I used to be intimidated by bread baking. I thought of it as a monumental task that only homemakers invested in … mixing, kneading, waiting for multiple rises, expensive stand mixers with dough hooks, etc. I hate to admit it, but I marched down to the grocery store and bought the $4 mini loaves of “artisan” bread trucked all the way from California. Not my finest hour, I know. Come to find out, using easy homemade no-knead bread recipes, it’s easier than I thought.
Homemade No-Knead Bread Recipes:
Basic White Bread Recipe
Oat Raisin Bread Recipe
Cardamom Cherry Bread Recipe
Rye Bread Recipe
Wheat Bread Recipe
Dill Bread Recipe
Chocolate Cherry Bread Recipe
Parmesan Pesto Bread Recipe
Cranberry Walnut Bread Recipe
Sun-Dried Tomato Bread With Onion
My excuse for not baking bread from scratch was that I didn’t have time, nor did I have all that fancy equipment. Enter no-knead bread – a magical mixture of flour, salt, yeast, water and time. The world of homemade, thick-crusted, moist-crumbed, real artisan bread opened up to me, and it will for you, too.
After seeing a brief blurb about Jim Lahey’s book My Bread (W.W. Norton & Co. Inc., 2009) in a food magazine, I was instantly intrigued and rushed right out to get it. According to Lahey, anyone could easily make no-knead, artisan-style bread in their home kitchen with a minimal amount of time, equipment and effort. Really? It all sounded too good to be true … but as it turned out, it wasn’t.
The following method of bread making takes a small bit of forethought, some mixing and a lot of time in between. It’s a “slow rise” method in which the flavor is a result of slow fermentation, and the texture is the result of baking in a cast-iron pot. The yeast is eased to life over time (12 to 18 hours), rather than shocked to life with warm water and sugar. In fact, this type of bread doesn’t require any added sugar. The ingredients are pure and simple – the white loaf calls for flour, salt, yeast, water – and most can probably be found in your pantry at this very moment.
Due to the nature of slow fermentation, you’ll need to start your bread the day before you want to consume it. This may be hard to get your mind around, but the effort is well worth it. There isn’t space in this article to go over the culinary science and reasons behind this method – from fermentation to singing (the wonderful crackling sound the loaf makes as it is removed from the oven that signals the beginning of the important cooling process) – so for that, please get Lahey’s book and commit it to memory.
My method slightly deviates from Lahey’s. After baking several hundred loaves at the time of this writing, I found a few things that worked better for me in my home kitchen, resulting in less cleanup and better results. I’ve detailed two methods here for baking. The first is the most commonly used; the second is for use with recipes calling for buttermilk (dairy products burn more easily at higher temperatures).
Feel free to take liberties with these recipes to determine what works (or tastes) best in your kitchen, and to come up with new flavors. Bread is a forgiving medium for experimentation … whenever you combine flour, yeast, water and heat, you’ll usually end up with bread in some form, regardless of your kitchen credentials.
The Perfect Pot
I began baking my bread in 5- or 6-quart cast-iron and/or enameled cast-iron Dutch ovens, but my gooey dough didn’t seem to fill the expanse of those pots, and I ended up with a flat, sometimes odd-shaped loaf. After stumbling upon a rare 31?2-quart enameled cast-iron Dutch oven at my local hardware store, I knew it was the perfect size just by eyeballing it. The bottom was smaller in circumference than the larger pots I was using, and the sides gently curved upward, giving the loaf a more defined shape and some needed rise. The only problem was that doggone plastic knob!
The plastic knobs affixed to the lids of most cast-iron Dutch ovens will melt in a 475-degree oven. A simple and cheap fix: Replace it with a large, all-metal, cabinet- or drawer-type knob from the hardware store. If its screw is too long for your lid, use washers or nip off the end of the screw to secure it tightly.
You can find a healthy selection of 31?2-quart cast-iron Dutch ovens online by doing a search; they aren’t usually stocked on the shelves of your local big-box stores or even specialty cooking stores.
The other unique item on the equipment list (see “Bread Booty” below) is the elusive plastic dough scraper – not to be found in town! Do a web search, and several will turn up on specialty and/or commercial-baking supply sites.
You’ll need these items to make the bread recipes presented here:
- 3 1?2-quart cast-iron pot with lid and metal knob (plastic will melt in the oven)
- large mixing bowl
- dry measuring cups
- liquid measuring cup
- measuring spoons
- large rubber spatula
- 2 plastic dough scrapers
- large wooden or glass cutting board
- cotton or linen tea towels
- heavy-duty potholders
- sturdy wood or metal spatula
- cooling rack
A Note on Cleanup
Let’s face it, wet, sticky dough is hard to clean up. Instead of ruining your scrubbers and sponges (and clogging your sink) by attacking the problem directly, use these methods:
- For your dirty dough bowl: Swirl a little water in the used bowl. Dump it out. Wipe a dry paper towel all around the bowl, picking up all the bits of dough, and discard.
- For your tea towels, just pick off any rogue bits of dough before laundering.
- For the cutting board: Use your plastic dough scrapers to scrape up all the dough bits before cleaning it with soap and water.