Jim Lahey’s No Knead Bread

In 2006, the New York Times published Jim Lahey’s Sullivan Street Bakery recipe for No Knead Bread.  The publication of this recipe started a real craze in minimalist bread making.  I had read about the “No Knead” approach, but wasn’t much interested in trying it since I have a bread machine that does most of the work for me!

For some reason, I changed my mind yesterday, and decided to give the recipe a try.  Since it was my first time making the recipe, I stuck pretty closely to it.

The recipe only includes 4 ingredients:  unbleached all purpose flour, salt, yeast and water.  In terms of the yeast, the recipe called for only ¼ teaspoon.  Note:  The second time that I made this bread, I mistakenly used bread flour rather than all purpose flour.  I thought that the bread flour resulted in a better loaf!

Lahey’s recipe included the weight of the flour – 430 grams.  I consistently weigh flour given the huge variations in volume versus weight.  For example, 1 cup of flour for me consistently weighs 6 ounces.  Julia Child’s suggestion is that 1 cup of flour weighs 5 ounces.  Other sources have the weight per cup as low as 4 ounces!

Anyway, since I had no idea how many ounces 430 grams equated to I did a search to find a converter.  The result 15.16 ounces.  I rounded that up to 15¼ ounces.  My guess is that Jim Lahey used Julia Child’s volume to weight suggestion.

I mixed the flour, 1¼ teaspoons of Kosher salt and ¼ teaspoon of yeast together in a mixing bowl.  Then I added 1½ cups of warm filtered water, and stirred the gooey mess with a wooden spoon.  The consistency reminded me of a bread starter which basically uses a 2:1 ratio of flour to water – the same ratio here.

After I mixed the dough, I transferred it to my 8-cup measuring cup that I had coated with oil, and covered the measuring cup with plastic wrap.  Coating the inside of the measuring cup with oil was crucial here given the consistency of the dough, and what it would ultimately turn into.

I placed the dough on the counter for a long 24 hour rise.  The next morning, it looked exactly like a bread starter would look after its long rise – bubbly and full of holes.

I floured a piece of parchment paper, and dumped the dough onto it.  This is where the oiling of the measuring cup was critical.  Had I not oiled the container, the dough would have stuck horribly to the cup.

I put a little flour on the dough and folded it over several times.  After allowing it to rest for about 15 minutes, I shaped the dough into a ball, but kept it on the parchment paper.  Lahey’s recipe says to use a dish towel.  The reason that I used the parchment paper was that I thought it would be a huge mess getting the risen dough into the Dutch oven with Lahey’s method.

My other deviation from Lahey’s method was using a large bowl covered with a dish towel to cover the dough.  Lahey’s recipe suggests using a floured dish towel.  Again, I was considering the potential mess and the reason for covering the dough – to keep the drafts out!

After 2 hours, the bread had risen to the proper size.

I turned on the oven to 450° F.  When the oven reached 450° F, I put my empty, covered 5½ quart (26 cm) Le Creuset Dutch oven in and left it there for 30 minutes. I was concerned about putting an empty pan in the oven at such a high temperature for that long, but there were no problems.

The knob that comes on the lid of the Le Creuset Dutch oven is rated to a much lower temperature than 450° F.  Some time back, I came across a stainless steel replacement knob that could withstand higher temperatures.  This what I used on the lid.

After the 30 minutes, I removed the pan from the oven, took the lid off, carefully lifted the risen dough on the parchment paper, and plopped it into the Dutch oven.

I covered the pan with the lid, and placed it in the 450° F oven for 30 minutes.  From what I’ve read, the covered Dutch oven acts like a steam injection oven that professionals use to produce that wonderful crust on artisan bread.  That certainly worked here!

After 30 minutes, I removed the pan from the oven and removed the lid.  Much to my surprise the bread had risen even more and was a golden brown.  I decided to remove the parchment paper at this point to minimize any burned taste from the flour that was on it or the paper itself.  To do this, I lifted the bread and parchment paper out of the Dutch oven, and plopped the bread back in.

I baked the bread uncovered in the 450° F oven for an additional 15 minutes.  All I can say is WOW, what an incredible looking and tasting bread.  I’ll definitely be making this again.  Yum!

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