***Scroll to the bottom of the page to see what I’ve found to work best after multiple experimental batches since the original post.***
I’ve had a science experiment going on in my kitchen over the past few days and I’m finally ready to reveal the results. I’ve been making a batch of No Knead Bread. You’ll see why it was such a science experiment in a bit…
If you do any sort of perusing the web for recipes then you’ve surely seen 5 minute a day no knead bread recipes. Although I’m sure this method has been around for centuries, it has recently been popularized by the book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I’ve been skeptical of the method and have wanted to try it for some time. After all, how good could the texture be with no kneading? Well, it’s INCREDIBLE! No joke. The texture is right, the crust is superb and because I let my dough sit in the fridge for two days, it had a great sour dough flavor.
No Knead Bread
Before beginning my experiment, I read a few recipes/reports from other bloggers and I watched the how-to youtube video made by the authors of the book. For the best results, the recipe suggests baking on a pizza stone. Although I’ve wanted one for some time, I haven’t wanted to plop down $30 for one.
That’s when I remembered seeing Alton Brown using a $1 unglazed quarry tile that he purchased at a hardware store for the same purpose. So, I hustled down to the Home Depot by my house to get one. Unfortunately, the only unglazed stone tiles they had were HUGE travertine that wouldn’t fit in my oven and slate. I had read reviews about using slate for baking stones and some warned against using it because it can break apart due to it’s layered composition. But, I bought one anyway… bad idea.
Don’t use slate for your baking stone! Mine broke the very first time. It didn’t just break, it burst quite forcefully. Luckily, it didn’t explode into a bunch of pieces and shatter my glass oven door. Oh, and some flaked off onto the bottom of my crust. Let this be a warning.
Using a baking stone is supposed to give a great crust on the bottom but since my make-shift stone failed and I don’t have money for a real one, I will try a regular baking sheet next time. I will post an update when I do this (probably this weekend).
The other piece of info that is crucial to making this bread so fantastic is steam. Placing a baking sheet on the bottom rack of the oven as it preheats then pouring a cup or so of water in when you put the bread in will fill the oven with a nice bit of steam. The steam acts on the surface of the bread making the most wonderful crust. And if you ask me, bread is ALL about the crust. Oh, another warning here: don’t use glass for your water pan. Throwing cool water into a 400 degree glass pan can make it shatter.
Anyway, those few points aside, the bread was super easy to make and I will without a doubt have a batch of dough in my refrigerator at all times from now on. I don’t have roomies so I halved the recipe and made a small loaf. Double the quantities below if you want enough to make two full sized loaves.
- 3¼ cups all-purpose flour $0.23
- ¾ Tbsp yeast $0.21
- ¾ Tbsp kosher salt (or 1 tsp table salt) $0.05
- ¼ cup corn meal $0.05
- 1½ cups water $0.00
- In a large bowl, bucket or pot combine the flour, salt, yeast and water. Stir with a spoon until all of the dry flour has been stirred in. Let this mixture sit, loosely covered, on the counter top for 2 hours.
- You can either make bread with some of the dough after the two hours or keep it in the refrigerator to make bread with later. The dough can remain in the refrigerator for up to two weeks so label and date the container.
- To make the bread, pull off a portion of the dough. The dough is sticky so dust it liberally with flour before grabbing a chunk. Use a knife to cut it off from the rest of the dough. Flour your hands liberally and shape the dough into whatever shape you’d like (round, long, rolls, anything).
- Liberally cover a cutting board or pizza peel (wooden paddle) with cornmeal and place the shaped loaf on it. Let it rise for 45 minutes to one hour. When it’s finished rising, use a sharp knife to make slits in the top to allow the bread to expand as it bakes.
- minutes prior to the end of the rise time, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Let the stone (if using one) and the water pans heat up with the oven. When the oven is ready to go, slide the risen loaf onto the stone and pour about one cup of water into the water pan below. Cook for about 30 minutes or until the crust is a nice medium brown in color.
- Be sure to let the loaf cool before cutting into it otherwise you’ll have a gummy crumb.
Step By Step Photos
First add the flour, salt and yeast to your container. The book/video suggests using a plastic bucket but I don’t have one (and didn’t feel like going to the store) so I used my large stock pot. Just use something with a lid that will fit in your refrigerator.
Add the water to the container…
Stir it up just until all of the dry flour has been mixed in. No excessive stirring or kneading required!
Cover the container loosely (so gasses can still escape) and let it sit at room temperature for 2 hrs. This is what it looked like after 2 hrs. See how it expanded?
I let my dough sit for 2 days in the refrigerator to develop some flavor and this is what it looked like 2 days later. Kinda flattened out a bit.
When you’re ready to make bread, sprinkle a bunch of flower on the dough and grab a big chunk. Use a knife to cut off however much you want.
Using well floured hands, shape the loaf however you’d like. I kinda wanted an elongated boule or short/fat french loaf. Also, if you don’t have a pizza peel, place the loaf on something smooth and flat that it will slide right off of onto the hot stone. A baking sheet without a rim will also work. Make sure to lay down a good amount of cornmeal under the dough so it will slide.
Put the lid back on (loosely) the remaining dough and refrigerate it up to two weeks!
This is the piece of slate tile that I bought and won’t be using again. I DO NOT RECOMMEND USING SLATE.
This is how I had my oven set up. Baking stone on top rack (on medium level) and water pans below. Again, DO NOT use glass for your water pans. Let the stone and water pans heat up with the oven.
After the dough rises, use a sharp knife to cut some slits in the top. I didn’t make my slits deep enough because the loaf still exploded out the side (you’ll see). The loaf will get about twice this size in the oven so it needs the slits to expand correctly.
When the oven is nice and hot (400 degrees), slide the risen loaf onto the stone and pour some water in the water pan(s). Bake the loaf for 30 minutes or until it is nicely browned on the outside.
This is what happens when your slits are just not good enough. In the bread’s desperate attempt to expand, it will blow out the side somewhere. Kinda looks like a mouth puking something up.
And THIS is what will happen with slate… some flaked off and got stuck in the crust on the bottom. Good thing I noticed. DO NOT USE SLATE
Despite the mistakes, there was still a pretty side to the loaf! Plus, who cares what it looks like when it tastes this good and was this easy and cheap!!!
You’ve GOT to try this bread!
They also have a book with recipes for whole wheat, gluten free and other healthier versions, called Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day.
I also found this great youtube video about making bread with a similar method but using a baking sheet instead of a stone… plus this guy is kinda funny.
Stay tuned for my update with a loaf baked on a baking sheet instead of a stone…
After much experimentation, I found the best no-knead loaf is made with the following techniques:
- Making the loaf directly after the 2 hr resting period rather than refrigerating the dough first produces a lighter, fluffier loaf with a better “crumb.”
- Baking the loaf in a 450 degree oven, rather than 400 makes a better crust.
- I found that skipping the steam bath produces a better loaf. Instead, I brush the crust liberally with water prior to putting it in the oven.
- Because my stone cracked during this first trial, I started baking it on a baking sheet with parchment paper and cornmeal. The bottom crust is not nearly as nice but the bread is still fantastic!
- The crust will never stay as nice as it is right after you take it out of the oven but to keep it as crispy as possible, cover the cut side of the loaf with plastic wrap and cover the rest of the loaf either with a clean towel or a paper bag (to allow air flow and prevent trapping moisture).
Here is the latest and greatest no-knead loaf so far: