No-Knead Bread Recipe

Since the year is just about over, I thought I’d better conclude my thoughts and shares my notes on the now-infamous No-Knead Bread that swept around the world with such force and bravado that I starting calling it ‘The Nail In The Lo-Carb Coffin’.

Although I don’t really keep up on the various diets du jour, when the No-Knead Bread starting flaring up on blogs and web sites worldwide, it seemed that once again another fad diet had delightfully gone bust. And I didn’t want the year to end without letting you know how my final loaf actually turned out…

breaddone!.jpg

So for the past few weeks, everyone out there seemed to be having the time of there life stirring up batches of carb-rich, yeasty dough, and baking the soft mounds to crunchy perfection in their brand-new Le Creuset pans. While I’ll admit there’s nothing like the thrill of pulling a puffy loaf from the blistering-hot oven and tipping the loaf onto a cooling rack, or the thrill of buying a new piece of Le Creuset, I discovered the bread has one fatal flaw:

It tastes like nothing.

In fact, it was so flavorless that I could barely eat it.
To get to the point where I had an edible-looking loaf, though, I’d spent weeks roaming through Parisian health food stores learning about French flours, quizzing experts and friends, making metric conversions, and immersing myself in all the interesting, and mostly kind comments that many of you left at my original post. I stirred & scraped, slapped & tapped, and dusted & draped, all in an effort to pull the best, tastiest, most bakery-perfect looking loaf of bread I’d ever imagined proudly out of my humble little home oven.

That’s what I had anticipated.


But as you might remember, my first batch of dough flowed across my counter as urgently as the story of this amazing bread spread across the internet. What a mess! I baked them anyways, then froze those first couple batches of bread which I’ll serve as matzoh next Passover.

flours.jpg

Since I live in the land of a gazillion bakeries, I asked myself (which a few of my readers asked as well), “David, what’s the point?”
Why should I bother making bread when within three minutes from my front door are numerous places where people get up at ungodly hours and bake bread so I could wander in and have fresh bread whenever I wanted to?

But I was determined, and once I got the proportion of flour(s) right, my final bread indeed looked fabulous as I pulled it out of the oven. I could barely wait for the bread to cool, so I took a knife to the warm bread and hacked a nice slice from heel of the steaming load.

I took a bite and chewed.

And waited.

Then I waited a bit more.

I waited for that yeasty scent that curls up into your nostrils. A slightly-sour, pungent flavor that draws your tastebuds forward…

Update: During a site and server upgrade, the rest of this post along with my adaptation of the recipe, was somehow deleted. The conclusion was that while the loaf look great, I wasn’t all that thrilled with the taste, which I found very flat. I think it’s an interesting technique and some folks have had good success with the recipe and liked it a lot.

I felt that 5 minutes of kneading, which normal bread requires, yields a much nicer loaf of bread. But for those who don’t want to bother, or who want to try something new, may want to attempt a loaf and see for themselves.

You can read the original recipe for No Knead Bread, which appeared in the New York Times.

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33 comments

  • Hi David,
    dire que j’ai failli faire ce no-knead bread.
    I must have felt the fraud because I made a lovely olive fougasse instead. Lucky me :)

    Have wonderful xmas holidays…
    – fanny

  • I knew it! I knew it! How can bread you don’t knead taste good!

    You need to knead.

  • Yes! I love reading this. I’ve just put the final finishing touches on the gluten-free version of this. It’s airy and crusty and looks pretty heavenly. If I were going by my blog alone (I’m going to post it as soon as the manuscript is sent in, next week), it would look like this is gluten-free nirvana. But you know what? It doesn’t taste like anything other than refined cornbread, minus the corn taste.

    I’m so happy to know that you don’t think it’s any better, even with gluten and French flour.

    I never understood — what’s wrong with kneading bread?

    Thank you, as always, David.

  • Admittedly, I’m not a purist, and not a huge bread eater, but I make very good 100% whole wheat bread in my bread machine. I have the new-fangled kind that makes a loaf of bread that even looks like a loaf of bread. And I don’t have to knead at all (the machine does the kneading.) Problem solved.

  • I made the no-knead bread also and completely agree with you. Yes it has texture and crunch, but flavor? Not one whit. Living in France spoiled me.

  • hey david, sorry about the bread situation, but i’m sure you’re a much better man for having tryed :)

    and if i may i digress a moment … you being a west coast dude and all… i finally got my hands on some meyer lemons from trader joes yesterday, (very hard/impossible to find in the northeast!) but i haven’t a clue what to do with them … any suggestions? thanks for any/every recommendation.

  • thank you so much!!
    i totally agree with you: this bread has a great crust and a nice crumb.. but no flavor at all!!
    And i thought i was the only (crazy) one to think that!!
    I can tell you that Peter Reinhart’s Pain à l’Ancienne which is also a no-knead bread is much much tastier (yes mimi, a bread you don’t knead can be good)!
    And btw, you don’t have to use “fancy” flours or mix to bake wonderfully flavoured breads: just a simple T65 or T80 type flour is good (even a basic T55 flour bought in your supermarket works well: check out:
    here
    or:
    there.

  • as far as i am concerned if you are going to make bread, make bread. the process is a wonderful thing and anyhow kneading is a great way to work some love into the dough (or work out a particularly stressful day). i was never a big fan of the breadmaker either.

  • I love this post, thanks! Living in Poland, I have very high expectations about bread because our bread is excellent. Bakery bread in the US is too soft, too cakey and/or too fluffy for my taste (although I eat it and don’t complain), and I never really liked the US home-baked bread some of my US friends make, mainly because even baguette has a tinge of sweetness, while for me it should suggest salt. I love visiting the US but what is it about American culture and sugar? Must be a matter of taste: last year I had a US friend,who is a very good cook and often makes her own bread, visiting me in Poland and the bread she chose to buy and praise were some salt-and-herb sprinkled rolls which, she said, “reminded her of Montreal bagels.”

    Again, thanks for demystifying the no-knead! I started reading your blog only recently and I love it.

  • Barb: I putting a superb lemon recipe in my next newsletter, which I’m sending out just after New Year’s Day. Enter your email address in the green box to receive it. You can also make Moroccan Preserved Lemons. I’m going to post a recipe shortly since I just made some, but you can find Elise’s recipe here.

    Magda: In San Francisco, we had terrific bread. The levain from Acme Bread rivaled anything in France, as did the bread from Della Fattoria. Still, yes there is a lot of bad bread out there as well, unfortunately. Many Americans do have a sweet tooth!
    (I’m not sure I get the connection between ‘salt’ and Montreal bagels. They don’t use any…ick, although they certainly should!)

    Glad you’re enjoying the blog…

    Avital: Thanks for the links. Very interesting. I do find the T55 flour in France just too darn soft and finely milled, and prefer harder wheat flour, so I suppose it’s what you’re used to. But your breads are gorgeous. If you lived nearby, I’d be on your doorstep in a minute!

    Keep Kneading!

  • Hi David! This was an interesting post. I’ve noticed how this no-knead bread has been popping up on blogs all over the place and I just don’t get it. I’ve never understood why some have such an aversion to kneading. I’m living in Sicily and I can (and do!) get wonderful bread from any number of bakeries but I still choose to bake bread in my home oven. It’s not because my bread is better than bakery bread, I’m just fascinated by the breadmaking process and I don’t think there are many things more rewarding than producing your own loaf of bread.

    I do have one good thing to say about the no-knead mania sweeping the blogosphere. If nothing else, at least more people are baking bread! It might be a stepping stone for those who have been intimidated by the thought of baking bread at home!

  • good deal, thanks very much david, looking forward to it…and happy new year to you all …

  • The no-knead meme has brought two useful things to many people

    1. Non breadmakers feel confident to try and make bread. This alone is a beautiful thing to celebrate.

    2. It has reminded dormant bread bakers that it is time to wake up and bake again! (ME!)

    As to taste, I agree. I started adding a bit more yeast and then finely chopped fresh rosemary and pitted dark, oily, salty olives. I also mixed flours and grains as you did which improved the flavor.

    But now, I’m heading back to kneading as the baking instinct has been revived!

    Thanks for your contributions to that!

  • Well, after seeing the earlier posts (and people taking about three shots to nail it the first time) I was waiting until I had a weekend to kill and give this a shot.

    lately, I’ve been making perfectly good bread via machine in a couple hours, or via my own two hands in an afternoon… I”ll stick with what works.

    Thanks for giving me my (proverbial upcoming) weekend back!

  • Hi David,

    First time poster here. I want to pass on to you a recipe for a no-knead bread that my (Balkan) mother-in-law passed on to me a few months ago. The recipe is nowhere near as complicated or as lengthy as the one circulating the Internet right now, so you might want to give it a whirl. I do two batches of it every weekend because myself and my husband love it so much. It is flavorful, with a salty yeasty tang, a crisp chewy crust and springy insides. As follows:

    500 gr strong white flour (I use Klas Golden Powder, a famous flour brand in Sarajevo – I can send you some)

    1 7gr sachet of instant yeast

    450 ml warm tap water

    3/4 tablespoon salt

    Place roughly half of the flour into a big bowl, stir through the salt and sprinkle the yeast on top. Pour all the water in and stir – you will get a liquidy, sludgy grey paste. Add in 3-4 tablespoons of the remaining floor at a time and stir. The ‘dough’ is ready when it starts pulling away clean from the spoon (keep in mind that this dough will never be firm enough to knead – yipee I say).

    Cover the bowl with cling film (saran wrap)and place in warmed oven to rise for an hour and a half. Remove saran wrap, stir again and replace the saran wrap. Leave to rise for further twenty minutes.

    Preheat oven to 240 degrees C. Oil two small springform cake tins (the cute size) with fingerfuls of vegetable oil. Spoon or pour dough into both tins and place in oven. Leave at 240 degrees C for 15 minutes and then turn the oven down to 200 for a further 15. The breads will rise somewhat unevenly and will crack appealingly around the edges. Remove to wire rack to cool.

    Because I like the crust part of bread better than the insides, I usually cut the rounds horizontally and scoop out the steaming insides before stuffing it with roast chicken, mayonaise, sage and onion stuffing and roast red peppers. But eaten cold and sliced, this bread is tasty, chewy and excellent even the day after. A rough, country bread that you won’t regret giving a try!

    Best, Claire

  • David,

    I guess this is the one plus to making gluten free bread, you never knead it. The batter is far too sticky (yes, it deserves to be called batter.) Of course, gluten free bread is not that good compared to “regular” bread. But for those of us who have no choice, the simplicity of preparation is the silver lining on a rather gloomy cloud.

    We have had to get creative with flavorful additions: honey, cider vinegar, cinnamon, orange rind…

    Shannon

  • I made the no-knead bread, just for the heck of it. It didn’t rise as much as I would have liked but it was fine inasmuch as I didn’t use the yeast recommended by Bittman. I have eaten bread in France and Italy and baked bread from Nancy Silverton’s book, and I think you probably used the wrong kind of flour from the photos I saw, either it was too much wheat or for some other reason – French and Italian flours are different from U.S. flours, as I’ve discovered. At any rate, anything that gives people confidence and shows them the way to better bread is just fine and doesn’t need to be dengrated. My loaf had real taste, some crunch, good tasty crumb, rivaled some of the natural levain and sourdoughs I’ve tasted, and was not that hard to make. I detect some smugness there, also, in I moved to Paris… Having been in Paris that is probably as smug as my saying, I moved to Orange County…

  • I saw this recipe all over the place and decided I had to try it too. But I felt the same way about as you. It had very little taste, but I guess the texture was ok for a no-knead bread. Oh well, the kneading is the fun part anyway!

  • No taste? I couldn’t disagree more. For me the taste is the most incredible thing about this bread. Enough salt? Maybe it’s the difference in flours? I’m in the US and I’ve made it six or seven times now, always with King Arthur unbleached flour. The first time the dough was hard to handle because I followed the recipe proportions instead of watching the video, but since then – perfection. I think the “no-knead” aspect is the least of it – agree with all those who have no issues with kneading. For me, it’s the baking in the covered, hot pan that is the revolutionary part.

  • sixty-five: I made the bread 6 times and although I doubled the salt in the original recipe (as did Mark Bittman when he posted his updates), my breads all had very little taste, at least to me. The loaf pictured used a mixture of whole-wheat, rye, and white flours, but there was just something ‘flat’ about the taste that I couldn’t put my finger on. It seems people are rather divided on this bread, between those that really are happy with it, and those than aren’t impressed. It goes to show how people’s taste can vary wildly, and how recipe are so prone to interpretation and variation.

    But yes, the covered pan was a terrific idea and I’m glad the recipe got people baking, especially for those that aren’t fortunate to live near a good bread bakery. My bakery missed me for a few weeks, but I think they’re happy I’m back. After all, I was one of their best customers!

  • That is one of the most gorgeous pieces of Le Creuset I’ve seen in forever!

    A very happy New Year to you!

  • I have never really understood this no-knead bread obsession. For a start it seems to be a lot more complicated than making normal bread- if you and Clotilde have trouble then I will certainly find it difficult. It also takes a LOT more time than normal bread (which is wasted if the bread doesn’t work out).
    I’m also a bit of a sucker for sour-dough and other stronger flavoured breads so I’m glad I didn’t try this one. Thanks for the info!

  • It’s interesting that so many people who made the bread like it, and it came out fine for them on the first try. But for others (like me & Clotilde) it took a few times to get it right. And it was curious that I had to add almost a full extra cup of flour, and so did other folks…yet other people had success with the recipe as printed. But even in Mark Bittman’s column where he addressed all the problems people were having with the bread, he noted metric weights, which were different than the original recipe, and although European flour is primarily soft wheat, there were many success stories I read about, along with the failures.

    Some people like the taste, while others aren’t so convinced it’s any improvement on ‘normal’ bread (like me). And yes, investing 2 days in a loaf of bread is a commitment. Now that I’ve stocked up on organic bread flour and grains, I may try my hand at traditional bread-making, and include the techqnique for baking the loaf in my vintage Raymond Loewy Le Creuset pot…which I’m always looking for any excuse to use!

    (You can sometimes find them on Ebay, and Le Creuset re-issued them last year. I saw some at Genvieve Lethu on the rue de Rennes last week for about 150€, and Judy has them at Cookin’ in San Francisco.)

  • I just had to chime in as someone who loves this bread. I am an experienced bread baker (I’ve even done it for a living) and might not have even tried this recipe if didn’t receive the reaction it did on the internet.
    I don’t mind kneading bread and at first the schedule for this bread was daunting. It took a few tries to get it right but now I can say with certainty that this is a bread I will come back to again and again. I agree that the proper amount of salt and the right flour can be key to good flavor. I’ve been happiest with loaves made with Harvest King Gold Medal flour (endorsed by Rose Levy Birnbaum herself) and a little rosemary doesn’t hurt either. I appreciate being able to make a bread of this quality for little effort and for pennies.

  • Well I guess there are not paragraph breaks so I’ll use these. Sometimes I wonder if at least some of the world is jaded to extra strong flavors or that many people need the strong flavors because they can’t taste delicate ones.

    I couldn’t disagree more with the thought that this bread has no flavor. I’m not a diehard bread baker but know my way around the bench and the bread machine. I sure do relish great bread and this definitely fit that description in my opinion. I also was shocked that anyone thought it needed more than the 1 1/2 tsp salt in the original NYT recipe. I think it was perfectly seasoned in order to TASTE THE PLAIN WHITE FLOUR and the fermentation it underwent.

    After reading your further comments here, I think the reason you didn’t like it so much is because you didn’t use plain all purpose flour and also because apparently you are not adding enough water. Surely the rough and tumble tastes of rye and whole wheat interfered with the simplicity of rustic white bread’s delicate light wheat flavor this was intended to convey. I love those rough and tumble grain flavors myself but I don’t think they are for this recipe.

    I also think that not enough liquid means you are not getting as much fermentation as you should which is where a lot of the flavor in a long fermentation white bread like this one comes from (unless you add too much salt or herbs or some such).

    The recipe I am using is based on volume not weight but surely climate has something to do with the result. Here in the dry desert, my higher liquid/flour ratio may not be as high as it would be in a moister climate. But I can’t argue with the many repeat successes I’ve had with this bread nor my own tastebuds or all the rave reviews. Here is what I do:

    3 c unbleached all purpose flour (gold medal)
    1 1/2 tsp table salt
    1/4 tsp instant yeast
    1 5/8 c water
    Mix to very sticky, goopy, shaggy appearance with spatula. It looks unlike any other bread dough I’ve ever seen. Cover with plastic 18-24 hours (usually longer, as here again, time means more fermentation flavor). Pour out onto floured/cornmealed counter. With well floured hands, pull into rectangle and fold over the 2 ends like folding a letter to go into an envelope. Shape into loose round, sprinkle with more flour/cornmeal and cover with towel for 2 hours. Pour/dump (so the bottom on the counter becomes the top of the loaf) into 450 degree preheated cast iron dutch oven and bake 30 minutes. Remove lid for 10 more minutes. A smaller dutch oven results in a taller loaf – larger one results in a flatter loaf.

    I hope you’ll try again. But I guess if I were in Paris, I’d probably rather go to the corner bakery too…. Still there is something to be said for pulling a loaf out of your own oven from time to time.

    Happy New Year and thank you for the lovely blog, I read it all the time!

  • whoops! Sorry for all the line breaks and ………. In preview mode, it appeared the whole thing was running together…..

  • Hi Bread Lover:

    One of the first times I made this bread, I used Gold Medal flour, from the US, and as you can see from the photo here, I tried a variety of French flours (I’m not getting into a discussion about French vs. American flours, since they’re both different and people get huffy if you dis their flour, I’ve found.)

    I notice you use table salt, with is far more compact and saltier than coarse sea salt, which is perhaps why you’ve hit just the right amount of salt for your taste. My current favorite bread in Paris is the Ficelle Aperitif at Moissan, which has some pretty major hunks of salt stuck to the crust. I’m a real salt lover, although Mark Bittman also doubled the salt for his taste as well when he re-visited the recipes in the New York Times.

    I’m actually making a loaf of real, old-fashioned bread today. I’m using French whole wheat, white, and rye flours, plus adding millet, sesame seeds and sunflower seeds as well. It was fun to push it around on the counter, and knead it until it was smooth and elastic. The only thing is that I’m spending the whole afternoon at home while it ‘does its thing’, when you’re right…I could just go next door to the bakery and get an amazing loaf of bread, one like I could never reproduce at home, no matter how hard I’m trying!

  • Hey David, that kneaded loaf sounds wonderful – hope it was everything you wished it to be.

    You know the funny thing about that NK recipe was using AP flour – I never use that for bread. I always substitute bread flour but I forced myself to follow the recipe and was surprised with how much gluten development took place. Especially with no kneading… I guess the recipe has a great appeal just in that it goes against everything we are taught about breadmaking and still comes out nicely, at least for most of us, most of the time.

    I agree, the process is enjoyable, kneading or no kneading.

    Bonne sante — :)

  • I enjoy baking bread in a traditional fashion, but I just can’t do it all the time…not enough hours in the day, because you’ve got to be around for it. I don’t mind kneading or shaping-or dealing with several risings-I like doing it, but I have to go to work everyday if I want to keep eating.
    If I lived somewhere I could get really good bread easily, I wouldn’t have to worry about baking it. But I don’t.
    This bread has a really good crust and crumb, and a perfect schedule for a working person-you can start it before you go to bed one night, and finish it in a few hours after you get home from work the next day.
    Because you can make it regularly, you can save a fistful of dough from each batch to add to the next one. I’ve found that the bread flavor has developed nicely this way, and become much more interesting over time- with the saved dough added.
    And now I can have good bread all the time. It’s a definite boon for people who can’t stay home!

  • David,

    I know this post is a little late in the game, but I finally got around to trying this bread. A number of people I know have been nuts about it, and I was poking around the internet looking for people’s reactions. I was somewhat surprised by your blog, which was about the only place saying anything negative. I have to admit (before I baked the bread) that I wondered whether you and your readers weren’t being a little snobbish about it all. I mean, yes, I could believe that it isn’t the best in the world, but really no flavor??

    Then I baked the bread today. It has the long fermentation time, which from my experience usually helps to produce a flavorful loaf. But I have to admit that you’re absolutely right — the bread has no flavor!! I tried basic white bread in a couple of different batches with a couple different flours (all the standard American ingredients), and it just has no flavor.

    Excellent crust. Excellent chewy crumb (if you’re into that). But no flavor.

    Anyhow, I just wanted to say kudos to you for being one of the few on the internet actually daring to stand up and say, “Uh… this has some really good things going for it, but it’s not that great.”

    Now my only question is — why doesn’t it have flavor? I’m really curious about this, and it seems somewhat anomalous to me. My guess is that the fermentation is just long enough for everything to get barmy, but not long enough to sour — so the flavorful characteristics of quick-rising breads are broken down by excessive fermentation, while the sourness of sourdough is still a little ways off. Perhaps this recipe would work better with a sourdough starter?? I’m going to make up a new starter (haven’t baked sourdough in a while) and give it a try… if nothing else, the Dutch oven baking technique will definitely stick around for some experimentation with my other bread recipes.

    Thanks again!

  • I concur with the criticism of NK bread that it lacks flavor. But I like the process. So, I have experimented to learn whence the problem. I believe that the internal temp produced by this method is too low. In his writing, Pete Reinhard recommends an internal temp of 203 deg.F or thereabouts. I baked a loaf today where I got the temp up to about 200 F. It was better than good. The crust is too thick, but I am optimistic that I can tinker around with time covered and time out of the pan ( I always dump the loaf out when the cover comes off) that will get that internal temp up and and still gimmy control of the crust.

  • No flavor? I make mine with a rye sourdough starter and a lot more salt. I add the starter which I have had going for about 2 years now….about .5 to .75 cup along with enough water for the proper furry consistency. When I turn out the dough, I knead it until smooth. About 3-5 minutes. Then cook in the heavy lidded pan. Beautiful bread. I have made whole wheat, rye, and rosemary variations. The bread is lovely and has a wonderful flavor.

  • I’d nearly forgotten about my month long romance with no-knead bread. Yes, ‘he’ was initially exciting, and i was bowled over by his loose, easy ways. but alack alas, while he was gorgeous to look at, unfortunately he had no character.
    If, like Lisa in the preceding post, you have a mature starter, and actually do knead it, i’m not so sure it’s still a no knead bread.
    So if you want to do something fun, and want your bread to more of a canvas than a work of art, try it.