This is the easiest AND most life changing artisan bread recipe you’ll ever make. It’s a variation of Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread recipe that former New York Times food columnist, creative cookbook author, and ardent bread baker Mark Bittman made famous.
You only need four basic ingredients that you already have in your house and it takes just five minutes to throw together.
Yes. Five whole minutes.
“The method is surprisingly simple,” Lahey wrote in an email to Bittman. “I think a 4-year-old could master it — and the results are fantastic.” When it’s fresh out of the oven your bread might “sing” if you listen closely. The crust is gorgeously golden and crisp, while the interior texture (known as the “crumb”) is warm, pillowy, and airy. It’s beckoning a fat slather of butter, don’t deny it.
Any bread that needs a starter (looking at you, sourdough) intimidates me, so I figured this would be my no fail, low maintenance, always reliable go-to. And so it has been, for good reason. Get ready to experience the magic of instant yeast, no mixer and minimal kneading. BUT you need to let it hang out on your counter for about 18 hours. A wet dough and an 18 hour slow fermentation are the keys to this magic. So advance carb-binging plans are needed.
The baking method is pretty cool— you bake the bread in a large, heavy cast iron pot in the oven. I use this beautiful enameled Le Creuset, although you can use something more affordable like the Lodge Cast Iron Dutch Oven. The pot essentially creates an oven-within-an-oven to trap steam as the bread bakes, resulting in that perfect crispy crust, pillowy center, and airy crumb.
No Knead Artisan Bread
4 cups all-purpose or bread flour
¾ teaspoon instant yeast
2 teaspoons non-iodized sea salt
2 cups lukewarm water
Cornmeal, semolina, wheat bran, or flour for dusting
- In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, yeast, and salt. Add 2 cups lukewarm water (it should be about 70°F) and mix until combined. You’ll have a shaggy, sticky dough; add a little more water if it seems dry. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, then drape a kitchen towel over the plastic and let the dough rest at room temperature for about 18 hours. If your kitchen is cold, you may need up to 24 hours.
- Transfer the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and fold the corners of the dough into the center once or twice; it will be soft but not terribly sticky once dusted with flour. Gently shape it into a ball. Whatever you do, do not over-handle the dough!
- Generously coat a piece of parchment paper with cornmeal, semolina, wheat bran or flour. Place the dough seam side down on the parchment and dust with more flour or cornmeal. Cover with a clean cotton towel or plastic wrap and let rise for about 2 hours.
- Half an hour before the dough is ready, place a 5 1/2- to 6-quart cast iron, enamel, Pyrex, or heavy ceramic pot with the lid into a cold oven. Preheat the oven to 450°F.
- When the dough is ready, use a sharp knife or a lame to quickly score the top. Carefully remove the pot from the oven and place the dough with the parchment into the pot. It is VERY hot, so be careful!
- Put the lid back on, and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the lid, and bake for another 20-25 minutes uncovered until the crust is a rich golden brown.
- Remove the bread and let it cool completely on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes before slicing.
- If you only have fresh yeast, then follow this rule of thumb: dry yeast is 4 times stronger than fresh yeast, by weight. So if you are using fresh yeast then you will need to weigh out 4 times the weight of dry yeast. Remember, this only works by WEIGHT not by volume.
- You can swap in up to 1 cup whole wheat flour or up to ½ cup rye flour. The crumb will be tighter and you will probably need to add a little more water to get the correct consistency of your dough.
- Salt is a critical ingredient in this bread. Not all salts are created equal. Non-iodized sea salt provides much better flavor than table salt.