If you’re interested in the no-knead bread recipe that’s been setting the world on fire this past month and have access to the New York Times site (I think it costs money these days) you might want to check out this week’s “update” to the original no-knead bread article. In it, Mark Bittman sets out to answer some of the more frequently asked questions about the bread. While not exactly a master class, you might find it useful if you’ve tried the bread and had problems.
As you may recall from my original posts on the subject, my main problem with the bread is its lack of flavor, which many people interpret as a simple lack of salt. That’s not the case. What’s missing is the depth of flavor (a combination of sugars, acid and other molecular detritus created by yeast, bacteria and enzymes), the result of hours (or days) of relatively high yeast or starter activity. No-knead bread uses commercial yeast, and so little of it that there’s very little opportunity for the bread to develop any real complexity.
This can be compensated for to some extent if you wish. For one, you can add more salt as the NYT article suggests. However salt won’t really solve the problem and will likely only serve to further slow the yeast growth (salt kills yeast, donchaknow). Another possible solution is to add some powdered citric acid to your dough, about 1/8 teaspoon. Technically I guess you’d call this a “cheat” but acid is one of the main flavors produced by the action of a bread starter, and it’s fairly easy to compensate for. Citric acid, also known as “sour salt” can be had at some pharmacies and/or health food stores, from spice sellers like Penzey’s and from King Arthur Flour (The Baker’s Catalogue).
Lastly you can go whole hog and just put in some sourdough flavoring, available again from King Arthur Flour. This stuff is a mixture of citric acid, deactivated yeast and other goodies designed to mimic a real sourdough taste. It’s up to you how far you want to go with these types of “improvements”, but considering this is sort of a getting-your-feet-wet sort of recipe, I don’t see anything much wrong with it.