Ever since Mark Bittman featured Jim Lahey’s no-knead bread in the New York Times four years ago, bakers of all stripes have offered up their own variations of this deceptively simple method of turning out beautiful loaves from virtually any oven. The process of creating the type of bread that is found in the finest artisan bakeries is laborious, requires a masters attention to detail, and having a wood burning brick oven doesn’t hurt either. But with Lahey’s method, four ingredients, a Dutch oven or similar pot and some patience while the bread rises are all you need.
Since every other food blogger has written about this miracle of modern baking, I figured I’d offer up my own take on no-knead bread in case I have a reader or two just emerging from hiding under a rock for a few years. The basic formula is the same, although I’ve made some changes based on other variations that I’ve experimented with.
The keys to a successful no-knead bread are a heavy 6 to 8 quart ovenproof pot and the right kind of yeast: Instant yeast, also known as Fast-Rising or Rapid-Rise yeast. Active Dry Yeast will not produce the desired result for this recipe. SAF brand Instant Yeast is vegan and a one pound bag at a grocery warehouse type of place costs about the same as 6 of those little packets normally found in supermarkets.
After your bread cools, do not store it in a plastic bag! The crispy crust will get soft in a plastic bag. Always store bread in a paper bag. The one exception is if you are freezing the bread. I cut the loaf into halves or quarters and freeze them in zipper bags. A quick thaw and warming in the oven and it’s almost like having it fresh.
And there’s nothing like eating this bread fresh. With its’ crisp, flakey crust and light airy inside, it’s as if you turned your kitchen into a bakery.
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, plus more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1-5/8 cup Water
1 Tablespoon white vinegar
Olive oil spray
In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add vinegar to water, pour into flour mixture, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself a couple of times. Sprinkle some flour over the dough and cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
Place an 18-20 inch piece of parchment paper on a 12 inch skillet. Spray a very thin coating of olive oil spray on the center 10 inches of the parchment paper.
Coat your hands with flour to prevent sticking, uncover the dough and pick it up and place it on the parchment paper. Sprinkle a little more flour on the dough, cover with the plastic wrap and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size.
At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Uncover the dough, pick up the parchment paper with the dough inside from opposite corners and carefully place it in the pot . Shake pot once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Using a sharp knife or razor, make a half inch deep slit across the top of the dough. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 10 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Remove from pot and cool on a rack.