Sunday, May 31, 2009

No Knead Bread

Ta da! My very first post! I've been reading food blogs for ages, so I figured I'd start wasting some time building one. Hopefully you'll waste some time with me. As always, I jumped on the hot topic wagon late, so I have only recently gotten around to making no knead bread, the recipe popularized by the NY Times. I'm always instinctively disdainful of trendy things, I dunno why. It's part of my perverse nature. Usually if I see something with a lot of hype, I roll my eyes and move on (unless I found it early on - that's a different story).

That's how I felt about No Knead Bread. "Pfft. Kneading bread isn't HARD people, stop being so damn lazy!" And then I got lazy myself, and decided to try it. And you know something? It is GOOD. It really lives up to the hype, and it IS really that easy to make. You just need time, that's all. Although there are a plethora of versions available on the web, I decided to go with the basic my first time around. I've posted the recipe and instructions below, so I'll just share some tips I learned along the way.

1) You do NOT need (ha, get it?) a big, expensive Le Creuset pot to make this bread. All you need is an ovensafe pot, or even a baking sheet. If you don't have a pot big enough to fit the bread, simply divide the dough into more manageable pieces. I normally use my two wee Corningware dishes, and cut down on the baking time.

2) Although the instructions don't specify, I found using lukewarm water worked best. The first time I just ran the tap; the bread turned out fine, but with the warm water it rose a little higher and the interior was softer, making it easier to eat.

3) If you are accustomed to making bread, keep in mind this dough will be much different from what you expect. For one thing, it's much softer, and it almost feels like an airy pillow when you handle it. Definitely not something you'd slam on the counter to work out your frustrations.

For instance, this is what the dough looks like when it's ready to form. Kinda creepy, eh? Bubble bubble, toil and trouble...

And here's my finished product, fresh outta the oven. Mmmmmmm. Looks like it came from a bakery. I made a small loaf, and that puppy is nearly gone already. Let it cool a bit if you can, and then dig in. I know I did. The poor little thing is half gone already. And that's it!

NY Times No Knead Bread, adapted from Jim Lahey

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.

1. 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 least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

2. 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.

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) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; 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.

4. 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) 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. Cool on a rack.

Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.


  1. First post!

    You know, I haven't done the no-knead bread yet either. And for the exact same reason. Maybe I should finally give it a shot and see what all the hubbub is about.

    Congrats on the new venture.

  2. Thanks Drew! I had some leftover dough and made some pizza with it today. MMMMMMMMMM. Thinnest crust I've ever been able to make, and the easiest to work with. I'll have that one posted later. ;)

    And thanks for the first comment; you have no idea how insanely excited it makes me.