Bittman’s Speedier No-Knead Bread with Olive Oil

As much as I love Jim Leahy’s no-knead bread, the reality is that by the time I get my act together to start making it, it’s too late to get a rise by the time I need to serve the bread.

Enter Bittman’s recipe for speedier no-knead bread. With a rise time shortened from 8 hours to 4 hours, you could conceivably have it ready for lunch, which was my plan for Saturday at the cottage. Unfortunately, that would require getting up before 9 am. Too much wine with dinner Friday night nixed that idea. I decided to make the bread anyway, starting at around 10 am on Saturday, figuring we’d eat it at some point during the weekend.  As you’ll see by the recipe below, I accidentally modified it by adding some oive oil to the dough, which I think was not such a bad thing,

Now we’re eating it toasted for Sunday breakfast. Given how delicious it is, there’s no way we would have had any left for today’s breakfast if we had it for lunch yesterday.

I think it all worked out for the best, don’t you?

Mark Bittman’s Speedier No-Knead Bread with Olive Oil

I have trouble finding instant yeast, so this recipe uses active dry yeast, which I proofed before using. If you use instant yeast, as Bittman does, you’ll add it to the dry ingredients and increase the water by 1/4 cup. (The Fresh Loaf has a good post on the differences between these two types of yeast.) If you don’t want to proof your yeast, eliminate the sugar. 

I mis-interpreded Bittman’s ingredient list for “oil as needed”, and added about 2 tbsp of olive oil to my dough. (He meant to use is to oil your working surface.)  On researching what I might have done, it appears that oil strengthens the bubbles in the rise and increases the storage life of bread.  In this case, it also gave the bread a chewier texture, more like a sourdough.  I like that.  

In retrospect, I should have cut back the water by that amount, which explains why my dough seemed so loose – however, it remained easy to work with, so I don’t think I hurt anything. Next time I make it, I’m going to increase the oil to 1/4 cup, which seems to be the norm in bread recipes with oil, and cut back the water accordingly. If you try it first, let me know how it turns out. 

Yields: 1 loaf


  • 1 packet active dry yeast
  • ¼ cup warm water
  • A pinch of sugar
  • 3 cups bread flour (I used King Arthur’s)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/4 cups water


1. Dissolve the yeast in ¼ cup warm water. Add a pinch of sugar. Once the yeast starts to foam, it is ready to use.

2. Combine flour and salt in a large bowl. Add dissolved yeast, 2 tbsp olive oil and 1 1/4 cups water and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rest about 4 hours at about 70 degrees.

3. Pull dough out of bowl – it will be shaggy, but will come away in one piece if you work gently enough. Plop in onto a lightly oiled work surface (I use a large wooden cutting board) and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest 30 minutes more.

4. While the dough is resting, put a 6-8 quart heavy covered pot (I use a Le Creuset round French oven) in the oven (lid on) and heat to 450 degrees fahrenheit.

5. When the dough has rested for 30 minutes, carefully remove the now very hot pot from oven. Slide your hand under the dough and drop it into pot, seam side up. Unless the dough is crawling up the sides of the pan (in which case you can shake the pan once or twice to drop it in) don’t worry if it falls a bit off center in the pot. It will straighten out as it bakes.

6. Cover with lid, put back in the oven, and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

15 Responses to Bittman’s Speedier No-Knead Bread with Olive Oil

  1. Best homeade bread our family has ever enjoyed! Making another batch everyday this weekend. Simple,crunchy crust with a delicious flavor. Awesome alone or with butter jelly or whatever er you have the patience to lather on before you shove it into your mouth!

  2. Does anyone know what would happen if I didn’t add any salt? Aside from changing the flavor, I mean. Would it affect the rise? The texture? I’m looking for low sodium diet food, and I know baking is all about chemistry.


    • Mary, lack of salt will affect the rise of the bread and will lead to sticky dough. I have been following a low sodium diet for over a decade and I would recommend using Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt or Oceans Flavor Salt. Both are natural salt, but low sodium. Diamond Crystal Kosher is my go to salt for baking. Even with kosher salts larger crystals I still I have successfully used 1 to 1 1/4 teaspoon for this recipe, reducing the total sodium for the recipe by 2,340mg!

  3. Oh the yeast. Instant yeast such as the original recipe specifies is not the yeast you pick up first (a la Red Star) in the market. That more common yeast requires ~3/4 of a teaspoon, and I imagine many disappointed bakers have found their bread does not rise. I speak fom experience.

  4. Hi in the last step should we put the hot pot back in the oven with the bread? And can I make this with whole wheat bread? What modifications will I need to make?

    • Stuart –

      I don’t know – I cannot say for sure. From what I remember of this bread I”d say it had a softer crust, but there are so many factors that affect how long a crust stays crispy – like humidity and air pressure and baking time – that I don’t know it was the oil that made the difference. I don;t make enough bread on a regular basis to say more than that. Let me know if you find out.


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