No-Knead French Bread

No-Knead Bread (Time 0_01_05;20)There is a bread baking technique that has been floating around the internet since about 2007, but it’s not a new idea, it’s been around for hundreds of years. A very simple dough with high moisture content that is baked in a Dutch oven. It’s called No-knead bread and, because of its simplicity and its great flavor, is a very innovative technique compared to modern bread baking methods. This no-knead bread is an 18th century French bread, though it is nothing like modern French breads which are known for being a firm white bread with an open crumb structure and a crispy crust. French breads in 18th century cookbooks are always made with milk and sometimes eggs and butter, had its crust either rasped away or chipped off with a knife, and was commonly used as an ingredient in other dishes such as porridges, soups, and even other breads.No-Knead Bread (Time 0_02_35;18)

  • 3 Cups Flour
  • 1 ½ tsp. Salt
  • Barm or barm substitute:
    • ½ cup water
    • 1 heaping tbsp. Flour
    • ¼ – ½ tsp. Instant Yeast
  • 1 Egg White
  • 2 Egg Yolks
  • ¾ cup Milk
  • 2 tbsps. Melted Butter

In a large bowl, put 3 cups of flour, bread flour or all-purpose flour will do, and about 1 ½ teaspoons of salt.

The original recipe calls for barm and since nobody has barm, which is the foam from the top of beer, instead we’re going to make a substitute barm. In a separate container, let’s start with a half a cup of water. To that, add a heaping tablespoon of flour and a half a teaspoon of instant yeast, then we can stir this all together and let it rest.

Now for the rest of the wet ingredients, take just one egg white and add that to ¾ of a cup of milk and whisk together.

No-Knead Bread (Time 0_03_48;08)
Now take 2 tablespoons of melted butter and put that in with the 2 egg yolks and whisk those together.

Now let’s add all the wet ingredients together including the barm mixture, then mix the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients. Copy of No-Knead Bread Collage 2As soon as the dough is formed and all the flour is absorbed, it’s time to stop mixing because they call for this dough not to be kneaded. It makes a very wet and sticky dough, a very light paste.

Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and set it aside 12-24 hours. You could divide this dough up and put it into smaller, well-floured bowls to make rolls as well.

Once it has a nice spongy texture to it, it’s time to preheat your Dutch oven. Don’t skimp on preheating this or your bread won’t turn out right. Once it is preheated, sprinkle some cornmeal into the bottom to keep it from sticking. If your Dutch oven is preheated correctly you should see the cornmeal brown up just a hair. If you’re going to bake this in your home oven, you’re going to want to set your oven to 450 degrees.

Turn your dough out onto a liberally floured surface. Now your dough may be very sticky, but that’s okay. It’ll help to flour your hands so that it doesn’t stick. Pat down the dough a little bit, then fold it a third of the way then fold the other side over on top of that, turn it and fold it over again the same way so that you folded it four times then place it in the Dutch oven. Copy of No-Knead Bread Collage
You want to keep a close eye on this while it’s cooking. It’s going to take 25-30 minutes. You want it to be a nice deep golden brown without burning on the bottom.

No-Knead Bread (Time 0_00_35;10)
You want to make sure that your bread is completely cooled before you rasp or chip off the outer crust. The crust and also the French bread as it is, is used in many 18th century recipes.

Transcript of Video:

There’s been a very interesting bread baking technique that’s been floating around the internet since about 2007. It’s called No-knead bread. It uses a very simple dough, a high moisture content and it’s baked in a Dutch oven. I would encourage you to watch the video sometime, it’s very worthwhile. No-knead bread, because of its simplicity and its great flavor, is a very innovative technique compared to modern bread baking methods, but I’ll let you in on a little secret, now this is not a new idea. In fact, no-knead breads have been around for hundreds of years. Today I’m going to show you how to do an 18th century version of no-knead bread. We’re going to bake it in an 18th century manner. We’re going to use that old Dutch oven that so many modern bakers are falling in love with.

There are many different kinds of breads in the 18th century. Some of them were baked from very fine white flour, others made from very course flour, still others were made with wheat flour mixed with other grains, but today we’re going to focus on a bread known by the 18th century British and North American colonists as French bread. Now when I say French bread, what one might think is a baguette, a batard, or a brioche. Most people think of a French bread as a firm white bread with an open crumb structure and a crispy crust. Numerous 18th century English cookbooks contain recipes for French bread, but this French bread is nothing like the modern French bread. Modern breads made with just flour, water, yeast and some salt. No, these French breads in these 18th century cookbooks are always made with milk and sometimes eggs and butter. This English version of French bread was made into loaves or into rolls. The rolls were sometimes referred to as machete bread which can mean the quality of a bread or sometimes its size and shape. This French bread had its crust either rasped away or chipped off with a knife. 18th century French bread was commonly used as an ingredient in other dishes. The bread crust was often used in porridges, soups, even in other breads. Let’s make some of this French bread.

In a large bowl, let’s put 3 cups of flour, bread flour or all-purpose flour will do, and about 1 ½ teaspoons of salt. That’s it for the dry ingredients. Let’s do the wet ingredients. The original recipe calls for barm and since nobody has barm, which is the foam from the top of beer, instead we’re going to make a substitute barm. Let’s start with a half a cup of water. To that I’m going to add a heaping tablespoon of flour and then we need some yeast.  We’re going to use instant yeast. You need about a quarter of a teaspoon to a half a teaspoon and then we can stir this all together.

Now for the rest of the wet ingredients. I’m going to take just one egg white. Let me crack this egg, and we’re going to add that to ¾ of a cup of milk and whisk that together.

Now I’ve got here 2 tablespoons of melted butter and I’m going to put that in with 2 egg yolks and we’re going to whisk those together. Now let’s add this all together and we can put in our barm mixture too, and that’s it for our wet ingredients. Now we’ll mix the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients and I’ll mix them with these.

As soon as the dough is formed and all the flour is absorbed, it’s time to stop mixing. Now one of the interesting things about the 18th century recipes is that they call for this dough not to be kneaded. It makes a very wet and sticky dough. They call it in the recipe a very light paste. We’ll cover this with a damp cloth and set it aside 12-24 hours. We could divide this dough up and put it into smaller, well-floured bowls to make rolls.

Now we’ve prepared this batch ahead of time and it’s been rising about 18 hours so it’s got a very nice spongy texture, so it looks like it’s time to start preheating our Dutch oven.

We’re going to be baking our bread in a Dutch oven today. Baking bread in Dutch ovens is very common in the 18th century although our recipes don’t call for that specifically. We have this oven over the fire and it’s warmed up. Don’t skimp on preheating this. You want it to be nice and hot when you get started. I’m going to go ahead and sprinkle some cornmeal into the bottom of that. This’ll keep the loaf from sticking. Just a very thin layer here looks good, and it should brown up just a hair so you can see that the oven is getting the right temperature.

Now it’s time to look at our dough. Now I’m going to turn this out onto a liberally floured surface. Now your dough may be a lot stickier than this, but that’s okay, but it’ll help to flour your hands so that it doesn’t stick, and now let’s pat this down a little bit, let’s fold it once, let’s fold it twice, three times, and one last time. Four times we’re going to fold this and now let’s put it in our Dutch oven. You want to keep a close eye on this while it’s cooking. It’s going to take 25-30 minutes. You want it to be a nice deep golden brown without burning on the bottom.

If you’re going to bake this in your home oven, you’re going to want to set your oven to 450 degrees. There, that looks perfect. I’m going to take it off. And there it is, an 18th century enriched no-knead bread. Something that they called, in the time period, French bread. We want to make sure that our bread is completely cooled before we rasp or chip off the outer crust. The crust and also the French bread as it is, is used in many 18th century recipes.

I invite you to subscribe to our new blog, SavoringThePast.net. On there you’ll find recipes and discoveries about 18th century cooking. Also, make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel so you can get notification of all the new videos as soon as they come out and of course follow us on Facebook so you can find out all the great news from Jas. Townsend and Son. Jas. Townsend and Son carries hundreds of quality 18th and 19th century reproduction clothing items and personal accessories, including a great line of cooking vessels and utensils. All these can be found on our website or in our print catalog. Thanks for watching and I invite you to come along and join us as we savor the aromas and flavors of the 18th century.

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3 Responses to No-Knead French Bread

  1. Karen says:

    I only recently found the Jas. Townsend and Son channel and have been enjoying watching the videos a great deal. Thank you so much! I have a question about this bread. You say that historically, they would have rasped or cut away the outer crust and used it elsewhere. Is the crust so tough, so hard to eat, that you need to do that? Visually, it appears no more terrible than any other artisan loaf. Thanks again!

  2. Karl says:

    Easy and perfect. Used bread flour. 15 minutes to prepare dough, left all day while at work, baked 45min/400dF, and it is GOOD. Even better because of the historical context.

  3. Chez nous says:

    Very good and easy.

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