by A.J. Coltrane
Last week I had an excuse to make two loaves of No Knead Bread at the same time. I thought it would be interesting to try one loaf using all AP flour, and one loaf using all Bread flour. Furthermore, I’d bake the AP loaf in a smallish dutch oven (4-1/2 quarts), and the Bread loaf in a somewhat oversized dutch oven (7 quarts). In theory the Bread flour loaf would have a stronger gluten network, have more room to expand, and end up as the bigger loaf while possessing a more open crumb.
That’s not what happened. But I did learn a couple of things along the way.
The AP flour is on the left in each photo.
Here they are after an overnight rise, the stretch and fold, and the 15 minutes of rest before they’re to go into the bowls for the final rise. Note how much shaggier the left-hand (AP) loaf looks:
I’ve read that bread flour absorbs more water than AP flour. In this case it meant that the AP dough was stickier and that handling it meant more tearing and abuse. Ultimately it led to the shaggier appearance on the left.
I think it’s pretty neat seeing the difference in absorption illustrated like that — it had always been a somewhat abstract concept to me, but there it is in practice.
That shagginess stuck around after the two-hour rise in the bowls. It looks like the Bread flour dough just wants to be more organized — it’s almost like the increased gluten in Bread flour means that it’s naturally more structured:
The bowls were then inverted into preheated dutch ovens. I was surprised by the end result:
The Bread flour loaf wound up much darker. That’s because it spent the uncovered part of the baking time in the hotter part of the oven. In the future I’ll want to rotate the loaves half-way through the uncovered portion of the process (instead of right after removing the lids.)
The finished loaves wound up more or less the same size. The irregularties in the AP dough manifested themselves in the final bread, allowing the loaf to expand in the oven. The Bread flour loaf was *too* regular — the crust never split on its own. In retrospect, it should have been slashed. I thought about it, but didn’t because I wanted a completely equal trial.
I’d gone to a fair amount of care to have two distinct end products. It didn’t work out that way at all, but that’s ok because I learned more in one shot than I’ve learned in a while.
[Recipe link. Or just click on the No Knead tab at the top of this page.]