My mother is putting together a family cookbook, a compendium of family favourites from across the generations. Many recipes, from matzo ball soup to Grandma’s favourite cheese ball, have made the cut, and I’m proud to list my no knead bread among them.
Of course, this isn’t really my recipe – it was originally made popular by Mark Bittman’s 2006 New York Times article about baker Jim Lahey. I’ve been making versions of this loaf ever since with various combinations of flours and seeds. I love it so much I can’t seem to do without it, so on visits home, my family has become accustomed to me taking over their kitchen and their house with dough balls, flour and yummy bread smells.
No knead bread may not be as long-standing a family tradition as pumpkin pie or lazy pierogi, but I’m hoping it goes the distance for generations to come.
“What makes Mr. Lahey’s process revolutionary is the resulting combination of great crumb, lightness, incredible flavor — long fermentation gives you that — and an enviable, crackling crust, the feature of bread that most frequently separates the amateurs from the pros…The loaf is incredible, a fine-bakery quality, European-style boule that is produced more easily than by any other technique I’ve used, and will blow your mind.” – Mark Bittman, New York Times
Here is the recipe as I make it, along with a few variations I like.
Easiest No Knead Bread with Variations
I don’t buy store-bought bread anymore because this is so easy and so much better. And you can easily adapt it to your liking by mixing up the flours, adding seeds, whatever. The recipe is based on Jim Lahey’s No Knead Bread technique, made popular by a 2006 Mark Bittman article in the New York Times. The article is well worth a read, as is watching his video demonstration of the technique.
- 470g bread flour (white, whole wheat or a mix)
- 10g salt
- 1/4 tsp yeast
- 350ml water
- 2 Tbsp olive oil (optional, but I’ve found that a bit of oil in the dough helps it toast better)
- Mix all the ingredients in a bowl to achieve a wet, shaggy dough ball. If you’re using whole wheat flour, you will need to add more water – don’t be shy, wetter is better. The dough should be wet enough that it “oozes” a little bit in the bowl.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rest for 12-24 hours.
- Sprinkle some flour on a clean countertop. Turn the dough onto the countertop – I use a spatula to scrape / pour the dough out of the bowl. It will be very sticky, so coat your hands with some flour before handling the dough.
- Pull the dough at either end to form a strip. Fold this strip into thirds, like a business letter. Give the dough a quarter turn and fold it in thirds again.
- Oil an oven-safe pot with a lid (I use an $8.99 Ikea medium/1lb saucepan, but ideal is a cast iron pot or dutch oven). Put the dough inside of the pot with the fold-seam UP. Put the lid on the pet and let it rest for 1-2 hours.
- Put the lid inside of a cold oven and turn it up to max. After 30 minutes, turn down the oven to 200C / 390F and bake for another 25 minutes. Remove the lid and bake another 5 minutes, or until the crust is nicely browned.
- Remove the dough from the pot and let it cool on a wire rack completely before slicing.
If you don’t have an oven safe pot with a lid.
Use a regular bread pan. The lid helps keep the moisture in and improves the bread’s crust. To achieve the same thing with a regular bread tin, do the following: about 5 minutes before you put the loaf in, put a metal baking tray into the bottom of the oven and boil the kettle. Right after you put the bread in the oven, tip the boiling hot water from the kettle into the pan and close the oven door. Alternatively, use a spray bottle to spray the top of the loaf with water once at the beginning, and once in the middle of baking.
100% whole wheat no knead bread.
Use all whole wheat bread flour. Use more water, starting at 350ml and adding more as you mix until you get a fairly wet shaggy dough ball. Make sure you oil whatever you bake it in really well as this has a tendency to stick. Bake an extra 10 minutes.
The original no knead bread.
The original recipe requires a bit of coordination, but produces an even better loaf of bread (according to some). After step 4, place the dough ball into a well-oiled bowl with the seam side DOWN. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rest for 1-2 hours. At least half hour before you bake the bread, put the covered pot into the oven and heat the oven to 450 degrees. Remove the (hot!) pot from the oven, take off the (hot!) lid, and a bit of oil or butter and swish it around so that the inside of the pot is covered. Now, take the bowl with the dough and flip it over the pot so that the dough lands in the pot with the seam side UP. Put the (hot!) lid back on the pot and return to the oven. Baked for 45 minutes, then remove the lid and back another 5 minutes or until the loaf is nicely browned. Finally, let cool on a wire rack.
Seeded no knead bread.
“Best loaf yet,” according to Dad. For the ingredients, mix 30g rye flour, 300g white bread flour, 140g King Aurthur white whole wheat flour, 1 1/2 tsp salt, 4 tsp quinoa, 1 Tbsp poppy seeds, 1 Tbsp flaxseed, 1/4 tsp yeast, 350 ml water, 2 Tbsp yogurt. Proceed with the recipe.
I love this. Follow the original no knead bread recipe, but after you oil the bowl, add a sprinkle of seeds and shake them around the bowl so that they cover the inside. Then add the dough ball and proceed. When you flip the dough out of the bowl, it will be nicely covered in lovely seeds! I usually do a mix of sesame and poppy seeds, sometimes adding sunflower seeds if I’m in the mood.
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