Just What The Internet Doesn’t Knead (Updated)

There’s about a 95% chance that you’ve heard of the famous No Knead Bread recipe, put out by the New York Times and re-posted by…well…everyone.

For the 5% of you that have yet to become master No Knead Bakers, I offer up my personal lionization of the technique. It’s simple, it’s fool-proof, it’s delicious, it involves extended soaking of the flour which may help to mitigate grain phytate concerns and it will free you from $5 a loaf artisan bread at the YuppieHippie Market. What more could you possibly want?

The standard No Knead bread recipe linked to above is a fantastic place to start. I made the base-line No Knead Loaf once and was sold on the concept. Since then I have tried out multiple variations and developed my own “standard.” This recipe is very accommodating, and as long as you don’t diverge too much from the flour-to-water ratios you should be fine.

My standard loaf is a double batch made with 1/2 whole what and 1/2 bread flour. (Update: I now make almost exclusively a 100% whole wheat loaf because I’ve stopped keeping multiple flours on hand.) Here’s how I do it.

Mix the following in a large bowl: 3 cups whole wheat flour, 3 cups bread flour, 1/2 teaspoon yeast and 1 generous tablespoon kosher salt (use less salt if you use table or fine sea salt).

Add in any dry flavorings or herbs. Here I used chopped fresh rosemary.

Add in a shy 3 1/2 cups warm water. (Update: I now use some combination of water and whey from thick-style strained yogurt or cheesemaking. I prefer loaves with as much whey as possible for the tangy flavor and longer keeping quality. Even 100% whey works, but a little is fine too.) Stir until the dough is a shaggy mess. At this point, you can add in “wet” flavorings, like chopped kalamata olives, capers, walnuts, etc. Make sure anything that might release liquid into the dough is thoroughly patted dry. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit 12-24 hours (Update: 12-24 or even longer. I’ve pushed this dough to 48 hours and it’s tangy but still good.) Overnight is a good rule of thumb.

The dough will swell up and become spongey.

Stick a lidded cast iron dutch oven in your oven and preheat the oven to 475-degrees. (Update: I generally bake my loaves at 450 now.) Then, while the oven pre-heats, flip the dough out onto a floured surface and pat it into a loaf shape. (Update: I totally skip the rise step now. I just turn the bubbly dough into a ball as best I can right in the bowl and dump it into a floured cast iron dutch oven.)

Let the loaf shape rise, covered with a tea towel or the original piece of plastic wrap, for about 45 minutes, or until the dutch oven is really hot. (Update: Again, I now longer bother with this step.)

Quickly remove the dutch oven from the oven, remove the lid and dump the dough into the dutch oven. Alternately, I have discovered the pat-shape-re-raise step is optional. You can dump the spongey dough directly into the hot pan with very good results. You’ll miss out on the pretty flour-coating, however, Try it both ways and decide which you prefer.

Don’t worry about your dough being pretty in the dutch oven. It really doesn’t matter. Re-lid the dutch oven and stick the whole thing back into the oven. (Update: this is where you should sprinkle some coarse grey salt on your loaf of bread. Even a bit of kosher salt makes a great crust.)

Bake for about 45 minutes (Update: 30-40 minutes), then quickly reach in and remove the lid to the dutch oven. Bake for another 30-45 minutes, until the crust is a deep brown. (Update: I have found that you don’t need to keep the lid on as long as I’d initially assumed. Anything after about 30 minutes of lid-on time works for me, and in a way I don’t quite understand, the lid-off time seems to be about the same, 30-40 minutes)

Serve warm, ideally with butter. This recipe gives you artisan style bread with an excellent crust and a textbook crumb. And all you have to do is remember to mix some flour and water and yeast before you go to bed. (Update: butter still excellent. No change there.)

I have made this loaf with varying amounts of whole wheat flour. 100% whole wheat gives you a nice, hearty, dense loaf. All white flour gives you something more akin to a french loaf. I have come to prefer a 50%-50% blend, but this is a very simple recipe to modify and somehow it always turns out. (Update: I believe adding whey to the 100%whole wheat dough and extended rise times keeps the loaf quite excellent in texture despite the lack of white flour. Or it could be I’m just used to a heartier loaf.) My current favorite variation is 50% whole wheat with rosemary, kalamata olive and grey salt sprinkled on top, but a straight bread-flour version is quite celebratory too. (Update: I haven’t changed my love of the salt crust. That totally stands.)

(The take home to all these updates is that this base recipe can be made your own and modified in countless ways. I’ve been playing with this same basic ratio of flour to liquid to yeast to salt for several years and every loaf I get a little closer to an easier way to make a tastier loaf. I have used this same dough for skillet fry-bread, pizza dough, pita, focaccia, and even rolls – best done in muffin tins – and everything kinda works. It’s not exactly like traditional pizza or pita dough or what-have-you, but having a bowl of versatile dough sitting on my counter has saved my butt at more mealtimes than I can count. I still love this recipe. It’s really quite fool proof, even when you fool with it!)

It you haven’t yet joined the cheer squad, try out a loaf of No Knead Bread and see what all the fuss is about. If you have tried this recipe, or one similar, what do you think? Am I the only person out there filling the bread need with no knead?

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Comments

  1. I've been making no-knead for awhile per the recipe's instructions. I tried your technique when you posted it on FB and while totally tasty, I missed the "double batch as one" part and split my double batch in half when baking. I ended up with a flat loaf. It is DELICIOUS with the salt on top. I've got a double batch going right now. I'll put it all in at once this time.

  2. Hah! Oh, I'm sorry Rachel, I was probably unclear. : / But glad you like the crunchy salt topping – we really do, too!

  3. Anything cooked in a Dutch oven is good, most things are great.

    I love this recipe. It actually forces us to slow down. Fast food it ain't, good food it is.

  4. Funny you posted this. I hadn't made dough for about a year but whipped up a 25% wheat version with flaxseed garnish a few days ago. Just haven't baked it yet. It's hanging out in the fridge. I wish I had a dutch oven but use a crock pot inverted on a pizza round effectively. However, for some reason I never get a tall loaf. It is always flatish. No clue why.

  5. My Dutch oven is enameled cast iron and according to Lodge it's never supposed to be heated empty and the lid is oven-safe only to 400. I forgot about this before I tried this recipe and heated it lid and all at 475 for about 45 minutes-hmmmm…do you think this bread would still work without preheating the Dutch oven, and at a temp of 400 but for a longer cooking time? I suppose I could just try it and find out! :)

  6. Erica, I'm wondering if you or any of the other fine folks on here, might have a no-knead version (i.e. flour blend & yeast needs) for a gluten free version?? I'm soooo dying for some good savory bread, and the grey salt on top almost made my mouth water. must. have. bread.

  7. I wonder how this would work with sour dough…. which I'm yet to try as I'm a little scared….

    • Actually, this dough, if left for several days, will start to “morph” into a sourdough, especially if you use some whey in your liquid. I have kept a wild-ified version of no knead starter going for a good several weeks before, as always, I neglect it and it goes funny.

    • I’ve used this recipe almost exclusively with sourdough and it works just fine. I also tend to fling in things like handfuls of rolled oats, or different sorts of seeds, or a dash of cornmeal for crunch. It’s really flexible and very adaptable.

      Since it’s just me, I make a small version of it and bake it in a small (1-quart???guessing) enameled Le Creuset lidded pot. Yum. LOVE IT.

  8. I LOVE making this bread and have been doing so for a few years now. It’s easy to make AND eat and takes so little effort!

  9. Lady Banksia says:

    Erica and others -

    I make a rendition of this bread, and love it; but I just can’t justify heating the oven up to 450 or whatever, then letting it sit for 45 minutes. As soon as the temp is there, I double-check the oven thermometer and if they’re close, the dough goes in the dutch oven.

    Also, I put the dough on a piece of parchment paper, then put it in the dutch oven. Works well, and quick to put the dough in and easy to remove when its done.

    I also slash the top criss-cross before baking. It allows it to rise in the dutch oven nicely.

    • These are great tips. I probably wasn’t clear, but I use the “preheat” time in the oven as the time I heat my dutch oven and do the rise (which, more and more, I just skip). So the bread goes in more of less when the oven is hot, at which point the dutch oven is too. It takes my oven about 30 minutes or so to get to that temp I think. I usually flour or cornstarch coat the bottom but parchment is a great idea both for transport and to stop sticking. I have had a few loaves that got “sliced” lengthwise when their bottoms stuck clean to the pan.

  10. Just pulled this loaf out of the oven for the first time! It is awesome!

  11. Elizabeth F says:

    What size is your Dutch oven? Looks smaller than ours.

    • I use a few. My primary is an 8″ 4 qt. round Lodge. I also use a 6 qt. Le Creuset oval (I know these are 4 and 6 qts. b/c Homebrew Husband just poured water in them to make sure we could answer your question. He’s that kind of guy.)

  12. Ok, made this bread. Followed your revised recipe perfectly. I used all whole wheat flour & all whey. I think, for me, the temp. (450) is too high. My bread is “hard” not just crusty & the bottom is waaaaay too done. Next time I’m going to try 1/2 white & 1/2 wheat flour & lower the temp to 425. Do you think keeping the lid on longer would produce a loaf that is not like a rock? I knew that the wheat flour would give me a dense loaf but this is too dense for a sandwich. Granted, it would be great with Soup, Stew, etc. but “good” sandwich bread is up to $5 a loaf here in So Cal. so I was hoping for a great substitute.

    • Hi Lynn. Wow, so sorry this didn’t work for you. : ( We use this loaf for everything – soups, stews, sandwiches, etc. Some things to consider: 1) oven temp, obviously. I do mine at 450 but when I was cooking in people’s homes I routinely temped their oven and there can be a 25-50 degree swing in ovens. So if your gut tells you to back off on the temp, go with that. 2) this recipe gives me what I desire, which is about a 1/4″ thick brown crust on the bottom BUT if you want an softer-crusted, more adaptable slicing loaf I would preheat the dutch over for less time. I have a friend who prefers a less-thick bottom crust and she preheats her dutch oven for ten minutes before popping the dough in. 3) Lid-on time. I don’t know that leaving it on longer would make that much of a difference. Leaving it on too long can give you a too-soggy loaf because you can get a “steamed” quality to the bread. But honestly I have done anything from 25-45 minutes and that doesn’t seem to influence the final result as much as you’d think. 4) rise time. By the time I put dough to pan my dough is very loose and bubbly and spongy looking, and has totally lost that shaggy look. If yours started off with a little less liquid than I use and maybe didn’t rise go for as long a rise, possibly a harder, dryer result as being the result. But in general the beauty of this recipe is the flexibility. My experience is that, with very few exceptions (the buckwheat-molasses disaster chief among them!) this is a dough that is very forgiving. My suggestion: do not give up on this recipe. You are jumping in to the end result of about 3 years of my “tinkering” with this recipe to deliver a loaf I like. What I’d suggest is you go to the original NY Times recipe (link in the 1st paragraph of the post) and follow their method. Do a 50/50 white/whole wheat if you want but otherwise just do the original loaf (except, sprinkle with salt, cause that’s awesome). I think that will ensure you are getting a good product that you can then start to adapt based on your likes and tastes. But I really would encourage you to try again because this is a fantastic and dead-simple way to make excellent bread. I hope this helps and I’m sorry it didn’t turn out for you.

      • Gosh, Erica, I didn’t mean I was giving up~! I will try again. I’m out of bread flour so I will pick some up today & try again. You may be absolutely corrrect in the rise time. I sort of panicked when I saw the dough the following morning (approx 24 hrs) as I thought it looked like I had let it go too long. Perhaps I needed to be more patient & wait longer. I also agree that the temp (for my oven) needs to be lower. Another thing is the time I pre-heated the cast iron might have been too long. It was “really” hot. I will take all your suggestions & incorporate them in my next loaf. I’ll be sure & give you an update. Thank you so much for taking the time to help me. :)

        • Test Loaf #2…This time I lowered temp. to 425. Pefect for my oven & location. Pre-heated dutch oven for 10 mins. Left lid on for 30 min & off for 30 min. Bottom was crusty but not rock hard..yeah~! Used ALL white flour & ALL whey. Texture is good but my concern now is that I made an error while it was rising. I mixed the dough early yesterday morning. By last night the dough had risen to the top of the bowl. This morning the dough had sunk down. It was still airy when I poured it into the dutch oven but didn’t rise as much as I had thought it would. Should I have cooked it last night while it was at max rise……Thanks for any help. This was 100% improvement over 1st loaf but I really would like to improve if possible.

  13. I hope you are still checking these comments. How much rosemary did you use for this recipe? Thanks in advance!

  14. Julia Billen says:

    Hi wondering how I would change this up to add whey in the recipe? Let me know if you think that is possible. Much appreciation. – Julia

  15. Michaele Scott says:

    Hi, Erica,
    I feel as if I’m late to the party but will post my question anyway in the hopes that you’ll find it. I live at 7300 feet in the Zuni Mountains of NM. Wondering if you have any advice for adjusting for high altitude and much drier climate. Just found your site and so want to have this bread work out.
    Thanks for any help you can give.

  16. Melissa says:

    I have never baked with yeast or so I am quite new at this. This might be a silly question, but is the 1/2 teaspoon of yeast a teaspoon of active dry yeast? Or do I mix that with warm water first and then add it in?

  17. I’m really excited to see this post. I’ve been a big fan of the all-white flour loaf for a while, but have been thinking of trying to combine the prospect of an all whole-wheat loaf with the whey-soak method in Nourishing Traditions. And I’ve basically been too scared to give it a go. Plus, I got a new dry blade container for my Vitamix blender and I want to try to grind my own flour to use. Really exciting to see that this works so well for you.

  18. I’m really excited to see this post. I’ve had great success with the original, all-white flour loaf, but wanted to try to mix things up. Just scared to add too many variables at once. I want to do a 100% whole wheat loaf using freshly ground flour in my Vitamix dry blade container, and I wanted to incorporate the whey soak as described in Nourishing Traditions. I’ve been apprehensive it won’t turn out, but after seeing your great loaves I’m sold!

    P.S. I just found your blog, and I’m kinda obsessed, in a “She’s talking just to me!” kind of way. Love it, and thank you.

  19. Just started reading your blog- in fact it is all I have been doing during feeds of my newborn for the past week! I love no knead bread and have been making it every week for a couple of years. Same observations about the whey and no need for the rise. Your quantities are a bit different so I can’t wait to try it out. Ditto for the salt crust. My favourite so far for the crust is dry polenta- gives a wonderful crunch and never sticks. Thanks for all the inspiring ideas

  20. I thought I’d look around and see if you had a version of the no -knead bread on here, and you do! Of course you do. I’ve been making this bread for about a year now, after years of kneading dough, and now that I have six kids and barely remember to comb my hair, it’s great to simply toss together some ingredients before hitting the sack in the evening. The other evening I added half a leftover can of mashed beans to the mix. They weren’t all white beans, so the kids did notice, but I simply told them it was “fibre”. They can live with that. Anyway, the loaf turned out even more tender than before, and it’s a great way to use up a leftover. Kinda like soup…only…not. Love your blog!

  21. I have tried this recipe a couple of times and get wonderful bread out of the oven! Smells great, crust is hard with a hollow knock, I let it cool for an hour on a rack before cutting into it. Within a couple hours though the crust will lose its crunch to become soft like a cake & the crumb will become moist & a little gummy. I am also taking the temperature of the bread to make sure it is at ~210F before taking it out of the oven. Has anyone else had this problem?

  22. Barbara Duperron says:

    I’m definitely part of the No Knead cheer squad, but I’ve been approaching the baking process a bit differently. I don’t use a dutch oven anymore as I found that my loaves come out a bit gummy. Through trial and error I’ve come up with the following technique: After the initial proofing period, I generously flour my hands and spatula and shape a longish, Italian style loaf. This goes on a cookie sheet with parchment and a dusting of cornmeal. Covered with a cheesecloth, it rests for an hour or two. I generally just keep an eye on it. When its doubled in size, I heat the oven to 450, slash my loaf and bake for only 25-30 minutes. I use the knocking technique to ensure it is baked through. This method produces a fine crumb, no gummy texture and a thinner crust (we are big sandwich people so this is ideal). If I want a crunchier, thicker crust, I leave it in longer. My question: why the dutch oven? Is this to produce a thick, crunchy crust? And why would a dutch oven produce a gummy texture for some folks? Fyi, I’m using a single loaf recipe (3 cups) white bread flour with 3 Tbs flax meal for fiber. Thanks and I LOVE your blog, the douch-waffles can suck it.

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