A few weeks ago I a heard a program on public radio talking about a new book out called Kneadlessly Simple: Fabulous, Fuss-Free, No-Knead Breads. I just absolutely love the smell of baking bread and have been put off in the past because of the labor-intensive kneading part. So listening to that program really sparked my interest again in trying this new way of baking.
Not having a dutch oven I had to buy that first. I’ve been wanting to get one for awhile to try out camp cooking on an open campfire. Generally the kind of dutch oven that’s used for campfire cooking is the one with a large flange around the lid to help a bunch of coals in place. This kind also has 3 or 4 little feet on the bottom to lift at a bit from the coals underneath. But, having those feet would make it difficult to also use in a conventional oven. Trying to slide the pot in and out would be difficult.
So I went with a style that didn’t have the feet or flanged lid. Yet the lid does have a flat area to it to possible hold some coals in place if I did want to try the campfire cooking method. Some older dutch ovens I saw on eBay had a very rounded lid. I could see those not being able to hold any coals on the top, so I passed those up.
So far I’ve tried the basic recipe 4 times now and have ended up with good to great results. And even if there would be a failure we’d still eat the results! Each time I tried doing it with slightly more or less whole wheat flour proportion (compared to the majority of bread flour in the mix), a different brand of yeast, a longer 2nd rising time, and a no pre-heating option.
If you’ve got a dutch oven this is a really fun way to make some great smelling and tasting bread. Give it a try!
No Knead Bread
(I think I originally found this recipe by Jim Lahey, but I’ve modified it a bit… and will continue to experiment to tweak it just right. Note: this requires a cast iron or glass or ceramic dutch oven with lid… and 16-20 hours.)
bread flour, 2¼ cups
whole wheat flour, ¾ cups
table salt, 1¼ teaspoon
active yeast, ½ teaspoon
water at 55° – 65°, 1⅓ cups
additional wheat bran, cornmeal, or flour for dusting
Mix all ingredients well (I usually do this by hand– it’s so fun to get your hands in the dough and just “moosh” it) and set aside in a covered bowl for 12 to 18 hours at normal to slightly cool room temperature. You don’t want it to rise too fast. The setup that works best for me is to take a medium sized mixing bowl, cover it with a plate, and set it on the counter in a nook beside the fridge. In using a plate to cover the bowl you’re avoiding having to use plastic wrap (reduce waste).
After 12 to 18 hours take the dough out of the bowl and onto a floured work surface. No, you won’t be kneading it. Just stretch it out slightly and fold it over onto itself 3 to 6 times. You can use wheat bran, cornmeal, or just plain flour on your work surface.
This is where I vary from Jim’s recipe: I oil the dutch oven and put the ball of dough into it for the second rise. Then I put the covered pot into the oven and warm it up just a tad, like to 80° to 100°. This can be done by turning on the lowest setting for the oven for about 5 minutes. That heat will stay on the oven for quite a while– long enough to encourage the second rise. Leave the pot in for another 2 to 3 hours until it’s risen enough to your liking.
When it’s at the point you want to bake it, just crank up the oven to 425°. Your timing should begin from the point it reaches that mark, not from when you initially turn it on. A half hour after it reaches 425° take the lid off the pot. Bake for another 15-20 minutes until the crust is deep golden brown.
You may have to experiment a few times with temperature and timing with your particular pot and oven.
Try to get the bread out of the pot right away and onto a cooling rack. There’s still a lot of moisture in the bread and there should really be air circulating all around it while it cools. While it’s still a little warm make sure to slice off a bunch and spread it with butter and honey. Pure delight with a cup of tea!
Video on No Knead Bread
Ben Nelson at EcoProjecteer.net made a fabulous video on this subject. Bread in a pot: