After having made variations of this recipe six times, I can officially say I LOVE IT! It is practically fool proof – Despite the fact that it uses volume instead of weight measurements.
Question: Why does weight matter?
Answer: Consistency of quality is at risk when measuring in volume rather than weight, AND it is more difficult to successfully substitute other types of flour when using volume instead of weight.
Explanation: Volume vs. weight can make a BIG difference when baking for a couple reasons. First, the way you put the flour into the measuring cup affects how much flour you are actually adding. Do you scoop it out of the bag or pour it in? Do you press it down or level it off with a spoon? All of these techniques appear to put the same amount of flour into a bowl, however it just isn’t so. Each different method of achieving a volume measurement of a 1/4c will result in different weight measurements.
The second reason to measure by weight rather than volume is that different flours have different weights. If you are trying to substitute whole wheat flour for all purpose flour in a recipe you are going to have problems because the percent of hydration (how much water you add) in the recipe is based on what is required for all purpose flour. Recipes using all-purpose flour generally require less hydration that whole grain flours. This is why so many people complain about whole wheat being too “dry.” They have not taken into account that whole wheat flours weigh more than all purpose flours thus require more moisture.
Example: An all purpose white flour may weigh anywhere from 28-30g per 1/4 cup, whereas stone-ground whole wheat flours may weigh between 32-34g per 1/4 cup. A 2-4 gram difference may not appear to be a lot, but let’s do the math…
If there is a 2 gram difference between each 1/4 cup, that is an 8 gram difference per cup.
A basic bread recipe uses around 3 cups of flour. In this case that would be a 24g difference – almost a 1/4c.
When making several loaves of bread at a time, one may need 10+ cups of flour.
Now we are looking at an 80g difference which is equivalent to about 2/3 cup of flour! Not a small difference in the least.
So if weight is that big of a deal, why are so many bread recipes written using volume measurements? Well, I guess because the chefs writing the recipes tend to think it is “easier” for the average home cook to use volume measurements? Or maybe because it is presumptuous to assume that the average person owns a kitchen scale? I am not really sure. Some recipes using volume measurements will come out fine – as long as you don’t plan to change ANYTHING and measure carefully.
All this said, I have adapted Mark Bittman’s adaption of Jim Layhe’s basic recipe for No-Knead Bread TWICE so that it is avialable in weight for those of us who care. The recipes are very easy, and take very little active time… However, you do need to do some planning as the bread requires an initial 12-18 hour rise, and then another 2 hour rise right before baking.