Easier No Knead Bread

bread.jpg

Anyone who is even remotely interested in food is aware of Jim Lahey’s no-knead bread recipe that became mainstream 13 months ago when Mark Bittman of the NY Times wrote about it. Food websites were agog about this new way to make bread, which required a really wet dough, a long, overnight rise, and baking in a large covered pot. Nearly every newspaper in the country covered the phenomenon of being able to have a crusty loaf of bread without any kneading, with many trying to tweak the recipe to enhance the depth of flavor. Me? I never made it. I even broke down and bought a nice enameled cast iron pot in which to bake a loaf, but for some reason, I just never got around to making this bread.

Last week, however, I read about a new type of no-knead bread. A bread so simple, even a 7 year old could make it. This process also relies on a very wet dough, but you only let the dough sit for a couple of hours. Each batch makes three or four loaves of crusty bread, but you don’t need to bake it all at once. The unused dough can sit in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, and you pull off a portion and bake it when you want.

I gave the recipe to my 7 year old daughter, who has been cooking a lot with our sitter, and I came home on Friday with a bull full of dough waiting for me. I pinched off a couple of grapefruit sized pieces of dough, lightly dusted them with flour, and let them sit on a pizza peel for 40 minutes or so. I popped the orbs into a hot oven with a baking stone, and you know what, my daughter and I ended up with some most excellent bread. And I baked the rest of it tonight, resulting in an even more flavorful loaf.

So, give this recipe a try. If you time it right, you can have fresh bread all the time. And if a 7 year old can do it, I’m sure you can, too.

Recipe after the break.

Ultra-Easy No Knead Bread

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons yeast
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 6 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, more for dusting dough
  • Cornmeal

1. In a large bowl, mix yeast and salt into 3 cups lukewarm water (about 100°F). Stir in flour, mixing until there are no dry patches. Dough will be quite loose. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let dough rise at room temperature 2 hours (or up to 5 hours).

2. Bake at this point or refrigerate, covered, for as long as two weeks. When ready to bake, sprinkle a little flour on dough and pinch off a grapefruit-size piece. Carefully turn dough in your hands to form a round; the bottom will be bumpy. Put dough on pizza peel sprinkled with cornmeal and let rest 40 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough or refrigerate it.

3. Place broiler pan on bottom of oven. Place baking stone on middle rack and turn oven to 450 degrees; heat stone at that temperature for 20 minutes.

4. Dust dough with flour, slash top with serrated or very sharp knife three times. Slide onto stone. Pour one cup hot water into broiler pan and quickly shut oven to trap steam. Bake until well browned, about 30 minutes. Cool completely.

Makes 3-4 loaves.

From Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François.

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26 Responses to Easier No Knead Bread

  1. Maura says:

    I’ve been using Lahey’s recipe since Bittman publicized it. I love it, and despite the time it takes, it’s very easy. It’s not the lack of kneading that I like so much though, because kneading isn’t that big a deal. It’s the crust and the flavor.
    You can knead it anyway, if you want a denser loaf of bread, or if you just like to knead.
    .
    I’ll definitely try this recipe. Sometimes I forget to start the dough at night, and then there’s no bread for dinner the next day. And I like that the dough can sit in the refrigerator for two weeks.

  2. Varmint says:

    The one complaint I have heard about Lahey’s recipe is there really isn’t much depth of flavor. I noticed that the flavor of this bread really improved after sitting for a couple of days in the refrigerator. I’m wondering what it would be like after a couple of weeks.

    I guess I’ll have to get my daughter to whip up another batch.

  3. feistync says:

    i’m enjoying your recipes. actually, several people enjoyed your chocolate gravy over thanksgiving!

    p.s. you’ve been tagged – http://feistync.wordpress.com/2007/12/03/meme/

  4. Maura says:

    The dough does have to sit for a long time for the flavor to develop. Adding more salt helps, obviously. The recipe calls for 1 1/2 tsp, I think. I use a tablespoon. I also use more yeast than the recipe calls for (1 tsp. instead of a 1/4 tsp), because my kitchen is so cold it would take a good 24 hours for the dough to rise properly with that small amount.

  5. =R= says:

    The longer the dough sits, the better the flavor will be — up to a point. As the dough sits, yeast continue to feed, and the by-product of that process is lactic acid, which gives the dough additional depth and complexity of flavor. Of course, if the dough sits too long, the yeast will die and the dough won’t rise at all. And be careful with salt because while it does add to the flavor, the more of it you use, the more it will retard the rise.

    I’ve never made any of the no-knead doughs but I’m curious about the texture of the resulting loaves. Are they light, hearthy or somewhere in between?

  6. FuzzyT says:

    These recipes all look like macro-sized Biga preparations. A Biga is just a small wet starter that lives in your fridge. You pull off a chunk to add to your recipe, and then feed it.

    I use an Italian country loaf recipe from The Il Fornaio Baking Book that taught me about the Biga. It calls for bread flour (higher in gluten), quick proofed yeast and the Biga.

    On first glance, it seemed a bit redundant to get yeast from two sources. Then, in a hurry and without a living Biga, I made this loaf with just an increased amount of quick proofed yeast. Rise quantity and times were similar, but the loaf had a disappointing lack of flavor. Moral of the story: a long-lived, wet starter brings a lot of flavor.

    For this recipe, it makes me think that one should never use the last of the refrigerated dough. Just make a new batch and add it to what you have. Might also be worth experimenting with the substitution of bread flour for some or all of the all-purpose. Might yield a loaf with a chewier texture.

  7. Rochelle says:

    Varm, is that bread in the photo the loaf you baked? The crumb looks uneven–hole-y at the top, denser at the bottom. Is that accurate?

  8. Time tells all tales.
    You need time for flavor to develop, use a strong (bread) flour and life and bread will be good.

  9. Varmint says:

    Rochelle,
    You’re right that the crumb was uneven. I’m not sure if it’s because I didn’t get my stone hot enough or that my 7 year old didn’t follow the recipe perfectly. Seeing this was my first try, I was very pleased, despite the unusual interior of the bread. I’ll keep working on the technique to see if I made a mistake or if it’s a problem with the recipe/method.

  10. Beatrix says:

    In reference to the biga, this also sounds like the french levain bread, which is similar to sourdough and uses a ‘starter’ that is kept in the fridge and ‘fed’. Time does the work in the original recipe. I have experimented before with sourdough/biga/levain bread as I am gluten intolerant and the ‘fermentation’ of such a small amount of yeast over a long time, breaks down the gluten into a much more easily digestible form, okay for me to eat. I am going to try this and the original recipe and see if I can also get away with eating it having no reactions!
    Biga and levain contain no commercial yeast whatsoever; the starter attracts the natural yeasts in the air, and can last for decades in the fridge if fed regularly!

    here is my research on levain baking for celiacs:
    http://constantstateofflux.wordpress.com/2007/09/13/bread-for-celiacs/
    with some good links,
    thanks so much,

  11. Varmint says:

    I don’t consider the newer no-knead recipes to be substitutes for the old-style sourdoughs, biga or levain methods. It’s really an apples and oranges comparison. To me, the no knead bread is a simple way to have a decent (but not outstanding) loaf of bread available nearly every day. If you double the master recipe, you’ll always have enough for baking a loaf every day of the week, if you so choose.

    For me, the key was that putting the dough together could not possibly be any easier. I told my 7-year old that she needed to whip up another batch, and she’ll do it. She’s not old enough to do the baking yet, but it’s still a project in which she plays an important role. And she gets to eat it, too.

    I’ll figure out the crumb issue, although the current rendition still results in a fine product. But it’s always about perfection, isn’t it? 😉

  12. FuzzyT says:

    Just to clarify, the biga based recipe I’ve been using isn’t a sourdough or wild yeast recipe, the biga takes it’s life from packaged yeast. Also, the entire loaf is not baked from the long-fermented mix, rather it is enriched with handful of the mix during assembly.

    As Varmint states, I wouldn’t expect these traditional recipes and the no-knead procedure to be in direct competition. The parallels are interesting however and may show paths to improvement.

    The advantage to these new recipes is in their ease of use, which wouldn’t really be compromised by overlapping and intermixing batches or using a different flour. And that stretchy bread flour dough might just give you the crumb you’re looking for.

    Easy + Most Delicious = Perfection

  13. blewgo says:

    My mother used to make a bread that was similar in concept called angel biscuits. She would mix up a large batch, refrigerate it and bake what she needed over the next week or two. I don’t have her recipe handy but Google returns some that are similar. It made good quick biscuits.

  14. Joe says:

    The January/February 2008 issue of Cook’s Illustrated has an article called “No-Knead Bread 2.0” which gives a set of CI’s tweaks to the original Lahey/Bittman recipe. Some of you folks might be interested.

    Personally, I’ve probably made 50 to 100 loaves of this bread over the past year or so, 2-3 loaves at the time. I’ve heard the complaints about lack of flavor, but I think my bread has plenty of flavor. And of course I’ve got my own little set of tweaks. I’m hydrating at about 85% with the original 1/4 tsp. of yeast per loaf. I usually mix my dough up in the early afternoon, and stir it down from its first rise before I go to bed (this is essentially a knead, and I like the texture improvement I get from it). The dough is left out, covered, at room temperature. The next morning I get up, preheat the oven, and bake my bread in some enameled cast iron oval roasting pans that hold about 2 1/2 or 3 quarts.

    The person who mentioned a biga is spot on. The way this bread is done, the entire mass of dough is essentially a pre-ferment. While I’ll certainly add other things and experiment, I again think I get plenty of flavor from the original recipe and the flour I happen to be using. One of my favorite flour blends is 1/3 King Arthur white whole wheat, 1/3 durum flour, and 1/3 bread flour. I occasionally add some partially crushed flax seed for textural interest. Another favorite blend is half bread flour and half durum flour. I like the subtle taste of the durum flour without any additions.

    varmint, that leaving it in the fridge for so long should get you a lot of flavor from the slow rise. For a rise that slow, do you really need that much yeast? Maybe you need it for that first rise, I don’t think I have the patience for your process though. I can put my bread together in 5-10 minutes, spend a minute or two stirring it down that night, and then the next day’s preheat and bake “work,” which is basically a bunch of sitting around. I spend more time cleaning up the dishes than I do making the bread. I don’t see how it could get much easier. 🙂

    If I may toot my own horn: My experiences with no-knead bread are chronicled under URL http://jhv.blogs.com/eatatjoes/jlmbbc/. My first post on the matter is at URL http://jhv.blogs.com/eatatjoes/2006/12/jim_laheymark_b.html.

  15. Varmint says:

    What makes this method a bit easier, Joe, is that you only need to mix the dough once and put in the fridge. You can then bake a fresh loaf every day for a week if you want (if you double the recipe), without much advance planning.

    Regardless, both of these no-knead methods are very simple, and if it helps introduce anyone to the world of bread baking, so be it. I used to bake bread all the time and had several sourdough starters going in my refrigerator. But those were the days before 4 children and a 60 hour a week job, so I’m appreciating any form of simplicity. And any method that gets my kids to cook different things.

  16. Joe says:

    Ok, that makes sense — convenience. Although if I started doing bread that way, I’d probably put on 100 pounds. 🙂 I already eat about half a loaf for breakfast when it comes out.

    I remember when I started refrigerating cookie dough for later baking: I was coming home from work and baking a dozen cookies, then eating every effing one while it was hot and delicious. *sigh*

  17. Varmint says:

    This will just be a phase. My daughter did indeed whip up another batch of dough yesterday, but I just stuck it in the refrigerator. I’m cooking for a dinner party on Saturday, so I’ll bake 2 or 3 loaves for that.

  18. Varmint:

    I’m Jeff Hertzberg, one of the authors of “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.” You’ve got us pegged, convenience is our thing. I generally double the recipe, making about seven pounds of dough at a time.

    If you want a more even hole size, increase your rest time. Mostly a cosmetic issue, in my opinion. And you’re right about the flavor; it develops as you let it approach our 14-day maximum refrigeration period.

    More ideas on our website at http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com

    Jeff Hertzberg

  19. Varmint says:

    Thanks for chiming in, Jeff. Without a doubt, this has been a big success, as my daughter loves to make this bread. And as I said, if a 7-year old can do it, anyone can!

  20. Have you tried any of the pizza, flatbreads, or sweet dessert breads and brioches?

    Jeff Hertzberg
    http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com

  21. Varmint says:

    No, not yet, Jeff. It’s my young daughter who has done all the work, and –egad– I must admit I haven’t bought your book yet!!

  22. Done feel bad about not buying the book, we’ve intentionally put a lot of content out there for free, on our website, and on websites of newspapers like Chicago Tribune, New York Times, Newsday, Boston Globe (next week), and Associated Press all over the US and Canada. And next month, in the Netherlands, in de Verdieping Trouw, and Amsterdam newspaper.

    Jeff Hertzberg
    http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com

  23. Cheryl says:

    Finally got around to trying this recipe yesterday….I halved recipe, let dough rise about 3 hours at room temp, then plopped each half into two greased 8×4 loaf pans, let them rise about an hour, then baked them at 450 for about 20 min. Did not put in the broiler pan of hot water. Bread tastes great! Has a soft crust (OK with me) and fine crumb, as opposed to being holey. Slices aren’t big enough to make a decent-sized sammich, but otherwise fine for dinner bread, snacking, etc.

  24. Matt says:

    Hello Varmint (why do I feel like I need a red mustache and wabbit to chase)

    I’m enjoying the wealth of information and personality that I’ve stumbled upon having recently discovered the Triangle area’s food blogs.

    What I was curious about is the fact that it’s salt, yeast and water. I’m just going off the top of my head, but what does the yeast feed on (if no sugar like in challah). Doesn’t salt kill yeast? Do you NEED a baking stone? I’m in an apartment at the moment and don’t feel like I would have the space. I do however love bread so if this would be recommended purchase… Also, has anyone experimented with unbleached bread flour as opposed to the all purpose?

  25. vevelient says:

    wow !!
    its very reasonable article.
    Good post.
    realy gj

    thank you 😉

  26. Andrew Deluca says:

    And that Franchesca

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