No-knead Italian bread that’s rustic, crusty, and easy as heck. Believe it.
Why This No-Knead Italian Bread Recipe Works
The reason this recipe works despite being no-knead is that the bread isn’t kneaded but does have a long rising time of 12 to 18 hours to create a risen texture. The inspiration for this recipe was an article published in the New York Times several years ago that featured a revolutionary no-knead bread by Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery. In addition to making bread, you can use this recipe to make dough for pizza and focaccia.
No-Knead Italian Bread
- Quick Glance
- 10 M
- 1 H, 40 M
- Makes a 1 1/2- pound (680-gram) loaf
Special Equipment: A 3-quart (2.8-liter) clay-covered, ceramic, or cast iron pot, or Dutch oven with lid (or a larger pot of the same kind)
In a large bowl, stir together semolina flour, 00 flour, all-purpose flour, salt, and yeast. Add the lukewarm water and stir until the ingredients form into a slightly dry, shaggy dough, about 1 minute. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap to keep in the moisture and let the dough rise at room temperature (between 65º and 75ºF or 18° to 24°C) for at least 12 hours and up to 18 hours. After this time, the surface of the dough should be covered with small bubbles and the dough should have risen significantly.
If you’re making a round or rectangular loaf, gently run a spoon around the bowl to deflate the dough. Use the spoon to gently fold the dough over itself. Let the dough rest for 15 minutes. If you’re making a braided loaf, flour a board or surface with 1/4 cup all-purpose flour and turn the dough out onto it. Deflate the dough by pressing and kneading the flour into the dough until the dough no longer feels quite as sticky. Roll the dough into a long loaf. Cut the loaf into 3 equal pieces and, using your hands, roll each piece evenly into a rope about 12 inches long. Place the ropes on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Braid the bread starting in the middle of the ropes. Take the left rope and cross it over the middle piece. Take the right rope and cross it over the rope that is now in the middle. Repeat crossing left over center, followed by right over center until you reach the end, as if you’re braiding hair. Pinch the bottom ends together and tuck them under the loaf. Repeat for the other side. Cover and let rise until doubled in size.
If you’re making a round or rectangular loaf, spread about 1/4 cup semolina flour onto a cotton dish towel. Take the dough out of the bowl and use your hands to shape the dough into a rectangle or ball, depending on the shape of your pot or Dutch oven. The dough will be sticky and shaggy. Fold the dough into thirds and place the dough seam-side down on the dishtowel. Sprinkle some more semolina on the bread. Bring the sides of the towel over the bread to cover loosely. Let the dough rise until double its original size, about 2 hours.
If you’re making a braided loaf, move on to step 4.
While the dough is rising, place an oven rack in the middle position and preheat the oven to 450ºF (230°C).
About 30 minutes before the dough is finished rising, place a heavy clay-covered, ceramic, or cast iron pot or Dutch oven with a minimum size of 3 quarts into the oven and heat the pot while the dough finishes rising.
If desired, after the dough has risen, lightly brush it with melted butter or lightly beaten egg white and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Remove the pot from the oven, gently lift the dough from the towel and place into the pot seam side up. Cover the pot and bake 30 minutes. Uncover and bake until the bread is brown on the outside, about 10 minutes longer. Remove the loaf from the pot and cool on a wire rack before slicing.
To simplify the recipe, you can substitute King Arthur brand bread flour in place of the semolina, 00, or all-purpose flour. You may need to adjust the rise time for the dough to double in size, so watch carefully.
Recipe Testers' Reviews
I was certain that a loaf of bread this easy to put together wouldn't turn out okay. Maybe it wouldn't rise or it would burn or it would be dense or surely something would go wrong. Bread making is supposed to be hard work! But as I pulled it out of the oven, I was truly amazed—and felt like some sort of artisan-bread-making rock star. It looked perfect. Exactly like what you buy in the bakery. And tasted every bit as good. Crispy crust with a light delicate crumb. With only 10 minutes of effort, I may never knead bread again. Mixing the ingredients together initially took 30 seconds, and resulted in a thick, shaggy mixture. I let rest for 16 hours, after which there were little bubbles over the dough as described. The dough was very easy to work with during the remaining steps. I used a 3-quart ceramic-coated Dutch oven to bake the bread. This was probably the minimum size you could use as my loaf had just touched the lid as I pulled it off after 30 minutes baking. An additional 10 minutes of baking was perfect to yield a lightly browned loaf.
My very first thought when I took this no-knead Italian bread out of the oven was, “Wow, I made this bread from scratch!” Sounds silly. But the exact same thought reverberated through my mind when I tasted it a few minutes later. How incredibly awesome is it to have a recipe for a no-knead bread that tastes like you just brought it home from an Italian market. No joke—this no-knead bread has the crust of a ciabatta and the inside of a sliced white bread you would actually enjoy with olive oil at the start of an Italian meal at your favorite trattoria. I have to admit, it seemed very hard in texture when I took it out the pan from the oven to let it rest, but when I cut into it after it rested, it was perfectly crusty on the outside and tender on the inside. The best part?! I already had all of its ingredients in-house...and the fact that this tasty bread only has 5 total ingredients makes me happy as well. So on to the recipe itself. I formed my loaf into a round, similar to a Tuscan boule. In place of the 00 flour, I used King Arthur Cake Flour, organic/unbleached A/P flour, and Bob's Red Mill Semolina flour. In lieu of instant yeast, I used active dry yeast. (Note that instant yeast is different than active dry yeast. Use the same proportion as instant but it needs to be dissolved in the lukewarm water and allow it to sit before adding it to the flour mixture directly.) In Step 2, I actually ran a large rubber spatula around the bowl to deflate the dough, and used the same spatula to fold the dough over itself. The pan I used for the bread was my trusty enameled-cast iron Dutch oven, size was 6-quart. I really recommend using the semolina flour if you can find it—in the dough initially and as the extra flour used to sprinkle on the bread. It really gives an incredible coating or crunch on the bread itself. Believe me, I’ll be making this no-knead Italian bread again and again…I might even try adding seeds next time to the coating. Perhaps a blend of flax, poppy, and sunflower. Oh the possibilities! Buon appetito.