I’ve been making no knead bread based on Jim Lahey’s recipe for ages. The results have been good, but not great. This is a relative scale. Would I eat a quarter of the “old” recipe as soon as it was cooled and set, fresh out the oven? Yes. But, this one is better.
Note the scoring that produces massive oven spring. I only recently purchased a lame and I have to say that it was worth every penny.
There are a few key steps I will cover, along with the recipe. This recipe is for a kitchen scale only. I found have that it produces consistent results and once you get one you start weighing everything in the kitchen, so it has entertainment value in addition to food making value.
You will need:
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- Kitchen scale (Americas Test Kitchen budget scale)
- 5 quart cast iron dutch oven (LeCreuset or Loge or any other cast iron brand). All will work fine. I have an enameled LeCreuset which has been been a workhorse for well over ten years for baking, stews, stovetop, oven, etc.
- Parchment paper (NOT wax paper)
- Bread flour (All Purpose will work, but I highly recommend bread flour)
- Buy King Arthur directly from King Arthur, or your local store (much cheaper than Amazon).
- King Arthur 8lb unbleached bread flour (12.7% gluten)
- Or (better) get King Arthur High Gluten Flour (14.2% gluten) – it’s the same that bakeries buy and different from the bread flour – higher gluten. It is more expensive, but worth it.
- Whole wheat flour
- You can find smaller bags in your supermarket, or buy a 5 pounder.
- Active Dry Yeast (I have found instant yeast proofs too early)
- If you’re buying from the King Arthur site, buy this: SAF Red Instant Yeast
- Or buy Fleischmanns/Red Star Active Dry Yeast from your supermarket — best to buy it in person so you can see the expiration date. It will keep in the freezer in a bag for months, if not years.
- Any salt will do since you are using weight, not volume. Just make sure it is relatively fine grain and not big lumps like in a lot of sea salts.
- Pinch of sugar
- Room temp water
- Fill a bowl with water and let it sit on your counter for an hour.
- Kitchenaid stand mixer
- Really not necessary, but they’re great to have around
- We are not kneading the dough, just mixing with it
- Oven mitts and/or heavy kitchen towels
- You’re going to handle heavy and very hot cast iron cookware. Make sure your mitts/kitchen towels are dry.
Plan your baking time. Here is a time table for a 6PM bake the next day:
- 9 PM pour a few cups of tap water into a few coffee cups/glasses and let sit
- 10 PM – Mix ingredients
- 5 PM – next day: turn on oven, final dough proof
- 6 PM – Bake bread for 20 minutes, remove lid, bake for 30-40 minutes
- Around 7 PM – Bread comes out and let cool for at least 30 minutes (do not skip the cooling step – it as important as the bake itself)
Have all of your ingredients ready and open.
I use measuring cups as they make good scoops, but you don’t need them. Any cup will do.
Place your KitchenAid bowl or medium size bowl onto the scale and tare the scale to zero (tare after each addition). Make sure it is set for grams and add in this order:
- 300 g water + big pinch of sugar – tare
- 2 g active dry yeast – mix with a spoon – no need to be very thorough. – tare
- 350 g bread flour (652g) – tare
- 50 g whole wheat flour (702g) – tare
- 8 g salt (710g)
This is a very wet dough. Mix with dough hook in Kitchenaid for 1 minute 30 seconds. Scrape the sides.
Or, mix with a spatula/spoon until combined, otherwise. No need to go nuts – we’re just combing everything. Did I mention it’s a wet dough?
Scrape down the sides, put some plastic wrap over the top and stick the bowl out of sunlight somewhere where it will stay warm . 76 degrees is the sweet spot, but I’ve done this anywhere from 64 degrees to about 78 degrees. Any warmer and you should drop the proof time by a couple hours.
p.s. this is a small loaf – you can easily double everything for a much larger loaf, but keep it small if this is your first time.
The next day
- Run a clean kitchen towel under the faucet, squeeze it dry
- Measure and cut parchment paper in the dutch oven so you have a few inches sticking out on either side when it is in a U shape that touches the bottom. The paper that sticks out will be two handles, so make it is long as you want. Put this in a smallish bowl.
- Place dutch oven in the oven and set to 450 or 475 F (230 / 246C) non-convection. Note the time because you will be baking 60 minutes from now.
- You will need a place for the very hot lid and the bottom of the dutch oven when it comes out – make room.
- Make lots of room on your counter, and sprinkle a good dusting of flour – I use a tea strainer because it makes a nice even coat.
- Use a spatula to remove dough from the dough bowl. It is sticky, but will pull out in one big mass.
- The blob in front of you has a back, front and sides to it, even though it is roundish
- Grab nice chunk of the blob’s back side (your knuckles should touch the work surface), stretch it back a few inches, bring it up and forward to the center of the blob. Press it in a little – it should stick by itself – don’t push too hard. Turn the dough around – you might need to unstick it a little. Do the same grab/pull/smush. Now do that to the left and right sides. If it looks too untidy for you, do the same to the four corners.
- Does it look like a mess? That’s just fine. Does it look nice and round and plump? Good – that’s just fine.
- Sprinkle it with a good dusting of flour and dust the parchment paper
- Turn the dough over and place on the parchment paper in the bowl – this will help keep its shape.
- Place the damp towel over it for about of 45 minutes, but no less time. 60 minutes is fine. Two hours might be pushing it.
- Take the dough out the bowl using the parchment as handles and place on the counter. If it sticks a little on the sides, don’t worry about it – just pull it out.
- If you have a lame or brand new, washed box cutter blade, make one, deep slash across the top of the dough. Do it quickly and deeply. If it didn’t work, don’t bother trying again, or try slashing it deeply a few times. It will be fine.
- You will bring the dough to the dutch oven, not the other way around.
- Get your mitts on/towels and take the burning hot dutch oven out and remove the lid. Place a dry kitchen towel on the lid so you do NOT forget that it is 450+ degrees F, which will burn you badly in less than a second. The towel will be fine.
- Lower the dough into the dutch oven – don’t worry about folding the parchment paper, etc.. Just get it in. It didn’t go right in the center? Do not mess with it. Just leave it. It will be fine. Dropped it and it fell on the side? Leave it. It will be fine. Do not mess with it once it is in the dutch oven. The leaves of the parchment can be inside or outside.
- Using the mitts/towel/s, put the lid on.
- Place the package into the oven and set a timer for 20 minutes.
- You will soon smell the bread -it might smell a little sour, then start turning more towards a bread smell.
- After 20 minutes, carefully remove the lid and put on a towel over it where you set it down so your spouse doesn’t burn their hand off.
- Bake for 20 minutes. Take a look. It’s probably a little pale. Bake for 10 minutes more. At this point, bake it until you think it’s ready. I like a medium brown. You can go darker, but do 5 minutes at a time.
Ready to come out
- Carefully remove the dutch oven.
- Remove the bread using the parchment paper and place on cooling rack
- Put the dutch oven back in the oven that you can now turn off (you can put the lid back in, too).
- Wait a minute, or so, then put your ear to the bread. You will hear it cracking – be careful of steam venting. The bread is now setting. Do not look at it, cover it, touch it or cut it.
- Take your butter out of the fridge. I recommend only butter if this is your first time. If you buy unsalted butter, get the salt ready.
- 45 minutes later (yes, 45 minutes – trust me), cut a slice and taste it.
- It’s good to taste it without anything first – trust me.
- Then add your butter with a touch of salt.
- I like butter and a good cheddar on fresh bread.
Congrats! You have just done what humankind has been doing for tens of thousands of years (except the scale part). It’s not difficult. Do it more often.