Josh's Lazy No-Knead Bread
Look at the clock. Where will you be 16-24 hours from now? If you’re not going to be within reach of your oven, this is not a good time to start the dough. Here at the farm, we usually begin making our dough in the evenings. Say 9 pm. Because then, we can check on its progress the next morning, move it to a cooler or warmer spot if necessary, head out to work, and it’ll be ready for baking when we get home to make dinner.
Find the right bowl in your kitchen. And the right “cover” for your bowl. Then say goodbye to it for any other use besides bread-making. Because this will be your bread-making bowl forever and ever and ever. Once you’ve finished making one batch of dough in it, you’ll immediately use it again to make another. Thus no clean-up. No. Clean. Up. God, we love those words. Choose a large mixing bowl. Ours is about 12 inches in diameter. It can be metal, wood, or ceramic. Makes no difference.
Then you’ll need to find a flat-something that fits, inverted, over the top. It doesn’t need to be round. It can be a platter. Or even a cutting board. It just needs to be larger than the bowl’s opening, and flat enough to semi-seal the bowl when placed on top of it. (It doesn’t need to be airtight. Just snug.) Again, the material doesn’t matter. We use the copper platter shown in the photo because it has a nice lip. That helps prevent random flour spillage in a later step.
Add these ingredients to the bowl:
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour
¼ teaspoon instant yeast (not Rapid Rise, just Active Dry. Doesn’t matter if it’s in a pouch or a jar.)
1¼ teaspoons salt
1 ½ cup water. Ed Note: Based on reader response, we’ve lowered this measurement to 1 ½ from 1 ¾ cups. Perhaps the Beekman is just dryer than many other homes. (With all the winter drafts and forced air heat, this is a distinct possibility.) But do experiment. If the dough is stiff with very few bubbles, you’ll need more water. If it’s too soupy and can’t hold any shape, you need less water. Experiment until you get the right feel. It’s worth it.
Turn on the warm water in your sink. Just do it. You’ll see why after the next step.
Use your hand to mix all of the ingredients in the bowl. Toss around and squish it through your fingers for about a minute. There’s no perfect consistency you’re trying to reach. It all just needs to be combined well.
Wash your hands. See? Wasn’t it smart to turn on the warm water before mixing the dough? Just when the water got warm, you’re ready to wash up, and you don’t need to touch your faucet knobs with your doughy hands. Again…we’re aiming for zero-cleanup, folks.
Invert your platter cover on top of the bowl. Make sure it’s snug. If you need to, place something heavy-ish on it to make it lay as flat and snug as possible. Like a bag of flour. Or a big bottle of vinegar. Whatever’s handy.
Find a spot in your house that’s between 65-70F. This is a problem for some folks, including us. Especially in the winter. (Brent keeps the thermostat at 48 overnight.) If you have a gas oven where the pilot light stays lit, your oven may hold a temperature of 70 at all times. Some say that leaving the lightbulb on in an electric oven accomplishes the same. We actually use a space heater in the laundry space off our kitchen. With the door closed, it easily stays at 70F. (Plus when we come down in the morning and open the door, the kitchen gets nice and toasty.)
Go to bed. Sleep. Dream about fresh bread. Wake up. Check your dough in the morning before going to work. The dough should look…different. Not drastically different. It’s only about halfway done rising. It should just look different than it did when you when to bed. If it does, everything is working fine.
If it looks exactly the same, either it wasn’t in a warm enough spot or the yeast was expired. If the yeast isn’t working, there’s no recovery…try again later. But if you feel it may not have been warm enough, you can try to add 2 tablespoons more water over the top of the dough, squish it all together again, and make sure you move it to a really warm space for the rest of the day while you’re at work.
If it looks drastically different…say, really soupy and bubbly…your bread is rising faster than expected. That could mean there is a little too much water or humidity, or the room was a little too warm. This is okay. It merely means you’ll be done a little quicker. You can get ready to bake after 12-15 hours, not 18-24. (Note…faster isn’t better. As you practice, try to aim for a water/flour ratio in your particular location that rises to peak readiness in 18-24 hours. The slower the gluten develops, the more complex the flavor.)
The dough is ready when it’s really bubbly.
Prepare the “Lid” as a work surface. This is where the lazy genius starts really kicking in:
- Place a sheet of baking parchment paper on your “Lid.” You must use baking parchment paper. Not wax paper, or anything else. If you don’t have parchment paper, you can use nothing. There will just be a little cleanup.
- Sprinkle a mixture of cornmeal and flour on top of the parchment. About a 1/3 cup in total.
- If you don’t have cornmeal, don’t worry. You can use all the flour. If you enjoy making bread this way, you can then invest in a large canister of it.
- Spread out the mixture evenly.
Dump the dough and let it rest:
ump the dough from the bowl on top of the cornmeal/flour mixture. It should be stringy and sticky as it falls. Don’t dirty a utensil getting it out. Just let the weight of it do the work. Don’t bother cleaning any of the residue left behind. I said “no clean-up,” remember? You’re going to make a new batch of dough right away, and this little bit leftover will help your new batch rise even better. Let your dough rest for 5 minutes. (It’s tough being dumped so dramatically)
After resting, shape the dough:
- Sprinkle a little more flour and/or cornmeal on top of the dough. This will keep your hand from sticking to it when you pat it out flat. Not too much. It should be about an inch thick.
- Note: Do you think your dough is just too runny to pat out? Sprinkle a little extra flour over the top – very evenly – and let it set a few minutes more before patting it out.
- Lift one edge of the parchment paper to make 1/3 of dough fold over onto itself.
- Repeat with the other side. I should sort of resemble a dough-y burrito.
- Then fold under the long ends of your “burrito” to make a rough square shape.
- Rollover your folded square so that the seam side is faced down, in the center of the parchment paper.
- The dough is still alive, remember. You’ll see bubbles forming on the surface almost immediately. See the big one on the left side? That’s good.
Thirty minutes before dough has finished its 2nd rise, Preheat the oven to 450-475F *WITH DUTCH OVEN IN IT.*This is a vital step. You must place a 6-8 quart covered baking dish like a dutch oven in the oven as it preheats. It must be very very hot before the dough goes in it. This is what forms the crust. Any sort of oven-proof covered dish will do…cast iron, pyrex, enamel. Just make sure the dish and the oven are fully preheated before the next step.
Check your dough. Are you happy with the second rise? Experts always say it should have doubled in size. But we rarely find that it does. After two hours have passed, as long as it’s a good bit bigger, and there are bubbles on the surface, it’s probably ready to go.
Remove your baking dish from the oven (with hot pads!) and add dough – parchment and all. This is the totally lazy genius step that improves upon the old no-knead method. In the old method, you had to dump the dough in the pot from a floured cloth…which the dough always sticks to. In our method, you just put it in the hot pot with the parchment. Replace the lid quickly. Don’t worry at all whether the parchment paper sticks out from under the lid. (It will.) Just dump it all in the pot very quickly, replace the lid very quickly, and return it to the hot oven very quickly.
Bake for 25 minutes. Uncover. Bake for 5-10 minutes more. You should be able to tell when it’s done. The top will be nicely browned. Don’t let it burn. Remove from oven, carefully. Allow to cool in pot before removing.
Serve warm. You just made fresh bread…make sure you enjoy it immediately after it’s cooled just enough to handle and slice, but not cooled completely.