Simple, No Knead Bread

I love baking bread – from scratch and by hand.  I grew up  with an artistic father (30 years in photo journalism in Chicago with half that covering Food and Fashion around the world) who developed a deep love of bread baking when I was young and had the distinct pleasure of watching him create incredible loaves -everything from a rich pungent potato bread (still my favorite) to zesty and fun pizza loaves.  It took a surprising amount of will to actually begin making bread myself several years ago – somehow it was always “Dad’s” thing.  And then there was the real fear of botching it.   Strange how such a simple and ancient thing -something that has been a part of human history since the dawn of agriculture- has become so mysterious and  aloof.  For years I have made bread following either James Beard’s (Beard on Bread) and especially Daniel Leader’s (Bread Alone) advice and have made some incredible creations with their help.  But (the new) “Dad’s” bread is still a luxury, with much of our sandwich bread coming from the store.  Leader’s artisan recipes can take literally days to make -and are worth it!- but with all the irons I have in the fire it is unusual if I make more than a loaf a month.   I believe that the simpler, or whole, the food the higher the food value.  Even organic breads have unpronounceable ingredients, and there are no local bakeries here in rural Jefferson County.  Last year I had experimented with the NY Times No Knead Bread as a means to make bread more expeditiously and was impressed but had fallen out of habit.  With the cost cutting measures as we tighten our belts I started making it again.  All home bread is cheaper (between $1-2/loaf) than store bought organic whole grains ($4-7) and it super fun to make with kids.

Yesterday was my true test.  Could I make a bold, light loaf of “artisan” bread while working a 13 hour day?  Yep!  If you read the recipe you will notice that the first steps take under 5 minutes.  I did it while the coffee brewed.   I wake up at 3:30 to allow me to get to work by 5am and I like to read a bit to settle my mind prior to work (my coworkers think I am insane – which may be true).  That means that I can let the dough rise for over 14 hours by the time I am home again and settled.  Step 3 entails scraping the now incedibly light and risen “sponge” onto a floured counter and kneading it about 30 seconds to deflate it and to form a ball.  My 7 yr old did it last night.  Then let it “proof” for 2 hours and 90 minutes in heat the oven to 450 degrees.  Yes that hot!

Here is the kicker that keeps alot of people from making the No Knead Bread – you need a dutch oven.  You can use a pyrex or cornell caserole pot too, it just needs to be covered and be able to withstand 450 F.  I spent $45 on a Lodge Enamel Cast Iron dutch oven I didn’t get the top of the line which meant I had to take off the plastic lid knob (only good to 400 degrees?!) and make one myself out of some bolts and washers.  It works great and makes a wicked chili too.

Put the Dutch Oven into the real oven while you preheat it to 450.  When the dough is ready just remove the D.Oven (use THICK mits!) and flop the dough in “crease” side up.  Cover the D.Oven again and return it to he oven and finish cooking per the recipe.  My D. Oven is rather large (6 Qts), so I get deeper loaves by doubling the NY recipe and adding 7-10 minutes to the covered cooking time.

Results?  This is what is possible while also working 13 hours or doing whatever:


In the pot:


texture-reseizeThe greatest thing about the No Knead Bread is that you can keep the dough INCREDIBLY light because you do not need to ad too much flour to make it “workable”.  That means that the texture, or “crumb” is very airy.  This is more like a white flour sourdough than the 50% wheat flour mix it really is.  Makes fabulous toast and pairs well with potato soups.  

I am still in disbelief that bread of this quality, flavor, and nutrition (no fat!) is possible while also working long days and making dinners from scratch.  And the kicker is that almost every loaf turns out this well – the typical variables like kneading vigor and having to rigorously follow the timelines of letting various rising stages of traditional bread are not present in this recipe.  It is really this simple.

I was a skeptic years ago, and then I watched this video and became enough of a believer that I bought a $50 pot.  It works.  Its incredily easy.  Its uber cheap (ROI is like 12 loaves).  And oh, the FLAVOR!  Not to mention the nutrition -add some flax meal for Omega’s, throw in some wheat germ for protein, and experiment with whole wheat, rye, amaranth, and quinoa (just reduce the flour = to what you add), dashes of herbs add flavor and depth.  Your family will be better for it!

You can do this.  Start it the night before on a Friday and have fresh bread for an incredible lunch with soup on Saturday.  




10 Responses

  1. I bake all the bread we eat, and no-knead is what we eat the most of. But I can’t make it for under $1 per loaf. The recipe I use takes a pound of flour, and even at wholesale prices, I can’t get organic bread flour for $1 per pound. Still, the quality of the bread, as you say, is so high that there’s really no better option where we live.

    I use a longer rise time, 18 hours, as specified by the tutorial over at I also like to add mixed rolled grains and a little whole spelt flour for a multi-grain loaf. That has become our standard loaf now.

    No knead bread ought to become the standard homemade bread in homes all across the country. Imagine the collective savings, and empowerment, and improvement in health if most households made a few loaves of this bread every month!


  2. That’s awesome Kate! You Rock and that bread sounds delicious!

    The $1 figure was from the work I did about 18 months ago by weighing the ingredients and keeping strict track of the price of ingredients. To your point – with the undocumented inflation in food (food and energy are excluded from inflation numbers !) of 10-30% annual it is almost certainly between $1-2 a loaf now.

    This loaf at Panera, Whole Foods, or the good local organic bakeries in Madison would be $5-7.

    On a side note, a friend of mine had presented the option of growing grains together on small acre sized plots and splitting the cost of a thresher and grain mill. I have a scythe, but uncertain how many projects to take on this year. Still harvesting the rye from my cover crops is intriguing!


  3. Rob-

    You probably know I’m a huge fan of this bread…but I’ve found a better one! Check out Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. It’s a very similar concept – a pretty wet dough, cooked at high temps with some steam – but the beauty of this one is you make a big batch of dough and leave it in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. You can bake a loaf at any time. It’s especially good for us because the two of us can’t eat a full-size loaf before it’s too stale.

    The same dough will make peasant bread, sandwich bread, pita, naan (oh! the naan!!), and they present variations for sweet doughs, deli rye, etc. The basic recipe is 3c water, 1.5 Tbl yeast, 1.5 Tbl kosher salt, 6.5 c. flour. Stir until moist throughout, rise 2 hours. Then bake, or put it in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. You bake it like the no-knead you describe here, or on a pizza stone with a pan of water underneath.

    Man, gotta blog about that soon…we just had some naan for lunch. It rocked! Basically pan-baked on the stovetop, with butter. Takes about 5 minutes and is completely addictive.

    My first grain that went from seed to bread was cover-crop rye. It’s totally doable, and easier to thresh than wheat (in my admittedly limited experience).

    Man, I wish we lived in the same neighborhood. I’d swap you use of my grain mill for your scythe!

  4. We were making a pretty simple Amish recipe for a long time then got Artisan Bread for Christmas and fell in love with their “simple” sandwich bread but it took two days and I don’t want to go through that every weekend. Then we checked out Bread Alone and tried the Country Loaf also tasty and took a little less time. Now we are trying something similar to the no knead bread but you use beer and vinegar. Right now it’s rising so tomorrow will be the real test.

  5. How funny that you blog about this — I mixed mine up last night, and it will go into the oven in about another 20 minutes. We are going to a potluck barbeque at friends’ this afternoon and the bread is the accompaniement to home made potato-leek soup.

    We love this bread, too, and I never thought about doubling the recipe.

    I really want to try the artisan bread recipes; Mother Earth News has an excerpt from the book and several recipes to get you started. Now I just need to find the magazine, every place I usually get it is sold out!

  6. Like a lot of people around here I am a huge fan of the No knead Bread from the NYT. As said earlier, the price is more 2$ a loave than 1 but even at 2 it is a bargain compared to bread coming from a bakery.

    I did find the 5 minute bread recipe in Mother Earth News a few weeks ago but I cannot made a good loaves after I have stored the dough but the first one is even better than the bread made with the NYT recipe. I do cook the 5 minute a day bread like the NYT bread recipe in my dutch oven and I really do think that the result is much more better …

  7. Yeah, No Knead is the way to go. This is the go to loaf for us all the time. I usually use white flour (I can’t get the same spring from whole wheat) which I think will get close to $1 a loaf even with organic flour, at least for me. Even at $2 a loaf it’s a steal. And it lasts a week on my counter in a bag. Awesome bread. I tell everyone I know to try to do it.

  8. I, too, cook the 5 minute bread in a dutch oven..for one thing I already cracked the glass in my oven when water spilled on it as I was baking bread and I didn’t want a repeat. For the other, it works so well and earlier attempts at spritzing, using ice cubes, putting in a tray of water never worked as well.

    But, Kate, as much as I love doing this and the results, I am afraid I am far too libertarian to like your suggestion that:”No knead bread ought to become the standard homemade bread in homes all across the country. Imagine the collective savings, and empowerment, and improvement in health if most households made a few loaves of this bread every month!”
    To each his own, dear.


  9. I have tried all kinds of pots for the no-knead bread, From stainless stockpots to le Creuset style enameled pots and they all seem to work about the same. My favorite is a huge $10 enameled turkey roasting pan from Target because I can make huge loaves in it or even baguettes. It is great because it is lightweight and has plenty of room so you don’t have to stress about dropping the dough dead center, and it also has a large handle on the lid for easy grabbing.

  10. I was going to tell you about Artisan Bread in 5 min a day, but someone else beat me to it. 🙂

    It’s really, really good and I should get back in the habit of making it- I got hte book about 2 weeks before I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and all the refined carbs were cut from my diet.

    On the other hand, I got some whole wheat and was able to grind it in my blender (I do have a stupid nice blender, it’s a VitaMix, and it was a gift) and make bread very cheaply because of that. So perhaps that can help cut costs?

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