Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Whole-Wheat Bread

This no-knead whole-wheat bread from Jim Lahey is quick to make but as good as old-fashioned bread. And with the added benefit of whole wheat and being done in less than two hours.

Cast-iron pot with a loaf of Jim Lahey's no-knead whole-wheat bread on a gray background

Jim Lahey’s no-knead whole-wheat bread is a brilliant innovation that brings you healthfulness with ease. And that’s to say nothing of the nutty, not overly healthful taste. More of that, please.–Renee Schettler Rossi

Jim Lahey's No-Knead Whole-Wheat Bread

  • Quick Glance
  • (19)
  • 30 M
  • 1 H, 30 M
  • Makes one 10-inch round loaf
4.8/5 - 19 reviews
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Ingredients


Directions

In a medium bowl, stir together the flours, salt, and yeast. Add the water and, using a wooden spoon or your hand, mix until you have a wet, sticky dough, about 30 seconds.

Cover the bowl and let it sit at room temperature until the surface is dotted with bubbles and the dough has more than doubled in size, 12 to 18 hours.

Generously dust a work surface with flour. Use a bowl scraper or rubber spatula to scrape the dough onto the surface in 1 piece. Using lightly floured hands or a bowl scraper or spatula, lift the edges of the dough in toward the center. Nudge and tuck in the edges of the dough to make it round.

Place a clean towel on your work surface and generously dust it with wheat bran, cornmeal, or flour. Gently place the dough on the towel, seam side down. If the dough feels tacky or sticky, dust the top lightly with wheat bran, cornmeal, or flour.

Fold the ends of the tea towel loosely over the dough to cover it and place it in a warm, draft-free spot to rise for 1 to 2 hours. The dough is ready when it is almost double in size. When you gently poke the dough with your finger, it should hold the impression. If it springs back, let it rise for another 15 minutes.

About half an hour before you think the second rise is complete, preheat the oven to 475°F (245°C). Adjust the oven rack to the lower third position and place a 4 1/2-to-5 1/2-quart heavy Dutch oven or pot with a lid in the center of the rack.

Using pot holders, carefully remove the preheated pot from the oven and uncover it. Unfold the tea towel and quickly but gently invert the dough into the pot, seam side up. (Use caution—the pot will be very hot.) Cover the pot and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove the lid and continue baking until the loaf is a deep chestnut color but not burnt, 15 to 30 minutes more. The bread is done when it registers 200°F to 210°F (93°C to 99°C) on an instant-read thermometer.

Use a heatproof spatula or pot holders to carefully lift the bread out of the pot and place it on a rack to cool thoroughly.

Slice and…sigh. Originally published October 5, 2009.

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    Variations

    • Seeded Whole-Wheat Bread
    • You can make this sturdy whole-grain loaf even more substantial–and satisfying–when you consider pretending you’re German and tossing in a handful of walnuts or maybe some pumpkin and sunflower sesame seeds when mixing the dough. Consider it bread that sprecheksn the Deutch.

    • Slightly More (Or Less) Hearty Whole-Wheat Bread
    • You can easily adapt this whole-wheat bread recipe to turn out loaves that are a little less hearty by tweaking the proportion of all-purpose to whole-wheat flours. The recipe currently offers a 3:1 ratio, but feel free to nudge it slightly up or down, making it closer to 4:1 or even 2:1 (all-purpose : whole-wheat) depending on how pale or dense a loaf you like.

    Recipe Testers' Reviews

    This no-knead whole-wheat bread is so simple to make it has become my go-to bread recipe. (I rarely buy bread.) It has a chewy crust and a well-developed flavor.

    When making bread with all whole-wheat flour and/or if adding bran, I’ve found adding about a tablespoon of any kind of sugar or syrup really helps jump-start the yeast; otherwise it must sit for considerably longer than 12 hours to finish the first rise.

    My favorite thing about this recipe is that it lends itself very well to experimentation, I’m still trying to figure out what combination and proportion I like best!

    This no-knead whole-wheat recipe makes it easy to turn out crusty loaves of chewy whole-wheat bread that will have you turning up your nose at supermarket bread in no time.

    It also invites experimentation, begging to be tweaked with more or less whole-wheat flour and the addition of nuts and seeds (flax? sunflower? pumpkin?). Loaves of bread don’t last long in our house, so there are very few days now when we don’t have a bowl of dough rising on the counter.

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    Comments

    1. Great recipe! I’ve tried the regular recipe and this one (which seems to be the same with a sub for wheat flour). The dough seemed a bit less soupy this time and easier to work with.

      My question–if I wanted to do a 2-3-day rise to get better flavor, would I refrigerate the dough after the on-the-counter overnight rise? Do I punch down the dough and then put in fridge? Or shape the bread and then refrigerate? Or just mix the dough and skip the overnight counter rise and put directly in the fridge?

      I know I can get even better flavor with a few more days of fermentation but don’t want to mess up the dough. Thanks for the advice!

      1. I have tried this recipe and loved it. However, I decided I wanted more flavour so I substituted 50g of flour and 50g of water and added 100g of sourdough. It turned out fantastic.

      2. IFL, I would stop at step two. Then instead of letting it sit out on the counter for 12 to 18 hours, I’d put it in the refrigerator. But here’s the caveat: you need to make sure that it’s covered with more than just a towel as the skin will dry out. When you’re ready to bake, take the dough out, and continue with the recipe

        1. Thanks for this insight — I have had problems with the skin drying out. What do you recommend to prevent this?

          1. Darca, try covering it with plastic wrap. That should help prevent it from drying out.

    2. Great recipe! But save your energy bill and heat up your oven for 10 mins instead of 30. That should be plenty.

      1. Thanks, James. I will have to respectfully disagree with you about oven times. It takes mine a full 30 minutes to heat up. At 10 minutes, it’s barely cresting 350°F!

        1. I have to agree with roz on starting with a cold oven. I tried this and it works fine. I’ve actually done this before with other breads in regular bread pans but this was my first time with a Dutch oven. I actually got a little more rise this way.

        2. This is truly a great recipe, now a classic. But handling the heavy, blazing hot pot is tricky and, for me, terrifying. I discovered that it isn’t necessary to start your bread in that blazing hot pot. Both the bread and pot can be started in a cold oven. After the long rise, cut a piece of parchment paper slightly smaller than the base of the pot. Place the parchment paper inside the pot. Sprinkle just enough flour on the dough to be able to scoop the dough out with your hand without being too sticky. Place the loosely formed dough ball in the center of the pot, on top of the parchment paper. Place an oven-safe lid on top of the pot and place it in the cold oven. Turn the oven on to 450 degrees. After 30 minutes, carefully remove the lid from the pot and bake for an additional 30 minutes. Remove the pot from the oven and carefully remove loaf from the pot. Allow the bread to rest for 5 minutes before cutting into slices.

          If using a convection oven, bake for 30 minutes with the lid covered and 15 minutes without the lid.

          This works! (another tweak I use is to substitute 2 tablespoons of orange juice for two tablespoons of water. Learned this from King Arthur Flour. The OJ cuts down on the bitterness of the whole wheat.)

    3. This is the first time I made bread that proofed for this long. It is a good bread as a companion bread for soups… I don’t know if I really like it plain with butter. A little bland in taste. My oven is old so the temp went up too high for about 10-15 mins, so the crust was a little hard. Overall, I think this is nice and easy recipe.

    4. Hi, I would love to use only whole wheat flour to make this artisan bread. But I don’t understand what the meaning of “Go all the way with 100-percent whole-wheat flour, then drop down to 85 or 50 percent or lower.” Can anyone give me the recipe for using 100% whole wheat flour and the changes in any ingredients and steps if needed? Thanks.

      1. Evon, you’re absolutely correct, that WAS really confusingly worded! Thank you so much for pointing that out. I’ve reworded that variation to be, I hope, much clearer. Can you kindly take a look and see if that answers your question? The author, Jim Lahey, had suggested that you can make it with 100% whole wheat flour although we haven’t tried that in our own kitchens so I think you’re going to have to go by feel and add a little more water if the dough seems to need it. The other steps remain the same although expect perhaps a slightly longer rise time and don’t expect to see the dough rise as much, of course, as bread made from white flour. Kindly let us know when you give it a try…

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