This recipe is basically Chef John’s recipe. You can find the recipe and video on his blog here.
What is No Knead bread? Normally you knead dough in order to stretch gluten into strands. The strands form a structure that rises when filled with carbon dioxide exuded from yeast. The yeast are living organisms that eat sugars in the flour and release a liquid that forms gas. The gas alone won’t make the dough rise without gluten strands created by kneading.
But kneading is a well-known pain the butt, and requires time and effort to do properly. However, in the presence of high hydration (for example: wet dough) the strands will form on their own given enough time. As a result, the initial rise for No Knead dough takes 18 hours vs. about 2 hours for kneaded dough.
Given that people have plenty of time these days, 18 hours is no big deal. If you put up the dough at 5pm you can start working on your bread at 11am the next morning and have it out of the oven by 1pm.
Another benefit of No Knead dough’s long initial rise is flavor. Eighteen hours is enough time for dough to begin fermentation, which gives the bread a slightly sour-dough taste. So, so much better than basic white or Italian bread. More like a french baguette flavor.
The recipe produces a bread with a delicious crunchy crust, firm tasty crumb with nice big holes. As good or better than bread from a fine restaurant and virtually the opposite of the bread-ish processed stuff from the supermarket.
Plan ahead. The final bread will be out of the oven 21 hours after you start. This makes a large loaf. Enough to make sandwiches for 4-6 people.
- 4 cups of bread flour or all purpose flour. See below for instructions on measuring out the flour.
- Only if using all purpose flour: 1/2 teaspoon of vital wheat gluten (you can find it in the baking aisle or organic food aisle of the supermarket). Do not use gluten with bread flour.
- 1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoons of active dry yeast.
- 2 cups of warm water
Before measuring either mix up your flour with a fork or shake it though a sifter so the flour is not densely packed. Scoop the flour gently with your measuring cup. Overfill the cup while scooping and push off the excess with the back end of a butter knife.
Measure out the flour into a large bowl. Add the gluten and yeast to one side of the bowl. Add the salt to the other side of the bowl. Add the water all at once and mix with a stiff spoon until all the flour is incorporated in the dough. Mixing should take 30 seconds to one minute. The dough should be shaggy and sticky but not goopy.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm place for 18 hours. At the end of 18 hours the dough will have risen. There will be visible gluten strands and bubbles, and the dough will smell fermented.
Scrape down the dough inside the bowl with a stiff spoon or spatula. Slide the spoon under the dough and bring the bottom of the dough over the top. Turn the bowl 1/4 turn and do the same thing three more times.
Prepare a baking sheet by covering it in a thin coating of olive oil and then sprinkle flour over it, making sure the olive oil is covered in a thin layer of flour.
Spill the dough from the bowl into the middle of the pan. Wet your hands and shape the dough into a ciabatta shape (rough rectangle, about 2 thirds the length of the pan.) Lightly sprinkle flour over the top and pat the dough gently so that it’s no longer sticky. Cover with a kitchen towel and let sit in a warm area of the kitchen for 2 hours.
Begin preheating the oven to 425 degrees a half-hour before the 2 hours are up. When the 2 hours are up, remove the towel and place the baking sheet and dough in the middle of your pre-heated oven.
The dough will be ready between 35 and 60 minutes depending on your oven. If you have an instant read thermometer you want the bread to be about 210 – 215 degrees. You can check for done-ness by tapping the bread. It’s done when the bread sounds hollow.
Allow the bread to fully cool before you cut into it. If the crumb is still damp, you’ll need to bake it longer next time. It will still be good – just put it in the toaster to re-warm and dry out.
In my oven I need an hour to cook it through.
Despite the 21 hour total process the amount of actual work is minimal. A couple of minutes to mix the ingredients, a couple of minutes to prepare it for a second rise and then a quick shove into the oven. Your actual effort is 5-6 minutes. And the result is amazing.