No-Knead Bread. Thank You, Irene!

Long time blog TBTAM readers know that many of the great recipes I share on this blog come from my mother-in-law Irene, the world’s greatest home cook. So it should come as no surprise to learn that this weekend’s hurricane, which shares my mother-in-law’s name, brought me the best bread recipe I have ever made, and the best bread I have ever eaten.

I’ve been wanting to try Jim Leahy’s No-Knead Bread ever since Mark Bittman first revealed it to the world in 2006 – a simple yet elegant method of making bread that has found an almost cult-like following on the web and around the world. But the 12-18 hour rise always stopped me dead in my tracks whenever I considered making the bread, since I rarely, if ever, plan anything that far in advance. But once I realized on Saturday morning that Hurricane Irene would essentially confine me to my apartment till at least Sunday afternoon, I knew the time had finally arrived for me to drink the No-Knead Kool Aid.

And am I ever glad I did. This bread will change you life. I mean it. It is the easiest and best bread you will ever make. The crust is hard and golden, while the crumb is porous, soft and almost spongy with a sourdough type taste and consistency that rivals anything from the best bakeries. Hot from the oven it is heaven. Toasted with a little butter and jam it is divine. Use it for sandwiches. Eat it with cheese. Or just eat it plain.

You’ll never want any other bread again.

Thank you, Irene!

No-Knead Bread

From Jim Lahey via Mark Bittman in the NY Times. I strongly encourage you to watch the accompanying video before making this bread. 

As pointed out by baking maven Rose Levy Beranbaum, the water amounts in the recipe (1 5/8 cups) varies from that in the the video (1 1/2 cups), as do the rise times. (The video says nothing about the second 2 hour rise.) I decided to use 1 1/2 cups, and did not realize there was a second rise since I based my recipe on the video. I also used rapid rise instead of instant yeast. (With the MTA shut down, I could not get to a store that carried it.) As a result, my dough had completed its rise by about 4 hours, and by morning it actually had dropped a bit. Next time I will use the right stuff, do the second rise and expect my bread will be even lighter.  I should also point out that I accidentally put my bread in seam side down, so I did not get the nice folds that Leahy got in the video.

  • 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour (I used King Arthur all-purpose)
  • 1/4 tsp instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • Wheat bran or cornmeal (I used wheat bran)

Combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 1/2 cups water, and stir until blended with your hands or a wooden spoon (I used a spoon). The dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise 12  to 18 hours at warm room temp (mine was about 72 degrees). The dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle a bit of flour on it and your hands, and working with a very light touch, press the dough down a bit then fold it over on itself (see video for technique.)  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

Sprinkle a clean smooth cotton towel with wheat bran, flour or cornmeal. Shape the dough into a ball and place seam side down on the towel. Sprinkle more bran on top and wrap the towel loosely around the dough. Let rise another 2 hours.

During the last half hour of the rise, heat a Dutch oven or other heavy baking dish in a 450 degree oven. When dough is ready, remove the pot from the oven and turn the dough into the pot (again, see video for technique – I screwed this part up…) Shake pan to center the dough in the pot .(Careful! It is hot!)  Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack. Try to wait till it cools before slicing and eating, so the crust can develop a bit more.

No-Knead Links (Share your fave No-Knead links in the comments.)

  • Lahey has a book of his No-Knead bread recipes (I’m adding this one to my wish list.)
  • Lahey’s version of the recipe varies cooking and rise times. Worth reading.
  • La Weekly interviews Lahey on his technique.
  • Breadtopia bakes Cooks Illustrated almost no-knead variation on Lahey’s No-Knead, including a whole wheat version.
  • Garden Fork uses parchment paper to make the transfer of the dough to the hot pot easier.
  • Sofya simplifies the method with a mixer and one bowl technique.
  • Vanilla bean blog has gorgeous pics of the method, and a beautiful final product.
  • Simply So Good makes some wonderful additions to the recipe, which she says she got from Le Creuset, but is the same as Lahey’s.
  • The Cookbook Chronicles uses a sourdough starter and regular yeast to get a gorgeous bread.
  • Leite’s Culinaria has Lahey’s No-Knead olive bread recipe.
  • Penni Wisner has whole grain variations and lots of tips on the no-knead technique.
  • Shutter bean makes Lahey’s walnut raisin No-Knead.
  • Bob Parvin has an excellent post with tips on no-knead that answers almost any questions you may have about the method.

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