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Seattle Times food writer Nancy Leson serves up the best info and tips on Northwest food, cooking, dining and restaurants.

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May 2, 2008 11:59 AM

Your weekend assignment: Bake this "no-knead" bread. It's unbelievable.

Posted by Nancy Leson

By now, I'm sure you've heard about "No-Knead Bread" -- the "No way! You're kidding me!" easiest-recipe-ever for making an incredible (and incredibly cheap) loaf of crusty, European-style bread at home.

Really? You haven't heard about it? Well, where have you been -- out spending $5 a loaf at artisan bakeshops? If so, allow me to turn you into a bread-making machine, because if my bread can look like this:

So can yours!

After "The Minimalist" Mark Bittman did his easy-bake (in the) oven show-and-tell in the New York Times in November 2006, bread bakers everywhere -- myself included -- got in on the act, turning out homebaked loaves so good we were smacking ourselves upside our heads and asking, "And I've been making all those other, far less interesting and nowhere-as-delicious loaves for years because. . .?" What's more, wannabe bread bakers everywhere, who heretofore looked upon yeast as if it were anthrax, were moved to try this recipe. When they did, they, too, smacked themselves in the head and asked, "And I've been afraid to bake yeasted breads in the past because. . .?"

And now, just because I love you, I'm going to insist that you do yourselves a favor and make bread this weekend. I'll baby you through it. Start it tonight, or if you're too busy, tomorrow morning. Trust me: all it takes is time, and the time is incredibly flexible. You'll thank me later. Swear.

The first time I made Bittman's recipe, developed by Jim Lahey of NYC's Sullivan Street Bakery, it looked absolutely gorgeous. Unfortunately, my husband, Mr. Toast, complained about what he perceived as its lack of flavor (to be honest, I thought it needed more salt). Turns out those test-kitchen maniacs at Cook's Illustrated agreed with him about the flavor, and went to great lengths, as they always do, to come up with a better loaf, adapting the NYC recipe in their Jan/Feb 2008 issue.

That's the recipe I've been using ever since, which does, in fact, make a more flavorful loaf -- thanks to Cook's Illustrated food writer Kenji Alt, who suggests the addition of two ingredients: a tablespoon of white vinegar and a quarter-cup of mild lager. If you're really freaked about making this loaf, you might want to stick with Bittman's recipe -- which calls for fewer ingredients/equipment (though what's needed either way is negligible), and once you get that down, move on to C.I.'s 2.0 recipe.

And hey, take my advice on this one: double the recipe and make two loaves (I do the math for you, below). They're big. They're brown. And since there's (almost) no kneading, it's just as easy to prepare enough dough for two. The bread will be gone sooner than you think, since you can use it for everything from your morning toast, to your lunchtime sandwich, to your dinner accompaniment to your bread-and-cheese board. Also, if it lasts long enough to get stale, it makes great croutons.

Besides, when you show up with one of these bronzed beauties in hand at work, or at your next-door-neighbor's, or at a friend's house, everyone you know will think you're a kitchen genius. At which point, of course, you'll direct them to my blog and say: "Nancy Leson made me bake this, and now I'm making you bake it, too." So, here's my how-to, which is the Cook's Illustrated recipe, doubled, making two loaves:

First, read through the recipe. Then read it through again. Because, if you're like me, you'll do some stupid thing like forget to turn down the heat when you transfer the dough into the pre-heated pot, causing it to brown faster than it's supposed to -- not that that ruins it or anything, but still.

Now gather your ingredients:

If you're really budget-conscious, feel free to use sale-priced store-brand unbleached All-Purpose flour, though I prefer the King Arthur flour seen here (a 5-pound bag makes about four loaves). And be sure to use a lager (as directed, for scientific reasons we really don't need to understand). A red-and-white sandwich (that's Budweiser, in a can) will do, though I found this Henry Weinhard's Blonde Lager on sale and put it aside specifically for bread baking. Also: you must buy instant-rise or "quick-rise" yeast, not the standard-rise, OK?

Now, because you may be wondering: Yes, you can tinker with this recipe, adding whole wheat or rye flour (which made it too heavy for me), or trying to replicate Tall Grass Bakery's incredible hominy bread by adding coarse cornmeal (close, no stogie). But let's just stick to the basics here.

First, whisk the dry ingredients: the flour (6 cups); the instant yeast (1/2 teaspoon), and the table salt (1 Tablespoon), and listen up here: they're talking blue-canister-style salt, not the larger-grain kosher salt all you foodies keep on hand: it makes a difference. By the way: I always whisk my dry ingredients first when I'm baking anything. CI's recipe calls for you to use a spatula, but whisking more-evenly distributes the dry ingredients.

Now it's time to add the liquids. They've got some really precise liquid measurements, though I'm sure that, given the slope of my kitchen floor, I've been off, so don't sweat it if you're not the horribly precise type: we're not baking a cake here, and that, my friends, is the beauty of bread baking: it's far more forgiving.

For my doubled recipe, you'll need 1 1/2 cups plus 4 Tablespoons of water (that's 14 ounces), 2 Tablespoons of white vinegar, and 3/4-cup mild-flavored lager. Depending on whether the sun's over the yardarm, you can save the leftover beer in a tightly capped jar for next week's loaves -- or not:

Now mix the dry ingredients with the liquids. If you're a compulsive recipe follower, use a rubber spatula. My favorite wooden spoon, bought for 25-cents at a rummage sale 25 years ago, is my tool of choice:

You're meant to mix the dough, scraping and folding, till it reaches a "shaggy" consistancy, which ("I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. De Pillsbury!") will look like this:

And, OK, I'll admit it: because I've always considered kneading bread a joyful exercise, not a chore, I usually work the dough a bit at the end, gathering the last bits of "shagginess" -- and any bits of flour along the bowl's perimeter -- into a ball. But that's just me:

Now cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it sit at room temp for 8 to 18 hours. Bear in mind, this is a forgiving recipe: you can leave it sit for even longer than that if you get too busy to deal with it. The additional fementation time makes it taste a bit more sourdough-ish. And yes, that is a double batch below: it's just a really big bowl:

Personally, I'm all for the longer, overnight-and-then-some rise. Which is why, if you mix the dough on Friday night or Saturday morning, you can go about the business of enjoying your weekend, or doing chores, and wait till Sunday to bake it off when you can have a leisurely day reading the actual paper, brunching, hanging in the garden or working (as I too often do), and you'll still have plenty of time to bake bread in time for Sunday dinner. Here are a couple of shots of the dough I made last weekend, over the course of the fermentation process. The first photo is after 8 hours:

Check out the bubbles, below, after an overnight rest. This is what you're hoping for, and the longer its sits, the bubblier it'll get. If you want to cheat, you can put the bowl in the sunny spot in your house, or close to a heat register, which (shhh!) I sometimes do:

And here's the second loaf, which fermented the longest and was originally kneaded along with the first. See how silky-textured it gets. With next-to-no kneading:

Alright, now comes the part where you form the loaf and let it rise for two hours before baking. You'll need some "equipment" including the all-important baking vessel: a heavy covered pot. You can use lidded Pyrex (or similar glass) if that's all you've got on hand. I use my enameled cast-iron Le Creuset. The one that costs a small fortune and is well worth it. There's been a lot of talk about whether the black lid-topper on the Le Creuset pots will melt at the initial high-temperature the baking calls for, but after umpteen loaves, mine's fine. The pot has, however, discolored a bit, so I went out and bought a plain black Lodge cast-iron Dutch oven at Fred Meyer (with a coupon, it set me back about $35):

Because it's not enameled though, it bakes a browner loaf, which is fine for Mr. (Burnt) Toast, but not for me, so I pretty much went back to using the Le Creuset.

Other stuff you'll need for rising/baking purposes: non-stick cooking spray; a 10-inch skillet (I use a 12-incher, but the 10-inch does make a slightly more rounded loaf); parchment paper (you can buy it in the Saran Wrap aisle at the supermarket, or go to a restaurant supply store and get big sheets of it, like professional bakers use); and extra flour for sprinkling. Treat yourself to one of those little sifters like the one below in the photo. It's not expensive, and it's handy to have around "for all your baking needs":

And now, a note about one of my most beloved pieces of kitchen equipment: my "tavolini" (little table in Italian):

This really comes in handy, since I've got a small galley kitchen, with next to no counter space:

And now, a pause, for a commercial break:

Since Mother's Day is coming up, that lovely maple board would make a nice gift for any happy baker or homemade-pasta maker named "Mom" -- or a great gift for any serious cook, just because. I bought mine at Williams-Sonoma a couple of years ago, though you can find them at many cookware stores and online. And if you're really handy, you can make one yourself.

Mine has pie crust measurements and other etched-in info on the flip side, which annoys me (though it might thrill a pie-maker), and I wish I'd bought a larger, plainer one. Oh well. You live and learn. Here's the flipside view:

And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming:

Lay a 12 by 18-inch sheet of parchment inside the skillet and spray the parchment with non-stick oil. Then dump the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. By now it should look like this:

Here's the fun part! Knead it 10-15 times, or longer if that's what thrills you. Then, cut it in two (remember, we're doing two loaves):

Put one loaf back into the bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, and shape the other into a ball, then pulling the edges into the middle. Transfer the dough, seam side down, to the parchment-lined skillet, cover it with plastic wrap and let it rise for two hours:

Now, pay attention here, because it's easy to forget this part: about a half-hour before you're ready to bake, adjust your oven rack to its lowest position, put the empty lidded pot into the oven and turn it on to a scorching 500 degrees. Once the dough has risen the required amount of time, lightly flour the top of the loaf, then don't listen to those folks at Cook's Illustrated who say to cut a six-inch-long half-inch deep slit in the top using a razor blade or a knife. Grab your kitchen shears (what? you don't have any? why? they're the handiest tool in the kitchen!) and cut a big inch-long X in the top, like this:

Next, carefully take the very hot pot out of the oven, remove the lid and grabbing the ends of parchment, transfer the dough from pan to pot. It's OK if the parchment hangs over the edge of the pot:

I ALWAYS FORGET THIS NEXT PART SO PAY ATTENTION: turn the oven temperature down to 425-degrees, replace the lid, shove the whole thing back in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Then, carefully remove the lid and bake the bread for another half hour.

At some point (it's up to you), get back to that second unbaked ball of dough. If you've got another 10- or 12-inch pan (a pie pan would work OK if you don't), give it the two-hour rise as described above. I've even baked one half of the dough one day and the other the next, proving (as I've said several times already), how flexible this recipe is. That much fermentation won't kill it, and some might say it will only improve it.

Here are my two loaves, the raw and the cooked:

Here they are, baked off, side-by-side. See how much darker the one on the left is? That's because I forgot to turn the heat down from 500-degrees to 425. No biggie:

The crumb on this stuff is fantastic, and that's part of what makes this recipe so great. Trouble is, you're supposed to wait two hours while the bread cools, which is kind of hard to do. But I did -- this time at least. Check it out:

Now throw an apron on and get baking! Then tell me how it went, OK? And once you've got this down, you can do as I suggested in an earlier post and make some marmalade to go with it.

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Posted by Eric

12:32 PM, May 02, 2008

You can throw this in the fridge for days after mixing, before bake, and get excellent results as well. Deeper flavor development with no boozy topnotes.

Posted by Sean

12:54 PM, May 02, 2008

Yum! Looks great!

What size of Le Creuset pot is that? I can't tell from the photos.

Posted by Karen

1:20 PM, May 02, 2008

I use my 7 1/4 Qt. Le Creuset pot. It works perfectly. I believe the recipe calls for a 6-8qt. I have to say this is THE best no knead recipe out there. For minimal effort, you will have artisan-like bread that will make you think twice before going to the bakery.

Posted by Karen

1:26 PM, May 02, 2008

Oh one more thing...I wrap the black handle on the top of the pot with foil. I paid too much for that baby to have it melt on me :)

Posted by Alan

3:09 PM, May 02, 2008

WOW! Talk about timing. It is now 3PM and I am taking a work break and reading your BLOG. At noon, for lunch I ran home and made my weekly version of the same delicious bread.

Being married to a real live Finn, my version uses dark rye flour for 1/4 of my flour. The rest is Whole Wheat Montana White Flour (protein level is above 14, and also perfect for bagels). I also throw in about half a TBSP of carraway seeds.

Where we reach our fork in the road is that I do not use vinegar. I believe it acts like a commercialized "taste" of sourdough. In its place I use an amount of sourdough, equal to 25% of the total weight of the flour. I mix this in the water prior to adding the flour. I pass on the beer.

When we wake up on Saturday morning or Sunday, putting a slice of this bread in the toaster, schmearing with some mayo, and piling on sliced hard boiled eggs or butter and Edam cheese, and we are ready to attack the paper.

I do spend much time baking my version of Poilane's fabled 2.5 kilo boule, baguettes, bagels and multi-grain loaves. But there is a side of me that says why do I have to work my behind off for a good tasting bread.

For those that are interested in a similar approach to baking in their baguettes, I would offer up Reinhart's "The Bread Baker's Apprentice". He has an absolutely fantastic tasting, easy to produce, baguette called Pain l'Ancienne.

Posted by SeattleDee

3:38 PM, May 02, 2008

Isn't NK break addictive... in a good way? Try playing with the recipe by using 1/4 cup sourdough starter instead of packaged yeast, or adding walnuts and fresh rosemary, or trying out cheese and olive combinations, etc. And then there are the spreads to accompany a warm slice. Our current favorites are butter and sea salt, or a butter/honey/orange zest blend, or a neighbor's butter/garlic/mayo mix. Youtube has several good videos on NK bread, and many of the bread baking blogs and websites have more interesting links than there is time to explore them.

Check out Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois (Hardcover - Nov 13, 2007) for even more ideas

Posted by DrKoob

8:20 PM, May 02, 2008

Nancy (or anyone else out there),
Do you think I could get away using my All Clad 6 qt dutch oven? Or do I need to go buy one at Freddys?

Posted by Nancy Leson

8:37 PM, May 02, 2008

Absolutely, Dr. Koob: Your All-Clad will do the trick. Any heavy pot with a lid will do, and I'd encourage you to check out some of the inexpensive enameled cast iron at Freddie's anyway: worth it!

In fact, I just started another batch about a half hour ago. I mixed it and cleaned up in less than 10 minutes, and I'll have dough ready to go in the morning. Thanks, all you bakers, for the additional tips: keep 'em coming.

Posted by Chuck

10:20 PM, May 02, 2008

I've made this before and used a 6 qt. All-Clad sauce pan, which I love because it has a handle and is not as weighty as a dutch oven. I was sitting at the computer now that the kids are in bed, reading this post whilst sipping a Session lager and thought, "Hey, I'll start a batch." I cracked open another Session lager, mixed it up, and viola, bread with dinner tomorrow night. I'll start another batch tomorrow to bake on Monday. No leftover beer though!

Posted by newfguy

1:33 PM, May 03, 2008

what/ where is Freddy's?

Posted by Nancy Leson

2:22 PM, May 03, 2008

"Freddy's"? That's Seattle-speak for Fred Meyer. And if anyone tells you they're going to "Ree-chard's," newfguy, tell them to bring you back a Deluxe and a shake: they're heading to Dick's Drive-in.

Posted by Nurse W

6:59 PM, May 03, 2008

I need to get by fat butt off this chair!!!

Posted by Nurse W

7:31 PM, May 03, 2008

Wancy.....yes a name we call her. Made 4 loaves now of this awesome bread. When my spouse came home and saw he said...It must be from the Dalia Bakery!!! AWESOME!! MAKE THIS BREAD!!!

Posted by Bruce

11:35 PM, May 03, 2008

I love this recipe as much as you do, but in your doubled version you misstated the amount of beer. You are correct that the doubled recipe uses 1/2 cup + 4 Tbsp. beer, but that 4 Tbsp. is an extra 2 ounces (not 4 ounces as you say). In other words, you need a total of 6 ounces, or 3/4 cup. Of course, all this arithmetic can be difficult when one has been working with beer....

Posted by Patricia

11:38 PM, May 03, 2008

I am an avid home bread baker. One loaf of home made bread, and I've never looked back.

A couple of things to know about making bread at home for novices:

Use a glass or plastic bowl to proof bread. Yeast reacts to metal.
The light in your oven provides the perfect head for raising (proofing) dough.
If it isn't the size you want when times up, let it rise longer.
For extra crispy French bread, oil the baking sheet and sprinkle with corn meal.

One my favorite seasonings for French bread is 1/4 c parmesan and a liberal sprinkling of Italian seasoning while mixing. It's amazing good!

Posted by Bruce

11:41 PM, May 03, 2008

You can order a stainless knob for your Le Creuset pot at:

They're backordered but said they'd ship mine in a few weeks.

Posted by Nancy Leson

10:00 AM, May 04, 2008

Bruuuuce! I -- and my text -- stand corrected. You're right: it must have been the "bleer." And thanks for the lead on the stainless knob. While mine has withstood much heat and the test of time, it sounds like a prudent option for the long term.

So, yesterday I made another set of loaves, and this time divided the dough somewhat unevenly. And that's when I came up with the idea of rising and baking the smaller loaf in my latest Le Creuset purchase, a 2 3/4-quart oval. (Don't bust my chops: other women buy shoes, clothes, jewelry, I buy kitchen gear). I let it rise in the pot, forming an oval loaf, removed the parchment to preheat the pot, returned the dough to the oval and baked. Whoa! What an adorable loaf of bread. I sent it home with my friends Ken and Susan, who'd come to dinner. Ken -- to my surprise -- is a breadbaker, and was keen on trying to make this recipe in his galley kitchen. Unlike mine, his is a true galley: they live on a sailboat with an oven that doesn't rise past 450-degrees. I assured him that this recipe is so forgiving, it wouldn't matter: proven by the fact that a little more or less beer, varying flour-types, the size of baking vessels, "over" heating the dough during baking or underheating it doesn't seem to keep it from looking, and tasting, great. Yo, Ken. You out there? I'd be curious to hear how it goes.

And SeattleDee: Glad to hear you give a shout-out to "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day" -- which I discussed (along with other breadbaking topics) on KPLU here:

A big warm bless-yer-heart to everyone for these great comments, tips and opinions: I knead you, keep it rolling!

Posted by MrCheese

4:09 PM, May 04, 2008

I make the Bittman recipe, with 24 hours of rising time and steady heat at 450F, in Scanpan cookware (500F ovensafe). I started with a Dutch oven, but wanted a higher, rounder loaf and got that with a 3-qt saucepan.

My variation is to add 1/3 cup each of flax seeds, sunflower seeds and toasted pumpkin seeds, along with a little extra water. I don't miss Three Seed Bread from Golden Crown Bakery anymore.

I was amazed how easy and good it is.

Posted by wendy

4:28 PM, May 04, 2008

Is there a no-knead recipe for whole grain bread?

Posted by Mary in Kingston

5:00 PM, May 04, 2008


Thank you! as you well know I had to do my assignment (my inner A student made me). And I Love it. Just to note I have a convection oven that shaved 15 minutes off the process and I used a Kirkland (Costco) all clad knock off with a lid and the crumb is fantastic. I split the batch with one friend and split the loaf with another and made 3 new fans of your blog!!
Thank you, and keep it coming and I love the blog commenters you are awesome :)!!

Posted by Nurse W

6:17 PM, May 04, 2008

`My last loaf came out looking just like ET! Did the kitchen scissors thing. Found if I took a sharp knife sprayed with PAM and cut a cross 1 hour after the first rise the bread looks PERFECTION!!!! For breakfast we had toast with butter, blueberry jam and a very thin slice of this yummy cheese we get at Costco[white miild cheese...very tasty..has a green rind] I told my "Dear" ...I feel as if we were eating breakfast in Europe....yum Thanks Wancy!! Can't wait til raspberry season to get the jam made!!

Posted by Cyn

12:25 AM, May 05, 2008

Is there a way to make this without beer? What other liquid would work? How 'bout milk? I usually use mixed apple and grape for wine, but don't have a substitute for beer...

Posted by bookwalter

6:57 AM, May 05, 2008

This came out great, but here's some advice for other people who may be morons like myself: If you use your new cast iron dutch oven, and give it a cursory wash with lukewarm water and not enough soap, even though you know better, your house will fill up with smoke, your wife will yell at you, and only the tiniest hint of baking bread smell will penetrate the haze.

Posted by Dick

9:05 AM, May 05, 2008

I bought our tavolini at IKEA and it is an indispensible part of our kitchen. On the flip side is a carving board, grooved to catch the meat juices.

Posted by prlgrl

9:09 AM, May 05, 2008

What a lovely bread! I should have taken pictures. The recipe is fantastic and appears to be fool-proof. I can't wait to make it again.

Even the dog liked it!

Posted by DrKoob

6:24 PM, May 05, 2008

I made this over the weekend. It was great but it didn't rise. I use Bitterman's recipe (didn't have any ale) and it came out super tasting with great texture. I know I hit the ingredients right but it was only about three inches high in the middle. Otherwise it was outstanding.

Posted by Kairu

7:08 PM, May 05, 2008

This bread has changed my life. I had never tried any of the recipes that have been popping up since the original NY Times article, but had resisted until this weekend, when I read your post and ran straight to the grocery store for yeast and flour. (Nothing like being given a "weekend assignment" to give oneself a good push in the right direction). Being a wuss, I stuck to the original recipe, and it was so good I immediately ate one-quarter of the loaf. It was a little flatter than I would have liked - next time, I'll use a smaller Le Creuset oven - and I will probably use more salt in the future. But it was still better than anything I have ever baked, and I can't wait to make it again, or to try any other variations.

Posted by Nancy Leson

7:23 PM, May 05, 2008

Kairu! See? Whad I tell ya? I loved that you listened to me, and now you're a convert, just like me. Seriously: the first time I made the bread I turned into a maniac, and couldn't wait to make some more. It's so easy, and it tastes so great, and what's more, every time I look at the baked loaves I can't believe I made them. And it's not like I'm new at bread-baking or anything: I've been baking yeasted breads for 30 years!

Posted by Nancy Leson

7:25 PM, May 05, 2008

Jim: I'm curious, and Kairu, too: How long did you guys let the dough proof. I wonder if it was too short a proof? Did it get to the bubbly or at least bubbly-ish stage?

Posted by ts

9:20 PM, May 05, 2008

Been baking our loaves consistently for the last 3 months. Switched to the CI version about 2 months ago and love how simple it is.
I use regular rise yeast, and whichever beer is open - HW Private Reserve at the moment. A big ol' cast iron dutch oven. Almost always substitute 1/2 cup whole wheat flour.
The current loaf includes a mixed 3/4 cup of cooked what berries and whole wheat flour. Nice nubbins.

Posted by Kairu

9:38 PM, May 05, 2008

Nancy - I let it rise for eighteen hours the first time, and about an hour and half the second time (I got impatient). The dough looked more or less like it does in your "overnight" picture. I could probably have kneaded it a bit more, and pulled it into a tighter loaf. It sort of got away from me a few times. I should have used the parchment paper.

I can't wait to try again!

Posted by judy

6:48 AM, May 06, 2008

Looks like a doable recipe for a gal who never measures or follows recipes-not a baker! I am wondering if you can suggest some eating establishments on your side of town-Edmonds or Lynwood as we are meeting foodie friends there for dinner. That is not close to home and we are not familiar with the area. Thank you Judy

Posted by DrKoob

6:34 PM, May 06, 2008

I let it rise the first time about 21 hours. Then the second a full 2. My yeast was out of the cupboard but the expiration is still a few months off. Maybe I need new yeast.


Posted by Eric M

9:02 AM, May 07, 2008

Nancy, I've been making this bread for about two months now, after reading about it in Mother Earth News. That recipe I'm sure mirrors the NYT article. One thing you left out if you're going to make two loaves is after baking the first loaf, put the dutch oven back in the oven to warm up again or the second loaf will come out flat.

Posted by Rebecca

4:23 PM, May 07, 2008

I have been making that WONDERFUL bread from Bittman/Cook's Illustrated nearly once a week since the Cook's issue came out, though I usually make the wheat variety.

I do have an oven tip for those of us out there using our non-enameled non-fancy dutch ovens to make this recipe.

Putting the oven rack on the very lowest setting in the oven was giving my loaves a bottom crust of the black and impenetrable variety. So I moved the rack up a couple rungs and slid a baking stone underneath the dutch oven. Both preheat in the oven together, and give my loaves a crunchy yet now edible bottom crust.

Results will vary from oven to oven, of course, but I think that my baking stone trick does a good job of tempering that high heat in the lower part of any oven.

Now I just need to find an equally fabulous and easy strawberry jam recipe to pair with this bread and I think I could be set for life.

Posted by Sue

7:13 PM, May 07, 2008

my son (23 years old) has been making this bread for the last several years. i think it is better if not as good as the ones you find in a bakery.

Posted by iFunk

9:08 PM, May 07, 2008

Just thought I'd share a few tips I've learned along the way...

I use a 5.5 quart Le Creuset (it works great for this application). It's an investment, but one which will last you forever and has many other uses above and beyond making this wonderful bread.

I remove the lid handle while baking the bread at high temperatures and insert foil into the hole to plug it up. If you do this, do not treat the foil as a lid handle.

While dealing with my Le Creuset while it's been in my gas oven at 450-500 degrees, I always wear heavy gauge oven mitts on both hands. Always have an area cleared while moving it out of the oven, because it's only a matter of time before the heat will penetrate the gloves.

Nancy mentions discoloration which occurs from using these French ovens at high temperatures. Le Creuset has a product for the enamel which works fantastic. It's called "Enameled Cast Iron Cookware Cleaner". It's available at Macy's downtown and I'm sure City Kitchens or Sur La Table carry it as well. I used it on mine and it came out looking brand new.

I've had the best results using the following products and techniques:

Red Star active dry yeast which comes in a glass jar (refrigerate after opening).

1.5 cups of water in lieu of of 1 5/8 if using the original NYT recipe.

Gold Medal Harvest King Flour. This stuff rocks!

Give the dough a quick stir the morning after and recover for the remainder of fermentation.

Place a couple of kitchen towels over the top of your bowl covered with cling wrap to insulate it.

Experiment! I throw in fresh herbs such as rosemary every once in a while to give it an additional layer of complexity. I've also had good luck with giving the top crust a bit of homemade star anise salt.

As a beer lover I look forward to trying this recipe which I hadn't heard about yet...

Posted by Cyn

9:48 PM, May 07, 2008

Hello! I asked about a sans-beer liquid and received no response. So how 'bout it?

Posted by Nancy Leson

8:41 AM, May 08, 2008

Cyn! Sorry for the delay and here's your answer: use non-alcoholic beer instead, say the folks at Cook's Illustrated. According to Kenji Alt, who adapted this recipe for CI, there's a reason for using beer (instead of, say, more water) and it's this: "What I needed was a concentrated shot of yeasty flavor. As I racked my brain, I realized that beyound bread, there is another commonly available substance that relies on yeast for flavor: beer. . ." And after testing a variety (dark ales offered up a "strange spicy, fruity aftertaste and smelled like beer") Kenji found just the ticket: a light, American-style lager." The CI website: suggests using non-alcoholic beer as a substitute. FYI: most of those are lagers.

And thanks, all, for your interest, questions and tips.

Posted by Citromike

9:00 AM, May 08, 2008

Thanks for the refinements to the No-Knead Bread. I've been making it since the NYTimes article and have developed these refinements:

1. Mix in a large 8 qt plastic tub (saves washing and plastic wrap).
2. Put the tub on the scale, zero the scale, add 16 oz of water, a 1/2 teaspoon of Red Star yeast from the jar, zero scale again and add 20 oz of flour, dumped in from the bag, and a tablespoon of salt on top so it won't hurt the yeast. Up to 4-5 ounces can be wheat, rye, corn, etc flour. DON'T FORGET the salt. You can add a splash of olive oil or a tablespoon of honey if you want.
3. Stir with plastic or wood spoon til shaggy. Set the lid on loosely to keep out flying intruders.
4. Put the plastic tub on top of the refrigerator for 12-24 hours.
5. Dump / scrape out the dough onto a floured counter, knead for a few moments and decide if you want the "dutch oven loaf" or the "regular bread for toast" loaf.
6. Prepare the appropriate pans - either dutch oven as you state, or loaf pan.
7. Start hot as directed, then lower the temp. Bake for an hour to an hour and ten minutes.

My loaf is 20 ounces of flour rather than 16 which fills my bread pans better. I'm using long bread pans I got in Denmark so I needed a bit more dough to make bread perfectly sized for my Dualit Toaster. If you use the dutch oven the additional quantity doesn't matter.

I'm going to try the beer tonight.

Posted by Kelly

12:39 PM, May 09, 2008

Hello Nancy,
I enjoyed your article. I made that bread before and
thought it was great, but the loaf was a bit small. Do you think it would work to use your doubled recipe, but cook it all in the dutch oven, to make a bigger loaf?

Posted by Nancy B

6:49 PM, May 09, 2008


Here's my experience with the bread.

I had made Bittman's bread in the past, but gave it up since I was of the same opinion as your husband. It had little, if any, flavor, so I was intrigued by your adaptation of the recipe & made it last night. I didn't have any lager available, so used regular beer, & regular dry yeast, since that's what I had on hand.( If you're not going to bake it right away, what's the point of using quick-rise?)

The thing that really puzzled me was that your recipe calls for 2 1/4 C + 4 T of liquid, & Bittman's, if you double it, calls for 3 C + 4 T. His dough is drastically thiner--almost impossible to give even the light kneading it calls for--yet much easier to mix, since it doesn't get stiff. But as a result, it is a much more airy bread & I prefer a denser, chewier bread.

I was concerned because when I put your recipe into the baking dish it hadn't risen as much as Bittman's did. But when I removed the cover 1/2 an hour later it looked fine. So, what was the final product like? Well, it was marginally more tasty, but perhaps if I had used lager it would have given it more flavor. I did like the consistency much better. It was heavier & denser. I think it might make excellent toast, but haven't tried it yet. Oh, yes, I put it together at 9 last night & worked it at 11 this morning, so that was 12 hours. Do you think it would have been tastier if I'd let it sit even longer? Bittman's did not. I let that sit over 18 hours.

Anyway, it was fun. Will be glad to hear others' experiences.

Nancy Baird

Posted by Barbara N.

9:30 PM, May 09, 2008

Thanks for your article about making your own bread. I was shocked today to see Tall Grass pain au levain at the market today for 6.19 a loaf! Glad I have that 25 lb sack of flour!

I’ve been baking bread for 35 years, and have done a good job on the flavor/texture part…but I could never get as good a crust as I can with Bittman’s Dutch oven idea. I hadn’t seen the Cook’s rendition of the Bittman recipe but I agree that the original lacked flavor. I find the addition of a little whole rye flour and wheat germ, and a bit of molasses to the yeast, adds great color and depth of flavor. Of course, a starter and/or a long, cool, rise help too.

Because I like a relatively wet dough and a cornmeal-dusted bottom, I do my second rise in a snug basket (helps the loose dough keep its shape) lined with a rice-flour dusted napkin. When ready, I toss some cornmeal into the bottom of the hot Dutch oven; invert the loaf into it (it release easily because of the rice flour- wheat flour won’t work) slash with a razor blade, spritz with water, and cook as you do.

I’m not suggesting this is a better technique—but you might play with it and see.

I’m really happy with this bread, but I do wish I could produce a loaf as good at Tom Douglas.

Posted by Michael

2:07 PM, May 10, 2008

I find six-quart baking pot too big. The 9.5" diameter of most such pots allows a three-cup loaf to spread out too much across the bottom. I favor about a 7" diameter, which is hard to find. My ideal would be a four-quart pot with a diameter of about 7". I'm surprised some enterprising manufacturer has not marketed such a pot specifically for this kind of bread.

I love a half rye/half white mixture that was suggested to me by a friend. This makes for a very wet, sticky dough, so I did try the parchment paper method with it. I crammed the dough and parchment paper into a two-quart pot. This was too small, and the dough rose to the heavy lid and flattened up against. It looked like one of those abandoned WPPSS reactors in Southwestern Washington. But what a rise, and what a wonderful, moist crumb!

Finally, a little green suggestion: Use a large plate to cover your bowl with, rather than plastic wrap. With so many of us doing this kind of baking, this could save a lot of plastic!

Posted by Bruce

1:45 AM, May 11, 2008

NancyB – Your post (3 above this one) has a math error. Bittman’s recipe calls for 10 oz. of liquid (1 cup + 4 Tbsp. if you prefer), so doubling that would be 20 oz. -- which is exactly what Nancy calls for in her double recipe.

Posted by Kairu

8:50 AM, May 11, 2008

I have been making this bread every two or three days for the past week now, and it always tastes good, but the appearance is a bit unpredictable. I went back and watched the video for the original NYT recipe, which may help my technique for the next time I make bread. Once I get this down to something consistent, I'll try other variations. I have to say that I don't really consider the original recipe bland, and I like its simplicity, so it will be interesting to see how the Cook's Illustrated version compares.

Posted by Diane Hostetler

1:32 PM, May 11, 2008

I too found the minimalist recipe a bit bland and so I
stopped making it. Your recipe was such a hit with my husband, he ate almost the whole loaf on the first day. Now I wonder, is there a similar recipe using any whole wheat flour or grains - a bit healthier?

Posted by Juliana

7:38 AM, May 12, 2008

This weekend, as one of the ways in which I procrastinated instead of writing a paper for one of my graduate school classes in theology, I followed this recipe published in last Wednesday's Seattle Times and produced two loaves of bread.

Everything went very smoothly. As promised, there is virtually no kneading involved, although I enjoy kneading and made sure to include some. Yet another way to avoid a paper I don't want to write! I baked each loaf in my Lodge cast-iron Dutch oven, which at 7 quarts is too small for the Boy Scouts to make cobbler in, but clearly just the right size for baking bread.

My husband and I have just finished Sunday night dinner, consisting of part of one loaf of the bread and a bottle of red wine. We tried the bread plain. We tried it toasted with butter. We tried it with provolone cheese. We dipped it into the wine, a habit my husband learned from his Swiss uncle, Gaston. The bread was good in all those ways, although I confess a slight
partiality to toasted, with butter.

Even now my stepson is downstairs devouring a sandwich made from the same loaf. I predict that when I go back to the kitchen there will be nothing left. The bread is "really good," "really crusty," and "awesome." I agree.

Posted by Kathryn D.

8:29 AM, May 12, 2008

This recipe is so simple and delicous. I cranked out 2 loaves on Saturday (which my family gobbled down) and made another two to bake on Sunday.

I used Fat Tire Ale and thought it turned out great. I'm looking forward to experimenting with herb additions in my next few attempts.

The crust came out perfect in my stainless steel Kitchen Aid 5.5 & 8 qt soup pots.

I'm delighted to have this bread recipe in my repitoire!

Posted by Kim

2:32 PM, May 12, 2008

Thanks, Nancy. This is great -- love the photos! For anyone wanting a whole-grain version of No-Knead Bread, check out Ellen Jackson's recipe for Multigrain No-Knead Bread on Culinate. It's really tasty, even when you substitute alternative flours and sweeteners.

Posted by Shirley

2:12 PM, May 13, 2008

I am a reader from Japan (my husband and I grew up in Seattle but are overseas for his work ). I really enjoy your articles. I just HAD to let you know it worked! I used your double recipe, but substituted half the white flour with whole wheat flour (I am an RD so just could not do the 100% refined white flour thing). Still, the result was fabulous. You have to understand that this is coming from someone who works with an oven that is 45 cm X 45 cm X 30 cm that sits on top of our refrigerator. I found a 24 cm Le Creuset stainless steel pot with metal lid (no
plastic knobs) that fit my small oven. I have made 4 loaves in the last 24 hours. This recipe is a keeper for sure. Thanks for sharing with us.

Posted by Tom

9:34 PM, May 13, 2008

Frankly, I was a littke skeptical. But the bread was just as good as you said. I've never made bread before (except for my grandmother's ancient Xmas bread recipe from the old country).
The top was beginning to brown, so I took it out after 50 minutes. I suppose every oven is different.
The only thing I need to improve is that the bottom had browned too much. Any suggestions? Higher in the oven? Lower temperature? Less cooking time? Another layer of paper in the bottom of the cooking pan?
I also need to make smaller loaves. Do you think a half-size loaf in a 2 qt. or 2 3/4 qt. Le Creuset is feasible? Should I shorten the cooking time for a smaller loaf?

Posted by Patty Kirk

7:01 AM, May 14, 2008

Hi Nancy,

Thanks for the bread recipe. Being a lover of crusty breads, this fit the bill and the family loved it. I can't wait to make it with my grandkids. We can mix the dough before they go to bed. It will be fun to see their eyes the next morning as they look in the bowl of dough.

I invested in the lodge pot you suggested and used the King Arthur flour. The finished loafs looked picture perfect. My only problem was the bottom of the bread turned too dark and had a burned look. Any suggestions?

Again, thanks for the delicious recipe. I figure 12 loafs from now I will have enjoyed a great return on my investment!

Posted by Chi

12:51 PM, May 14, 2008

Hi Nancy,

I LOVE King Arthur and order from them a lot. But I have never ordered their flour because I can get flour locally. So now I'm curious - is their flour available at local stores? If yes, would you mind sharing where?

Thanks & Regards,

Posted by Lisa M.

5:28 PM, May 14, 2008

Hello, as an unrepentant omnivore (AKA a "free-gan"), happily coupled with a big, strapping vegan (who eats "no puppies, no guppies, no eggs, no dairy!"), I get many vicarious thrills reading Nancy's columns. Wanted to say thanks. Scott (the vegan) eats a couple of loaves of bread each week, and being the organo-eco freak I am, I started baking bread in order to avoid piling up non-recyclable plastic bags from sliced bread. And now, as prices rise, we enjoy a variety of premium organic breads at a bargain price. I bought a bread machine for 6 bucks @ Goodwill, and almost never actually bake anything in it.....just use the dough cycle, then hand-shape and bake. I have a levain brewing, and today I made 2 loaves of caraway rye plus have a sponge going for "pain a l'ancienne" in the machine, fermenting overnight. Nevertheless I was intrigued by the recipe you presented, so I also started a 2-loaf batch of "No-Knead", using organic flour (Bob's Red Mill) and a bottle of "Trader Jose's" lager.....I have a cast iron dutch oven, as well as a clay Romertopf pot (also from Goodwill, and which I often use to get a great crust in a very hot oven). I plan to bake one loaf in each for comparison.....will let you know how it comes out.

Posted by Lisa M

8:55 PM, May 14, 2008

OK, they're done.....Wow! They are, as my spouse says "ATOB" (A Thing of Beauty) and delicious as well. Used half whole wheat flour, skipped the plastic wrap (a plate instead) and didn't use cooking spray either so I can reuse the parchment a couple of times before it gets too crumbly....

Posted by Nancy Leson

9:07 PM, May 14, 2008

Chi: I've seen King Arthur flour everywhere I shop lately, including but not limited to QFC, Shoreline Central Market, Trader Joe's and (who knew?) Albertson's in Lynnwood. Not everyone carries their bread flour though, and prices vary. With wheat prices so high, I've recently seen a 5-lb. bag of King Arthur priced (whoa!) $7.29 -- parked right next to the 10-lb. bag of Gold Medal at $5.19.

Posted by gwen

10:07 AM, May 15, 2008

RE: bottom crust getting too brown or burned, I followed the suggestion made by Rebecca earlier in the comment string, since I don't have, and didn't want to buy, a heavy Dutch oven. She suggests moving the oven rack up a notch or two and heating up your pot-of-choice (mine is an old, fairly lightweight enameled Dansk casserole) on a pizza stone. Great crusts all around four times now (after burning the bottom crust on my first batch, before reading Rebecca's comment). Great bread inside, too.

Posted by GCH

2:13 PM, May 15, 2008

Nancy, and friends,

I made the double-recipe and after the first rising, I froze half. An overnight thaw on the counter, a quick knead and into the parchment paper whilst the dutch-oven warmed up, and the bread was good to go.

Could have used a longer second rising for a larger loaf, but the small loaf was nicely crusty and wasn't too dense. A nice way to produce fresh bread within 2 hours (1 hour morning rising + 1 hour baking).

Anyone else have a way to get fresh bread for breakfast without getting up at the crack of dawn? Rise the bread in the dutch-oven directly, and then set the oven timer to turn on at 6:00 am?? .... Something to play with, perhaps.

Posted by Karen

3:58 PM, May 15, 2008

We've made four loaves now and it is wonderful. Nancy you should know that you are cutting into Tom Douglas' bottom line as I haven't been to Dahlia Bakery for bread all week.

We're baking it in a clay baking pan that my neighbor gave me last summer after no one bought it at her garage sale. It works great.

The bread makes amazing toast! Can't wait to try the variations people have been posting (the Rye, the seeds, etc.)

Thanks for this.


Posted by Chi

5:20 PM, May 15, 2008

Thanks Nancy! I'm off to my QFC to grab me a couple bags ...

Posted by Lisa M

7:31 PM, May 15, 2008

RE: burnt bottoms. Instead of a pizza/bread stone, I bought unglazed terra cotta tiles at Lowes....very inexpensive, and 6 of them cover one rack of my oven. Because they are smaller I can slip an individual tile under each dutch oven when I bake this bread......

Posted by Rudy

11:09 AM, May 21, 2008

Dear Nancy,
What function does the Dutch Oven serve in this recipe.? Why not just pop the dough in the oven on a cookie sheet. As you might surmise I don't have a Dutch Oven and I'm new to this game.

Posted by Monica

12:07 PM, May 21, 2008

I made this bread on Mother's Day and indeed it came out great and tasted fantastic. This coming from a girl who fears "kneading"

However it had to be eaten right away, it goes stale pretty fast. Delicious..thank you!

Posted by Nancy Leson

11:15 PM, May 21, 2008

Rudy: it's the Dutch oven that makes the magic work. The heat that builds up inside (and stays right there) is the ticket to the bread's crispy-crusted success. While you don't need a Dutch oven per se, you do need a heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid. But the heavy Dutch oven, made of cast iron (or better still for this project, enameled cast iron), is the be-all and end-all for this no-knead bread. I use my enameled cast iron Dutch ovens (I've got two, one medium and one real big) for just about everything, by the way, and they clean up like a charm!

Posted by Randi

11:34 AM, May 26, 2008

My first try is in the second rise as I write this. But I'm curious about using a clay Romertopf as Lisa M suggests. How did that work and what are the steps? Also, someone mentions spritzing with water before baking. Does that give it a crustier top or what? Eager to bake and taste!

Posted by Sally

11:49 AM, May 27, 2008

I finally had the time to try the bread recipe based on one from Cooks Illustrated, from your May 7 Seattle Times article.

I have been baking bread for YEARS - and have tried more times than I care to count to bake a tasty loaf with a hearty crust - with very limited success.

Well, thank you, thank you - this amazingly simple recipe is easy and fun to do - delicious - and a crust every bit as sumptuous as that expensive bakery loaf.

I'm going to experiment with different flours and adding some of those seeds and twigs I so love in bread. Fortunately, I have 4 hens who will happily devour on my errors.

Thanks again!

Posted by Kris

3:53 PM, Jun 03, 2008

Fantastic results! My husband, a bread-maker, said it is the best homemade bread he ever had. I have never been successful at baking bread before using traditional recipes.

The bread was just to my taste: wonderful crisp crust, chewy dense "rustic" style bread interior, great flavor. Exactly what I look for when I buy bread, but hard to find, or very expensive to buy.

I am thrilled with this recipe, and now want to see if I can adapt it to rolls (small breads). I may even have to join Cook's Illustrated to learn how to bake other kinds of bread or with different kinds of flour.

My variations: I used Hefeweizen beer and cheap unbleached white flour, only mixed the ingredients until they first looked shaggy, let it rise overnight (turned out to be 13 hours), did a minimum amount of kneading, baked it for 30 minutes covered and 25 minutes uncovered. I used my overly large dutch oven and a thermometer in the oven to make sure the temperature was about right (my oven has a tendency to be hotter than the dial indicates).

Not only am I thrilled about this recipe, I also love the way you write. The recipe was easy to follow and enjoyable to read. I read your column in the paper no matter what the subject just for the pleasure of your writing. May you continue to write about whatever interests you. Maybe you will influence me again.

Posted by Swedish Jo

1:46 PM, Jun 29, 2008

I ate this bread when I was visiting my old penpal in Seattle, and her mom, Mrs Whalen made like one of these each day, and they were delicious! She really knew how to feed a poor european girl, because I've never had bread like this before. I gladly helped eating the loaf she sent with me and her daughter to college, and I've had a craving for it ever since I got back home. I only hope that it's flexible enough to stand fresh yeast instead of dry, celsius instead of fahrenheit, and some very clumsy metric conversions!
Hi, Mrs Whalen, if you're out there!

Posted by Carl

10:49 AM, Aug 04, 2008

Your easy bread recipe worked like a charm. I've used different types of beer for slightly different flavoring and have added fresh Rosemary too. The seal of approval was given by my 15 yr old daughter who said, "This is like the bread you buy at the market (meaning Essential bread)." I bake it almost weekly, The first loaf is gone by the end of the day.

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