Sunday, March 6, 2011

Jim Lahey's Revolutionary No-Knead Bread

Would I ever have imagined that such a loaf of bread will exit my oven? Probably not.  You have to try the recipe. I promise you, the outcome will be very satisfying. It will give you a lot of confidence as it gave me. Not much can go wrong, the method is almost effortless, and you will be rewarded with a beautiful artisan-style loaf of bread! 

Most certainly many of you out there are already familiar with Jim Lahey's method of baking bread in a closed heavy pot which captures the steam and will give you a heavenly crust and moist crumb. His method was popularized by Marc Bittmann's column "The Minimalist" (original article: The Secret of Great Bread: Let Time Do the Work) published in the New York Times in 2006. The method is very simple and the ingredients list is short. All you need is flour, salt, yeast, water, time, time, and time.  However, as the method promises "No-Work, No-Knead", the time does not actually require you to do anything. 

You can find Jim Lahey’s basic no-knead bread recipe on the website of his Sullivan Street Bakery. I share with you the whole wheat version, "Pane Integrale", from his book My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method.  The recipe you find below is the original, so feel free to experiment with it. I like to increase the amount of whole wheat flour while cutting back accordingly the amount of bread flour. 

I bake this bread now since several weeks using whole wheat flour, rye flour, and white bread flour. I did not get disappointed a single time. 

Here is one of my attempts doing the basic recipe
The only thing I found difficult in the beginning was inverting the dough into the pot, but no matter what shape it takes, it won't do any harm to the taste, so don't worry if you experience the same difficulty. You can also lightly shake the heavy pot to get the dough into the right position, but don't forget to use oven mitts ...

After mixing up the ingredients you should be left with a wet and sticky dough.
The dough after it rested for 12 to 18 hours. Very bubbly!
When you take out the dough from the bowl you will see the gluten strands.
Tug the ends towards the center.

Place the dough unto a towel. I dusted the towel with wheat bran, but you can use cornmeal or flour as well . Try to place the dough seam side down on the towel. By mistake, I ended up with the seam side up...

Dust the surface as well to avoid the dough sticking to the towel.

I like to place the dough in a bowl so that it keeps its round shape.
After about two hours of resting time.
Invert the dough into the hot pot.

After 30 minutes of baking you remove the lid.

Make sure you let it rest for about 1 to 2 hours on a cooling rack.

And then enjoy!


Jim Lahey's Revolutionary No-Knead Bread
Recipe originally published in My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method

The recipe will yield one 10-inch round loaf and you will need a 4 ½ to 5 1/2 – quart heavy pot.


2 ¼ cups (300 grams) bread flour

¾ cup (100 grams) whole wheat flour

1 ¼ teaspoons (8 grams) table salt

½ teaspoon (2 grams) instant or active dry yeast

1 1/3 cups (300 grams) cool water (55 to 65 degrees F)

wheat bran, cornmeal, or additional flour for dusting


Take a bowl and combine the flour, salt, and yeast.  Add the cool water. Now you can mix up everything either using your hand/hands or a wooden spoon. Because you don’t have to knead the dough, the whole process should be done in less than a minute. Your dough should be wet and sticky. Let the dough rest at room temperature in the covered bowl for about 12 to 18 hours. 

Bring the dough in one piece on a work surface which should be dusted with flour. It is easy to get the dough out of the bowl using a dough scraper.  Now you fold the ends of the dough into the middle using your lightly-floured hands or the dough scraper until your dough has a close to round shape.  

Take a linen tea towel and dust it with cornmeal, wheat bran, or flour to avoid the dough sticking to it later. Lift the dough unto the towel and make sure that the seam side faces down. Dust the top lightly with cornmeal, wheat bran, or flour and loosely cover the dough with the towel. To assure that the dough keeps its round shape you can lift the towel with the dough and put it altogether into a bowl. Let it rise at a warm place to the double of its size which will happen within 1 to 2 hours.

Put the heavy pot on a rack which should be positioned in the lower area of the oven  and preheat the oven to 475 degrees F. After 30 minutes take out the heavy pot from the oven, remove the lid from the pot, uncover the dough and invert it into the pot. The seam side which was downward facing before should be up now. Immediately cover the pot.  When you invert the dough into the pot, be careful not to come in touch with the borders of the pot. Also make sure that you use appropriate oven mitts while handling the pot and opening/closing it. Now bake the bread in the covered pot for about 30 minutes.

Remove the lid, and bake for another 15 to 30 minutes until it is nicely browned. Take the bread out of the pot using a wooden spoon. Let it cool on a rack for about 1 to 2 hours. And then enjoy!

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