There Really Is No Knead

Have I been living under a rock?

Is it possible that I can have waited until now to actually take a look at the details of Jim Lahey’s no knead bread method as revealed to the world by Mark Bittman in the New York Times a couple of years back?

The answer, it would appear, is yes.

I was finally prodded into action when I read about kickpleat’s successful first foray into the world of no kneading. I read her description of the method. I went back and had a look at the original recipe as posted in the New York Times. Could it really be that easy to produce a loaf of bread that looks like a real French boule from a real French boulangerie. Well, yes, apparently it is…

Crusty no knead bread

Get a load of that crust

Now, it does require a lot of time to produce – 15+ hours from start to finish – but most of that is spent waiting for the dough to rise sleeping. It uses a small amount of yeast and an extended rising time to do the work that the kneading would have done. It uses a fairly wet dough, baked in a heavy lidded pot, to achieve the same effect on the crust as a steam injection oven. It’s hands-down the best-looking yeast bread (or yeast anything for that matter) that I have ever made. There were lots of nice nooks and crannies in the slices, perfect for trapping little gobs of butter or goats cheese, say. It’s bread that says toast me and make some bruschetta. It’s bread that I will make again and again and I get the feeling that I will be impressed by the fact that it has come from my oven every time.

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Jim Lahey’s No Knead Bread

You can reference the recipe as it appeared in the New York Times here. In what I describe below, I have converted things to the metric system, because I simply do not trust my American cup measures. My tendency to skeptiscism also lead me to use more yeast than I necessarily needed to, given the long rising time. Next time I might try reducing the yeast by half and giving the dough even longer to rise.

sliced no knead bread

You’ll need:
  • 500g strong bread flour
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 0.5 tsp fast action / easy blend yeast
  • Approx 450ml water
  • Cornmeal or wheatbran for dusting
You’ll also need:
  • A heavy lidded ceramic or cast-iron pot that can be used in the oven – I used my 24 cm wide cast iron casserole (which has a capacity of about 3.5 litres).
  • 2 clean tea-towels
The Steps:
  • In a large bowl, whisk the flour, yeast and salt together well.
  • Add the water and stir until blended. The dough will be sticky and ragged-looking.
  • Cover the bowl with cling-film and leave to rise for at least 12 hours at warm room temperature. The dough should have doubled in bulk and will be bubbly on top.
  • Lightly flour a work-surface and turn the dough onto it. Sprinkle with a little more flour and fold the dough over once or twice. Then cover loosely with cling-film and allow it to rest for 15 minutes.
  • Now gently shape the dough into a ball using just enough flour to prevent the dough from sticking to your fingers or to the work-surface.
  • Take a clean tea-towel and coat generously with cornmeal, wheatbran or flour. Place the dough onto the towel and dust with more cornmeal, wheatbran or flour.
  • Let the dough rise again for about 2 hours, after which it should have more than doubled in size and, if you poke it with your finger, it should make an indentation which won’t easily spring back.
  • Meanwhile, at least 30 minutes before the dough is ready, heat the oven to 220C and place your cast-iron or ceramic pot, lid ‘n’ all, into the oven while it’s heating.
  • When the dough is ready (according to the finger poking test above), remove the pot from the oven and do be careful, because it will be very hot.
  • Turn the dough into the pot and, if the dough is unevenly distributed, just shake the pot once or twice to settle it. It will straighten out as it bakes anyway.
  • If you want a nice cross on your bread, take a sharp knife and slash a cross in the top of the dough.
  • Cover the pot and return to the oven. Bake for 30 minutes with the lid on. Then remove the lid and bake for another 15 to 30 minutes until, as the original recipe says, it is beautifully browned.
  • Cool on a wire rack and then devour.
The Variations:
  • Mark Bittman comments that, while it’s best made with strong bread flour, you can use plain or all-purpose flour instead. You could also try varying the flour mix to use some wholewheat or rye flours.
The Results:
  • A loaf that looks like it (a) came from a French bakery and (b) won’t last long.
Comments
  • I’m a skeptic too … but I’m impressed! And I certainly want to try this, it looks amazing. Couple of questions … what is “strong” bread flour?? And the pot, does the shape matter? Will click over to the link and am def. bookmarking this to try asap. Thanks!

  • That’s pretty neat. I’ll have to try that sometime. I don’t mind the wait as long as I get my bread. Thanks.

  • Hooray! It is easy and oh so good.

  • Oooh! Oooh! Must try immediately! Bring me yeast! Bring me flour!

  • Diva: Strong bread flour has a higher gluten content than other flours and gluten helps to give the dough its elasticity (so you’d expect the dough to rise better and for the bread to have a better structure using the strong bread flour). As for the pot, I don’t imagine that the shape of pot would matter too much. Good luck with it!

    jenn: I know the feeling and, sure, it’s worth the wait

    kickpleat: hooray indeed and so glad that seeing your account of it was what got me there in the end :)

    Angry Brit: get to it, girl!

  • That did turn out beautifully! I must try it.

  • i really need to try this no knead bread… i’ve been reading about it so much but keep forgetting!

  • That was one beautiful crust you had going on there, DS–lovely, minimal work bread! Perfect:D

  • oooo must try this at the weekend, a day off tomorrow might be well spent with this!! YUM!

  • MMMMMM….Your bread looks delicious!! Yum! Home made bread with a bit of the best butter & some home made raspberry jam! Yum!

  • That is a lovely loaf of bread. So crusty and dense on the inside! Delicious!

  • Really a gorgeous bread. It looks so light and airy! But would I skip the kneading part? Not sure, but not sure I could wait 15 hours for good home-baked bread either!

  • Lovely bread! Will sheepishly admit that I have not tried this particular recipe. Seems like I’m always either planning too far ahead for that rise time or not far enough :)

  • Thanks for the info, DS. I’ve read the term before in my Irish baking book, but was never quite sure what it meant! LOL

  • Looks beautiful! I have seen the recipe and method, but never been motivated to try it. I love kneading bread. I worked in a bread store for several years and the production was the best part. Taking out the kneading takes out all the fun for me, but it is still fun to experiment with new methods. :)

  • I tried this for the first time a couple of months ago and am completely sold on it. It’s really good and too easy to be believed until you do it yourself. I’ve even tried the speedier method too. In fact, I use the 4 drops of red wine vinegar called for in the speedy recipe and mix it in the water and use the long rise method. It seems to step up the fermenting process that gives the bread that almost sourdough aroma. I use a combo of AP and bread flour.

    I whip the dough up before I go to bed. It takes all of 3 minutes! The next afternoon I do the final steps. I don’t even bother with the towel. I just deflate the dough right in my stainless bowl, turn it a few times with a rubber spatula, recover it and go about my business. Once the pot is preheated (I use a ceramic pot with lid) I just scrap the dough out of the bowl, gently so as not to deflate it too much, into the pot, shake it, and bake it! It’s amazingly easy and the best bread. You just have to make this!

  • I still have yet to make this, mostly because we don’t own a Dutch oven. I like kneading too, it’s therapeutic!

  • noble pig: it did turn out beautifully, I was so pleased :)

    Heather: I was the same, I kept reading about it and forgetting… until now

    Jenni: thanks chef!

    Rachel: it would be a day well spent I reckon :)

    Sophie: with butter and raspberry jam? absolutely!

    Reeni: it is indeed delicious…

    Jamie: you do need to get your head around the waiting part alright – it’s not going to suit everyone that way

    Laura: yes, it does require a bit of planning and forethought, should put those in the ingredients list :)

    Diva: you’re welcome!

    Lori: I do like the therapeutic nature of kneading myself, so I don’t think I’ll be giving that up entirely either :)

    Susan: welcome and thanks so much for the tips – I’ll definitely try the vinegar addition next time!

    Sarah: as I said to Lori, I won’t be giving up kneading completely either – it does have its own appeal :)

  • Wow, that bread looks delicious and well kneaded – who knew you could cheat. Bring on the bruschetta, the honey, the jam.

    The words that we have to type to verify we are human on your site, keep sending me messages. “Keep Tiny” will not happen if I try everything you post.

  • Poke it with a finger and if it doesn’t spring back it is ready. Now that is an instruction I can understand. Thanks for keeping it simple for the simple cooks among your readership (or am I the only one?). Must pick up the phone to you both one of these days. Mea culpa.

  • All I can say is, Wow! I’m a bread-machine baker but with this recipe, I can actually hold my head up high. 8-) This is perfect bread – crusty on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside. All I need is a quiet place where no one can hear me scarfing down the entire loaf!

  • OK, you’ve convinced me with that lovely photo. I admit I was skeptical of the no-knead method before because I don’t mind the kneading. But your bread looks amazing. Beautiful.

  • Great looking crust on the bread.

    Thanks for reminding about this recipe. I made it when it first came out and loved it but then forgot about the bread.

  • I like your punny title!

  • No needing here, as I cannot eat too much bread (gluten stuffs me up in a bad way, not an allergy so much), so only my quinoa which hopefully you will find at door step soon!

  • A no knead bread with a crust like that is just for us!

  • KeepTinyOyster: y’know, it does indeed feel like cheating, but, what the hell, I’m sold on the method!

    Michelle: I like to keep it simple if I can and, trust me, you’re not alone in liking it that way!

    Tangled Noodle: and believe me that the loaf got very quickly scarfed over here too :)

    megan: thanks, I am a skeptic no more after that loaf…

    Sara: glad I could remind you about the bread and thanks so much for visiting!

    aoife mc: :)

    Chef E: I think it would stuff me up if gluten had that severe an effect on me – still, I know that there are alternatives out there and I’m looking forward to the arrival of your care package any day now!

    Duo Dishes: yep, I think you’ll love it :)

  • Stunning photography. Makes me want to eat it right now!

  • Very sweet of you to say so and thanks for stopping by!

  • I’m so glad you’ve discovered no-knead bread, isnt it the best?!?! If you like this, you should also look into artisan bread in 5 minutes a day. I’m a new convert to that concept :)

  • Indeed, gaga, I’ve seen so much written about the artisan bread in 5 minutes that I’ve been wanting to give that a try too. It’s definitely on the list!

  • […] This post was Twitted by DailySpud […]

  • It’s gorgeous! I keep reading about this no knead method and have had it a my list of things to make, but haven’t gotten around to it yet. Your success has helped move it higher on the list ;-)

  • Oh Allen, do try it out – it’s well worth it!

  • […] now I have my big pot I’ll also be trying some no-knead bread over the […]

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  • Tried the ‘New York’ recipe first time and it was wondrous, absolutely brilliant. However, could never repeat it…I must have been lucky the first time. Couldn’t get the dough right…too wet, too dry. I knew I had to get a conversion from US Cups to metric so I’ve been searching searching the web for a metric conversion and yahoo I came across your blog. Absolutely gorgeous again. Thanks.

  • Hey Gary, glad I could help! I’m never fully trusting of cup measurements – much happier when I have good old reliable metric to hand.

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