No-Knead Bread – Jim Lahey

No-Knead Bread

Wotchers!

Here’s another great loaf for anyone apprehensive about kneading dough to a good consistency. As with The Grant Loaf, there is no kneading involved at all – but whereas the Grant Loaf is ready in under two hours, this loaf requires the best part of a whole day before its ready. The waiting time is the price you must pay – but it is so worth it. The recipe has been knocking around the internet for about 5 years, but it might still be new to some in the UK.

Jim Lahey devised this minimalist method of bread-making back in 2006 at the bakery he owns at 533 West 47th Street in Manhattan. With no special techniques, equipment or ingredients, Jim’s method achieves the crisp, crackling crust that bigger bakeries normally have to rely on giant steam ovens to achieve. So passionate is he for everyone to succeed with their bread-making, he published his recipe and released an online video.

The slightly unusual method used to bake the bread requires something both lidded and oven-proof. A cast-iron casserole is ideal, but since The Great Shelf Collapse of 2008 when all my cast iron cookware got smashed (yes, all of it *sobs*) –   I’ve had to improvise, and can report that either Pyrex or ceramic is just as effective.

I’ve doubled Jim’s original recipe because I know from experience, once out of the oven, it goes really quickly and then you’ll be disappointed if you have to wait another day in order to eat more.

Time: About 1½ hours plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising.

Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread
820g plain or bread flour, plus more for dusting
0.5 teaspoon rapid-action yeast
2.5 teaspoons salt
Semolina, polenta or cornmeal as needed.

  • In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 700ml water, and stir until blended; the dough will be very wet and sticky.
  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave it to rest for at least 12 hours, preferably 18, at room temperature. The dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles.
  • Sprinkle flour over a work surface and scrape the dough from the bowl onto it. Sprinkle with more flour and fold each side towards the middle. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let it rest for about 15 minutes.
  • Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently shape dough into a ball.
  • Sprinkle a tea towel generously with flour or cornmeal or semolina. Carefully pick up the ball of dough and drop it onto the towel, with the gathered edges on the underside. Sprinkle the top of the dough with flour.
  • Cover with another cotton towel and leave to rise for about 2 hours. When ready, the 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 the dough is ready, put a large heavy covered pot or casserole (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in the oven and turn the oven on to its maximum setting.
  • When the dough is ready, carefully remove the pot from oven and remove the lid. Slide your hand under towel and turn the dough over into the pot (think of it as a ‘delivering a custard pie’ motion) so that the seam side ends up uppermost. Shake the pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes.
  • Cover with the lid and bake for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is nicely browned. Tip out the loaf and cool on a rack.

 Yield: One large loaf.

Cost: £0.58 (August 2011, using Strong Bread Flour)