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Almost No-Knead Bread

December 7, 2009
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I used to ignore recipes involving Dutch ovens.  They’re crazy expensive, and I’ll have to wait until I’m married to get one (same with a stand mixer).  I would read Dutch oven recipes, sigh inwardly and wipe a tear from my eye, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to attempt that recipe for at least several years.  It was really sad.

Then I made a life-changing discovery: there are cheap Dutch ovens out there!  You might think I’m being melodramatic, but I swear I’m not.  It really was a life-changing discovery.  Cooks Illustrated’s “best buy” Dutch oven option is only like $45 on

One of the things I’d been wanting to make ever since I first read about it was the revolutionary no-knead bread.  All it involved was mixing the ingredients, letting them sit and rise for a long time, popping the dough in a Dutch oven inside a hot oven and that’s pretty much it.  Something about the Dutch oven containing the steam or something – I don’t know the specifics.  At any rate, it seemed too good to be true.   

The first thing I made with my Dutch oven was the Cook’s Illustrated version of no-knead bread.  I had it all planned out before I even pressed the “Submit Order” button.  I really was that excited.  I’m such a dork.

Never having made bread this way before, I wasn’t sure what to expect and I was definitely happy with the result.  I made the dough the night before I baked it and when I woke up, I rushed to the bowl to see how much it had risen.  It hardly rose at all.  Then I kneaded it a little and let it rise again for 4 hours, and it hardly rose then too.  I was a bit worried.  Luckily, it rose in the oven and it was fantastic.  It tasted better than anything you’d buy in a bakery.  Success!

The bread wasn’t as crusty as I’d expected, which leads me to believe that maybe the lid didn’t seal as well as it’s supposed to.  I’ll have to experiment with other ways of sealing the pot, and also adding in other ingredients.  Currently I’m thinking cheddar jalapeno bread, apple rosemary bread and olive bread.  I’ll also have to take more pictures of the bread-making process when I’m not freaking out about whether or not it will actually work. 🙂

Almost No-Knead Bread

(From Cook’s Illustrated)

This recipe calls for 1/4 cup of beer– I used Miller Light which I thought worked pretty well.

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (15 ounces), plus additional for dusting work surface
1/4 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water (7 ounces), at room temperature
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons mild-flavored lager (3 ounces)
1 tablespoon white vinegar

Whisk flour, yeast, and salt in large bowl. Add water, beer, and vinegar. Using rubber spatula, fold mixture, scraping up dry flour from bottom of bowl until shaggy ball forms. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 8 to 18 hours.

Lay 12- by 18-inch sheet of parchment paper inside 10-inch skillet and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface and knead 10 to 15 times. Shape dough into ball by pulling edges into middle. Transfer dough, seam-side down, to parchment-lined skillet and spray surface of dough with nonstick cooking spray. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until dough has doubled in size and does not readily spring back when poked with finger, about 2 hours. (Even after 4 hours the dough definitely sprang back after I poked it, but it still turned out.  Bread is such a mystery.)

About 30 minutes before baking, adjust oven rack to lowest position, place 6- to 8-quart heavy-bottomed Dutch oven (with lid) on rack (if you don’t have a metal knob on the top of your dutch oven, you can wrap it in several layers of aluminum foil to keep it from getting damaged), and heat oven to 500 degrees. Lightly flour top of dough and, using razor blade (becacuse who doesn’t have a razor blade lying around??) or sharp knife, make one 6-inch-long, 1/2-inch-deep slit along top of dough. Carefully remove pot from oven and remove lid. Pick up dough by lifting parchment overhang and lower into pot (let any excess parchment hang over pot edge). Cover pot and place in oven. Reduce oven temperature to 425 degrees and bake covered for 30 minutes. Remove lid and continue to bake until loaf is deep brown and instant-read thermometer inserted into center registers 210 degrees, 20 to 30 minutes longer. Carefully remove bread from pot; transfer to wire rack and cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. December 7, 2009 1:08 pm

    You may have just improved my life. I have bought the cookbook and when I read about the Dutch Oven, my heart also sank. I put the book away. Reading your post made me realize how foolish I have been. I can swing for the Dutch Oven. I should get over to Amazon very quickly before I change my mind.

    Also, I should write to Zoe, one of the authors and I am sure she can resolve any issues. Now, why didn’t I do that before.

    Much gratitude for your posting.


    • December 7, 2009 1:14 pm

      I would highly recommend buying one! I made a fantastic pot roast this weekend too using the Dutch oven, which I’ll post about tomorrow 🙂 Glad I was able to help!

  2. Jim Roe permalink
    December 19, 2009 6:36 pm

    Do not expect the baked 3 cup loaf to be much higher than shown in your picture. Dissatisfied with the height, I converted the recipe to four cups of flour and increased all other ingredients by 1/3. I increased the bake time to 35 minutes. With bread flour the height is about 4″ and with All Purpose, 4 1/2″ high
    Electronic thermometers are pretty cheap (about $10) For the 15 minutes with the lid off, I insert the probe in the center of the loaf with the electronic read-out on the stove set to alarm at 210F. I ignore the time and rely on the 210F telling me the bread is properly baked.

    Cook’s is nice but Lahey’recipe tastes better. Layhey now wants the water tap hot plus a tablespoon of red wine vinegar added to his basic recipe. A bonus: AP flour is much cheaper than Bread flour.

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