We attempted the famous Jim Lahey New York Times No-Knead Bread recipe a couple of times without success. The first time, we winged it without looking at pictures. We were unsure if we were doing it right, and frankly it wasn’t as effortless as it had been described to us.
The second time, we poked around for pictures on other food blogs, but most were less than enviable. They, too, seemed unsure if they were doing it right. Some were flat. Some said the texture wasn’t great. We gave it one more shot and it turned out so-so. Not worth the effort.
Then over Thanksgiving this year, our lovely aunt Lil (“Hun”) told us she makes it all the time. Hey, that’s better than pictures—our own personal guide! She insisted it’s easy and delicious, so we gave it a shot with her help. The biggest difference is that Hun scraps the extra 15-minute rise as well as the additional 2-hour rise, which makes it a lot easier. She usually folds in some Gruyère cheese, but she said to throw in “whatevuh the eff ya want!” We started with a plain loaf and thought it came out great. It really only took about 5 minutes the first night and 15 minutes the second (plus 45 minutes in the oven).
It was so good that this week we made another loaf with roasted garlic and another with kalamata olives. The plan was to share it at the dinner party we were supposed to host tonight. But then it snowed 6″, so here we are, stuck with two loaves of delicious bread. Come over and have some.
- We used this yeast, and you don’t need to dissolve it before it goes in with the flour, salt, and water on day one. That seemed to be a point of confusion in many recipes I found.
- When you fold the dough in on itself, don’t overdo it! Be gentle. You want to keep those bubbles that came from your patient 18-hour rise—they’ll make your bread light and airy.
- If you are using a dutch oven with a handle on the lid (such as Le Creuset), you may need to unscrew the handle before placing the pot in the oven. Le Creuset recommends this when baking above 350°F—it won’t melt, but will deteriorate with time.
- When you plop your dough into the dutch oven, don’t worry if it falls into an odd shape. It’s important to get it back in the oven before more heat escapes. It’ll likely rise as an oval regardless of how you first drop it in.
- During the last 15 minutes of baking (with the lid off), the bread will turn brown quickly. Don’t be fooled, it can handle the full 15 minutes if you want a nice crunchy top.
- Cool on a wire rack so the bottom of your loaf stays crispy-crunchy, rather than tough and chewy.
Aunt Hun’s No-Knead Bread
from the kitchen of Lillian Dignam
(adapted from Jim Lahey’s famous New York Times recipe)
- 3 c. all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
- 1 ½ t. instant yeast
- 1¼ t. salt
- roasted garlic, kalamata olives, or whatevuh the eff ya want
- a 6–8 quart dutch oven
Day One. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 ½ cups water, and stir with a fork until just blended; dough will be shaggy. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and towel. Let the dough rest for 18 hours at about 70°F.
Day Two. 30 minutes before baking, adjust racks so you can place your dutch oven in the middle of the cool oven and preheat the oven to 450°F. After 18 hours of rising, you will know the dough is ready when the surface is dotted with bubbles. Toss the roasted garlic or olives on top of the dough. Heavily flour a work surface and place (more like pour and scrape) dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice, poking the garlic cloves in. Try forming a ball with the seam side tucked underneath—though the dough may be a bit too soft to hold its shape. No worries. With assistance, quickly slide the rack with the pot out of the oven, open the lid, and plop your dough in. Cover with the lid and bake for 30 minutes. Then remove the lid and bake for another 15 minutes. Cool on a rack for at least 10 minutes. Enjoy!