The No-Knead Bread

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If you haven’t heard about the no-knead bread by now, you clearly don’t read many food blogs (or newspapers, for that matter.) Last year, in The New York Times–actually, TWO years ago in The New York Times (the article was published November 8, 2006! Boy, I’m way behind on making this)–Mark Bittman coaxed a recipe from master bread baker Jim Lahey for perfect bakery-quality bread at home. Shockingly, the recipe required no work, no kneading of any kind. The food world was astonished. Food bloggers went ga-ga. I watched them go ga-ga. And, finally, last week I decided to go ga-ga myself.

Really, it just came down to an impulse. At midnight, last Friday night, I pulled up the recipe online and wrote down the following:

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour

1/4 teaspoon instant yeast

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

I went into the kitchen and mixed those things together. Then, as directed by the recipe, I added 1 5/8ths cups of water (which is really just a little more than 1.5 cups of water) and stirred just until blended. “Dough will be shaggy and sticky,” said the recipe.

That was it. I covered it with plastic wrap and went to sleep.

I spent the next day frolicking in the meadow and healing the sick, and when I was ready for bread–approximately 7 PM, Saturday night–I looked back at my bowl and saw this:

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It had risen! And it smelled oh so good and yeasty.

[Note: just so you have the actual timing of this, it should rest for at least 12 hours, preferably 18. That’s why I did everything the night before.]

The next step is to flour a work surface. That’s a pretty easy step.

Then you plop the dough from the bowl on to the work surface and you sprinkle it with a little more flour. Then you fold it over on itself once or twice.

Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest 15 minutes.

Finally, you use a little more flour (so the dough doesn’t stick) and shape it into a ball. You coat a cotton towel with flour or cornmeal (I used cornemal), place the dough seam side down on the towel and dust with more cornmeal. Then you cover with another towel and let rest for 2 more hours.

2 more hours!

I should’ve read this carefully; I was getting hungry.

But I did more frolicking, more healing of the sick, and 2 hours later this is what I had:

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Looks good already, doesn’t it?

Now the fun/dangerous part. 30 minutes before the 2 hours are up (so 1 hour and 30 minutes into the dough’s final rise), place a 6 – 8 quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in the oven and heat to 450.

At the 2 hour mark (when the pot’s been in there 30 minutes) carefully–VERY CAREFULLY–remove the scalding hot pot from the oven, lift the lid off and dump the dough in, seam-side up. To quote the recipe: “It may look like a mess, but that is ok.” Shake the pan to evenly distribute and it’ll look something like this:

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Here’s where the magic happens.

You put the lid on (carefully! that lid is hot too!) and place back in the oven for half an hour.

Then you remove the lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes “until the loaf is beautifully browned.”

I can’t tell you how good this made the apartment smell. It had a toasty, caramelly, bready, bakery smell that should be bottled and sold instead of Fabreeze.

You already know, from the picture at the top of the post, what the bread looked like when it came out of the oven, but I want to show you again:

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Isn’t that a beauty? Painters: don’t you want to paint that? Composers: don’t you want to write a song about that? Accountants: don’t you want to do its taxes?

You remove (carefully!) to a rack to let it cool and it was hard not to tear in and eat it right away, but the blasting heat of the bread was a good deterrent.

Finally, 15 – 20 minutes later, I cut in and this is what I saw:

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The bread was surprisingly pliant; breads I’ve made in the past have been much tougher on the outside. This tore and cut easily and the first bite was everything I wanted it to be: warm, only slightly chewy, and crusty and nutty on the outside, with a certain sweetness and freshness that only comes from getting the bread straight from the oven.

So let’s review: to make brilliant, bakery-quality bread that makes you go ga-ga, all you need to do is mix 3 things together before you go to bed, add water (like a Gremlin!), and the next night you’ll have fresh bread.

You have no excuse.

I had no excuse.

The time is right for you to make the no-knead bread. To quote Nike: “Just do it.”

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59 comments

  1. I love this bread too! To help make putting the loaf in the scalding pot, Cook’s Illustrated suggests doing the second rise in a 10-inch skillet lined with foil. Once you are ready to move it to the dutch oven, you just lift the foil and set it gently in the hot pan. I usually push the edges down with a wooden spoon. Works like a charm every time!

  2. I made this in 2006 and loved it. I need to make it again. It’s a very low maintenance type of recipe.

    Reading about this bread in all the different blogs is why I started reading Mark Bittman.

  3. Fine, fine, I submit!! The foodie blogosphere has spoken and I must cave and make the bread. That way, you won’t be the last blogger to make it!

    Any thoughts about Le Creuset Dutch ovens with plastic knobs on the cover? I don’t know if those can go in the 450 degree oven.

  4. I think I might have to try this now that the economy is so bad…once I come back from break. I’m just kind of afraid of yeast. It’s an irrational fear, really, I’ve never worked with it before. But for bread like that, I’ll have to overcome the phobia.

  5. I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with that No Knead Bread Recipe. I like how easy it is for the average person to make, but I don’t like my bread so crusty. And I really don’t like white flour.

    For a while, I experimented with a no-knead bread made from soaked freshly-ground whole wheat flour. After a few tries, I finally figured out a balance I liked. But, I still didn’t like it enough to make it replace the bread I make and serve for my family daily.

    Cheers,

    KristenM

  6. I like the recipe from the book, “Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day.” The recipe is much simpler and faster and while I’ve never regularly made bread before I found this recipe, now I use this recipe about twice a week! It’s genius, and I love it. You should try this one and see how it compares. (See my URL? It’s to the post I did about it on my blog.)

    P.S. My pictures look like crap, and don’t do the bread justice.

    P.P.S. I love your blog and the kinds of foods you feature. Keep it up!

  7. I like the recipe from the book, “Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day.” The recipe is much simpler and faster and while I’ve never regularly made bread before I found this recipe, now I use this recipe about twice a week! It’s genius, and I love it. You should try this one and see how it compares. (See my URL? It’s to the post I did about it on my blog.)

    P.S. My pictures look like crap, and don’t do the bread justice.

    P.P.S. I love your blog and the kinds of foods you feature. Keep it up!

  8. Isn’t it life changing?! I’m still trying to get everyone I know to make it. Many people are deterred if they don’t have a Dutch oven. It’s worth buying the pot, people! Oh and I use white whole wheat flour and it comes out fine- you should write a post about that since a lot of people still don’t know it exists.

  9. i made it several times last year and have to say that i didn’t much care for it. it’s truly beautiful to look at, but flat tasting.

  10. I think it is great that this recipe gets people baking, but I have to agree with cybercita and David Lebovitz that it is pretty lacking in the flavor department.

  11. I have a dutch oven that I’m borrowing so I really have been looking for an excuse to cook with it. Now I have a good reason!! :)

    Thanks for the recipe, Adam! And everyone else who commented with tips so far!

  12. Adam, I also only tried it two weeks ago!. I’ve tried it twice now, and it’s working quite well. However, I have to let it rise longer because the weather has been quite cold…

  13. i just got a cast iron pot for Christmas from my mom so i can make this bread and i mixed the ingredients last night so i can have some bread today i am so excited !

    ( the seam side up means when you are forming you ball of dough the side that does not look smooth and pretty but has a line on it is the seam side or the bottom of the dough in most cases)

  14. Alas…I do have an excuse…I’m teaching in South Korea and most apartments here, including mine, don’t have ovens! If only :(

  15. Gawd, I love no knead bread. If you don’t like the flavor, it’s simple enough to jazz up the recipe. I use a mixture of whole wheat and unbleach bread flour, with a little more salt and crushed rosemary, for a savory bread. I add 1/4 cup sugar and dried cranberries to make a sweeter breakfast bread. (Note that sugar causes the bread to rise like crazy.)

    You don’t need an expensive Le Crueset dutch oven to cook it in. Covered Pyrex ovenwear works just fine, and I’m sure a cast iron dutch oven would work fine too.

    Experiment! This recipe is practically fail-proof!

  16. I’ve joined the bandwagon. But I should have heeded Meg’s suggestion of using the Cook’s Illustrated foil method. My dough stuck to the dish cloth, which is now soaking in the sink…

  17. Hmmm, no big deal they have been making bread like this in Tuscany (and homes in other parts of Italy)well before this method was popularised in other parts of the world, which BTW was initially in the 80s

    Check out the recipe on p75 of Giuliano Bugialli’s “The Taste of Italy” published in 1985

    Also there is no need to use a caast iron or pyrex casserole – just put some unglazed terra cotta tiles or an old piece of pottery shelf on the bottom of your oven which works just as well

    Still a no knead recipe and also tastes very good :)

  18. Hmmm, no big deal they have been making bread like this in Tuscany (and homes in other parts of Italy)well before this method was popularised in other parts of the world, which BTW was initially in the 80s

    Check out the recipe on p75 of Giuliano Bugialli’s “The Taste of Italy” published in 1985

    Also there is no need to use a cast iron or pyrex casserole – just put some unglazed terra cotta tiles or an old piece of pottery shelf on the bottom of your oven which works just as well

    Still a no knead recipe and also tastes very good :)

  19. Hmmm, no big deal they have been making bread like this in Tuscany (and homes in other parts of Italy)well before this method was popularised in other parts of the world, which BTW was initially in the 80s

    Check out the recipe on p75 of Giuliano Bugialli’s “The Taste of Italy” published in 1985

    Also there is no need to use a cast iron or pyrex casserole – just put some unglazed terra cotta tiles or an old piece of pottery shelf on the bottom of your oven which works just as well

    Still essentially a no knead recipe (there is a bit of kneading after the second rising) and also tastes very good :)

  20. I made it! The whole process was rather thrilling. We were keeping the thermostat way down to save energy, so the bread rose in a bowl surrounded by a snug catbed halfway covered with a heating pad which worked pretty well. The next day, yup, it had risen as promised.

    Bought a cast-iron enameled pan at half-off after Christmas, and inaugurated it with your recipe. It was a huge success with turkey stroganoff. Thanks!

  21. My crust was not as thick as your picture – I would like mine to be like your picture. It was actually quite thin. And the bread structure was more delicate. Anyone have any suggestions? I used AP flour (King Arthur) rather than Bread flour because I was out. Do I need to add more flour?

  22. Hrm… Do you think a gluten free flour would have the same outcome? I’d like to make some for my neighbors, but the husband can’t eat grains.

    If you think the flavor is bland I hear it gets rather complex if you leave it in your fridge for a week or two. Becomes sourdough like.

  23. Yes! I have made this recipe so many times and it’s amazing. Try following this up with a little home made butter. There are tons of recipes online that make it super easy.

    One thing though, I’ve found you have to use pretty warm/hot water for that instant yeast, cold won’t start the party.

    I’ve also experimented with adding different spices to the mix, it’s very good!

  24. Inspiring. The bread looks beautiful however I own limited kitchen tools. Please describe the mixing process. Do I need a $300 Kitchen-Aid mixer to make this kind of bread? Would a food processor work? Thanks for sharing this.

  25. Inspiring. The bread looks beautiful however I own limited kitchen tools. Please describe the mixing process. Do I need a $300 Kitchen-Aid mixer to make this kind of bread? Would a food processor work? Thanks for sharing this.

  26. Inspiring. The bread looks beautiful however I own limited kitchen tools. Please describe the mixing process. Do I need a $300 Kitchen-Aid mixer to make this kind of bread? Would a food processor work? Thanks for sharing this.

  27. This bread is fantastic. I have had to make it nearly every day since I made the first loaf on Christmas Eve. It was devoured in no time! Now I have done it with finely chopped rosemary; black olives and rosemary; home made dried tomatoes and rosemary and a fruit one with chopped apricots and sultanas. I use a large pyrex casserole dish which works perfectly.

  28. I have been wanting to make this forever – but never have. I just can’t believe it works! This is going to the top of list “to make” list.

  29. I’ve seen this recipe 100 thousand times.

    I keep putting it off.

    I’m going down stairs right after this comment to get started.

    Thanks for the ispiration!

    P.S. I love your instruction. It’s halarious.

  30. I made this over the past two days, it really is delicious! I’m going to need to make more soon–it came out of the oven at 11:30 this morning and we’ve eaten half already!

  31. Mine just came out of the oven. It looks and smells beautiful. I swear I might eat the whole loaf tonight.

  32. Thanks for the recipe, I made it tonight and it turned out great. Our family deals with multiple food allergies, including soy, milk, eggs and nuts, so buying bread means we have to scrutinize the lable for allergens (soy flour and dry milk show up in a lot of breads) and worry about cross-contamination with peanuts and tree nuts. Making bread at home is really the only way to control that. I’m a mom of two small kids, so a recipe this fast and easy is great for me. I immediately made another mix for tomorrow night. I was surprised at how “ooey gooey” the dough was, it was so sticky I thought I made a mistake, but it came out perfect. I used a tad more flour this time though.

  33. I made this today. I had come across this page a month or so ago and then saw the recipe made on a show called “French Food At Home,” and decided to tackle it. It is wonderful. Our 4 year old proclaimed it “Deee-lish-us!” I will be making this for Easter communion at church.

  34. A friend of mine has been making all sorts of breads for over 40 years and even teaches. I made this bread for a dinner party which he attended and told him how it is made. He casually said, “Oh. That’s Ciabatta.”

    Anyway, it’s a wonderful version of Ciabatta but I have been trying to make a decent whole grain bread following this method and keep winding up with tasty bricks. Anybody have any ideas to move this along to something a little healthier?

  35. I’m coming down the home stretch — last ten minutes of the last two-hour rise. I’m really glad I saw Dorota’s comment about how “ooey gooey” the dough was, because I was SURE I had done something wrong. Can’t wait for it!! =)

  36. Umm…I think I messed up. It’s not very solid. Sticky as hell. Every time I touch it it sticks to my hand. I followed the recipe to the letter. 18 hours down the drain. :(

  37. Franco, I hope you didn’t throw it out! It is very sticky. It might be less sticky if you measure the flour by weight – Cook’s Illustrated/America’s Test Kitchen says 15 oz. And using bread flour, I think, will result in a less sticky dough than using all purpose (I’ll find out tomorrow.)

  38. Hmmm… I wunna what wouuld happen if I put this recipe through a bread maker?

    I’M GONNA TRY IT!!!