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No Knead Bread Adventure

Reasons for my absent in blogging these days is I had a fever lasting for weeks. No, nothing extremely serious that needs medication but it is kinda serious enough to get me all excited and crazy: I have been caught by No Knead Bread fever. I better warn you first ... it is very addictive. I made them just for the pleasure of seeing my dough ferment correctly and rise and each time my bread turned out successfully, I wanted to do it again. My mother-in-law is thrilled about my latest baking adventure whereas hubby is a bit weary of my latest addiction. He asked one day 'how many dough are you making this time around?' after seeing bowls of dough fermenting everywhere in the house.:-D

No Knead Bread is nothing new to bloggers around the world. It has been circulating for a few years now but now and then, there is a renewed interest in this method for beginners at bread making. This recipe, created by Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery, was first published in The New York Times in November 2006.

Mind you, my first few attempts at making this bread was a total disaster. The 1st didn't rise that much - I convinced myself that it did doubled in size (who was I bluffing ?) and baked it at 180°C for 45 minutes as said as an alternative way of baking it if one doesn't have a dutch oven. The bread was decent looking but very compact, didn't rise completely and crumbly, didn't taste anything like a whole wheat bread at all. I didn't understand why my whole wheat bread was so crumbly. My other half seemed to be satisfied with it while I was so totally disappointed. Never mind, I was not going to be defeated so easily: I got another brand of yeast from the cupboard, made my 2nd dough. To my utter disappointment, it didn't even rise as high as my 1st attempt. And baking it, turned into something hard as a rock (I think one could kill someone with it). The inside totally didn't rise and it looked totally inedible - my better half was courageous enough to try it and said it tasted like compact flour.:-p

I was determined to find out why and where I failed... spent a few hours reading up on the Internet for possible causes. Ah, maybe my yeast was old - that could be the reason or my kitchen isn't warm enough or I didn't bake it right. A quick check on the date of my two packets of yeast revealed they were both expired by respectively 1 and 3 years: no wonder my dough didn't rise as it should! Got my cheri to get a new pack for me and I went off making a new batch of dough. The next morning I excitedly went to check on my dough, again my dough had not risen that much. As we were going to my in-law's place for the week-end, I decided to take the dough with me and left it to rise in the furnace room since that's the warmest place in the house. Off it went sitting there for a night. Wow! What a difference it made - it really doubled in size. I was elated. Yes! yes! I was going to have my beautiful bread! Kept telling myself not to be too excited in case it was another failure. So I let the dough to proof in the boiler room for 2 hours. Once the time is up, I pop it in the oven. This time around, I used the dutch oven method - using a Pyrex pot. Everyone was impatiently waiting for my bread for lunch. I took one look at my finished bread and was excited like a little kid given a candy: the bread was truly beautiful and it sang for everyone at the table. No, they couldn't wait for an hour for it to cool down so they cut it right away.

Oh... the reason why my whole wheat bread doesn't taste anything like it is because I got lost in translation. I used sarrasin (buckwheat) flour instead of blé complet (whole wheat). Two completely different flour. duh!

Watch out for my coming post on alternative methods of baking this bread if you don't have a dutch oven. I did various experiments on it.

No Knead Bread Adventure
  • 3 cups plain flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
  1. In a big bowl, mix flour, yeast and salt together (stir to mix it).
  2. Pour in the water and mix it till it comes together. It should have a 'shaggy' look (sort of dry and a bit wet here and there).
  3. Cover the bowl with a plastic wrap and leave it in a warm room (21°C or 70°F) to let the dough rise for 12 hours. You can leave it longer if you want. The dough should double after 12 hours and look wet with lots of bubbles on the surface.
  4. Generously flour a cotton cloth or a clean dish cloth, tipping the bowl, using a rubber spatula scrape the dough out of the bowl - it will be sticky and stringy - onto the cloth. Sprinkle some flour on top of the dough. Flour your hands as well.
  5. Fold the dough over lapping each other like a cross. It will look like a square or rectangle. You can either flip it the fold top face down onto the towel or you can pick it up with your hands and pull it into a circle and drop the tucked bottoms onto the towel with the round smooth surface facing up.
  6. Fold or drap the cloth/towel to cover the dough and let it proof or rise for the next 1 or 2 hours at room temperature. It should double in size. U can let it rise longer if u wish.
  7. Half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 230°C(450°F). Put a heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand underneath the dough (under the cloth) and tip it over into pot (the bottoms of the dough should be facing up). Don't worry if it is a mess. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes.
  8. Cover with lid and bake for 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 minutes until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack. You can hear the bread crackles.
  9. Leave the bread to cool totally before cutting it as it is very hot inside (like for an hour or so).
No Knead BreadNo Knead BreadNo Knead BreadNo Knead Bread
The Verdict

It smells awesome, crusty on the outside, soft, moist, somewhat dense and deliciously tasty on the inside. Everyone loves it, even my guests (who asked me for the recipe). My mom-in-law who is very critical about her bread, gave this bread a big thumbs up. My father-in-law loves the walnut bread version. It is so delicious with just butter or with raspberry or strawberry jam.

The bread stays fresh even after the 3rd day. To keep it fresh, cover the cut portion with aluminum foil. Do not cover the whole bread as it will cause the crusty surface of the bread to go soft.

Give your bread new varieties by adding walnuts, dried tomatoes, olives, sesame seeds, pine nuts or a mixture of nuts, oats and raisins, dried figs, small chunks of bacon, etc. Instead of white bread, mix a cup of whole wheat flour with 2 cups of plain flour, or add rye.

No Knead Bread

It is said that the longer you let the dough rest like for 18 - 24 hours, the tastier is the bread. You can stir the dough down and let it rise again if you aren't baking it then. I did also let it proof in the fridge because I realised I didn't have time to bake it then. When I was ready to bake it, I took it out and let it proof at room temperature before baking it.

Problems with Dough

If your dough didn't rise, it could be either that your yeast is too old or the room temperature is not warm enough.

Kitchen too cool during winter?

My kitchen is a bit cool, so I had problem getting my dough to rise within 12 hours. If you can wait longer, then let your dough sit longer till it doubles in size.

Alternatively, I place my dough in my small bathroom next to the heater with door closed. Or, I put it in my oven or my microwave oven (both on turn-off mode, of course). This method works perfectly.:-) Problem solved.

Messy dough on towel

The original recipe put dough on towel ... frankly, I only succeeded 1 time using this method with towel coming off clean after proofing. Perhaps the air was drier up in the mountains?? I'm not sure. For the rest of the breads I made, the dough always got stuck to the towel and I had to literally scrape it off. So alternatively I generously flour a baking sheet and let the dough proof on it. It is less messy and we can throw away the paper later. The other type of baking sheet I use is a non-stick reusable baking sheet. The dough still gets stuck on some parts but getting the dough off the mat is not that difficult.

No Knead Bread
#1, by Sophie (03/13/2009)

MMMMMMMMM....It seems as a lot of work,.....But it looks awesome, that bread of yours!!! Beautiful pictures again!!!! I bet it tasted fab!!!

#2, by The Cooking Ninja (03/13/2009)

@Sophie: It's not a lot of work at all.:-) Mix, let it rise over 12 hours, proof it for 1 or 2 hours, bake it in oven. Voilà!

#3, by teckiee (03/13/2009)

You sure are determine to make the bread.. but kudos! I guess this should be easier for me cos I stay in a hot and humid country... I'm going to try this out and hopefully it turns out looking as good as yours.

#4, by beachloverkitchen (03/14/2009)

hope you feel better now...I only bake no knead bread once...your look great!! good job!!

#5, by ireneangele (03/14/2009)

I have been making kneaded bread for a month or two (bakeries are just not good around here) - I still have to try this method that looks like much less work ! But I don't have any big Dutch oven. Is there any alternative for baking it ??

#6, by Little Corner of Mine (03/15/2009)

Glad you found the joy in bread making. I haven't tried this no knead bread yet, but I tried the no knead foccacia and it was good as well.

#7, by KJ (03/15/2009)

That is one good looking loaf of bread. I have heard of this method but never tried it for myself. It's on my to do list.

#8, by Millie (03/16/2009)

This is my favourite bread as it always work for me. I actually leave it for 24 hours to rise (I live in Australia and it is warmer) and it always smell yeasty but the smells when baking is fabulous. I do bake other types of bread but this one is no-fail and it keeps for at least 5 days here. Leftovers make a fabulous french toast. My 20 yr daughter who hates bread loves the french toast.

#9, by Jurate (03/16/2009)

This bread looks amazing! I am very curious to try to make it. I always wanted to make bread, but was a bit scared of the [bad] results:-) I have one question though, sorry if I misunderstood it in your post: you use dry yeast, is that correct?

#10, by The Cooking Ninja (03/16/2009)

@teckiee: Oh yes, you wouldn't have any problem getting your dough to rise.:-) Do let me know how yours turned out, please.:-) Have fun making it.

@Beachloverkitchen: Thanks:-)

@Ireneangele. You can use ceramic crockpot if you have one. If not, use a stainless steel pot. Either you remove the rubber knob or you cover it with aluminum foil.:-) Using this method, the crust will not be crusty. It's kinda soft.

@Little Corner Of Mine: Oh, I have to try no knead foccacia one of these days.:-)

@KJ: Yeah I got to know this method of making bread a year back but I didn't try it out until recently a blog friend of mine started talking to me about it and that got me all curious.:-) Do let me know how yours turn out if you ever get around to bake it.:-)

@Millie: Thanks for dropping by my blog.:-)I have a couple of friends living in Australia.:-) I did once a 24 hrs rise and it was very good. Yes, this bread last very long and it is great for us. The normal bakery bread only last a day and two before turning hard. This one keeps fresh long.:-)

@Jurate: Yes I use dry instant yeast. Oh you will love this bread. It is so easy to do.:-) Can't fail ... except if you are using expired yeast like I did.:-p Have fun and let me know how yours turn out.:-)

#11, by Jurate (03/17/2009)

Oh no, I can't believe this! Even after reading your post, I didn't check the date cause I bought it not that long ago. But after seeing that nothing much happened to my bread overnight, I looked: expired for almost 1 year:-) No wonder my yeast pancakes didn't turn out well on Fat Tuesday, but that time I was just blaming myself and not knowing how to treat yeast. No worries, I will get new yeast and make it again!:-)

#12, by ireneangele (03/18/2009)

Thanks for the recipe, I tried and it's a great success !! Bread is not as dense as kneaded bread, but it is crustier. Actually I like it better - and it's way easier (almost too easy).
Adopted !

Besides, did you try to add chocolate chips and a few little butter pieces when folding the bread ? I often make small, very dietetic "pains au chocolat" this way, it's delicious.

#13, by The Cooking Ninja (03/18/2009)

@Jurate: Have a blast making this bread. If you don't have instant yeast, you can add 3/4 tsp of normal yeast. I did one yesterday with lukewarm water and it works.

@Ireneangele: I'm glad you love it. No, I haven't try it yet. Will do that. I did thought of adding dark chocolate bits next. I just baked one with dried fig in it. It was super delicious - just like the ones we bought from the bakery, even better.:-)

#14, by Janet Ching (03/20/2009)

Wow, such a long post! It was nice to share your experience along the way! My hubby and me do not really like fig, I like adding cranberries and walnut in bread. I will try them in this NK bread next time.

#15, by Breadwinner (04/20/2009)

The "name" is what friends now call me (being out of work yet baking great bread!). Been over a month since the last post here so felt I could add some things for those who are still trying. The NK recipe is a good one and will take up to an additional 1/2 cup of just about anything (fruit, nuts, cereals, spices, herbs, etc.). To create a whole wheat loaf, change out one cup of white for whole wheat. Am actually awaiting the next 12 hours for a new version of the whole wheat where only added 1/2 cup of whole wheat and added 1/2 cup of buckwheat flour. Also add a 1/2 cup of a 12 grain meal (cereal - uncooked) for a really healthly loaf. Most are done via the pot method (stainless steel - 8 inch pot)for the great crust. Prefer to use bread flours (known as hard flours) rather than all-purpose and if you can get it, better rise and taste (more gluten strings). Also prefer traditional dry yeast (same measure as above) than instant or quick rise as with the 12-18 hour initial rise, who cares as to the time and this one tends to "last" a little longer (shelf life). I have "forced air" furnace so in winter (cool kitchen as well), I put the bowl on a stool over the vent and make sure towel will overhang to grab some of the warm air coming out. Once summer comes, will be less necessary yet warmth (not heat)is really important. Also try a a 750 ml yogurt container full of hot water in the corner of your microwave with the door closed (and not on). Exchange out the water periodically. Best of luck to all - home bread is great (even with all of the "failures"!!)

#16, by Kevin (05/18/2009)

Cool mais as-tu tamisé ta farine? Parce que je vois des petites boules de farine à l'intérieur de ton pain.

#17, by Kevin (05/18/2009)

Tu peux ajouter de la pâte fermentée (levain), 250 grams pour un kilo de farine et quand tu termine ta pâte, elle doit être à 24° dégrés.

#18, by HN (05/22/2009)

Can truly feel your excitement while reading through the lines:-) Shall try one day for sure!

#19, by Cuisinart Bread Maker (09/25/2009)

Well you spread it out with your fists fold in half then spread with you palmes then you keep doing this. SIMPLE.

#20, by halogan ovan cooking (11/25/2009)

Ok there are a lot of instructions there. I will try it out this weekend. fingers crossed.

#21, by Jeannie (01/20/2010)

I am in the process of letting this bread do it's 12 hour rise. I think my house was too chilly over night (65-68 degrees) so have raised the temperature and am trying to be patient enough to see if it will double in size.... keep your fingers crossed for me as I am making a Spicy Bean and Ham soup that it would go perfect with. Will let you know how it goes.

#22, by The Cooking Ninja (01/20/2010)

@Jeannie: Good Luck! Keep my fingers cross for you. My kitchen is rather chilly during winter so I put my dough in either my oven or microwave oven to let it rise. Another method I use is put next to my radiator in my small bathroom. It helps too.

#23, by Alison (02/06/2010)

These look good and easy! I'd love to try these! Thank you for visiting my blog!!

#24, by m (03/14/2010)

thanks for such an awesomely detailed recipe!(:

if i want to use solely wholemeal flour, would the proportions for the other ingredients remain the same?

also, if i add sultanas and such, when should i incorporate them?

#25, by The Cooking Ninja (03/14/2010)

@M: I have not tried making this bread using totally wholemeal flour. Most of the people who did wholemeal bread with this usually replace 1 cup of plain flour with wholemeal. I don't think you to change the quantity of the water if you replace 1 cup of plain flour with wholemeal, however check the texture of the dough. If it seems a wee bit dry, add a little bit of water and stir. The texture of dough should be semi dry & wet. There's no need to change the proportion of the ingredient.

Normally I add sultanas, dried figs, nuts, or bacons, etc, only at the folding stage (point 4) in above recipe) ie. after overnight rising, and turn it out on the lightly flour surface, I sprinkle whatever I wish to add to the bread, then fold as point 5), sprinkle another batch, fold it again. (Sometimes I do 3rd fold) Then I flip it over to let it rise again before putting it in the oven to bake. Hope I have answered your question. If you have further questions, do not hesitate to ask me.

#26, by m (03/16/2010)

thanks! i tried a completely wholemeal one, a plain, and a sultana dough simultaneously.

my doughs rose spectacularly, but after the folding stage they doesn't seem to be rising! why???

#27, by The Cooking Ninja (03/16/2010)

@M: How did it turned out after you bake it? Did your bread rise in the oven? If it did, it doesn't really matter if the dough doesn't rise a lot after folding. I do experience dough not rising double after folding but it rise beautifully in the oven. Sometimes I don't even leave it out to rise for 2 hrs after folding ... just bake it after half an hour and it still turns out beautifully. If your kitchen is a bit cool or chilly (like mine), the dough will not rise much. Hope this info helps.

#28, by m (03/16/2010)

thanks! i tried a completely wholemeal one, a plain, and a sultana dough simultaneously.

my doughs rose spectacularly, but after the folding stage they doesn't seem to be rising! why???

#29, by m (03/16/2010)

it turned out doughy and didn't rise much in the oven):

#30, by The Cooking Ninja (03/17/2010)

@M: All of them? How about just try out with plain flour first to see how it works out for you. Once you get this successfully, try it with 2 cups of plain flour & 1 cup of wholemeal. After this, try it with sultana.

#31, by Blaize Clement (03/17/2011)

I just discovered this blog so I may be too late to ask a question. I'm trying to find a recipe that would duplicate a loaf of chocolate bread that I've put in every Dixie Hemingway mystery that I've written -- all 7 of them. Fans have written asking for the recipe and I'd like to either give them one or make loaves myself and send to one or two readers a month. I think I can handle the baking, but I wonder if you've ever mailed a loaf. Would you freeze it first? Wrap it in tightly in foil or some other wrapper? Ship it in dry ice and let the recipient heat it in the oven? I want the chocolate chips to ooze but not blend into the bread completely. Thanks, You have a great blog! Blaize.

#32, by The Cooking Ninja (08/01/2011)

@Blaize Clement: Sorry to answer you this late. I have never send out bread or cakes or cookies overseas. Perhaps you can try vacuum pack? It might help and it will suck out all the air and moisture leaving the goods fresh.