As best I can determine, this recipe was the first viral success story of the food blog age way back in 2006. It was then that Mark Bittman wrote about Jim Lahey's revolutionary and quite unconventional no-knead bread technique, and in the process enticed a whole new generation of home cooks to craft their own artisanal loaves.
Why, you might ask, am I dedicating a post to a recipe that has already been so widely touted in the blogosphere? Because even though all the great food bloggers from Bittman, to my friend Stacey at Stacey Snacks have written about this bread, if I can tempt just one of my intrepid readers to try this recipe, then it's worth my effort to share it once again……yeah, it's that good. In fact, it is so good, and so easy that unless you are one of the lucky few that have an artisanal bakery within walking distance of your home, I bet that this will become your go-to resource for the highest quality bread.
As you know, my wife is the real bread baker in this family and has the reams of research and baking diaries to prove it. She was the one who introduced us to the quite wonderful "5 Minute" Bread, and is responsible for turning us onto Lahey's recipe as well. It was a recent Bon Appétit cover story about Lahey's no-knead pizza dough that caught her eye, and the rest as they say is delicious history. She made her first loaf just a couple weeks back and the bread has been a constant fixture at our dinner table ever since.
How does Lahey's bread compare to our last love, the "5 Minute" loaf? Rated with regard to crust, crumb, appearance, and flavor (what else is there, really?) Lahey's bread is the hands-down winner. If the "5 Minute" loaf is a VW Beetle; a solid and dependable ride, then Lahey's is a Porsche 911, a sexy and tantalizing improvement on all counts. Both breads are surprisingly simple to make, and with a little care each delivers consistent results, but whereas the "5 Minute" loaf tastes and looks like a good quality home made product, the Lahey loaf looks and tastes like you picked it up from the finest artisanal baker in town.
The only aspect of the "5 Minute" bread that we find more appealing is the relaxed attitude required with regard to the timing of fermentation. Fact is, the "5 Minute" bread dough can sit in the fridge for days with hardly a worry until you decide you're ready to finally bake a loaf, the Lahey dough…… not so much. As you'll see in the recipe, Lahey requires you stick to a fairly strict time-line when making his bread, and as the fermentation all happens at room temperature (i.e. never retarded by the chill of a fridge), sticking to his time-line is required lest you run the risk of over proofing your bread dough. The clock starts over 20 hours before you anticipate baking your loaf, and once it's started, there's no going back.
Frankly, it is that fact that lead to my baking the loaf you see above, as my wife started a batch of dough then found herself caught out of the house at a critical juncture in the time-line. She called me just shy of hour 18, mildly panicked, and asked if I could punch down the dough, form the loaf and bake it in her absence….oh $#!% ! Every loaf she had baked to that point was sheer perfection, and as she gave me detailed instructions over the phone I felt as if I were a mid-wife being coached on how to successfully deliver her child….talk about pressure!
Suffice to say that due to her impeccable instructions my first attempt at making this bread was an unqualified success, and I was amply rewarded by the sound of the beautiful loaf "singing" to me when I removed it from the oven. What, you didn't know bread could sing? Place your ear to the crust just after you pop it onto a cooling rack, the crackling sound you hear as the crust cools is the bread "singing" to you, and is an indication of a beautifully crafted loaf of bread.
Cheers – Steve
Jim Lahey's No-Knead Bread
- 3 cups (430 grams) flour (we use King Arthur Bread Flour)
- 1 1/2 cups (345 grams) water
- 1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) yeast
- 1 1/4 teaspoons (8 grams) salt (we use kosher salt)
- oil for coating
- extra flour, wheat bran or cornmeal for dusting (we use flour)
- Mix all of the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Add water and incorporate by hand or with a wooden spoon or spatula for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Lightly coat the inside of another medium bowl with olive oil and place the dough in the bowl (we actually skip this part and leave the dough in the mixing bowl). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rest for 12 hours at room temperature ( 65-72 ℉).
- Remove the dough from the bowl and fold once or twice. Let the dough rest 15 minutes in the bowl or on the work surface. Next, shape the dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; place the dough seam side down on the towel and dust with flour. Cover the dough with a cotton towel and let rise 1-2 hours, until more than doubled in size.
- Heat the oven to 450-500℉. Place the pot in the oven at least 30 minutes prior to baking to heat. Once the dough has more than doubled in volume, remove the pot from the oven and place the dough inside, seam side up. Cover with the lid and bake 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake another 15-30 minutes until the loaf is nicely browned.