As I understand the Bittman article about Lahey's no-knead bread, the process is as follows: mix the ingredients and wait 18 hours, then fold it over and rest for 15 mins, then put on floured towel, sprinkle with flour. Leave alone for 2 hours. About a half hour before baking, heat the pot and oven. Put bread in oven and bake for 30 mins. Take off cover and bake for 15-30 more.
My husband and I have made about 7 loaves (including whole wheat and rye, herbs, different shapes) at this point and really like it. So now it's time to mess with it further.
Here's my question: If you're not kneading the bread at the 18 hour point, you are simply shaping and covering with flour and letting it sit for another 2 hours. So why is this considered a second rise?
Thus: If you put the dough in an oiled bowl instead of a floured towel, couldn't you just skip this "second rise" step and just put the 18-20 hour bread in the hot pot and bake without shaping/flouring? (Of course, it might look different and the oil might affect the crispness of the crust. But if you want the floury looking top, you could just sprinkle some flour on top.)
It seems like this would simplify the recipe further without sacrificing anything. Do you agree?
We're going to try this out. I'll let you know how it goes.
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