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Easy and Fresh No-Knead Bread: The Best Bread You’ll Ever Make

December 21, 2009

I haven’t had a snow day in ages. Now how better to enjoy it, and prolong the cozy DC-area snowfall mood, then to bake fresh bread and nosh on some charcuterie?

I’ve been doing it a bunch lately. I plan ahead by 12-18 hours, mix up the dough, and let it sit ’til the yeast has activated and it’s time to get it ready to bake. It is extremely crispy on the outside, and bouncy and airy inside. The key is to cut a piece and take a whiff as if you were smelling a good wine. The malty, yeasty aroma will make your mouth water… It reminds me of an incredible beer flavor.

I learned to bake bread from Jim Lahey of the Sullivan St Bakery in Manhattan. Here’s the original recipe from the NY Times.

And if you really enjoy it, BUY HIS COOKBOOK.

The recipe is so simple. I’ve added my additional comments and I’ve altered his instructions a tiny bit.

No-Knead Bread

Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.


* Two medium mixing bowls
* 6-8 qt. pot (Pyrex glass, Lodge cast iron, Le Creuset cast iron, or ceramic)
* Wooden spoon or spatula (optional)
* Plastic wrap
* Cotton dish towels (not terrycloth), 2 or 3


* 3 cups bread flour, more for dusting
* ¼ teaspoon instant yeast, or whatever yeast you have, doesn’t matter
* 1¼ teaspoons plain-ole table salt
* Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed for dusting.

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 1/3 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees. If your place is chilly leave it for up to 24 hours. Be patient.

2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles, and it went from a dry to a wet look. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth, leaves fuzzy pills in the dough) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Fold the towel over the dough and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (I use either my Lodge cast iron, or my ceramic-covered cast iron) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes.

Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Carefully pull it out with a wooden spoon and a towel, and leave it on a rack to cool for almost an hour. You’ll hear the dough “sing” as the crust shrinks. That is the sound of success.

Next step, carve that bad boy up and eat it. Again, take your time with the first bite, smell it deep. It’s amazing with the sweet/malty contrast if you spread some fresh jam onto it. Or I’ll be using it for charcuterie tonight.

I tend to eat it in a day or so, but it should last in a brown bag on your counter for about 3 days or so. If it goes stale make bread crumbs with it by just throwing it in a food processor.

Buen provecho.

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