The Amazing No Knead Bread Story

I’ve been on something of a bread-baking mission recently. I reckon I’m a reasonable bread-maker. I’ve got a shelf full of baking books and I’ve been on one or two courses but never managed to master sourdough.

Then a few weeks ago I decided it was time to crack it. I thought producing the starter would be the difficult bit, far from it. While I managed to create a very decent starter, I couldn’t bake a decent loaf that I could be proud of. Most of them tasted pretty good but they were either misshapen, too wet, too dry, over-proved, under-proved.

The high hydration loaf I was aiming for, with plenty of holes and a good crust, was impossibly sticky and I never managed to knead it to the smooth cushion I’d seen on the You Tube videos.

Enlightenment came with a  dough that required no-kneading at all. None. The recipe was created some ten years ago by Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery in New York City. (Yes, I know our ancestors have been making bread like this for ever) and it was a revelation.

The story goes that Lahey rang Mark Bittman, a columnist on the New York Times, just around the corner and invited him to come over. He had a new  bread making method that gave professional results without any kneading at all. Bittman made a video of the process and the story went viral. It has remained one of the most popular recipes in the paper ever since.

The secret ingredient that makes this bread so wonderful,  is time. Mix together flour, salt, yeast or sourdough starter and water into a ‘shaggy dough’ then leave it for 12 or up to 18 hours. Turn it out, fold it and let it prove for a further two hours then pour the wet dough into in a cast iron pot with a lid. I use a Le Creuset casserole (called a Dutch oven in the US) and bake for 30 mins in a hot oven. Take off the lid and let it crisp and brown for 15-30 mins and you will have the most amazing loaf.

Do have a go and let us know how you get on. The full recipe is here.


The No-Knead Bread Recipe

I’ve been making bread for years, but I’d been struggling to make a well-crusted sourdough loaf when I came upon this revolutionary bread recipe.

I don’t know why I’d never heard about it before, it was written ten years ago by Mark Bittman and published in the New York Times and went viral.

The recipe was created by Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery in New York City and what makes it so brilliant is that it requires NO KNEADING whatsoever.

You don’t need a sourdough starter either, it can be made with easy blend yeast as well. The secret ingredient is time. It takes 12-18 hours but in that time you don’t have to do a thing. Here’s the recipe, slightly adapted from cups to grams for British readers.


430 grams flour
1 g dried yeast (quarter tsp) or 60g sourdough starter
8 grams salt
345 grams water


In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add water, and stir until blended; the dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let it rest for at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature.

The 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 once or twice. Cover loosely with the bowl you mixed it in and let it rest about 15 minutes.

Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to the work surface or your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a piece of greaseproof paper with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with a tea towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 220 degrees. Put a 6 to 8 quart heavy covered pot (cast iron Le Creuset type, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in the oven as it heats. When the dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven.

Using the greaseproof paper as a sling, drop the dough (complete with paper) into the pot; it may look like a mess, but that is OK. Shake pan once or twice if the dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Slash it. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.




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