The Famous No-Knead Bread

The perfect crust

I am about two months behind the curve with post, but somehow I just haven’t gotten around to baking Jim Lahey’s much-vaunted No-Knead Bread that appeared on the front page of the New York Times food section on November 8th, 2006. This amazing bread recipe/technique sent ripples through the foodie world, and you can find a list of links to people who made the bread here and here.

I’ve been home sick for the last couple of days and in a moment of stir craziness yesterday I decided to start this bread. It’s fantastically simple from beginning to end. First off you mix three cups of flour (I did two cups of unbleached white flour and one cup whole wheat) with either 1/4 teaspoon of instant yeast or a 1/3 teaspoon of regular dry active yeast and 1 & 1/4 teaspoons of salt. Mix these three dry ingredients together well and pour in 1 & 5/8 cups of water (I don’t have a measuring cup that measures in eights, so I guessed a little). Stir just enough to combine, cover with plastic and let sit for 12 to 18 hours (I let it go for nearly 20 and it was just fine).

It’s ready when the surface is dotted with bubbles. Turn it out onto a well-floured counter-top or cutting board and fold it over onto itself a couple of times. Then cover with plastic and let it sit for 15 minutes. Once its rested a bit, flour the dough and your hands and quickly shape it into a ball. The recipe says to place it, seam side down, on a dish towel dusted with either flour, wheat germ or cornmeal. I used wheat germ, but it was kind of messy and burned a little while baking, so I’m going to stick with flour next time. I also didn’t sit it on a towel, because I’d read things about how the dough stuck badly. So I dusted a sheet of parchment paper and sat it down on that. I dusted the top with flour and did drape a towel over the top. Let it rise for two hours.

An hour and a half into the rising time, set your oven to 450 degrees with with the pot you’re going to bake it in inside. The secret to this bread is that for the first half hour, you bake it in a pre-heated lidded pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic), to keep the baking environment moist. For the last fifteen to thirty minutes, you take the lid off so the top browns. When the rising time is up, turn it into the pot and bake.

The whole way through, I thought I had done something wrong. I didn’t get many bubbles on the top, and it didn’t rise much during the last two hours. But I figured I should just keep going to see how it turned out and I’m so glad I did. When I pulled my faux-Le Creuset pan out of my oven around 4 pm today, I was greeted with a perfect boule of bread. I let it cool for about 20 minutes before carving into it. For someone who has almost never baked bread and has a bit of a yeast phobia, this bread has done much to bolster my confidence. As it is, I have a full whole wheat batch fermenting on my kitchen counter right now, as I’m curious to see how it will do with just a whole grain.


It’s especially good with a smear of my mom’s seedless wild blackberry jam.  If you want to see the bread in action, we also made a loaf on an episode of Fork You.

33 thoughts on “The Famous No-Knead Bread

  1. Marisa

    It’s really amazing because it requires so little effort. I did a loaf with just whole wheat flour and it still worked beautifully. It was a little dense, but that’s the trade off.

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  5. Grammar Mammar


    One slight fix you might make: it should be much-vaunted (vaunted:praised boastfully or excessively) not much-vaulted (vaulted:having a hemispherical vault or dome).

  6. Tom G.

    I’ve made this recipe dozens of times and let me tell you it is idiot proof. In fact, I have stopped doing the 2 hour rising time completely and the results are STILL wonderful. The cooking vessel I use is Target’s ChefMate cast iron 5 quart kettle ($26 approx). I follow the recipe as far as ingredients, mixing, covering with plastic, letting sit 16 hours or so, then I dump it out onto a dusted cutting board while the oven and kettle are heating up for 30 mins, fold it over a few times, dust with flour, cover with plastiv wrap again then when oven is ready just dump it into the pan, cook for 30 mins, take the lid off, 15 mins more and it is perfect every time. Enjoy!

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  10. Peter Stadler

    It’s pay-back time! I believe I have some worthwhile modifications to the wonderful original no-knead bread recipe and approach.
    This version is so good that after giving a few slices to friends, more than one has sheepishly confessed to not sharing with their spouses, all was eaten before the return of their mates!

    6 C ‘better for bread’ flour (may use 2 C whole wheat, and or 1 C Rye to make 6 C)
    1 1/2 T Sugar (I prefer brown)
    1 T Salt
    1/2 tsp yeast (original recipe calls for Instant, I found – contrary to multiple blogs – Active Dry works just fine; I suspect any yeast would work!!)
    Optional 1/4-1/2 C Onion Chips
    Optional 1/2 – 3/4 C Multi (7, 9, or 12) Grain Cereal
    I use a large Tupperware cake holder/transporter and mix the dry ingredients using the cover as a bowl, just close the lid (actually the base of the cake transporter) and shake the contents thoroughly.
    I also normally use about 1/2C of SourDough (Rye based, started from grapes years ago (bacteria on the skins of non-sprayed fruit), quite tangy!)
    Add 2 3/4 C water (adjust a bit for how much chips and cereals used) and with a strong wooden spoon mix well. I like to keep the dough on the dry side.
    Optional sometimes I add 1/2C of pesto

    Any combination – including any or all of the optionals – results in great flavors
    Rising at a cool temperature (50-70F) (right in the closed cake transporter – its base is used as a well sealing lid) for about 20 hours really brings out the flavors. Same wooden spoon is then used to fold the outside of the dough into center – if you’re talented you can balance the dough mass on the spoon and flop it upside down back into the ‘bowl’ for another 4 hours of second rising. I preheat to 400 F with a very small (2 qt) Le Crueset-like pot (mine is actually a Belgium made Descoware pot) which just fits into our toaster oven (I actually had to grind down the lid’s handle by about 1/4″). When the air conditioner is fighting the heat given off by our regular oven, I bake in the toaster oven outside the house. When using the regular oven I use a 51/2 qt. Circulon pot; the foil protection (see below) is not needed in the regular oven.

    I then take the preheated pot out of the toaster oven, close its door and working rapidly flop the dough into the pot – same back into the oven which will be re-set to 375F (convection) for 35 min. I find working in the open rather than in the confines of the oven (even when I use a regular oven) is far safer from a burn perspective. I open to take the Descoware’s lid off and reset for 375F and 35 min again. About 15 min into the lid-off portion of the bake I place a tin foil over the pot to prevent burning the top of the bread – it’s really close (< 1″) to the heating elements. I leave the bread in the cooling oven (door still closed) for another 15 min before shaking unto a cooling rack. Wait one hour before slicing, then spread with unsalted butter and love life!
    My loaves typically weigh 3 1/4 lbs.

  11. Chagri Lama

    Made dozens of these loaves. Various combinations – and they just keep on succeeding!

    My recipe is:

    6 cups of flour (NOTE 1)
    3.5 cups warm water
    1 Tbsp yeast (Active) (NOTE 2)
    1 Tbsp salt
    (NOTE 3)

    I mix ingredients in a soup pot (because it is handy!), add water, mix well to make sure all the flour is wet.

    Let rise in the same pot for 8-20 hours – depending on my schedule. I place the pot on top of the refrigerator for some warmth or on the counter next to refrigerator all the way in the back.

    After rising time, the dough is poured onto a kitchen towel that is covered with about 3 Tbsp corn meal.

    A small handful of cornmeal on top of the dough and the sides. I then use the towel to gather the dough on one side, then the other, making it a bit longer. Then another handful of cornmeal on the other ends of the longish loaf, and fold the towel over to gather the dough to create a more square shape.

    Then I fold the towel over enclosing the dough. Flip over so the dough cannot push open the towel and let sit for 15 minutes.

    Turn oven on to 475-500 with the two 9 inch dishes. One is a metal soup pot with a lid, the other is a white corning pot with a glass cover.

    10-20 minute heating until the oven clicks and the heating element stops heating. Sometimes two clicks…

    Meanwhile, open the towel wrapper. divide the dough into two equal amounts. A little cornmeal on the cut side prevents sticking.

    Fold the dough over once or twice on itself.

    (NOTE 4)

    Open the oven and take one dish out – USE THE MITTS, THE DISH IS HOT!!!, sprinkle a tiny bit of cornmeal on the bottom of the hot dish pick up the dough, and drop it into the dish. Cover, and place (use the mitts!) into the oven.

    Same with the other dish.

    Lower to 475-450 and bake for 25 minutes, uncover, back for 20 more minutes.

    Take out, let stand for a few minutes. Eat!

    NOTE 1: The flour I use is generally 2 cup white, 2 cup spelt, 2 cup wholewheat. But I used other combos: 1 cup Buckwheat to replace on of the cups of wholewheat. I sometimes add another cup (7th!) of cut oats (rolled oats works too!) and adjust the water up byt 3/4 cup.

    NOTE 2: I use Active Yeast and have used from 1/2 TBsp to 1.5 TBsp – no discernible difference in rising, taste etc. Probably use less and it’ll work fine.

    NOTE 3: Experiment and add a TBsp per cup flax seed, a TBsp (or less) carroway seed per cup, and other such.

    NOTE 4: The last batch I flattened out one log and spread liberally cinnamon, then folded the loaf over on itself. Smells deliciously good!

    The other log got a mix of chopped jalapeno peppers (2 small, incl. seeds) and about 1.5 cups of shredded cheddar folded into it. Wow!

    This bread is really idiot proof! I have baked maybe 40-50 loaves in about a year’s time, ZERO failures.

  12. Pingback: Original No-Knead Bread « A Bread A Day

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  14. handrail

    replace some of that water with beer and you’ll enhance the recipe even more! i use a very similar recipe but use ~1 can of beer plus a bit of water. then i add some dried thyme and crushed dried rosemary and get requests for this awesome bread all the time!

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