After making no-knead bread for over six years since first blogging about it here, I’ve really refined the process and found the techniques that develop the best no-knead bread for my tastes. Because my technique has changed quite a bit, I’ve decided to totally revamp this recipe from its original 2010 version, in effort to offer you the best recipe ever.
After making this bread a bazillion times, I’ve identified two techniques that really make all the difference: a long fermentation and using a Dutch oven for baking. Sure, you can let this dough ferment or rise for as short as two hours, but I find that a 12-18 hour fermentation creates a much superior flavor and texture. Likewise, you can bake this bread on a baking sheet (instructions at the bottom of the post), but using a Dutch oven traps moisture as it bakes and creates and extra crispy and crunchy crust. So, I’m writing the recipe using these two techniques below, but you can find tips at the bottom of the post for adjusting the recipe if you can’t use this exact method.
The Dutch oven I used below is this 5-quart Lodge Cast Iron model, which retails for around $35 (here’s one by Westinghouse that is even less!). This is a really versatile piece of cookware, so I think it’s well worth the $35. You can also use an enamel coated cast iron, like this one made by Bruntmor. The key is that it needs to be something really heavy and thick so that it holds and radiates heat well, and it must have a lid. A thick stoneware or glass dish may also work, but probably not as well as cast iron.
Letting the dough ferment for an extended amount of time also allows you to use much less yeast because the yeast has plenty of time to reproduce and grow. And lastly, that long fermentation creates an incredible flavor. Almost half way between a regular bread and a sour dough. It’s truly wonderful.
So, let your dough sit out at room temperature for at least 12 hours, or up to 18 hours, and if it needs to sit any longer than that because you are not available to bake the bread at that time, just pop it in the fridge until you’re ready. It will still ferment in the fridge, but at a much slower rate, allowing you to bake it when you’re ready.
Just five minutes of measuring and mixing is all it takes to make this extraordinary no-knead bread dough. Follow these techniques for the best bread ever.
- 3 cups all-purpose flour $0.29
- 1/4 tsp instant or bread machine yeast $0.02
- 1/2 Tbsp salt $0.02
- 1.5 to 1.75 cup water* $0.00
The day before baking, combine the flour, yeast, and salt in a large bowl and stir until they're well combined. Stir in about 1.5 to 1.75 cups room temperature water until a shaggy, sticky ball of dough forms and there is no dry flour left on the bottom of the bowl. Cover the bowl loosely with plastic and let it sit at room temperature for 12-18 hours.
When you're ready to bake, sprinkle a little flour on top of the fermented dough, and scrape it out of the bowl (the dough should be very light, fluffy, and bubbly by this time). With well floured hands, shape the dough into a ball and place it on a piece of parchment paper. Let the dough rise for 30-60 minutes.
While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 425ºF, or the highest recommended temperature listed on the packaging for your parchment paper. Place the Dutch oven inside the oven as it heats, and make sure it sits in the fully heated oven for at least 15 minutes before baking the bread.
Once the bread has risen and the Dutch oven is fully heated, carefully remove the Dutch oven from the oven (it will be EXTREMELY hot). Lift the parchment with the dough straight into the dutch oven and cover it with the lid.
Return the Dutch oven to the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Carefully remove the lid and bake for another 15-20 minutes, or until the crust is a deep golden brown. Remove the Dutch oven from the oven, lift the bread out by by using the parchment paper, and allow it to cool before cutting open and serving.
*The actual amount of water needed may vary depending on ambient humidity and moisture content of the flour. See images below for a representation of what it should look like after stirring in the water.
Step by Step Photos
Before you begin, make sure you have “instant yeast” or “bread machine yeast” rather than “active dry”. The reason you need this type of yeast specifically is because it does not need to be kick-started by mixing with warm water first. You can add it to a recipe dry and it will still activate. I buy these little jars, which I keep in my fridge, and they last for-ev-er (especially when you’re only using 1/4 tsp at a time)!
The day before you want to actually bake the bread, combine 3 cups all-purpose flour, 1/4 tsp instant or bread machine yeast, and 1/2 Tbsp salt in a large bowl. Stir them together really well.
Stir in about 1.5 to 1.75 cups room temperature water, or just enough to form a shaggy ball of slightly sticky dough, and no dry flour is left on the bottom of the bowl. The total amount of water needed may vary from time to time depending on the ambient humidity and moisture content of the flour, so go on visuals here. Make sure it comes together in one ball and no dry flour is left on the bottom of the bowl. It’s okay for it to be a bit sticky.
Loosely cover the bowl with plastic and let the dough ferment at room temperature for 12-18 hours. If you need to let it sit longer than that to fit your schedule, just transfer it to the refrigerator. As the dough ferments, it becomes very big, light, fluffy, and bubbly.
Sprinkle a little flour onto the dough (because it will be sticky) and scrape it out of the bowl. It will begin to deflate as you scrape it out.
Using floured hands, shape the dough into a ball, then place it on a large piece of parchment. Let the dough rise for 30-60 minutes. The shorter rise time will produce a slightly more dense bread and the longer rise time will have larger bubbles.
While the dough is rising, begin to preheat the oven and the Dutch oven. Set the oven to 425ºF, or whatever the highest safest temperature is for your brand of parchment (it will usually be listed on the box somewhere). Make sure your Dutch oven is inside the oven as it preheats, and then let it heat for an additional 15 minutes or so once the oven is up to temperature. This makes sure that the Dutch oven is nice and hot.
When the dough is risen and the Dutch oven is fully preheated, carefully remove the Dutch oven from the oven (it will be extremely hot!). Lift the risen dough by the parchment and place it inside the Dutch oven, parchment and all. Place the lid on the Dutch oven and return it to the hot oven.
Let it bake for 30 minutes with the lid on the Dutch Oven, then carefully remove the lid…
Then bake it for an additional 15 minutes or so WITHOUT the lid to allow the crust to brown.
Once the crust achieves a nice deep golden brown color, carefully remove the Dutch Oven from the oven. Lift the bread out of the Dutch oven by the parchment, and allow it to cool before serving.
And just be prepared for the BEST bread you’ve ever made yourself. ;) The crust is seriously amazing.
No Dutch Oven and Short Fermentation
So, as I mentioned before, you can still bake this bread without a Dutch oven and with a short, 2-hour fermentation time. Here is a photo of my no-knead bread using just 2 hours of fermentation (plus another 1 hr rise time) and baked on a baking sheet.
If you only have about 2-3 hours to ferment the dough, you’ll need to increase the amount of yeast used to 2 tsp (instead of 1/4 tsp). Let the dough ferment in the bowl for 2 hours, then shape it into a loaf, transfer it to a baking sheet covered with parchment (and sprinkled with cornmeal, if desired) and let rise for about another hour. I like to make slits in the top with a sharp knife after the loaf has risen. Be careful though, if the knife is not sharp enough or you use too much downward pressure, it can deflate the dough.
Brush the surface of the dough with water, then bake it in a preheated oven (again, as hot as the parchment will allow, usually around 425ºF) for 30-40 minutes, or until the crust is nicely browned.