Weeknight No-Knead Bread

January 28, 2011

OK, so I finally tried it.  I know I’m a little behind the times and most of you have already made or at least eaten the reputable “No-Knead Bread”, but for me this was a first.   Back in 2006, when New York Times published a variation of this recipe it created quite a fervor.  Multiple friends shared their success with the bread, but I was home with a baby who was not yet mobile.  I had nothing to do but bake bread, the other, more time-consuming way, by kneading it.  Truly, I paid little heed to the recipe.  Then later, when Cooks Illustrated published another version, I ignored it again.  At that time we were blessed with bakery seconds delivered to our door each week from an amazing local bakery.  Now that I am back to work, the kids are beyond mobile, and the free bread has long since stopped gracing our table, it was time to dig out this AMAZING recipe and give it a try.

So, needless to say, I was a skeptic.  The recipe claims that mixing a miniscule amount of yeast with flour, water, and beer will somehow transform into a crispy, chewy, tangy loaf of home-baked goodness.  All this without the trouble of kneading and only two rises.  It could not be so, or so I thought.  I can tell you this, I really tested it.  The recipe suggests the initial rise should take 8-18 hours- I gave it 9.  The recipe says you only have to mix it into a shaggy mass- a shaggy mass is what I made.  Still, wow, this was really good bread, even compared to more complex recipes I have made in the past.  A key part to its success is Cook’s Illustrated’s suggestion to cook the bread in a dutch oven.  Steam is crucial to good crust development. Baking the loaf enclosed in a dutch oven traps the steam released from the heated dough.  The resulting crust is perfectly crisp.  I plan to try this method with other bread recipes as well.  It should work beautifully.

Weeknight No-Knead Bread is perfect for just that, a weeknight.  What better time to have a fresh loaf of bread? This is a perfect opportunity to turn a ho-hum Tuesday night dinner into something special, all with very little effort.  Mix it up the night before (5 minutes), quick knead when you get home from work (2 minutes), bake (50-60 minutes).  The loaf is smallish, perfect for a single dinner.  Whip up some pasta, a salad, or shoot, a can of soup.  Or forget all that and just slather a jumbo slice of this delicious bread in butter and call it dinner.  You will be pleased.

Weeknight No-Knead Bread

from Cooks Illustrated (wouldn’t change a thing)

Makes 1 loaf

3 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon active yeast

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water, at room temperature

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons mild flavored lager

1 tablespoon white vinegar

Whisk flour, yeast, and salt in a large bowl.  Add remaining ingredients and mix into a shaggy mass.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 8-18 hours.

After dough has rested, knead briefly (2 minutes) on a floured board.  Place a piece of parchment paper in a 10 inch (or so) skillet.  Place dough ball on the parchment paper, spray loaf with oil spray, and cover loosely with plastic wrap.  (The skillet will help the dough ball keep its shape).  Let rise at room temperature 2 hours.

30 minutes before baking place oven-safe Dutch oven with lid on the bottom rack of your oven.  Preheat oven to 500 degrees.  Once oven has reached temperature, lift dough ball, using the parchment paper as a sling, and place dough (still on the parchment) in the heated Dutch oven.  Cover Dutch oven with heated lid and close oven.  Reduce oven temperature to 425 degrees.  Bake covered for 30 minutes.  Remove lid and bake an additional 20-30 minutes, until loaf is brown and internal temperature of loaf reaches 220 degrees.  Remove loaf and cool on a wire rack.  Slice and serve  after bread has cooled for at least 10 minutes.  (Cook’s Illustrated recommends letting the bread cool for 2 hours, but come on!  The best thing about making fresh baked bread is eating bread warm from the oven!)

Note: If you don’t have a Dutch oven, bake loaf on a pizza stone or baking tray.  Put a tray on the very bottom of the oven and add one cup of hot water to the tray when you put the bread in the oven.  This will create a nice steamy environment to help with the crust development.

Here is a printer-friendly version of the recipe: Weeknight No-Knead Bread

You may also like:

Beer Bread

Cardamom Bread

Sunflower Millet Bread


6 Responses to “Weeknight No-Knead Bread”

  1. Lesley Says:

    Karen – if I wanted to make the loaf with whole wheat flour (or a mix of whole wheat and white), would you suggest I make any changes?

    • Karen Says:

      For whole wheat, I would use one cup whole wheat flour to 2 cups white. It should be great. Let me know. Do you recognize the Dutch oven in the pic? Do you still have the other one?

  2. Janice Says:

    I love this recipe — it is the reason I bought a dutch oven. I also tried it forming baguets using a mold. Still got a good crust but nothing like the one from the dutch oven. A very forgiving recipe.

  3. Maggie Says:

    I love this recipe. We have been baking this one and another “no knead” featured on motherearthnews.com that preps enough dough for several loaves (so you keep it in the fridge until you want it) and haven’t bought a loaf of bread in over two years. I haven’t added much more than a cup of whole wheat to the one above with much success but have tried it with other recipes. For the whole wheat loaves i usually substitute some bran and a little gluten to get the wonderful chewiness! xoxoxoxo

  4. Great recipe! Please come link up on my Totally Tasty Tuesdays each week! Mandy

  5. […] Watercress first came into my awareness while reading the children’s classic, Make Way for the Ducklings.  Reportedly, it is one of the oldest known leaf vegetables to play a role in the human diet.  It comes from the same family, Brassicas, as broccoli and mustard, and the same genus as nasturtiums. The peppery bite is very reminiscent, though milder than the spicy taste of nasturtium flowers.  Blended into a traditional potato leek soup, it imparts a beautiful green color and bright peppery flavor.  This soup has a rich taste, despite being vegetable based and fairly low-fat.  It is hardy enough to serve as a main dish with a side salad andcrusty bread. […]

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