If I’m looking for small joys during this time, I love the explosion and interest in bread baking. It’s been a fun distraction to talk bread making tips, techniques and tricks with friends and families and sometimes total strangers. This is the warm, fuzzy side of the internet.
If there is one common theme to many of the initial questions, it’s the surprise that most of the popular no knead, artisan bread recipes include an overnight proof. That long rest in the fridge helps the dough develop flavor, saves you the step of kneading, and makes the dough much easier to handle and shape the next day. Can you make no knead bread in a day? Yes, but start early. Can you make no knead bread after lunch and still have it on the table for dinner. Let’s find out…
You’re going to sacrifice a few things with the speed (mostly a more complex flavor profile) but it is possible to get a good looking no knead loaf from ingredients to oven to table in just about two hours. It will look great and if you just needs some carbs as a sauce or soup delivery mechanism to your mouth, it will more than get the job done.
The biggest difference between the traditional overnight no knead recipes and the express recipe are the amount of yeast and the temperature of the water. You’ll be increasing both substantially to get the dough to rise quickly.
Given the lower flavor profile I like to add different additions (such as sesame seeds, flax seeds, oats) or try different flour combinations (add a cup of whole wheat or rye). Just don’t exceed the total of 3 cups. The resulting dough will be wet and shaggy.
A quick PSA. Be careful with the water. You want it very warm, approximately 120-125 degrees, but not boiling. The warm water will really activate the yeast but too warm and you kill it.
The most difficult part (and it’s not too bad) is shaping the loaf after the initial rise. Try not to add too much flour when you are shaping but a little too much if it makes it easier to handle won’t hurt too much. I suggest a bench knife as a very useful tool for shaping. Side note, it’s also really great at cleaning up the leftover flour on the counter afterward.
Don’t forget to pre-heat the Dutch oven in the oven. I’ve forgotten to put the Dutch oven (or whatever vessel you are using) in the oven more times than I can count. You can use the parchment sling to place the second proofed dough right into the oven. Let the natural pressure create the fissures on top. No need to do any fancy cuts or stencils. Sometimes natural is even better.
The resulting bread might not have the big airy holes or the subtle flavors of the overnight or multi-day fermented dough, but I was pleasantly surprised for the such a quick turnaround.