Yes you need no knead bread!

Five years ago today, Mark Bittman wrote about Jim Lahey’s no knead bread recipe. Happy anniversary, miracle bread!

Although I was aware of it from the start, I’ve still never made this exact recipe (someday I will). Something about putting the dough in a dishtowel puts me off. The recipe I use is quicker, easier, and is pretty much foolproof.  I promise!

This is a long post because I’ve tried to be really detailed–but once you get the hang of it, this bread will take you no time at all.

I grew up eating homemade, handmade bread every day of my life. Store bought bread was rare and mysterious. My mom’s (well, my grandmother’s) bread recipe goes like this: Mix melted butter, milk, flour and yeast into a pancake-batter-consistency sponge. Let that rise and deflate. Add more flour, then knead by hand. The basic recipe can be tweaked: raisin bread, whole wheat, cheese bread, cinnamon rolls! It’s awesome, but I really don’t like kneading dough, and this bread is rich and dense–great for toast, but I like a crispy, hole-y white bread for everyday eating.

A couple years ago, my friend Tom sent me a link to a recipe for no-knead bread that had been (I assume) adapted from the Lahey method. The authors tell you to make a bunch of dough at once, and throw it in the refrigerator. When you want bread, you just take some dough out, shape it, let it sit for a bit, and bake it. But this is just one option. The other option (or, my further adaption of the recipe): mix dough in 2 minutes, let it sit for 2 hours, and then bake it.

I usually halve the recipe I linked to above. One pound of flour makes a large loaf of bread–enough for dinner, then toast and sandwiches the next day. To mix the dough, you’ll need a lidded container that is at least 2.5 quarts. If you make a full batch (2 pounds of flour), you’ll probably need to buy a big container from a restaurant supply store. Start with the half batch and see how it goes!

I use a scale to weigh the flour instead of using a measuring cup, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

No-knead bread (half batch.  Note that in the photos, I made a full batch!)
Adapted from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day
Makes one large loaf

To make the dough:

Step 1: With a big spoon, mix 1 pound flour with 3/4 tablespoon kosher salt and 3/4 tablespoon dry active yeast.

Step 2: Stir in 1-5/8 cups warm water (I use water straight from the tap) with the same spoon. Mix it just until all the dry flour is incorporated.  Lumps are OK!mixed dough

Step 3: Put the lid on (don’t snap it tight–leave it open for venting) and let the dough sit for 2 hours at room temperature. It will rise, doubling or tripling in size.

Your dough is now ready to bake–or you can put it in the fridge and store it.

To bake the dough:

Step 1: Place a silpat on a baking sheet, and dump all of the dough onto the silpat.  If you’d like, you can divide the dough into two or more equal pieces at this point, to make multiple loaves (or burger buns!)

flouring the dough

Step 2: Sprinkle the dough with flour. Now pick up the dough with your hands, keeping a dusting of flour between the dough and your hands to prevent sticking. Shape the dough as you wish. Ideally, you want to pick up the dough and stretch the top, tucking the sides of the dough underneath. But it truly doesn’t matter whether your loaves end up smooth and uniform or lumpy and bumpy. See the shaped loaves below. The one on the left is nice and smooth, but I had trouble with the one on the right. Keep reading.

one nice, one lumpy

Step 3: Let your dough sit for 5, 10, 20, 25, 60, or 90 minutes. Really.  You’ll get different results, but any amount of time will result in great bread. Try them all! Meanwhile, or eventually, heat your oven to 450 degrees, and place a metal baking pan on the lower rack of the oven.  The upper rack should be in the middle of the oven.

Step 4: When the oven is hot, sprinkle the dough with flour, and then slash the top with a serrated knife. Place the baking sheet into the oven. Carefully pour 2 cups of hot tap water into the baking pan on the lower rack, and shut the oven door. (the water creates steam, which will make the crust crispier).

slashed

Bake the bread for 30-35 minutes, until it’s golden brown. If you’d like, you can use an instant-read thermometer to make sure the bread is 195-200 degrees. Cool the loaf on a rack for at least 15 minutes before digging in!  In this photo, the lumpy loaf is on the left. See how gorgeous it is?

baked

Additional tips:
1. A silpat makes shaping the dough much easier, because the sticky, wet dough will not stick to it. You can also use parchment paper, or even just grease your baking sheet. But the raw dough will stick to these surfaces, so you’ll either need to shape the dough before putting it down, or flour a surface and shape your dough on that.

2. The first time, or the first ten times, you make bread, you’ll feel really clumsy. The dough will stick to everything. Your loaves will be lumpy and uneven. It doesn’t matter! They’ll look a lot better once they are baked, and no matter what, they’ll taste great.  You’ll get better at it every time you make it.

3. After a couple days in the fridge, the dough will begin developing a sourdough-like flavor.  The authors of Artisan Bread in 5 suggest you can store the dough for up to two weeks.  I don’t really like the flavor of bread baked with dough that’s more than a couple days old…but you might!

4. I’ve increased the amount of water slightly from the original recipe. I use King Arthur Flour, and the authors suggest that this flour requires a bit more water.

5. When vacationing in a house with 15 people and extremely limited refrigerator space, we discovered that the dough is VERY forgiving. We left the dough out for at least 12 hours, unrefrigerated, and it baked up just fine. We also overbaked the dough once, and the crust got really dark–but it was still delicious! You really can’t go wrong.

Enjoy!

7 thoughts on “Yes you need no knead bread!

  1. This looks amazing. I’ve loved Jim Lahey’s no-knead method, but my loaves often come out a little too dense for my taste. I can’t wait to try your approach. Also, which scale do you recommend?

  2. Pingback: Eat them any month you want — that’s an old wives tale. | the snearses

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