going to Costco on the way home, we need more foil…
    On the bread note, using Lager was better than Ale.

  10. Wow! Foil! I've used cookie sheets to cover burners but foil! What an obviously great choice.
    I loved that the no knead bread sang to me but I have only done it maybe four times. I just have too many other bread recipes I want to bake more.

  11. Veronica, I was laughing at your post. Your husband and my husband must be long lost fraternity brothers or something. Beer must never be wasted around here, or in other words, "don't leave a wounded soldier." The foil covered counter top is hilarious too–although it would be effective:)

  12. I read on another blog recently about the CI bread too but I think I would pefer the Lahey bread.

    I can understand the quick clean up when entertaing as it relates to the foil but the doing that for regular cooking, I don't think I'd be able to handle it though I would love the outcome 🙂

  13. Veron – got your card…awww, you are too sweet. Thanks so much. Wishing you and your loved ones a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, and more BKT, more baking, cooking, and EATING in 2008! Yippee! 🙂 🙂

  14. Hi Veron – the idea of bread flavored with beer sounds pretty intriquing to me. When I was a kid, I used to make quick breads that had beer as an ingredient (the only way I was allowed to consume it at that time!) HH's kitchen cleanliness cracked me up! Does he hire out for parties?

  15. I was totally cracking up when I saw the foil covering your stove top. He's a man after my own heart. 🙂 I did that for months when we first got our Wolf. Okay, I still do it sometimes, but not as often as I used to. People with OCD unite! Happy Holidays to you and the hubby.

  16. I love how your hubby "foiled" (yes, bad pun on my part intended) the cooking mess. I was actually eyeing my cooktop this afternoon thinking about how much I hate cleanup and wish I could think of something to do about it. Seriously, the $1 worth of foil it might cost me to do this really worth it! I'll buy in bulk. So, thanks to you, and thanks to your hubby. 😉

  17. Veron, thanks for testing that and keeping the rest of us from wasting any more precious beer. The original recipe was so good, I couldn't see how changing it would help.

  18. Some people like Guss in My big fat Greek wedding use Windex, I like to use foil! Thanx for the encouragement!

  19. Um, don't mean to be a killjoy here, but anybody consider the impact that the use of all this aluminum foil might have on the environment? That stuff has to be dug out of the ground somewhere, refined, shipped, and packaged–ripping up the earth, fouling creeks with effluent, and spewing greenhouse gasses at every step. Seems like wiping off the stove might be a more sustainable practice.

  20. If you let the bread rise, and don't use too much liquid, it does taste incredible and have a great crumb structure. Using all-purpose flour works well, but bread flour is better.

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