01 September, 2010

No Need to Knead

I like to bake things. Let me put it another way, I like to try to bake things. Usually, what I turn out with is a gooey mess. Or an oven fire. 

There was the "pudding cake" that I made for my husband's 30th birthday. It oozed up and out of the pan, out of the oven, and onto the kitchen floor. There was the "clown cake" that I made for my oldest daughter's 2nd birthday. There were so many crumbs in the frosting that it looked like the clown had a beard. There was the pizza dough I whipped up a couple of years ago. Doesn't everyone like a wet, sticky, sponge topped with tomato sauce and cheese?

So, I have been doing my bread shopping at local bakeries the past couple of years. There is the Jewish bakery down the street with the oh-so yummy rye-bread and the babbka to die for. The French bakery with the foot long baguettes, crispy on the outside and soft in the middle. The Indian place with the rectangles of mouth-watering naan. The Italian market with its warm oval loaves, topped with sesame. The Cuban cafe with the crispy Cuban bread that won't sog in your soup. 

You get the idea. I have gotten used to some pretty tasty baked goods. I know what good bread should taste like. How could I possibly bake something at home that I would actually want to eat? 

Guess what? I can. It is called "No Knead" bread. And it is delicious. And it is easy to make. And it is hard to screw up. The New York Times published the recipe for "No Knead" bread, including a tutorial video, four years ago. The recipe can also be found in Jim Lahey's My Bread. Here goes:
All you need to make 1 1/2 lb. loaf is 3 cups of all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of instant yeast, and 1 5/8 cup of water. You will also need a large mixing bowl, a 6-8 quart pot, 2 (not linty) cotton towels, and plastic wrap or wax paper .
Mix the ingredients together and cover tightly. I don't like to use plastic, so I used wax paper and a heavy towel, but you can use whatever you like. The dough just needs a moist environment for the next 18 hours or so. Yes, I said 18 hours. This bread recipe is easy, but it isn't quick.
After the dough has "sat" for 18 hours, it should be bubbly on the top. Get that guy out and fold it into itself a few times; then make it into a ball. Before you do this, flour your hands and 2 (clean) cotton towels. Next, place the dough ball on one of the towels, and cover it up with the other one. (You can use wax paper instead of the towels if you want to) Wait some more. For 2 hours this time.
After 2 hours, heat the oven to 450*F and place a 6-8 quart pot in there while it heats up. I like to use my Pyrex. Take a look at your dough ball. It should be bigger; in fact, it should have almost doubled in size. When the oven has reached 450*, take out the hot pot and plop that dough ball in there. Cover with a lid and bake for 30 minutes. Take the lid off and bake for 15-20 minutes more. When the top is crispy brown, take it out of the oven.

That's it! It turns out like those $5 per loaf artisan breads at the market, and you can make it for pennies!


  1. Oh, this has me so excited!! Seriously, I am addicted to that $5 artisan bread, and have always thought to make my own, but then decide I can't do it.
    Have bookmarked and shall report!

  2. I'll have to try this. I've been using the basic bread recipe from Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything". I like to mix in sauteed garlic and shredded parmesan cheese or some fresh rosemary.