Cooking With Confidence
No need for the knead.
Breads, Economical, Healthy

No Knead Bread – Revisited 2 Ways

by Nick

The 6th post I ever wrote on Macheesmo was for a simple loaf of no knead bread. It was actually one of the recipes that made me want to start writing about food when I discovered it. The admitted problem with my first take on this amazing bread, is I used a $300 pot that clearly not everyone has. Since then one of the questions I get the most is if it is possible to make this bread without that pricey pot.

I’m sure Le Creuset doesn’t want you to know this, but you don’t need a really expensive pot to make this bread (although the pot is great for many other things and I use mine many times a week).

Here are two versions I made a few weeks ago using much more readily available equipment.

There is no easier bread recipe than this one. It requires only the bare essentials for bread: flour, water, yeast, and salt. Bam. Bread. I usually like to make my loafs a bit more flavorful by using half whole wheat flour and half bread flour. You can use all-purpose flour, but I would really recommend buying bread flour for this recipe. It makes a better loaf.

All you need for love.

All you need for love.

Honestly, I adjust this recipe a bit often, but this is the basic one that for sure works.

Yield
1 loaf
Prep Time
Total Time

Just a moment please...

Print Recipe Basic No Knead Bread

Ingredients

  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour (or just use all bread flour)
  • 1/3 Teaspoon active dry yeast.
  • 1 2/3 Teaspoon salt.
  • 2 1/6 Cups water.

Directions

1) Add all the dry ingredients to a big bowl. Mix them around with your hand to get the ingredients evenly distributed.

2) Add room temperature water.

3) Stir everything together with your hands.

4) Cover this loosely just to keep dirt out and let it sit in a room temperature spot for about 18 hours.

Method 1: Baking Sheet Method
1) Scrape the dough out of the bowl and onto a well floured surface. Flatten the dough out with your hands into a rough a square and then fold it over itself a few times, forming a loose ball.

2) Lay this ball, seam side down, onto a heavily floured towel. If you want to get crazy you can throw some flax seed or bran on the towel also.

3) Cover this with a towel or just fold the spare ends of the towel over so it doesn’t dry out. Let that rise for about 2 more hours.

4) Be sure to start pre-heating the oven about 30 minutes before you bake.

5) Flip over the dough from the towel onto the baking sheet and put it straight into the oven!

6) For one large loaf this will need to bake at 475-500 degrees for about 45 minutes. Two smaller loafs will only take 25 minutes.

Method 2: Pizza Stone
1) Scrape the dough out of the bowl and onto a well floured surface.

2) Flatten the dough out with your hands into a rough a square and then fold it over itself a few times, forming a loose ball.

3) Lay this ball onto a pizza peel and vent the loaf (Make a few small 1/4 inch deep slits in the top of the loaf with a serrated knife to let out steam).

4) Cover this with a towel or just fold the spare ends of the towel over so it doesn’t dry out. Let that rise for about 2 more hours.

5) Be sure to start pre-heating the oven about 30 minutes before you bake with the pizza stone in the oven!

6) Ten minutes before baking, put an empty baking dish in the oven on the rack below the pizza stone.

7) Slide the loaf (seam down) onto the hot pizza stone.

8) Throw in a cup of hot water as you put the loaf in and it will instantly boil and create steam.

9) For one large loaf this will need to bake at 475-500 degrees for about 45 minutes. Two smaller loafs will only take 25 minutes.

10) Let the bread cool on a rack for about at least an hour before cutting into it.

After you make this a few times, you’ll learn that the dough is very flexible and that leads to a bit different loaf each time. Each one has it’s own character which is probably a result of me not measuring really carefully. Each loaf is still delicious though.

No need to weigh for this recipe.

No need to weigh for this recipe.

The Dough

The start of this recipe is obviously the dough and you need to start it about 18 hours before you want to actually cook your loaf. The reason you don’t have to knead this bread is because by letting it sit overnight at room temperature, the yeast gets really active and does the mixing for you!

To start, add all your dry ingredients to a big bowl. Mix them around with your hand to get the ingredients evenly distributed.

Not a lot of yeast.

A scant 1/2 Teaspoon = 1/3 Teaspoon.

Once your dry ingredients are mixed, add your water. Room temperature water is fine. I’ve actually made it with cold water once or twice by accident and it also turned out fine. It is going to sit at room temperature so the yeast will activate no matter what (unless your yeast is bad which probably isn’t the case if you follow the expiration date on the yeast container). Once your water is added, just kind of mush everything together with your hands. It will be uneven and lumpy and that is all just fine.

These days I can mix up a batch of this in under a minute.

Couldn't knead this if you wanted to.

Couldn’t knead this if you wanted to.

Cover this loosely just to keep dirt out and let it sit in a room temperature spot for about 18 hours. In a rush I’ve made it with as little as 12 hours sitting at room temperature and it was okay (I added a bit more yeast to help the process). The full 18 hours gives the final product a great flavor though.

After 18 hours this is the result:

See. The yeast is mixing for you.

See. The yeast is mixing for you.

I cut this dough in half and made two small loafs. One with each method.

Method 1: Baking Sheet Method

So it turns out the most basic way to bake a loaf of bread is with a plain old baking sheet. Before we can bake it though, we need to let it rise a second time. Scrape the dough out of your bowl and onto a well floured surface. And yes, you will have to scrape it because it will be very loose. Flatten the dough out with your hands into a rough a square and then fold it over itself a few times, forming a loose ball. Don’t overwork it. You will need a good amount of flour.

Lay this ball, seam side down, onto a heavily floured towel. If you want to get crazy you can throw some flax seed or bran on the towel also.

Towel method.

Towel method.

Cover this with a towel or just fold the spare ends of the towel over so it doesn’t dry out. Let that rise for about 2 more hours.

Pre-heat. Be sure to start pre-heating your oven about 30 minutes before you bake. The last thing you want to do is put that loaf into a lukewarm oven where it will just dry out. The only way to have a crunchy loaf with a moist, lovely crumb is to have a really hot oven.

Flip over the dough from the towel onto the baking sheet and put it straight into the oven!

For one large loaf this will need to bake at 475-500 degrees for about 45 minutes. Two smaller loafs will only take 25 minutes.

Just a plain old baking sheet.

Just a plain old baking sheet.

Method 2: Pizza Stone

If you are lucky enough to have a pizza stone, you can definitely use it for this loaf of bread. The only difference (and why I prefer the pizza stone) is that you can preheat the pizza stone in the oven so your crust is even, well, crustier.

The trick to this is to let the dough rise on a pizza peel so you can just slide it right onto the hot stone in the oven. Don’t have a pizza peel? You can use the back of a baking sheet also.

Like a pizza except not really.

Like a pizza except not really.

Venting the loaf. If you are cooking the loaf using method one or the expensive pot method, you don’t need to vent the loaf. By that I mean make a few small 1/4 inch deep slits in the top of the loaf with a serrated knife to let out steam. The reason is because in method one you flip the loaf from the towel to the sheet, so the seam of the bread is up and as it cooks that seam will open slightly and let out steam.

If however you are sliding the loaf onto a hot stone, the seam will be down and you will get large air bubbles in your loaf. See, for example, my finished loaf which I completely forgot to vent. OOPS.

Let’s talk steam. There are two advantages the professional baker has on the amateur at home baker. First, heat. We can only get our ovens so hot, but luckily it is generally hot enough to get a good result. Second, is steam. Professional bakers use really expensive ovens that inject steam into the environment at the beginning of the baking. This is pretty hard to replicate at home, but we can try.

First, you can just put an empty baking dish (not glass it will explode and not non-stick. Something that can take the heat.) in the oven about ten minutes before you are ready to bake. Then you can throw in a cup of hot water as you put your loaf in and it will instantly boil and create steam.

Personally, I like to do that and also keep one of these handy.

Arch enemies.

Enemies.

Tipsy always keeps a close eye on the squirt bottle. Keep your enemies close… But seriously, a few squirts from this thing on the mist setting will instantly vaporize and create the steam you need. With one or both of these tactics, you can do a decent job of recreating steam inside the oven. (By the way, this is the advantage of the very expensive pot. When the lid is on it creates, in effect, a very tiny steam oven).

So, here are the end results side by side. Both loaves took about 25 minutes to bake and you should let them cool on a rack for about at least an hour before cutting into them.

See the difference in the crust?

Both are delicious.

Now, as I mentioned, the pizza stone version has some big holes in it because I forgot to vent it. Other than that, note that the crumb is about the same but the pizza stone has a noticeably better crust. That’s because of the intense heat that the stone gives off. But seriously both are delicious and better than anything you can buy in the store.

I used both for sandwiches for a week and they were great. This bread also makes the best toast in the world.

This was a long post, but anybody have any questions? Everyone should give this a shot!

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29 comments on “No Knead Bread – Revisited 2 Ways

  1. I need to start playing around with different variations on the no-knead bread. It’s a great recipe to have in reserve. I recently did a comparison between the (original) Lahey/Bittman version and the Cook’s Illustrated version. We ended up prefering the Cook’s Illustrated.

    1. You don't need the fancy LeCruset oven. Sam's Club sells a 5 or 6 qt enameled cast iron dutch oven for $40!

  2. Hey, I totally make this:

    http://www.imafoodblog.com/index.php/2009/02/12/pane-rustica-no-knead-easy-italian-bread

    I think it comes out significantly better w/the fleur de sel and fresh yeast (yeah, I’m a little bit of a snob).

    Also, prior to this “craze” hitting the food blog world (via a NY Times article, I believe) this guy (eccentric scientist/farmer/baker/cheese maker/quasi-blogger) had been making it for a long, LONG time. His recipe is also good:

    http://biology.clc.uc.edu/fankhauser/Cheese/Pane_Rustica/Pane_Rustica.html

  3. I received this blog post when I was vacationing in Loreto Mex with limited kitchen equipment (no measuring spoons, no measuring cups, no pizza stone – just a small disposable baking pan. What a great recipe. I made it three times in one week because the Bimbo bread in Mexico is like a cheap version of Wonderbread. It is as easy as it sounds. Thanks for the recipe.

  4. I finally got around to trying a version of this bread that wasn't exactly the no-knead kind. I baked it in a corningware dish with the glass lid on for the first 30 minutes and off for another 15 minutes. It turned out ok as far as texture and the crust wasn't as evenly browned as I wanted it to be, but with the roasted garlic and parmesan cheese I folded in, it tasted pretty good. My oven is a cheapy, apartment oven, so I'm not surprised at the uneven browning.

  5. The pot helps, but you don’t need an expensive one to make the Fahey bread from the NYT recipe. I bought mine at the local thrift store for $5. It’s a heavy cast iron pot with a domed lid. That’s all you really need.

  6. Despite the fact that I have a bread machine, I’m going to try this recipe. Almost seems like it should be easier than using the machine. Hopefully it won’t fail…

    Question: do you think I should buy that book that the no knead bread recipe came from? Is there more to it than this one recipe?

  7. wow. i love this recipe! i definitely like the no knead bread. we have no bread machine and i have only made bread from scratch once. Will have to try this recipe on a free weekend of mine. thanks!!!

    looked at the cheese bread thread too and that might be motivation enough to swing by whole foods to stare and gawk at their cheese section. YUM-o

  8. Thanks for the extra tips on no knead bread. I have been baking the bread for the last month and have made the bread approx. 8 times. I have made it with just white bread flour, half white whole wheat (lower rise) and with olives (best!). I have been using my cast iron (not enameled) covered pot made by Martha Stewart. She is not making this pot anymore, but I did some research and found that Target is selling a pot like this for $30. As soon as the snow stops I plan to pick up a second pot. I have a loaf in the freezer and need to taste the bread after defrosting. I am hoping its good. I prefer to make two loaves at a time because it is long time waiting for all to be done, easy as it is. Thought your readers might be interested in the less expensive pot. Also would be interested to know if you really think the enamel is better than baking the bread directly on cast iron.

  9. Just discovered your blog (via Capital Cooking) and while looking thru your site found this recipe. Tried it out today and it was so easy and good. Nothing beats homemade bread. Thanks!

  10. Ok Nick, I'm trying this out–finally. Had to use regular flour instead of bread. We'll see how it goes…

  11. I will submit a warning for pouring water into a hot dish in the oven. If you spill water on the glass in your oven door, it will shatter, and you will have a $350 loaf of bread. I learned this first-hand. I would suggest using the spray bottle.

  12. I’ve been following your recipe and directions, except that I’ve been making it in two loaf pans instead of the dutch oven. They’ve been turning out excellent, and make much nicer sandwich slices.

  13. I use my two covered corningware casserole dishes to make this bread. Never had a bad one yet. Hubby is near begging me to make a cinnamon loaf and make stuffed french toast out of it.

  14. Do you ever make, like, four loaves and just freeze it? I remember growing up my parents always bought 20 loaves of bread at a time and froze them. I think I would be much more likely to make my own bread if I did it in big batches.

    1. Hey Heather, you can definitely do this although I really don’t just because of freezer space issues. Just make sure to cool the loaf off COMPLETELy before freezing it or you’ll get condensation and it’ll be a bad scene.

  15. I made the cheese no knead bread and used an old black iron pan, heated it in the oven then put another iron fry pan over it. The bottom crust was thick and crusty. The cheese that was required I couldn’t find, but subbed it with a 6 year cheese, I will use a milder cheese next time.

  16. My bread is still in the oven but looks like it’s stuck to the bread pan. I can see it trying to rise away from the stuck base. Is there anything I can do to rescue it when it comes out, without ruining the crust?

    1. Hey San, I think it should release after it’s done cooking, but if it doesn’t the only option is brute force really… Maybe use a sturdy spatula or dough scraper to try to free the loaf… also sounds like maybe time for new baking sheets or use some parchment paper next time to solve the problem.

      Good luck!

  17. Thanks a bunch for all of the no knead recipes. I truly didn’t realize that I can bake delicious bread at home until I came across your olive loaf recipe. Can I use a pizza stone for your olive loaf recipe also? Thanks for your time!

    1. Hey Faith! Totally. I cooked all the loafs in various ways with great results. The pizza stone might give you a slightly thicker bottom crust on the loaf b/c it’s not quite as even heat distribution as the dutch oven with lid, but it should totally work.

      Good luck!

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