So something pretty glorious happened in November of 2006: The New York Times posted a recipe adapted from Jim Lahey called “No-Knead Bread.” 2006 also happened to my junior year of college—an incredibly fun year—but a year in which I was definitely not reading cooking blogs. In fact, the closest thing I got to cooking was assembling my own salad from the salad bar.
While I didn’t get around to making no-knead bread until January of 2013, a solid 5 years after the craze died down, it’s truly such an amazing bread that I had to share it, even though I’m sure it’s old news for most bloggers.
What makes this such a good bread? The tender, moist, chewy interior and the incredibly crispy, crunchy crust rivals that of any rustic or artisan bread from a bakery and it’s so ridiculously easy to make. While the process of making this is far from fast (a day from start to finish), there’s only about 10 minutes of active work—the rest you just let the dough do it’s thing!
The recipe calls for very little yeast, a fair amount of water, and a lot of time to ferment. Fermentation basically develops the gluten in the bread, which eliminates the need to knead.
- 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
- 11/4 teaspoons salt
- 1 5/8 cup water
In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky.
Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at minimum of 12 hours, preferably about 18 (18 is always what I do and I think it has the best results), at room temperature, about 70 degrees. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles.
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.
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)* with flour; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel 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.
*Note: you need a really, really smooth towel to wrap the dough in. After coming close to ruining two dish towels with sticky dough that never quite entirely came off I decided to use a brand new, 100% cotton t-shirt—which works like a charm.
At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic—I use a Le Creuset French oven) 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 (if you’re not using a pot with a cover, tightly wrap with tin foil) and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.