Divine Inspiration: No-Knead Bread Recipe

21 January 2012 § 16 Comments

I owe anyone who has seen me or spoken to me over the past two weeks an apology.

I’m sorry, I really am— I just can’t help it: I’ve become a bread bore.

As if taken by the spirit of the Republican primaries, I have been born again and now find myself evangelizing my fundamentalist position from the pulpit. Albeit about bread.

My mantra has become: “So easy The Ladies™ could make it” and ” You can’t go wrong”. Perhaps I should run for office…

It all started innocently enough at my Book Club, when I tried some of Christina’s bread. (If you’re interested the book was Jeffrey Steingarten’s very wonderful “The Man Who Ate Everything”. It is a compilation of his great food essays and features his obvious disdain of misguided food fads).

The crust on the loaf she served was delightfully crispy, but the inside was as chewy as a ciabatta with a texture to suit. Then she told me it was a Jim Lahey (Sullivan Street Bakery) recipe and even better, it was a recipe that didn’t require kneading.

At this point, finding faith from the delicious taste in my mouth and spiritually seduced by the ease of the recipe, my eyes glazed over and I tuned out of the book club conversation altogether. As the enthusiastic reviewers around me discussed Steingarten’s hilarious trip to the French Alps, I was feverishly occupied with the precise timings of bread making, allowing time for the dough to rest (12-18 hours) and thus calculating how soon I could start eating my own bread. Since my culinary Damascene moment, I was just desperate to get home and start baking. Amen.

By the way, if my religious fervor isn’t enough to convert you, think about the economics involved: artisanal loaves tend to be in the $5 to $7 range, whereas a 5lb bag of King Arthur organic bread flour is about $8.00 and gives you about five loaves which averages around a buck-fifty per loaf. Not only heavenly, but what a bargain to boot!

Here’s the link to the recipe from the NY Times. But if you can’t be bothered to click through, here it is:

Ingredients for  one 1½-pound loaf

  • 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
  • ¼ teaspoon instant yeast
  •  1¼ teaspoons salt
  • 1 5/8 cup of water (that’s just over 1½ for those challenged by math)
  • Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.


1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add the 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.

Slightly shaggy looking dough

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, I used my Le Creuset Dutch oven. 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.

Oh and here’s a video of Jim Lahey and Mark Bittman if you need a bit more guidance.


Fully converted, I find myself marveling at the magic of yeast and over the last two weeks I have made dozens of loaves of bread, which is pretty impressive for someone who has never successfully made bread before.

Remember: just don’t rush it, let time do the work.

Hallelujah, Brothers & Sisters! Hallelujah!

(Next week, I might do some fishes to go with the loaves. Perhaps not….)


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