After Mark Bittman's feature in the New York Times (November 8, 2006) on Jim Lahey's no-knead bread, I received many inquires asking if it is possible to make no-knead sourdough.
It took just one look at Lahey's recipe to focus on the 12 hour "rest". It seemed pretty obvious. Lactobacilli in a sourdough culture "fermenting" for 12 hours should produce a far better flavor than ¼ teaspoon of instant yeast and no lactobacilli. It is only necessary to modify the recipe for the extra flour and water added by the sourdough culture. Here's what it looks like.
Recipe (see note)
Produces one 1½ pound loaf
1 cup fully active sourdough culture
440 grams (3 cups) all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
1 cup water
1½ teaspoons salt
- In a large bowl briefly combine sourdough culture, flour, water and salt. The consistency should be very firm and shaggy. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and proof 12-18 hours at about 70° F.
At 70-75 degrees the bread leavens well and has the distinct sourness and flavor of sourdough. At more than 75 degrees the dough becomes too acidic which inhibits the wild yeast and leavens poorly. At much less than 70 degrees the dough leavens well but has a mild flavor.
- After the 12-18 hour fermentation this is very sticky dough.
Use a plastic spatula to ease it away from the edges of the bowl onto a lightly floured board. Sprinkle the surface with additional flour and let the dough rest 15 minutes or so.
- With minimal handling and additional flour (not more than ¼ cup) form a ball which is placed directly in the baking container to rise (or placed between cotton cloths as described by Lahey)
and proofed until ready to bake, double in bulk (about 4 hours). The baking container can be almost any small covered pot (avoid willow baskets since the sticky dough is difficult to remove).
- Lahey bakes the dough in an oven and container both preheated to 450° for approximately 1 hour. To obtain better oven spring place the risen dough in its container in a cool oven, set the oven at 450°, turn it on and bake for approximately 1 hour and 10 minutes. You will never knead a better sourdough!
Note: In developing the above recipe, I used our Original San Francisco culture. There are several additional recipes for no-knead sourdoughs in the
section on batter breads in Classic Sourdoughs.