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No-Knead Bread: Just Do It

By JulieVR |

no knead bread recipeIf you try one recipe this year, make it this. Seriously. Although the hoopla has died down since no-knead bread first made its appearance in the New York Times a few years ago, this is a life-changing recipe. You -yes, you- can become that mom who bakes her own bread, without kneading, messing up the countertop or spending hours in waiting – for the dough to rise, and rise again. I’ve never minded the kneading process, but I rarely made yeast bread from scratch because of the mess it made, and I rarely was on the ball enough to start a couple hours before I wanted fresh bread to come out of the oven. Besides, my own was never quite as phenomenal as bakery bread – this is. It’s not only the uniquely wet dough/batter that combined with time allows gluten molecules to come into alignment the same way kneading does (how do people figure this out, anyway?) but the baking method – you bake it a heavy pot, preheated and lidded, which traps the steam, creating an unbelievably crackly crust.

There’s no better time for freshly baked bread than the bleak midwinter, when it’s cold outside, warm inside and the smell of baking bread does more for a home than just produce a loaf. There’s nothing better than coming home to the aroma, snacking on a slab of warm, fresh bread with jam after school, or using it for toast with tea in the morning.

no knead bread recipe

A few tips: One version of this recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups water, another calls for 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons. Don’t sweat the waiting time – it can be between 12 and 24 hours, whenever you find it convenient to bake your loaf. I usually go for the longer time – it doesn’t seem to turn into sourdough. When you turn the dough out onto a floured towel, it will be sticky, so don’t use a tea towel with a nap, like terrycloth – plain cotton tea towels work best. The resting time here is equally lax – sometimes I leave it for half an hour, other times I forget it for more than two.

No-Knead Bread

Adapted from Jim Lahey at the Sullivan Street Bakery in Manhattan.

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, plus more for dusting (I often use half whole wheat and half all-purpose, sometimes with a shake of ground flaxseed added)
1/4 tsp. instant or regular active dry yeast
1 tsp. salt

In a large bowl stir together the flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap or a plate and let it rest on the countertop for 18-24 hours at room temperature.

The dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. 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, then roughly shape into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour. Fold it over the bread or cover with another cotton towel and let it sit for another hour or two.

While the bread is resting, preheat the oven to 450°. Put a 6-8 quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When the dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and flip the dough over into the pot; it may look like a mess, but that’s OK. Cover and bake for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake another 10-15 minutes, until it’s nice and golden. Eat up!

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About JulieVR

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JulieVR

Julie Van Rosendaal is the author of five best-selling cookbooks, food editor of Parents Canada magazine, a CBC Radio columnist and a freelance writer. Her award-winning blog, Dinner with Julie documents life in her home kitchen in Canada with her husband and 7-year-old son. Read bio and latest posts → Read Julie's latest posts →

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25 thoughts on “No-Knead Bread: Just Do It

  1. Constellation says:

    This bread works! It is SO delicious. I find that a simple 5 quart round cast-iron pot works great (lodge brand is really inexpensive), as well as floursack brand tea towels. There are few things so satisfying as listening to bread you baked yourself crackle and steam on the cooling rack. Swoon. I always thought bread baking sounded so difficult-but the ‘hard’ part of this recipe is timing out the two risings. Really. It is as easy as it sounds.
    Lahey’s book “My Bread” is a really great resource, and it has other fantastic recipe adaptations.

  2. Leigh says:

    I make this bread all the time, and it is amazing. I don’t have a heavy lidded pot of the right size, so I use two 8×8 Pyrex casserole/brownie dishes, with one being right side up to hold the bread, and the other upside-down to make a sort of square box top that holds in the heat and steam. Works like a charm and the bread comes out nicely square, which is cool looking.

  3. Elizabeth says:

    I seriously cannot wait to try this. I have had nothing but epic failure when it comes to bread making. Thanks for breaking it down for me!

  4. Richard says:

    Have made about 6 loaves in the past 3 weeks since reading the archived NY Times article on no-knead bread by Mark Bittman which relies on the Jim Lahey method above. So simple and soooo good! The crust is to die for, and the taste is like a great country italian bread. Have stayed strick to the recipe in the Times article using a Lodge cast-iron dutch oven. I have varied the time of baking with the lid off as 20 minutes gives me the crispy crust I like. I have found that untreated bread flour, bought from a local bakery gives a great flavor.

  5. June says:

    King Arthur Flour website has several no-knead recipes similar to Lahey’s. Their focaccia and harvest bread are both excellent. Of course, so are a number of the recipes in Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day, and their second book which uses more whole grains.

  6. amy says:

    Can this be made with 100% whole grain flour? Is it necessary to add gluten?

  7. JulieVR says:

    Amy – it depends on which grain! but yes, you’d need to use one that contains gluten for it to work properly.

  8. Alicen says:

    I made this last week for the first time. It was really good but the crust was just a bit too hard for my liking. I think next time I’ll leave the loaf longer with the lid on the pot. But very good and very little work!

  9. Sarah says:

    I was skeptical in my abilities to make this as everything I attempt to bake with yeast never works out. I thought I would give-it-a-go as the recipe seemed so simple. It was and the bread turned out fantastic!!! My husband was very impressed and my teething toddler was a huge fan of the bread. Thanks for giving me hope to try other baking recipes that use yeast!

  10. Jaime says:

    Julie, this looks gorgeous.

  11. sue says:

    Julie-Help! I made the bread, started Monday am, left it over night to go onto the next step yesterday am. My ball tho was a blob!! Held no ball shape whatsoever, still rolled/pushed it a couple of times, did the floured tea towel step(tho definitely no seam side down) and then after a bit, dumped/scraped it into my Le Creuset pot and into the oven. It did not rise more in the oven and did come out with a reasonable crust and we did eat it all up-all but…what went wrong? It sort of resembled a golden cow pie! I used unbleached flour, room temp water, kosher salt and 1 pkg yeast.Can’t remember which type now (the garbage had gone) but either traditional or instant.Could the yeast be old? One expires June 27 ’11 and the other Aug 9 ’12. It tasted like it had not risen enough. Is it possible to leave it too long? Want to try it again and be successful.
    Thanks so much for any help/advice.

  12. JulieVR says:

    Could it have been too much yeast? the recipe calls for 1/4 tsp, and there’s 2 1/4 tsp in a package…

  13. Emma says:

    Oh man….I have always wanted to try this. Is 1/4 tsp yeast really enough to raise 3 cups of flour? What would happen if I added about 1 tsp of salt?

  14. JulieVR says:

    Emma – yes, 1/4 tsp is enough, amazingly! and the recipe does call for 1 tsp salt, so no worries there!

  15. Meghan says:

    We just finished an wonderful dinner made complete with this tasty bread. I admit that I was skeptical – just flour, yeast, salt and water, no sugar or oil? I made this recipe exactly as Julie wrote it above and it looked magazine worthy when all was said and done – we can’t wait to have the leftovers for toast tomorrow morning!

  16. Emma says:

    While this didn’t have the tang of sourdough that I was expecting (and honestly prefer) after nearly twenty-four hours of resting, for the sake of simplicity and that TO DIE FOR artisan-crusty crust, this bread can’t be beat. I did change it a little– used two cups of whole-wheat flour and one cup of oats, and added two tablespoons of vital wheat gluten to make up for the gluten lost from using the oats– but followed the rest of the directions exactly and oh my goodness….this recipe earned a berth on my weekly must-do list. Thank you for your earlier response about the yeast and salt, Julie, and thank you so much for the recipe!!

  17. sue says:

    tried it again with the correct amount of yeast this time! Much better tho still very wet after 18 hrs of resting. Used quite a bit of flour and even after the next rest, it was still ‘wet’ in places. I’ll keep trying until I get it right.

  18. Jane C says:

    I make this bread frequently. A couple of tips – weigh your flour for most accurate results and the dough is supposed to be wet! By adding more flour, you’re taking away the artisanal quality of the bread! I have just started doing a cold start – put the dutch oven in a cold oven and turn it on to 450F. Cook about 40-45 minutes, then take the lid off for the next 15 to let the crust brown. YUM!

  19. JulieVR says:

    Jane – great tips! I’ve never tried to start in a cold oven. And Sue – the dough is supposed to be wet – very wet! It’s not like traditional bread dough. You couldn’t knead it even if you tried!

  20. Cristina says:

    Hello,
    Could I divide the ingredients in half to make a smaller bread? or would that mess up the receipe?
    Thx

  21. JulieVR says:

    Hmmm… I don’t know! it’s worth a try, but I’ve never done it before! Let us know what happens!

  22. Michelle says:

    Made this bread today and my family LOVES it!! Could this bread be frozen for future use?

  23. Stephanie says:

    I made this bread, mixed it up last night and baked today for dinner, and my husband and 4 children LOVED it! And asked me to make it again tomorrow.
    So I mixed up another loaf tonight.
    I am going to make a couple changes to the baking. The crust was super thick, so I think I’m going to try to bake it a little longer with the lid on, and a little less with the lid off, so it doesn’t get SO thick.
    yummy!!
    what a hit!

  24. Linda dietz says:

    Do I grease the pan for the no knead bread before heating it in the oven???

  25. LucyLastic says:

    No need to grease (it would just burn anyway at those temperatures)

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