Great Bread Without the Work

By Sofie Sherman-Burton, Marketing & Membership Manager

This recipe isn’t a secret. When The New York Times published now famed baker Jim Lahey’s no-knead bread for the first time over ten years ago, it quickly became the most popular recipe that the newspaper ever published.

There is good reason for this, which you’ll soon find out if you give this a shot (and, really, there is no reason not to if you haven’t already – unless, you know, you don’t eat bread). This recipe is dead simple. The ingredients are basic and super inexpensive. It doesn’t require any special tools. But the results are really very good: that crispy crust that can be hard to get baking at home, a nice texture the will sop up sauce or soup or olive oil, a decentsized loaf, a gentle tang from plenty of fermentation time.

It is also ripe for experimentation. Maybe you want to mix in some different kinds of flours – whole wheat, spelt, rye, some oat. Or add some herbs or spices – rosemary, caraway. Throw in some seeds or nuts, toss in some smashed garlic cloves or olives, mix in some cinnamon and raisins. The bulk section is really your playground, here.

We’ll offer two departing places: an all whole-wheat sandwich loaf and the classic recipe (if you want to add in some whole wheat flavor, start with swapping a third of the all purpose flour for another flour of your choice). From there, get experimenting!

Recipes adapted very slightly from The New York Times.

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No Knead Bread

  • 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
  • ¼ teaspoon instant yeast (just give a little more time for the active dry yeast!)
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons salt
  • Water
  • Cornmeal, or wheat bran as needed

In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water and stir with your fingers until the dough is combined and there is no more dry flour; it will be shaggy and sticky. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature (around 70°F).

The dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) or parchment paper with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side (where the folds are) down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, the dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

At least 30 minutes before the dough is ready, heat your oven to 450°F. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex, or ceramic) in the oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under the towel and turn the dough over into the pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until the loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack. Slice into it and enjoy!

No Knead Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup whole rye flour
  • ½ cup coarse cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • Oil as needed

Combine flours, cornmeal, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Add 1 1/2 cups water and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough rest about 4 hours at a warm room temperature, around 70 degrees.

Oil a standard loaf pan (8 or 9 inches by 4 inches; nonstick works well). Lightly oil your hands and shape dough into a rough rectangle. Put it in pan, pressing it out to the edges. Brush top with a little more oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest 1 hour more.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake bread about 45 minutes, or until loaf reaches an internal temperature of 210°. Remove the bread from the pan and cool on a rack.

Notes

Want to mix it up, but don’t know where to start? Variations on this recipe are all over the internet. Give it a Google. Some of my favorite variation guides, of sorts, are from The Kitchn and Green Kitchen Stories.

When I made the no-knead bread with 1/3 spelt flour, my dough was super wet and hard to form after 18 hours! I did my best and threw it in the pot, and it turned our pretty great. The results are pictured!