No-Knead Bread for Beginners

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It’s Mental Health Week! Seeing as baking is proven to be good for your mental health, I wanted to celebrate by sharing one of my favourite baking recipes: No-Knead Bread.

Like most novice bakers, I thought making bread would be too difficult to master. The stakes seemed much higher than they did for cookies or quick breads. I was afraid of failing after dedicating so much time to making a loaf of bread, so I avoided it. But as my baking skills improved over the years, I wanted to try something more challenging. Enter no-knead bread.

The recipe I’ve shared below is a mash-up of other recipes, namely Mark Bittman’s recipe from the New York Times, Mark Bittman’s recipe from How to Bake Everything (which has different proportions), and The Kitchn’s no-knead bread recipe. My first few loaves had problems (too gummy, too bland, unsatisfactory crust), so in an obsessive quest to resolve these issues, I turned bread into a science experiment.

This is my recipe for no-knead bread. I have baked this bread repeatedly and adjusted the recipe to suit my idea of what a perfect loaf looks and tastes like. That’s the cool thing about bread: it’s part science experiment, part magic. The slightest adjustments can yield different results. It’s all good, though; in the end, you have bread.

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You can make delicious bread, too. No-knead bread isn’t difficult, and you don’t need any fancy equipment, but it does take time; this recipe will take 22-24 hours from start to finish. Most of that time is hands-off, obviously, but if you’re baking bread for a specific occasion, be sure to start your dough early enough to avoid disappointment! If you put a batch of dough together before you go to bed tonight, you can have this bread for dinner tomorrow.

And finally, remember to trust and believe. This yields a very wet, slack dough that may look different from what you may have seen elsewhere. As long as your yeast is working (you’ll be able to see and smell it), then you’re on the right track. Don’t give up!

Here’s what you need:

Equipment:

  • 4-6 quart covered pot (enamel/ceramic/cast iron/Pyrex) — I used a Le Creuset french oven size 26/5.5 quarts/5.3 liters (see note below)
  • Large bowl
  • Silicone spatula
  • Plastic wrap
  • Parchment paper
  • Digital kitchen scale (optional but highly recommended)

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups flour (375 grams)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups water, at room temperature

Here’s what you do:

1. In a large bowl, weigh or measure out flour, salt, and yeast. Add the water in three parts, combining with one hand (Paul Hollywood’s preferred method on The Great British Bake Off) or a wooden spoon. Note: using your hand really is better; it’s faster and will help you avoid overmixing. Bend your fingers into a sort of claw, like this:

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2. Cover the bowl well with plastic wrap and leave the dough to rest at room temperature, away from drafts, for 18-20 hours. You’ll be able to see and smell the yeast working almost immediately.

3. When the dough is ready, turn it out onto a well-floured counter, using a spatula to very gently coax it from the bowl if needed. Flour your hands. Fold the dough over on itself three times. Do not knead or work it further.

4. The dough will now be soft but no longer very sticky. Cover it with plastic wrap (you can re-use the piece you used to cover the bowl) and let it rest for 15 minutes.

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The dough is folded on itself and ready to rest for 15 minutes.

5. Prepare a square of parchment paper that is approximately double the size of your ball of dough. Note: I like to put the parchment paper on a cutting board so I can move the dough out of the way while it’s proofing, but you can also put it directly on the countertop.

6. Flour your hands. Pick up the dough, fold it quickly into a rough ball (it won’t be perfect!). Manipulate it as little as possible. Place it in the center of the parchment paper and cover it with a clean tea towel. Set a timer for 90 minutes.

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7. Place your baking vessel in the oven with the lid on and turn the oven on to 450°F. Very important safety note: if you’re using Le Creuset bakeware, please know that the black knob it’s sold with (which they call the phenolic knob) is only oven-safe to 375°F and must be removed prior to baking at high temperatures. I replaced mine with a stainless steel knob to avoid issues, but you can also bake without it — just be SUPER careful when manipulating the lid once it’s hot!

8. Set the timer for 30 minutes and preheat your baking vessel while the dough finishes rising (the second rise will take a total of 2 hours).

9. After 30 minutes, very carefully remove the baking vessel from the oven (it will be extremely hot). Uncover the dough and slash the top in an X shape with a sharp knife or bread lame. Pick the parchment paper up by the corners and drop it gently into the baking vessel.

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10. Cover with the lid and bake for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for another 20-25 minutes, until the loaf is browned and/or registers 200°F or more on a digital thermometer.

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11. Using the parchment paper, transfer the bread to a rack and allow to cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Note: you may be tempted to cut into the bread right away, but you must resist; slicing super-hot bread will yield a gummy, sad crumb. Wait it out!

You did it! You made bread. Let me know how it turned out in the comments below!

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