Foolproof whole wheat artisan bread (no-knead)
It’s been a while since our last post, yes, we know. The reason is that we needed a small break in order to get the time to do some things like take proper care of our little veggie garden, and -most importantly- make plans for new and more interesting things for the blog. Maybe creating a new blog all together with a different niche.
One thing is certain… There was a lot of brain storming going on. Still is.
New projects, new ideas always keep people energized. It is such a creative moment. And the best time to do it is at the end of summer.
Since school era (that was emmm… only a few years ago… wasn’t it? lol), the month of September has always been the month of new projects and new beginnings.
This summer’s lesson is don’t overthink things. If you want to do something, follow a dream or create something that will make you happy and full, don’t overthink it. Go for it! Nothing will happen if you don’t act on it. But something WILL definitely happen if you do act and go for it!
A no-kneading tale and other bread stories
With that in mind, making bread was at first for us a very intimidating idea, like it is for many people. We were always finding excuses not to give it a try, even though we really wanted to make some.
We have been reading online for recipes and watching videos for techniques (we especially read our dear friend and fellow food blogger Karen Kerr’s blog “Karen’s Kitchen Stories”. She is the baking queen! You need to check her blog out). But the kneading and the necessary time for making bread were often stopping us. Then we came across the no-knead technique and it was a revelation; THAT was a game changer.
It was time to check again our “baking bread” skills. It took a while! Our first trials were a bit disappointing! But we started to learn from our mistakes. And we started to get better each time. The secret is to never give up. And we didn’t! Why? We wanted to eat good homemade bread and share it with our loved ones.
Long story short, we ended up with a recipe that was meeting our expectations for homemade artisan bread. From the looks to the texture, to the taste.
We have been using this recipe for more than 3 years and it never failed us. And you know what? It won’t fail you either! Why? Because we have tested this so much for you. It’s a foolproof recipe. Family and friends tried it, with no baking skills, and they made an amazing bread.
So know, all you have to do is follow our step by step instructions and- believe it or not- you will make yourself a homemade whole wheat artisan bread, using the no-knead technique.
The no-knead technique
What is a no-knead bread? Exactly what it sounds: you are making a bread without kneading the dough. Instead, you give the yeast and the flour all the time they need to work their magic. That means that you replace kneading by adding time; time the dough needs to proof. And the more time the better in this case. So great that you don’t have to sweat over the dough, isn’t it?
The Dutch oven is preferable but not mandatory!
This recipe for no-knead bread was baked in a Dutch oven, the cast iron (or enameled cast iron) baking pot with the lid. It’s the perfect cookware for this kind of bread. The reason is that this type of baking pot keeps the heat better and comes with a lid that keeps the moisture inside the pot. You need the moisture for the baking, because it keeps the dough moist while rising and -most importantly- it helps create an excellent crust. The good news is that you don’t necessarily need to own a Dutch oven. It doesn’t come cheap buying one and we know that.
At the beginning, we used to make our bread in small baking tins for cakes. Not the ones you use once. We used classic long cake tins, the ones you use for baking your cakes. So if you have a couple of baking tins, you are good to go to the land of baking bread:) Divide the dough into the two and bake! Simply bake for less time, as you will make 2 smaller tins. So at the end phase, bake for 10-20 minutes less. You will know if the bread is ready (in any case) by removing it onto a rack, flipping it upside down, and knocking on the bottom. It the sound is hollow and the bottom is firm, then it’s ready.
Keep in mind though that if you bake bread in baking tins. you need to use another tin with water and place it at the bottom of your oven while preheating. This will create the moisture you need within the oven, to bake your bread properly and make this crispy crust that everybody loves!
Whole wheat flour
We have tried many variations of this recipe, using more or less whole wheat flour. We find that the taste of an 100% whole wheat flour bread is very strong and prefer to keep it at 50%. The mixture of whole wheat flour with all-purpose AND bread flour gives the texture we prefer. This is a bread that is amazing with Greek salad, whipped feta dip, taramosalata, tzatziki and briam!
You need to serve it if you have people over, they won’t believe you made it yourself.
The dough of the bread will be wet and sticky. To get a delicious bread (and crust) you need to have a well hydrated dough. So your fingers will stick quite a bit into the dough when you handle it, and it’s normal. Don’t be alarmed by this. That’s why you will need to dust the countertop with flour when you empty the dough from the bowl, after proofing it. You then fold it on top of itself, by pulling its edges on top. But resist to the temptation to add flour inside the dough, to incorporate it. It will ruin your bread and make it very dense if you do!
If it sounds intimidating, don’t be discouraged! After a few times, you will be doing it like you had always being doing that; you will become so familiar with it. After all, all you need to do is fold it 4-5 times, turn it around a bit and place it back into the bowl. There is no right and wrong, you are just handling the dough for even less than a minute and returning it into an oiled bowl to wait for the oven. So be confident!
A homemade baked bread
You really have to try this recipe; it’s the whole process of making something with your own hands with simple ingredients, that makes it so creative and magical. And it’s so rewarding. After making the bread you feel like you have conquered the world! We know we did. We were high fiving each other all day! Hahaha!
And then the smell of the bread while baking in the oven…You guys have no idea how good that smells! You will hardly keep yourself from waiting for the bread to cool down and slice it. It’s tough, but you need to let it rest for at least an hour before cutting it.
And it’s a bread that will be made by you! You will feel proud somehow. The best part is your family will love it and then baking bread at home will become a staple; a family tradition perhaps.
We know it takes time, but that’s all it takes! But not your own time. Think about it; the time and effort you put into making this bread, in this recipe is minimum. Why? Because all the work is done by the yeast and the time you give it to do its work (the proofing). And the yeast delivers, every time! It’s a hard working ingredient
So picture that…It’s Saturday morning and you just placed the Dutch oven or your cake tins in the oven. The smell of the baking bread is filling up the air in the house. The bread is ready just in time for brunch. A hot cup of coffee for you, a glass of milk for you kids and a few slices of freshly home-baked bread with butter and jam. Isn’t that magical or what?
Are you ready for your first homemade loaf of bread? Let’s go…!
(for about 1.5kg / 53oz / 3.3lbs loaf of bread)
- 270g / 9.5oz (2 cups) all-purpose flour
- 140g / 5oz (1 cup) bread flour
- 435g / 15.3oz (3 cups) whole wheat flour
- 2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp dry yeast
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2tbsp olive oil
- 600 ml (2 ½ cups) tap water *
* Depending on the temperature of the room and the weather. For example, during summer the temperature is higher therefore you can use water straight out of the tap, or in room temperature. During fall, winter and spring the water used in the dough should be a little lukewarm to help energize the yeast.
Prepare the dough:
Add all the types of flour into a large bowl and mix well with a wooden spoon until fully combined (pic.1). We use a wooden spoon, as we think it’s more practical. The spoon will also be used again in the following steps.
In the following order: Add the sugar and the yeast. Then on the other side of the bowl add the salt and the olive oil (pic.2).
Add half the amount of water (pic.3) and with the back of the wooden spoon, mix everything together making sure the dry ingredients have absorbed it (pic.4).
Add the rest of the water (pic.5) and continue mixing with the handle of the wooden spoon until all ingredients are wet and a wet dough is formed (pic.6).
Cover with cling film (pic.7) and a dark-colored towel (pic.8). That will help the proofing of the dough. Leave the dough to proof for 12-18 hours in room temperature.
Second proofing and baking:
After -at least- twelve hours, the dough will be fluffy and bubbly. Remove the towel and the film. Don’t throw away the film because you will need it for the second proofing.
Dust well a clean surface of your countertop with flour and pour the dough on it (pic.9). A baker’s scraper or a spatula can help you. Using the scraper or your hands (make sure you dusted them with flour) fold the dough (pic.10 – pic.11) into a rectangular shape. You take each of the four “corners” and fold the dough on top of itself.
Then with vigorous clockwise movements and (again with the help of the scrapper, or your hands), lift and turn, to shape the dough into a loaf (pic.12).
Oil the surface of the bowl with a tablespoon of olive oil (pic.13) and place the dough in it. Cover with cling film (the one you used for the first proofing) and the towel (pic.14-pic.15). Let the dough aside for its second proofing, for 30 minutes. At the same time start to preheat the oven at 300°C / 570°F (fan setting) and place the Dutch oven (or your long cake tins and another tin with water) into the oven (pic.16).
After 30 minutes, carefully, using heat resistant gloves, remove the baking dish from the oven, place it on top of trivets, set the lid aside and dust the inside surface with a handful of flour (pic.17). Don’t let the oven door open while doing this because all the heat will be gone. With the help of the dough scrapper or with a flour dusted spatula empty the dough into the baking dish (pic.18). Close the lid and place the Dutch oven back into the oven (If using cake tins, divide the dough into two, dust with flour the surface of the cake tins and place each half into each one of them).
Reduce the heat to 250°C / 480°F (at the fan setting) and set a timer at 10 minutes. At this time the loaf rises.
Reduce once again at 220°C / 430°F and bake for another 20 minutes. Now the crust is being formed.
Remove the baking dish from the oven and remove the lid (pic.19). Place the Dutch oven back into the oven without it (If using cake tins you don’t need to do that).
Reduce the heat once more to 180°C / 350°F and continue baking for 40 minutes (If baking in cake tins, you only need about 15-20 as the loafs are smaller.)
Remove the baking dish from the oven and place the loaf on a rack (pic.20), upside down. Knock on the bottom. It the sound it makes is hollow and the surface is firm, then the bread is ready. If not, then bake for another 10 minutes.
Let it cool completely (pic.21) for at least one hour before slicing it.
Time to enjoy your homemade whole wheat loaf of bread with some butter or a few drops of extra virgin olive oil, mixed with garlic, balsamic, oregano and thyme. Kali Oreksi!
1. You must follow the measurements of the ingredients to the point. Adding more of any flour will make your dough dense. If that happens add a bit of water (like teaspoons of water) and mix your dough again. The measurements work for most flours but depending on the brand you might need to add a little more (or less) water into the dough when you mix it. You will get the hang of it after 2-3 times of baking bread.
2. You must be very careful when handling the Dutch oven or any baking dish you will choose to bake your bread. The temperatures will be very high. Always use heat resistant gloves during the whole procedure and be very careful.
3. If you don’t have a Dutch oven dish or any kind of baking dish with a lid, then you can easily use cake tins.
4. If you will use cake tins, then the 2nd proofing can be made in the baking tin as well. In this case make sure your tin is oiled and dusted with some flour; otherwise you can line it with parchment paper. If that’s the case, place just the a baking dish with water into the oven in the preheating stage, to keep the air moist and once it’s hot (after 30 minutes) then add directly the cake tins into the oven rack.
5. Don’t open the oven during baking, especially in the first minutes. If you do so, it will reduce the temperature and your bread will not puff up properly.
6. The bread can easily last up to 3 days in a cool and dry environment, wrapped thoroughly in plastic (once completely cool). You can also freeze it for later use (up to 2 months). You can also cut it into slices and place them in the freezer in zip-log bags. Don’t refrigerate it though. It will dry out.
7. If you don’t have a baker’s scraper, then you can use your hands. Just make sure they are slightly dusted with flour and be vigorous when handling it. This dough is a wet dough and it will stick in your fingers quite a bit.
8. Always dust the inside surface of your baking dish with flour or semolina. This will help you remove the baked loaf from the dish onto the rack.
9. You can make the second proofing on a parchment paper in the bowl. This will make it even easier. How? Just cut a piece of parchment paper the size you want and place it in bowl. Dust with flour, add the dough and let it proof for 30 minutes (2nd proofing). Then you can easily transfer the dough into the Dutch oven and bake the bread with it.
10. The vinegraitte pictured above is an easy appetizer for freshly baked bread. Place in a small bowl 2tbsp of extra virgin olive oil, 2 medium-sized garlic cloves in thin slices, a few drops of balsamic vinegar, a pinch of sweet chili flakes, oregano and thyme.