No Need To Knead Needlessly
November 12, 2006 9:57 PM   Subscribe

The Secret To Great Bread, according to Jim Lahey of the Sullivan Street Bakery, is time. If you have 20 hours to spare, you can make a spectacular, no-knead loaf with the simplest of ingredients. Here's his recipe, and here's another. Of course, there are those who would decry the Staff of Life anyway you slice it, but even they can enjoy some hot gluten on yeast bread porn. via the monkies
posted by maryh (47 comments total) 96 users marked this as a favorite
Be sure to watch the video at the first link if you're considering trying this. Believe me, I wish I had... (My loaf still managed to turn out pretty damn good, despite my ineptness.)
posted by maryh at 10:01 PM on November 12, 2006

I have this in its last stage on my kitchen bench right now! I'll post results in about an hour.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 10:22 PM on November 12, 2006

Great Scott! That bread porn link! *faints*
posted by loquacious at 10:27 PM on November 12, 2006

I did this Thursday/Friday and it turned out to be delicious. The crust was amazing.
posted by mustcatchmooseandsquirrel at 10:29 PM on November 12, 2006

I'm delighted other folks think this is the most amazing thing since...well, you know. I cut the article out of Wednesday's NYT and passed it around to my cooking pal co-workers and our mouths just dropped at the simplicity. I gave up on bread years ago after repeated bricks came out of my oven, but this method looks fantastic (and thanks for the video, which I wouldn't have bothered with otherwise; it helps inspire confidence that I can actually do it). Only thing stopping me is a pot I can preheat to 500 degrees, but once I get that I'll be golden brown.

*salivates over bread porn*
posted by mediareport at 10:35 PM on November 12, 2006

A friend made that no-knead bread tonight and I ate it and it was awesome.
posted by Dr. Wu at 10:36 PM on November 12, 2006

I too love good bread.
posted by pwedza at 10:37 PM on November 12, 2006

I tried this over the weekend and was encouraged by the technique but my results weren't so great.

The recipe calls for "instant yeast" and I used regular yeast. That's the only thing I can think that was a bit off--I got very little rise and the loaf was flat.

But it's sooo easy I'll have no problem repeating this until I get it right!
posted by donovan at 10:57 PM on November 12, 2006

Thanks maryh, great post. And that bread porn, God just killed a whole kindle of kittens.

Mediareport, the video mentions pyrex. I will try baking in pyrex covered with multiple sheets of aluminum foil.

Did I see the link to the episode of Yakitate Japan where they explain how to bake bread in a rice cooker? It is based on slow baking at low temperatures. (the whole series rocks!)

If both techniques can be mixed, one could have no kneading no oven bread.
posted by Dataphage at 11:23 PM on November 12, 2006

Mediareport, the video mentions pyrex

Yeah, my pyrex are too small for this, my only cast iron are skillets and my bigger pots all have plastic handles. Don't worry, I'm on the case. :)
posted by mediareport at 11:55 PM on November 12, 2006

I'm cheating with mine. I have a big spaghetti pot that's fairly heavy, might not be heavy enough.. and then things will burn, and as it has no lid, I'm going to use a pyrex pie-plate that fits perfectly on top as a lid.
It's a good thing we have a few silicone hand protectors, otherwise this is going to be fun.
posted by lilithim at 12:06 AM on November 13, 2006

Wonderful title. Looking forward to trying as soon as possible.
posted by pkingdesign at 12:08 AM on November 13, 2006

It's cooling down on a rack now. Crust is rock hard with blistering, and a beautiful colour. The smell is very good. (Stoneground organic flour helps here). I used an old enamelled cast iron dutch oven.

I think my mixture was too sloppy. Really. It couldn't hold itself up for the second rise. Nonetheless, it looks nice, it has risen, and I have high hope for it.

Definitely trying it again.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:08 AM on November 13, 2006

A slow, cold fermentation of wet dough is nothing new but does produce superior flavor. What's new for me is combining that technique with covered cast iron baking, which I've read about in an old bread book but never tried.

See also "Pain à l'Ancienne" in Peter Reinhart's book, The Bread Baker's Apprentice.
posted by D.C. at 12:13 AM on November 13, 2006

Mmm, bread. Note crackling crust.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:18 AM on November 13, 2006

That looks excellent, i_am_joe's_spleen.
posted by maryh at 12:28 AM on November 13, 2006


I have some 12% protein flour I have to try this with. And I wonder if you could do sourdough this way?
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:32 AM on November 13, 2006

Does this come in a low carb version? I'm really trying to watch my weight.

Just kidding, of course. I am an avid bread baker and find this admittedly slightly sacreligious - I'm used to the stages of proofing dough, the poolish or biga, the hot pizza stone in the oven, the lame used to slash lines in the top, the rich creamy crumb, etc.

That having been said, this does look fantastic, and I will definitely try it sometime this coming weekend (and forward to my mom, who is a food scientist).
posted by rossination at 12:34 AM on November 13, 2006

I made mine as a sourdough, i_am_joe's_spleen. I used a teaspoon of starter instead of instant yeast. Easily the best flavored sourdough I've ever made.
posted by maryh at 12:39 AM on November 13, 2006

Thanks to you, maryh, I have weeks of fooling around ahead of me. I'm still coming to grips with sourdough anyway - my baking glands are thoroughly overstimulated now!
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:46 AM on November 13, 2006

That couldn't have been the real Jim Lahey - he doesn't call it 'shitbread'.
posted by popkinson at 2:57 AM on November 13, 2006

Baking in cast iron, like baking in stone (with a lid) is a great way to bake bread. It gives you an oven spring that you'd normally never be able to get by throwing water into your oven.

The no-knead thing, on the other hand... having tried it I wouldn't recommend it unless you're really sick of kneading or you don't own any mechanical kneading devices (e.g. Cuisinart or Kitchenaid). I was unimpressed with the hole structure I got from no-knead compared to 15 minutes in the Kitchenaid.
posted by rxrfrx at 4:07 AM on November 13, 2006

I know this is off-topic and all, but seeing the name Jim Lahey brought the Trailer Park Boys rushing back to memory, and now all I can do is imagine that guy trying to bake bread in his trashed trailer.
posted by Clamwacker at 4:15 AM on November 13, 2006

But kneading the dough is half the fun of baking bread.
posted by crunchland at 4:27 AM on November 13, 2006

We made it this weekend, and it was pretty good. Unfortunately, I pulled it from the oven a little early, but the bottom crust was wonderful, and the hole development looked very good.

It took a bit more water to get the dough sticky and shaggy. We baked it in a cast iron dutch oven. I think what caused me to pull it too early was some of the bran starting to scortch.

Definitely a keeper, though.
posted by QIbHom at 4:40 AM on November 13, 2006

Can't wait to try this -- I've had pretty good results baking on a pizza stone, but I recently exploded my oven's lightbulb while throwing water in there to make steam (and I wish I could say that was the first time I've done that...). The dutch oven technique makes so much sense.
posted by sriracha at 5:25 AM on November 13, 2006

Can anyone recommend a really good beginners guide to bread making book - I'm inspired now.
posted by TheDonF at 5:26 AM on November 13, 2006

I gave this a shot last night, and it turned out well - one piece of advice I can pass along is to put a very liberal amount of flour under the dough before you wrap it in the cloth. I didn't, punctured the dough transferring it to the oven and I think it resulted in a somewhat less evenly cooked loaf than I'd have got otherwise.

Yeah, my pyrex are too small for this, my only cast iron are skillets and my bigger pots all have plastic handles.

I picked up an 6 gallon enameled cast iron pot for this over the weekend at Marshalls ($40), and it worked like a charm.
posted by ryanshepard at 8:18 AM on November 13, 2006

I'm interested in trying this. I'm also interested in trying it using beer-making yeasts in place of the bread yeast. They might work since some ale yeasts have an optimum fermentation temperature of up to 73 degrees.
posted by spock at 8:23 AM on November 13, 2006

Also tried this on the weekend and was impressed. I only had a 4.5 quart cast iron enamel pot (rather than the recommended 6 to 8 quart) but it still turned out very well. Dumping the risen loaf into the pot from a height was a bit of a thrill, after years of treating it with kid gloves per Peter Reinhart's instructions.

TheDonF, I started with The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book and went on to the above-mentioned Bread Baker's Apprentice. The first is pretty good for getting you used to working with dough, though the recipes are a bit too wholesome; the second is a good intermediate book that offers reasonable-sounding scientific explanations for what's going on, and also gives you a big range. I've tried pretty much everything in the latter and they all worked well (with the exception of the brioches, which were too sticky).

(The main bit of unsought advice I can give a novice baker is that baking is a pretty scientific process. I'm a mediocre cook at best, but I have turned out reliably good bread from my first batch, by following the instructions carefully. By contrast, friends who are great, intuitive and creative cooks all seem to have problems with bread. My assumption is that they are probably being too "creative" with what is essentially a simple biological/chemical/physical process).
posted by senor biggles at 8:27 AM on November 13, 2006

I think that's a pretty decent assumption, senor biggles. Beermaking is the same. It's all about feeding the little yeasties and making them happy (as well as being sanitary so as not to introduce any beasties).
posted by spock at 11:02 AM on November 13, 2006

My first attempt came out great (especially the bakery-quality crust and hole structure), even though:

-I didn't have any cast iron, so I used a 7 qt. anodized non-stick aluminum pot (don't worry - it's got metal handles and is oven-safe up to 550 degrees without worry of teflon fumes)
-(baking newbie) I might have used the wrong kind of yeast. The recipe calls for instant yeast, and I used active dry. I still am not sure if they're the same or not. Any experts want to help me out here?

I'll definitely be making this again. Between my wife and I, this loaf barely lasted the weekend!
posted by ericbop at 12:15 PM on November 13, 2006

senor biggles: cool, thanks for the info. Hopefully some yeasty goodness coming my way soon
posted by TheDonF at 12:40 PM on November 13, 2006

> Can anyone recommend a really good beginners guide to bread making book - I'm inspired now.

Beard on Bread. I linked to the paperback for the cover shot but amazon also has bunches of used hardback copies which I would get instead. Cookbooks really need to be able to lie open and flat.
posted by jfuller at 12:49 PM on November 13, 2006

I'm trying it right now - I've got the bread on the second rise, although I couldn't get it the seam to stay on the ball. Since I'm in Colorado, the altitude always throws a measure of uncertainty into my baking anyway. Plus, I let it rise initially for a few extra hours since my kitchen stays in the low to mid 60s during the winter. So who knows what I'll get.

TheDonF, my first bread book was The Bread Bible, and while the recipes were simple and taught me the basics about kneading and dough-feel, the results were generally bland. I really like Amy's Bread. It looks like it might be out of print, but you could probably find a library copy. Lately, I've been using a Cook's Illustrated Collection, with good results.
posted by bibliowench at 12:49 PM on November 13, 2006

Could someone post a summary and/or the recipe? NYPOST requires signups.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:25 PM on November 13, 2006

1. Mix a quarter tsp yeast, 1 tsp salt, 3 cups flour, and 1 5/8 cup water into a sticky dough. It's really sticky. I think you could cut down on the water a little.
2. Cover in bowl with plastic wrap and leave for 12-18 hours.
3. Turn out onto well-floured surface and shape into ball. Lots of flour to avoid sticking. LOTS of flour.
4. Put ball on well-floured cloth, seam side up, cover with another well-floured cloth. Leave for two hours.
5. Heat oven to 450F, with a cast iron pot and lid inside.
6. Dump your dough into the heated pot and cover.
7. Bake 30 mins, then take lid off, bake for a further 15-30 mins.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:48 PM on November 13, 2006

Enamelled cast iron pot? Does it matter?
posted by joshuaconner at 3:37 PM on November 13, 2006

FFF: In the video, he only uses a cup and a half of water and he preheats the oven & pan at 500 degrees (he says 550, if your oven goes that high.) It's sort of odd that the printed recipe differs from the interview.

joshuaconner: He recommends an enamelled iron pot, but you can use Pyrex or ceramic pans. I think the tight lid is the most important thing. I used the ceramic liner and lid from my crockpot and it worked great.
posted by maryh at 4:34 PM on November 13, 2006

I'm thinking I might need to build a brick oven out back...
posted by five fresh fish at 5:42 PM on November 13, 2006

When I saw this article was the most read on on the day after an election, I really thought about trying it.
posted by Frank Grimes at 7:03 PM on November 13, 2006

ericbop: They're not really the same, although who can argue with results if you like what you made?

The idea is that instant yeast is ideal for adding right to the dry ingredients without prior proofing in water. Also, you use a little less instant yeast than you would active dry. Something on the order of 1 teaspoon active dry = .75 teaspoon instant.
posted by veggieboy at 5:12 AM on November 14, 2006

letting it rest at room temperature for 12-18 hours? if a longer slower rise is always better, let's kick it in the fridge and adjust the time accordingly. yeast rise time doubles every 17 degrees, so if a fridge is a little under 40° you're looking at a 48-72 hour rise! yeah!

(and i think the ratio of instant to active is 60:100?)
posted by soma lkzx at 7:44 AM on November 14, 2006

I'm thinking I might need to build a brick oven out back...

So you can bake unkneaded bread.

The mind boggles.
posted by crunchland at 7:47 AM on November 14, 2006

And good pizza, and kneaded bread, and do some raku pottery, and get rid of the dead bodies.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:36 PM on November 14, 2006 [1 favorite]

Made this today, it was awesome. I'm an old-school bread baker so I knew my yeast (Rapid Rise, or For Bread Machines is the kind you want), flour, etc were fairly new. If you have flour or yeast that's been sitting around for years, get new. It's worth it.

I also tossed it into my big LeCreuset enameled Dutch oven and was very worried that it might crack at 450 degrees, which the LeCreuset Web site lists as the highest temp it can handle, but it came through with flying colors.

The bread had kind of a organic, rustic shape, rose beautifully, and I coated the dough with cornmeal during the second rise as per one of the options given, which really made it kind of neat.
posted by GaelFC at 5:37 PM on November 19, 2006

Instead of a brick oven, how about a BBQ? Especially one with a heavy load of firebrick. Or better yet, The Big Green Egg.

Come to think of it, TBGE might be one helluva versatile device. I've heard it does meats amazingly well, I've suspicions one could do some interesting small-scale metallurgy & such, and it might be just the thing for awesome bread.

Anyone got experience with 'em?
posted by five fresh fish at 6:48 PM on November 19, 2006

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