comments 6

Loaf #7 – what’s different?



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.


  1. Miss Polly

    They all look amazing. No need to knead! I didn’t read through to see if you replaced your Dutch oven or are you just committed that due to high temperature the pot has gotten dark?

    • Hi Miss Polly. I’m still using the Dutch oven. The interior enamel is holding up. One day I’ll replace it with a cast iron pot with lid without enamel.

      • Miss Polly

        Awesome. I am convinced this is the year I will attempt the Paska. Previous posts on your Paska wars were so fun to read not to mention anything with ‘bread’ and ‘lemon’ can’t be wrong. I have the coffee cans, I just need some more research on recipes and courage!

        • There are lots of videos on YouTube on paska, and watching them is a great confidence builder. Spray the inside of the coffee cans with oil spray and coat with bread crumbs (toss the crumbs in the can and roll it around until coated). Make a sticky dough rather than a firm one, even if it makes kneading challenging. You will do fine. We always make several paskas and make friends.

  2. Salvelinas Fontinalis

    next time you make a kneaded loaf from a sourdough monster add a half teaspoon of sugar to the doughball when you start to knead it. It will not add any sweetness at all to the bread but it will make the yeast much much happier and a happier yeast is just better.

    • Have you made bread from a sourdough starter before? In what way do you predict the yeast will be happier and how will that translate to better bread? Why are you suggesting I do this with a kneaded loaf as opposed to a no-knead loaf?

      I’m not convinced it is a good idea. As I understand it, a sourdough culture has a couple things going on. One is a community of yeasts and the other is bacteria which produces lactic acid (and creates the distinctive sourdough flavour). A good starter will have just the right balance. It doesn’t need any additional sugar to function perfectly. I don’t think there is value in attempting to speed up the process. In fact some bakers try to slow down the development of the yeast by lowering temperature and believe that a much longer rise at lower temperature will produce a more strongly flavoured product. I’ve read that if you have a good, successful starter, there is some risk in throwing off the balance if you mess with it by adding sugars to the mix, but I don’t know if that opinion is scientific or based on experience.

      I know that some people use honey or pure pineapple juice in the first couple days of capturing a starter with some success, but I didn’t do this and nobody I know has done it. My starter works very well and produces particularly excellent bread and it used just flour and water.

      I’ll do some research.

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