No-Knead Bread

No-Knead Bread

Never buy store bought bread again!

Seriously, this is the ingredient list for no-knead bread:

I mean, you can’t really pass this up.  The opportunity to make warm, soft, delicious bread with only 3 ingredients! And from a health perspective it’s also a winner (especially if you use whole wheat flour) as store bought bread is full of random preservatives and added sugars. Plus, bread out of a bag never really tastes good.

It takes a little time…

The only “drawback” is the time management aspect of the bread. It’s no-knead because the method uses slow fermentation and allows the yeast to do the kneading for you over time. After the initial mixing of ingredients (all of a 2 minute time investment), the dough sits for 12-16 hours. You do have to touch the dough 2 more times before baking it, but very briefly.

Figuring out the best time make a loaf depends on your schedule. Think about what you’ll be doing 12 hours after you mix the dough. You still don’t need a ton of active commitment during the cooking phase so it’s an easy task to intersperse with other chores.

The recipe

I wouldn’t be surprised if you already know about this technique. There are a few popular cookbooks and cooking sites that talk about this method, so it’s gained quite a bit of attention. My favorite source is from Jim Lahey, who owns Sullivan Street Bakery. He wrote an incredible book called My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method. If you really get into homemade bread, this book is a worthy investment. The recipe that follows is based on his book but with a few modifications.

You’ll find that he lists his ingredients primarily by weight, followed by a volume measurement. I bought my kitchen scale initially just for this recipe. I think the accuracy obtained by using the scale makes a difference, but on my lazy days I just use measuring cups and the bread is still delicious.

A few other notes about the recipe:

  • The dutch oven. I have not made this particular recipe with anything else because I own two (a large circular and a smaller oval). The main reason the bread gets such an airy light texture and crispy crust is a result of the science of the dutch oven. When you plop the dough inside of a very hot preheated dutch oven (the cast iron holds heat extremely well and maintains a constant temperature) and cover it with the lid, you trap in the steam and blast the dough with heat. This gets the yeast moving quickly, creating gas and air bubbles and expanding the loaf. In a regular oven with dry heat, the crust starts setting quickly and minimizes the expansion of the loaf. After the moisture has been absorbed, the crust starts crisping and the sugars start browning to get that beautiful color and crunch. So, could you replicate this process without a dutch oven? You could, in a pinch, use a soup pot with a lid (as long as it can take the 450 degree temp!). You may not get quite the rise or crust of the dutch oven, but the flavor and texture should still be wonderful.
  • Alternative recipes: I have also regularly made Five Minute Artisan Bread, featured on The Splendid Table. It’s also a low energy input recipe and it does not call for dutch oven. It’s texture is less airy and its crust is softer than the dutch oven versions, but it is very tasty and makes great pizza dough!

Ingredients

400 grams (3 cups) bread flour (I have used all purpose with good results)

8 grams (1 1/4 tsp) table salt (I use Kosher)

1 gram (1/4 tsp) instant or active dry yeast

300 grams (1 1/3 cup) cool water

Wheat bran, flour, or cornmeal for dusting

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, mix together dry ingredients. Add the water and stir with a wooden spoon until combined. Dough will be sticky and wet-looking. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a tea towel and set aside at room temperature for 12-18 hrs.
  2. Dough is ready when dotted with bubbles. Sprinkle a clean surface with enough flour to keep dough from sticking and place dough on top of the flour. Fold dough over on itself a few times. Cover with cloth or plastic wrap and let rest for 15 minutes.
  3. With floured hands, formed dough into a loose ball. Coat a tea towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal and place dough, seam side down, on the towel. Fold the edges of the towel over dough or place another towel on top. Allow dough to rise another 2 hours (will approximately double in size)
  4. A half hour before the dough is done rising, place covered pot (dutch oven, etc.) in the oven as it preheats. When the pot has preheated, remove from oven (careful!) and remove the lid. Pick up dough, with hands under the towel, and turn it over and let it plop into the pot. It may look messy, but it will all work out as it bakes. Replace the lid and return pot to oven. Bake for 30 minutes with lid on. Then remove lid and bake for an additional 15 minutes. The crust should be well-browned. Remove dough from pot (using a wooden spoon or spatula) and cool on a rack.

 

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