If you’ve never made no-knead bread before, you must. If you have, you must try baking some with a handful of aged cheddar cheese, or Gouda, or whatever cheese ends you have lurking in your fridge or manage to pick up at the deli. Anything sharp and flavourful will do well in a rustic, crusty loaf – hands-down the easiest yeast bread you’ll ever make. If you’ve never baked your own bread but want to, give this a try – it’s practically foolproof and stunningly delicious!
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. It’s worth trying both, and seeing which works better for you in your climate and with your flour. For those of you who haven’t made no-knead bread before, the dough should be very wet. At first it will be shaggy:
And after sitting on the countertop it will look wet and sticky, and dotted with bubbles. Note; you couldn’t knead it if you wanted to. The combination of time and a very wet dough is what makes this bread work.
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 – don’t worry, it won’t 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. Fold it over some cheese – however much you want – but don’t worry about it being fully incorporated. Rustic is good. The second resting time here is equally lax – sometimes I leave it for half an hour, other times I forget it for more than two.
Cooking it in a covered pot traps the steam, giving it an unbelievably crackly crust. Take the lie off for the last 15 minutes to give it a chance to turn golden.
No-knead Cheese 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
1 cup grated old cheddar, Gouda, or other flavorful cheese
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 grated cheese and fold it over on itself once or twice, then roughly shape into a ball. (The cheese need not be evenly incorporated; in fact you want pockets of cheesiness in there.) Put the dough seam side down on a piece of parchment and dust with more flour. Cover with a cotton tea 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 crusty and golden.
Let cool for a few minutes, but eat warm.