There is something truly special about a good crusty loaf of bread. The kind of loaf that is great for sandwiches but is just as amazing plain or with a dab of butter. The kind of loaf with a crust so crisp and insides so light and airy that it tastes like you might be eating a baguette in Paris. This is that type of loaf.
My friend Sarah has been raving about a no-knead bread recipe for months. It seemed intriguing, but kneading is so easy with a standing mixer that I didn’t investigate further. She mentioned it again a few weeks ago and it seemed too good to be true, so I decided to look into it. It turns out that this NYTimes No-Knead Bread has been all over the interwebs for years now. The original article was published by Mark Bittman in 2006, and is a recipe by Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery in New York. It seemed easy enough, so I decided to try it. And wow, I’m so glad I did.
The technique is very simple, just mix everything together quickly and let rise for 12-20 hours. Dump it out onto a floured surface and let it sit for 15 minutes. Shape into a ball and let it rise for another 2 hours. Then bake it in a covered pre-heated heavy duty oven safe pot. And that’s it! The covered pot mimics steaming in the oven, giving this bread an amazing crispy crust. This bread is actually perfect for baking during the week. You can stir everything together before you go to bed, let it rise a second time right when you get home the next night, and then bake it after dinner.
I’ve made this recipe 3 times in the last 2 weeks. It’s that good. And that easy. Give it a try and let me know what you think!
Adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery via the NY Times
Note: I followed the recipe exactly the first time, but have since substituted 1 cup of whole wheat flour for the all-purpose. It worked really well, though I had to add a little more water to get it to the right consistency. I’ve also used 1/3 teaspoon active dry yeast because I couldn’t find instant. I’d recommend following the recipe the first time and then playing with it once you know how it should act.
- 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour
- ¼ teaspoon instant yeast
- 1 ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 5/8 cups water
Add dry ingredients to a large bowl and mix well. Add the water and stir until combined. The dough will be wet and shaggy looking. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm room for 12-20 hours. The dough is ready when the top is flat and covered with very small bubbles.
Use a wet spatula to dump the dough onto a floured surface and let sit for 15 minutes.
Sprinkle a minimal amount of flour on top of the dough and on your hands. This dough has a high water content, so it is meant to be a wet dough, be sure not to add too much flour. Place the dough on a floured piece of parchment and shape into a ball, keeping the dough seam side down. Lightly dust with flour and cover with a heavily floured towel or a piece of plastic wrap with a dusting of flour on it. Let rise for another 2 hours. The dough is ready when it has doubled in size.
After 90 minutes, preheat the oven to 450 degrees and place a heavy covered pot in it as it preheats*. When dough is ready, carefully take the pot out of the oven. Remove the lid and turn the dough over into the pot. The dough will be very messy and will likely stick to the parchment. This is okay, just scrape off what you can and put on top of the dough. A messy top will make it look rustic, so you want this! Bake covered for 30 minutes then remove the cover and bake for another 15-30 minutes or until browned and cooked through.
Turn bread out onto a wire rack (don’t worry, it won’t stick to the pot) and let cool. It will make amazing crackling noises as it cools. And then prepare yourself for some seriously amazing bread!
*You can use cast iron, enamel, ceramic, or essentially anything that is heavy, oven-safe, and has a lid. A 6-8 quart pot will give you a loaf that is about 3 inches high, a 3-4 quart pot will give you a loaf that is 5 inches high. I prefer the smaller pot, but use what you have.