They say mistakes are the best teachers of all. I agree. But then there are epic failures that not only instruct, they haunt you forever. Such as the time I mistook salt for sugar and ended up with a very salty and inedible banana cake. Or the very first time I tried making “bread”, which would be better described as a rock pretending to be bread. Soon after that episode, I became convinced that I was cursed in the bread department and would rather not make bread than set the bread demons off in my kitchen.
The day Jim Lahey shared his no-knead bread recipe with the world was the day I was released from bread-making prison. The owner of Sullivan Street Bakery in NYC created a bread recipe so easy and so delicious, your guests will think your homemade loaf came from the artisanal bakery across the street.
There are only four essential ingredients for bread: flour, yeast, salt and water. And that’s all you’ll need for this recipe. But what makes this bread special? TIME. My chef in pastry school used to chant this whenever we made bread… Time = flavor + strength. During the 12-18 hour fermentation process, yeast breaks down carbohydrates into alcohol and carbon dioxide, which is captured within the gluten strands. It is this long fermentation time that gives the bread a nutty flavor and open crumb structure.
One special piece of equipment you’ll need is a cast iron pot with a lid. If you don’t have one, you can also use a pyrex, ceramic or metal pot with an oven-proof lid. Baking the bread in a covered pot for the first 30 minutes creates a steamy environment that results in a crispy crust. Unless you have an expensive oven with steam injection, this might be your best bet to achieve a crispy golden crust when baking bread at home.
Jim Lahey’s no-knead bread recipe
3 cups (430g) flour
1½ cups (345g or 12oz) water
¼ teaspoon (1g) yeast
1¼ teaspoon (8g) salt
olive oil (for coating)
extra flour, wheat bran, or cornmeal (for dusting)
1. Measure flour, yeast and salt into a bowl. Add water and stir with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon until the dough comes together into a shaggy mass with no dry bits.
Transfer to another bowl that’s been lightly greased with olive oil. Cover with cling wrap and leave it at room temperature for the next 12-18 hours.
2. After fermentation, the dough should be bubbly like this.
Place it on a floured countertop and fold it over on itself once or twice. Let it rest for 15 minutes on the table.
2. Shape dough into a ball and place seam side down on a tea towel generously floured with flour, cornmeal or wheat bran. Dust top with flour and cover with another tea towel. Let it rise for 1-2 hours, till more than double in size.
3. Half an hour before the previous step is done, preheat your oven to 450F and place empty pot with lid in the oven. When ready to bake, remove the preheated pot from oven and pop the bread into the pot using tea towel. Bake for 30 minutes with lid covered. And then remove lid and bake for another 15-20 minutes until crust is golden brown.