Today I baked the seventh loaf from my current sourdough monster. Until this loaf I’ve been exclusively using the “no-knead” Lahey method and the results have been consistently fabulous. I neglected to get a dough going last night and mid-morning today I decided it would be good to have a loaf at dinner-time. The only thing to do was change up my approach and make a kneaded bread.
For no-knead bread, I use very little starter, and a long rising time (usually around 12 hours), and I only mess with the dough enough to make it come together in a very sticky dough. For this loaf I used quite a bit more starter, then I kneaded the bread for 10 minutes or so. I should say I kept my dough as sticky as possible while still being able to knead it. I suspect that I need a wetter dough to get a loaf with great internal character.
After an hour proofing, it didn’t look like much was happening with the dough at all. In fact it took about 3 hours to get a good rise. I punched it down, folded it and gave it a second short rise, about 25 minutes.
I baked it using the usual protocol – an extremely hot oven (500F), baked in a Dutch oven for half an hour with the lid on and another 15 minutes with the lid off.
The result was a loaf which had plenty of big holes, but overall a tighter texture than my no-knead bread, a little more like your basic French stick, except chewier. I’d say it was somewhere in between a french stick and my usual no-knead bread. The crust was beautiful, nicely developed but perhaps not quite as deeply developed as my previous loaves.
This was a damned fine loaf. Any bread baker would be more than satisfied with the result. Still, I’m going to say the no-knead loaves were just a wee bit better overall. There are lots of variables and I haven’t experimented enough yet to know how a single change in approach will affect the quality of the final loaf. I wouldn’t hesitate to make another kneaded sourdough like the one I baked today, but knowing I can get slightly better quality with more time and less work, I’ll continue to use “no-knead” as my default method.