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bread for tomorrow – the no-knead loaf

Did you know that ¼ teaspoon of yeast can rise a loaf’s-worth of dough just as well as a tablespoon? It’s true. It will simply take longer for it to do so. But there’s a real beauty in that. The old adage good things take time applies. With each extra hour the yeast grows, it adds incredibly to the flavor of the finished loaf. So, though some recipes for home-baked bread will have you adding nearly a tablespoon of yeast, and sugar for it to feast and grow quickly on, and have you rising the dough in a warm place, that’s meant for your convenience and to hurry the process. If you slow it down, you’ll love what happens!

This may be the easiest – and possibly one of the most delicious – breads you’ll ever bake. Start it today, finish it tomorrow, and there will be curtain calls and encores in your future! Do I exaggerate? Occasionally, I have, yes. But here, no.

For full-effect, a true Dutch oven is required for this. Cast iron is best because it creates its own highly-conductive little furnace to bake the bread in. Higher-end brands like Le Creuset or Staub are lovely and come in many colors. But just as effective here are non-enameled (lidded) cast iron pots that you might see hanging over a campfire. The latter are inexpensive but require a bit more care in the cleaning, curing and preventing of rust. Always nice to have options though.

I’m sorry to repeat myself, but a digital kitchen scale makes this process so much simpler too, and with fewer things to clean up after. (See preceding posts if you haven’t already.)

This method (ingenious really) was first developed and introduced to us several years back by Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery in New York City. Since its introduction, this No-Knead method has rather revolutionized home bread-baking. Without terrifically expensive ovens (the kind of which are almost never seen in home kitchens), this bread’s crust wasn’t reproducible at home before. You can see for yourself though, loaves reminiscent of old-world bakeries can now emerge steamy and fragrant from our own rather ordinary ovens.The secret lies in the steam that’s created and contained within the Dutch oven as the bread bakes.

This bread will cost you the equivalent of 3 cups of good-quality flour. We won’t calculate the cost of ¼ teaspoon of yeast or a spoon of salt. Let’s just say this gorgeous bread costs less than a cup of coffee or tea (even a very bad cup.)

Let’s get started.

No-Knead “Artisan” Bread

and you are the artist!

  • 3 cups (375 g) flour (either all-purpose or bread flour)
  • ¼ teaspoon instant or active dry yeast
  • 1¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1½ cups (375 mL) water
  • Extra flour, wheat bran, fine cornmeal, as needed for dusting

a NOTE on the weight measurements, this primarily for the readers in the States who are as yet not as familiar as we will one day be with metrics. One beautiful thing about the metric system is that grams and mL’s are virtually interchangeable. In other words 100 mL’s of liquid will weigh 100 grams. Don’t you love that? That makes it possible to weigh out water measurements instead of the more approximate method of filling a glass measure where “a tad above-the line, below the line, eye-level” all makes a difference. Weighing is exact, every time.  (If you have a scale, it will likely convert US measurements to metric with a button-push, but just fyi 375 grams =  13.25 ounces.)

In a bowl, mix the flour, yeast and salt. Stir in the water to blend. If using a scale, place bowl on scale and zero it out. Add 375 grams flour. Add yeast and measure out salt. Zero the scale, and add 375 mL (or grams) of water. Mix loosely. (It will finish the process of blending as it sits.) What you’ll have will be a bit wet, shaggy and messy-looking. Cover bowl with a tea towel and allow to rest (and grow!) for 12 to 24 hours. (If you choose a cooler place, the process will likely take 18 to 24 hours. Room temperature, more like 12 hours.) When the dough is dotted with bubbles and very alive-looking, you’re ready for the next step.

Only 1/4 teaspoon yeast…amazing right?

Generously flour a work surface. Dump the contents of the bowl out onto it.

See all the strands of gluten that have formed while you’ve ignored your dough? This is what will create pockets to contain the gas.

No need to knead, but simply fold the dough over on itself several times. Cover it with a clean towel and allow it to rest for 15 minutes. (Dough that rests like this is much more workable.)

(This next step feels so good!) Using only as much flour as needed to prevent the dough from sticking to your fingers, shape the dough as follows:

Fold in thirds (as if you were folding a letter for an envelope, one fold, then another.) Rotate the loaf, then fold each longer end in again. (You’ve made roughly a square shape with rounded corners.) What you have facing you is the seam that will open later, upon the final rise in the oven. 

After the first two folds

After the last two folds. Ready to rise.

Lie another towel on your counter and cover with a generous amount of flour, wheat bran or fine cornmeal and then place the dough on it, seam-side down. Be sure the flour extends beyond the borders of the bread as it will be growing. The reason for the generous amount of flour is that you do NOT want the bread sticking to the towel when you go to invert it into a hot Dutch oven.  Dust the dough with a little more flour then cover with a tea towel and allow to rise about 2 hours. In these two hours the bread will have more than doubled its size. 

About half an hour before the dough is ready, place a 5½ to 7½ quart Dutch oven with its lid into the cool oven, and then preheat to 450ºF (230°C.) When the dough is ready, remove the Dutch oven from the oven, and place it on a hot pad or trivet. Carrying the risen dough IN the towel, with your hand underneath, carefully invert the loaf and drop it into the Dutch oven. The seam will now be on top. It won’t look terribly pretty at this point, but not to worry a bit! Give the Dutch oven a gentle shake to help settle the bread more evenly, then return the lid to the pot and return all to the oven. Bake for 30 minutes with the lid on.  Remove the lid and bake for another 15 to 30 minutes. (Time will depend on whether you’ve placed your loaf in a larger or smaller Dutch oven. The smaller will give you a higher loaf and require a bit more time to cook.) The loaf will be nicely browned when done and the internal temperature will be 200-210°F (93° to 99°C.) Remove from the Dutch oven and allow the bread to cool (completely if you can, so as not to disturb the environment inside.) Bon appetit and full delight!

I want you to know that when I inverted this loaf into the Dutch oven, the dough stuck to the towel it was on. Yes, not enough flour (the very thing I warned you about.) I had to tug on the dough where it was stuck, breaking bits of it with my fingers, before it finally landed upside down in its pot. Did it hurt it? Oh, a little. Not quite as tall, not quite as pretty, and it didn’t break open at the top like it normally does. But will we eat it, and will we love it? Oh my, will we! The reason I point this out is that you really can’t mess this bread up unless you’re trying hard to.

And why would you go and do a thing like that?

~ ~ ~

I’ll likely make another loaf in a few days and insert a photo of it looking its gorgeous best.

36 Comments Post a comment
  1. We can attest: such delicious, crusty bread with thorough and easy to follow directions. We’ve used them many times with amazing results. Our family devours this bread!

    January 9, 2012
  2. Amy Walker #

    That bread looks delicious! I’m definitely going to try this recipe.

    January 9, 2012
  3. How wonderful. And just in time for real winter weather.
    Have you ever tried to make this bread with whole grain flour?

    Ronnie

    January 9, 2012
    • Ronnie, I have – about 3/4 cup whole wheat to 2-1/4 cups unbleached a-p flour works great. Any more than that though and texture and density of the bread suffers.. I haven’t experimented with this but I understand that a certain amount of sourdough starter added in will create an environment more suitable for higher proportions of w/w flour. I’ve seen articles on it and if you’re looking for higher w/w content, I bet you could find some good information out there. 🙂 good luck! Let me know if you try something good!

      January 9, 2012
  4. I have also made this bread again and again (though not too recently) and can attest to its greatness. Your pictures are lovely, and make me want to bake some again soon!

    January 9, 2012
    • Oh I’m happy to have you reminded you!

      January 10, 2012
  5. Making bread is on my list of things to learn to do in 2012! Thanks for the inspiration.

    January 10, 2012
    • Both this & the bread recipe that precedes it are easy (and pretty fool-proof) places to start. Good luck with your “resolution”. Bread-making is such satisfying “work”! 🙂

      January 10, 2012
  6. How fantastic – will start it tonight for baking tomorrow!

    January 10, 2012
    • I do hope you’ll let me know how it goes! This bread dipped in your Arbequina olive oil would be just this side of heaven!

      January 10, 2012
  7. Beautiful loaf! Lovely photos.

    January 10, 2012
  8. Your instructions and pics here are great! I have a very similar no-knead bread recipe and it makes a fantastic tasting loaf of bread. I’ve friends who can’t get enough of it.

    January 10, 2012
    • Thanks John…and I’m running to your site now to see if you’ve shared yours yet! Would love to see it!

      January 10, 2012
      • I’m sorry. I’ve not shared it yet. Frankly, you’ve done such a good job here that I see no need to post another. If anything, I’ll just post a link to your recipe. 🙂

        January 10, 2012
  9. Looks fantastic! Your pictures are just wonderful too.

    January 10, 2012
  10. Wow..great article inspiring me to try … love those blues, beautiful 🙂

    January 10, 2012
  11. You can’t seriously think there’s a need (knead) to improve on this loaf, “perfect” or not! What a beauty. Wish I could safely do flour-based stuff here, but alas, I’m learning that’s not to be anymore. So I’m extra glad when a real kitchen artist like you posts this kind of spectacular beauty so well that I can “smell” it from here, at a safe distance!! Love it.

    January 10, 2012
    • Oh I do feel for you Kathryn! I could give up all manner of baked goods – but BREAD – oh that would be punishment! I suppose if you suffer from the effects of bread, it would be somewhat easier to do without…but, still…please Kathryn, take a good long whiff if it feels good…(and thanks for your always-kind comments!)

      January 10, 2012
  12. Don #

    Dearest Spree,
    Short note on my way to the kitchen; this looks like such fun, I’m starting it tonight- with still a half loaf of the previous blog’s bread on the sideboard! Sharing or “breaking bread” is always good.

    January 10, 2012
    • Love it! Have fun and let me know how it goes!

      January 10, 2012
  13. I’m completely intrigued by this recipe and can hardly wait to make. I’m getting ready to move, and keep picturing myself in the new house, with this bread rising on the counter. Some extra motivation for the packing! I like to bake bread, but a wrist injury prevents me from kneading much. I have a breadmaker, but just not as satisfying as a truly hand-crafted bread, both in method and product. This no-knead option looks like an excellent alternative for me. Not to mention, the bread looks beautiful and I’m sure it’s delicious!

    January 11, 2012
    • Moving is Never fun, so I like your strategy of setting something out there (in your mind) to get you more happily to your next home! As to your comment about bread-makers – no, they just don’t satisfy in nearly the same way. Something very lovely is lost in the short-cut. (And taste is only part of it.) I think you’ll really enjoy this bread! Best of luck with your move!

      January 11, 2012
  14. Don #

    …been in the oven for only 10 minutes now, and our house smells better than anything this side of heaven!

    January 11, 2012
  15. Gorgeous photos. Is there anything better than home made bread? (plus this one would go perfectly with your chickpea soup- yum.)

    January 11, 2012
    • No, not much better, and I ogled and drooled over your own gorgeous loaves just the other day!

      January 12, 2012
  16. Don #

    I loved this recipe! It came out great with a wonderful flavor. Thing is, I’d now like a bigger loaf, Could I double the recipe? I have a second dutch oven, and could do 2 loaves at a time that way, if necessary. But it’d sure be easier to do one, bigger loaf.
    My dutch oven holds 4 quarts of water with still an inch to go to the rim. I’m thinking the answer would be “Yes” but if you have time I’d appreciate your input?

    January 13, 2012
    • Don, I haven’t tried increasing the size of the loaf, so here’s the best answer I’ve got (and not as lazy as gee I don’t know, which is also true) : I’d try first with 1-1/2 times-ing ithe recipe. see what you get from that, and go from there. Keep in mind that you’ll want to bake a bit longer in order to get a larger loaf done inside – if you have an instant-read thermometer, go for the 200 to 210F reading – I’m guessing that will take a good 15 minutes longer? You might try baking a bit longer with lid on so as to prevent over-browsing of the loaf during lid-off stage. Hope that’s helpful.

      January 13, 2012
  17. Just wanted to let you know that I made this beautiful bread this weekend. It was the first thing I baked in my new kitchen, and what a way to start. The loaf is beautiful and tasty, and my fella just can’t stop raving about the crust! Remarkably easy to make, too. I’ll be baking many more of these, for sure. Thank you again for sharing!

    January 30, 2012
  18. It’s always the most gratifying thing to hear back from someone who’s tried what we food bloggers post. Thank you so much for taking the time to do that! And I’m very happy to hear you & your fella liked it so much!

    January 31, 2012
  19. Thank you for linking to this Ani,I have been meaning to try this forever

    March 20, 2012
  20. I read this this morning (it’s now 7pm) and I have been thinking about it all day. Right. I’m doing it. NOW. I’ll let you know how it goes. Thanks for the recipe!

    October 15, 2012
    • ahh, you make me happy! yes, please DO let me know how it goes! 🙂

      October 15, 2012
      • A post shared by Ali (@chappell.and.caldwell) on

        Done, dusted and delicious! Thanks so much. I had ‘the’ towel problem, so it is a little wonky… but nobody seems to care!x

        October 17, 2012
        • You’re so sweet to let me know! Thanks so much! Yes…the towel problem…needs an awful good dusting, doesn’t it?…but like you said, even if it goes wonky, it doesn’t seem to matter! 🙂

          October 22, 2012
  21. hmmmmm…….love this and I love your blog too.

    August 17, 2013
    • Thank you so much Kate! We’ve been away and I’m only just now seeing your sweet comment!

      September 26, 2013

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