Tag Archives: no-knead bread

Quick(ish) No-Knead Bread

This is my current favourite loaf, bar none. It’s easy to make – though the ‘quick’ part of the title definitely needs to be taken in context – but the end result is bread that’s full of flavour and texture and, most importantly, those air-pockets that fill up so delightfully with butter, jam, soup, or whatever else you put the slice on or in. It’s also so appealing to look at, beautifully rustic and craggy. And the smell! Well, that’s a given.


The recipe comes from the New York Times, and shortens the usual no-knead time from 12 hours to just 4. I’ve even cut the initial rising time back to three hours, on a warm day, and it’s still come out really well. Did I mention I love this recipe?

I have begun to diverge from the recipe a little over time, even though you’d think there wasn’t much room to stray from the simple path it lays out. I keep the ingredients as directed, and while I sometimes monkey with the initial rise time, I generally leave it for four hours – it takes so little time to mix those ingredients together that you can get it started quickly, then go about the next four hours of your day without giving it another thought.

Tip One: Be absolutely positive to mix the dry ingredients well before adding the water. Otherwise your yeast will clump together and you’ll have a devil of a time trying to mix it through the flour.

The dough will be shaggy, as the recipe states. For me, that means it looks like this:


It’s not a ball of dough, there are no smooth surfaces to be seen. It’s kind of lumpen and unlovely, if we’re honest. That doesn’t matter. Wrap it up tight, keep it cosy, and let the yeast do its work. It’s pretty much lumpen and unlovely all the way, until you take it out the oven at the end and marvel over its beauty. Kind of an ugly duckling situation…er… if that story ended with roast swan for dinner…

Tip two: That was a joke. Do not eat swans. 

After it rises, it will be a little more swampy than before, and when you tip it out onto your well-oiled worktop, you’ll see tons of bubbles, like so:


This is good news. Try not to bash all the air out of the dough, since you’ve made the yeast work double time to create it in the first place. The dough now gets folded over a couple of times, to give it height. I usually go for a four-way fold – imagining the dough as a square, I lift and fold a section from the top and bottom, then from the left and right. I end up with a kind of swag-bag shape. The dough is sticky and joins up easily, to itself and also to your hands.


Tip Three: Coat your hands in oil or water to stop the dough from clinging to them. Make sure your surfaces are well oiled, too. 

The bread relaxes for another half hour after you’ve folded it. It is a soft dough, and it won’t hold its shape over this time. You can stick an inverted bowl over the top – making sure to oil any of the bowl that will come into contact with the dough – to prevent it from spreading too much.

Put the oven on to heat in this half hour – it’s going up to 230C, so it needs some time to get there. Also put the baking dish or tin you’ll be using in there, so it’s piping hot before you put the dough in. This is an area where I differ from the recipe – I use a cake tin to bake the bread, instead of a proper dish with a lid. I leave it uncovered, and bake it for less time. It’s not the recommended method, but it works for me.

The moment when you move the risen dough into the baking tin is the worst part of the whole operation. It’s so soft and delicate that you feel sure you’re going to ruin it – or that you’ll never be able to get it off the counter and into the tin. Have courage – you can do it.



I sprinkle the surface with a little flour, which helps to stop more sticking and lets me shape the dough just a little, enough to make sure it’s the same size as the awaiting tin. I gently pat and turn it with my hands – the turning makes sure that it’s free of the counter. If it sticks, I get in there with a dough scraper and loosen it off. It’s only a matter of time before the moisture in the dough either soaks into the flour on the surface, or re-attaches to the counter, so you do have to move fast. Scoop it up and drop it into the tin, and give the tin a shoogle to even it out in there.

Tip Four: That baking tin is HOT so be careful. Drop the dough from a little way above the tin, so you don’t hit it with the back of your hands and end up with matching burn marks. People will not be sympathetic about those. They may even snigger.

I bake, uncovered as it is, for half an hour. With my oven, this is when the crust is golden and the loaf sounds hollow when I tap on the base.

Tap tap tap...

Tap tap tap…


Put the loaf on a rack as soon as you can, to let any extra moisture out, and let it cool a little before slicing into it. It will be difficult to resist. Be strong.


And there it is. It’s not my recipe, but it’s one I think a lot of people need to know about. Or no-knead to know about. Ahahaha…

Postscript: I just ate the slice of bread in that picture up there, and it was just so good. The bread is moist and chewy (the way I like it), and has a hint of sourdough flavour from the longer rise. Just a hint. A splash of sourdough starter might be the next way I change the recipe. I don’t know, though. It’s pretty darn perfect. 

The Year of Bread Part Five: No Knead Bread (and Cinnamon Roll Fail)

I’d never made no knead bread until this loaf. I’d heard of it, and even looked at recipes, yet somehow those things never turned into actually doing it. Why is this? I have no idea. The most likely explanation is that I see so many recipes every day that I want to try, it’s hard to keep up with them all. Pinterest is going to be a good tool for getting on top of this, especially when it comes to bread recipes. I’ve also been a bit intimidated by bread up until recently, so maybe there was a Fear of Failure lurking in the back of my mind – to fail at a recipe that is supposed to be so easy would be worse than failing at a recipe that’s hard, right? Or maybe I’m a (very) secret bread snob and I didn’t think it was bread if you just mixed it in a bowl and let nature do the work. That last opinion would have to have been extremely secret, even from myself, but I’m just throwing it out there for the sake of argument. Whatever the reason that I hadn’t made it before, I’ve done it now, and I can tell you that it really is a big reward for a small effort.

The recipe I used was from Jaden’s lovely blog, Steamy Kitchen. This is a classic example of why ‘read through before starting’ is an important rule – I started the bread on a grumpy Saturday afternoon, and when I got to the instruction that said ‘Now leave your bread to rest overnight’ I was quite taken aback. I had been deprived of my mood lifting bread making (and eating)! And it was all my own fault! How I hate being wrong… I did the only reasonable thing and started making sourdough cinnamon rolls, too. They turned out like this:

It was that kind of afternoon.

They turned out like that because when I thought I was leaving them in a very low oven to heat, I was just leaving them in a cold oven with the fan on to dry out and ooze sugar everywhere. I turned the oven up to bake them in the vain hope that something salvageable may come of them, but it didn’t. At all. Still, it gave me a laugh, and cheered me up without having to consume any calories, so I suppose it was a win overall.

I went back to the no knead bread after 20 hours, and it looked like this:

After baking so much bread recently I’ve come to really appreciate the look of bubbly, yeasty dough like this; I could see that it might be a pain to work with, but I could also see that it was behaving exactly as it was supposed to, and that it would rise up into a lovely, airy loaf. Look at all the bubbles!

It was sticky to work with – I made sure my work surface was well floured, and a good tip that I had forgotten in the excitement of the moment is to use wet hands when handling a sticky dough like this. Wetting your hands balances out the extra flour that you’re adding from the surface, but still stops you wearing bread dough gloves by the time you’re finished. There were really only two tricky moments with the dough; the first was in transferring it from the surface to the HEAVILY floured tea towel. You can see that the dough took on a curve, where I tried to extract my hands without ruining the shape entirely…

Dough after folding

Dough after transfer to tea towel - a bit curvy

 It didn’t really matter, because the dough was going in to a cake tin to rise anyway, at the end of which time it had filled right out into the shape of the tin. It was a very powerful dough, you can see how much it rose in the two hours, but what you can’t see is how delicate and soft it was.

It was kind of like a souffle, wobbly and fragile, still a little sticky to touch but without the shine that it had in the beginning. It was all of these things, that is, until I came to the second tricky moment, which was transferring the dough from the tea towel to the baking dish. I psyched myself up and, on the count of three, turned the tea towel upside down to drop the dough into the dish. It stuck! Argh! I had floured it so heavily to try and stop this from happening but it still ruddy stuck, faster a thing with superglue on it that’s been put somewhere it’s not supposed to be. I’ve tried the floured tea towel technique twice now, and both times it’s gone badly – next time I’m going to get some oiled clingfilm in there between the dough and the tea towel.

You can see where the dough stuck and I had to scrape it off again...

One I’d managed to get most of the dough into the dish, I put it back in the oven, covered. This was the result at 30 minutes:

You can see that the bread doesn’t really rise while it’s in the oven, I think because it goes in at a very high temperature. It pulls away nicely from the sides of the dish – this dish wasn’t greased or floured, just brought to the temperature of the oven before I put the dough in. You can hear the dough sizzle when you tip it out of the towel and it hits the hot ceramic. You can also use a cast iron or enamel pot – Jaden has a nice paragraph on choosing just the right receptacle in her post.

Here’s the final result, after another 15 minutes of uncovered baking:

There’s a close up of one of the gnarly bits. I took the loaf out of the baking dish (my special favourite Le Creuset dish!) and let it cool on a rack until it was cool enough to slice into. It sang as it cooled down. I’ve never been so delighted by the sound of bread. It crackled, and whistled a little bit, and gave these little pops now and again, and the whole time it gave off the most amazing smell, the warm, homely, sweet, savoury, begging for butter smell of fresh bread.

And yes, all right, maybe none of that *actually* sounds like singing, but in that moment it was like listening to a choir of angels. Bready angels.

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