Jim Lahey’s no-knead bread recipe turned traditional bread making upside down for all of us. Made with just flour, yeast, salt, and water, the bread is the fastest, easiest, and best you may ever make.
How to ensure magnificence from your loaf of no-knead bread
Baker Jim Lahey took great care, in his original recipe for this no-knead bread, to explain as many tricks as he possibly could to help ensure you have spectacularly satisfying results at home. We’ve included them in the instructions below.
Don’t rush through this recipe and skim the details. Each word, each visual cue, each explanation has meaning.
Rely on the description of how the dough should appear or feel more than the timing.
And know that conditions change from kitchen to kitchen and from day to day, depending on the exact flour you’re using and the temperature of your house and the humidity and, we suspect, the barometic pressure, the phase of the moon, and maybe even your mood. So some days your bread baking may seem blessed and others it may feel cursed. Although as Lahey says, “Even the loaves that aren’t what you’d regard as perfect are way better than fine.”
As easy as this recipe is, Lahey cautions that it’s not exactly an impromptu sorta thing. “This bread is incredibly simple and involves little labor, but you need to plan ahead. Although mixing takes almost no time, the first rise requires from 12 to 18 hours. Then you’ll need to shape the dough and let it rise for another 1 to 2 hours. The longer rise tends to result in a richer bread, but you need the patience and the schedule to do it. After preheating the oven and the pot, you’ve got 30 minutes of covered baking, another 15 to 30 of uncovered baking, and about an hour of cooling. And please, don’t gulp down that first slice. Think of the first bite as you would the first taste of a glass of wine: smell it (there should be that touch of maltiness), chew it slowly to appreciate its almost meaty texture, and sense where it came from in its hint of wheat. Enjoy it. You baked it, and you did a good job.”
Jim Lahey's No-Knead Bread
- Quick Glance
- 30 M
- 3 H, 30 M
- Makes 16 slices | 1 (1 1/2-pound) loaf
Special Equipment: 6- to 8-quart heavy pot with lid
In a large bowl, stir together the flour, yeast, and salt. Add the water and mix with a spoon or your hand until you have a shaggy, sticky dough. This should take roughly 30 seconds. You want it to be a little sticky. (Many people who bake this bread find the dough to be sticker than other bread doughs they’ve worked with. Even though it’s not what you’re accustomed to handling, it’s perfectly fine.)
Cover the bowl with a plate, towel, or plastic wrap and set it aside to rest at warm room temperature (but not in direct sunlight) for at least 12 hours and preferably about 18 hours. (Ideally, you want the room to be about 72°F. In the dead of winter, when the dough will tend to rise more slowly, as long as 24 hours may be necessary.) You’ll know the dough is properly fermented and ready because its surface will be dotted with bubbles. This long, slow fermentation is what yields the bread’s rich flavor.
Generously flour your work surface. Use a bowl scraper or rubber spatula to turn the dough onto the surface in one blob. The dough will cling to the bowl in long, thread-like strands and it will be quite loose and sticky. This is exactly what you want. Do not add more flour. Instead use lightly floured hands to gently and quickly lift the edges of the dough in toward the center, effectively folding the dough over onto itself. Nudge and tuck in the edges of the dough to make it round. That’s it. Don’t knead the dough.
Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran, or cornmeal. Place the dough, seam side down, on the towel and dust the surface with a little more flour, bran, or cornmeal. Cover the dough with another cotton towel and let it rise for about 2 hours. When it’s ready, the dough will be double in size and will hold the impression of your fingertip when you poke it lightly, making an indentation. If the dough readily springs back when you poke it, let it rise for another 15 minutes.
A half hour before the dough is done with its second rise, preheat the oven to 450°F (232°C). Adjust the oven rack to the lower third position and place a 6- to 8-quart heavy pot and its lid (whether cast iron or enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in the oven as it heats.
When the dough is done with its second rise, carefully remove the pot from the oven and uncover it. Also, uncover the dough. Lift up the dough and quickly but gently turn it over into the pot, seam side up, being very careful not to touch the pot. The blob of dough may look like a mess, but trust us, everything is O.K. Cover the pot with its lid and bake for 30 minutes.
Remove the lid and bake until the loaf is beautifully browned to a deep chestnut color, 15 to 30 minutes more. Use a heatproof spatula or pot holders to carefully lift the bread out of the pot and place it on a wire rack. Don’t slice or tear into it until it has cooled, which usually takes at least an hour.
Commonly Asked Questions About No-Knead Bread
- 1. Why didn’t my bread rise?
Because the recipe calls for so little yeast, it’s important to make sure the yeast is fresh. Also, if the room is too cool (the ideal temperature is 72°F/22°C), the dough will need longer to rise.
- 2. I don’t have a Dutch oven. Can I still make the bread?
You certainly can. What’s most important is to have a tight-fitting cover. Some bakers have had success with:
— a stainless steel pot with a lid
— an oven-safe glass (Pyrex) dish with a cover
— a clay pot with a lid
— a pizza stone with an inverted stainless steel bowl as a cover
- 3. Why are my bread loaves flat? They’re not big and round.
First, check your yeast. It could be old and expired. Keeping yeast in the freezer helps extend its life considerably. Another culprit is not letting the dough rest enough after shaping and before baking. Creating a tight skin on the surface of the dough allows it to rise to lofty heights in the oven–something called oven spring.
Recipe Testers' Reviews
For me, this is the PERFECT bread recipe. Making bread is my obsession. I have made nearly every bread recipe you can name. As much as I love the ritual of old-fashioned bread-making—kneading, resting, proofing, etc.—this no-knead bread recipe is my go-to loaf.
I base this on two things: texture and flavor. This is hands-down the best-tasting "white bread" that I have ever eaten, let alone made. I use a digital scale and weigh my ingredients.
Good bread takes several hours to produce. GREAT bread takes nearly 24 hours. If you rush this recipe, you will be doing yourself a great disservice. When Jim Lahey says this dough should be wet, trust him, it will be as wet as a ciabatta dough. VERY WET. When folding the dough, it doesn't have to be precise. I simply pull 4 edges up and toward the center. Then simply turn the dough, seam side down, on a floured cloth or linen. Do not scrimp on the flour for the tea towel. You will NEED a thick coating on the cloth or it will stick when you flip it into the 450°F Dutch oven. Trust me. Don't fret over how the dough looks when you put the lid on and just slide it back in the oven, set your timer for 30 minutes, and, like some crazy magic, when the lid comes off, it will always be perfect. The last 15 minutes is the hardest for me. I always want to take it out of the oven before it turns a lovely dark brown. DON'T DO IT! Let it bake without the lid for at least 12 minutes.
Remove your masterpiece from the oven, carefully place it on a cooling rack (I use 2 silicone spatulas) and, while you're admiring your mastery, listen. The bread will crack and hiss and sing. Truly one of the most beautiful sounds that you'll ever hear.
Yum! This no-knead bread recipe is perfect! I used bread flour and let it rise for 22 hours. I used a glass bowl so I could see many bubbles visible on top and throughout the dough along the sides. After the first rise, the dough is exactly as described—quite loose and sticky. I let it rise 2 hours after shaping the loaf and baked for the recommended time. The bread matched the picture color.
I hopped into the shower and left the bread cooling and unguarded from bread lovers. When I came out, my husband had cut the bread only about 20 minutes into the recommended cooling time. There was no detriment to the bread. It retained a moist chew inside and a lovely, crunchy crust outside. I will definitely make this again.