Definitives: No-Knead Bread
No-knead bread is one of those recipes that’s all over the internet (and has been for years), because it’s hype-worthy.
For years, I made no-knead bread two to three times a week. I bought flour in 25 lb. bags, and kept yeast in the freezer. I work a lot, and I’m busy, but it’s one of those recipes that 99.9% of the time just turns out.
Tonight is the first time I’ve made it since I lost my husband, which seems like a stupid first. But anyone who has lost their life partner will tell you that pretty much every habit you have is a thing you remember as a “first.” The first time you went back to a restaurant, the first time you slept in your bed, the first time you boarded a plane without them. The world becomes a place unpleasantly filled with firsts.
This no-knead bread first is because I’m using up excess milk by making ricotta in my Instant Pot, a pending project. But it’s likely to yield whey — and my main use for homemade ricotta is on no-knead bread with olive oil. And basil, if I’m lucky enough to have some. The only necessary thing possibly not on hand will be yeast, which I buy in bulk and store in the freezer:
This is so easy, you just need:
- A big, clean bowl;
- Anything to stir;
- A measuring cup (liquid) and measuring spoons;
- Any coverable baking dish.
- 6 c. flour (all-purpose or bread are both fine)
- 2 and 2/3 water (I use warm, some recipes say cold, and whey will probably be warmer)
- 1 T. of salt (my friend Neal advised me to add about twice that, and I always do)
- 1/2 t. of yeast
The Five Minutes of Work Mainly Involved
This bread is not fussy. True to its name, there’s no kneading involved. It basically entails stirring and waiting … the waiting is the main barrier here, as there are two waiting periods that are just over 12 hours combined.
In your big bowl, stir together all the ingredients. The dough will be loose and “shaggier” than you might be used to, but it cannot be understated how hard it is to eff up this recipe. Even dry pockets are mostly dealt with during the rising process.
How This Dough Becomes Bread
First thing: cover with plastic wrap, a clean tea towel, a large plate, or the solid object of your choice. Place somewhere warm-ish, like a microwave you’re not using, or the oven. The counter is fine, but right now the air conditioning in my kitchen would impede the rising process.
The best time to do this is bedtime, because then you need to let it sit for 12-15 hours. When the first rise is over, push the dough down and let it rise again for 2-4 hours. It’s not fussy. These times are not exact.
Thirty minutes before baking, preheat a) your oven, to 425 degrees and b) then your covered baking dish (with cover).
When you lift the cover off, use mitts. This is “duh,” but my first time I did that and it was a nightmare.
The hardest part is carefully removing and de-lidding the hot dish and dumping the dough in it. I olive oil my dish, but I don’t know this is necessary. Cover and bake for 45-50 minutes. Remove the cover and bake for another 5-15 minutes, depending on how dark you like the crust.
Tip the (again very hot) no-knead bread out onto a rack or other cooling area after it’s done. Although it’s tempting, don’t slice it when it’s hot, because it gets gummy. It can be sliced and stored in gallon sized sandwich bags for several days, and it freezes well.
Although it requires some advance planning, no-knead bread is legitimately easier than running out to the store for bread. And sitting here, I’m waiting for my whey and missing my husband’s prediction that I wouldn’t get around to making it tonight.
Below, images of the dough at the mixing stage and the whey from my Instant Pot ricotta (used in lieu of water):