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Jim Lahey's no knead bread making technique!

I love bread. I love baking bread. I love the way the house fills up with the glorious small of baking bread. I love the anticipation of pulling a golden loaf out of the oven and having to wait until it is cool enough to eat. There is nothing simpler or better than a loaf of homemade bread warm from the oven sitting on the table at breakfast time. Whilst I have a couple of go to white roll and basic loaf recipes that work really well, I haven't had much luck with wholemeal or loaves that you can add things to.

I found this book of Jim Laheys at the library and flicked through it less for the no knead part as I really don't mind kneading dough and feeling it all come together and become soft and silky in my hands, but I was attracted to it because of the long rise time. Since Libraries let ne take home more books than I can possibly read, I thought Id throw that one into the pile and give it a go and see what I thought.

The bread is great! I made the basic white loaf and it came out like a "shop loaf"! I was thrilled!

Here's what I did...

Jim prefers that you weigh everything rather than use volume (cups/tblsp) and so far I have weighed the ingredients each time as its really no hardship to do. So I pop the bowl on the scales and tare it to zero and add the ingredients in the order below.

Bread flour :  400gms (3 cups)
Table salt :  8gms (1 1/4 teaspoon)
Instant Yeast  :  1gm (1/4 teaspoon)
Cool water  : 300gms (1 1/3 cups)

Mix together with a spoon. It should be a tacky dough. If its not, add another tablespoon of water.

Leave it in the bowl and cover for 12- 18 hours and let it rise. I used a plate but you could use a tea towel.

I have been leaving mine for 24 hours and have had no problems with the bread results at all.
After 12-24 hours is up tip the dough onto a well floured bench in one big stringy blob and generously flour your hands. Now shape the bread by bringing the sides up onto the top one quarter at a time.

Then flour a tea towel and place the dough onto the tea towel and leave for another couple of hours - until it retains the indent of your finger when you poke it! if the hole pops out, leave it a bit longer.

Once it has risen again, pop the oven onto 475F or 246C and heat up a cast iron Dutch oven. I simply couldn't lay my hands on one ( I was reluctant to buy one for this experiment) and ended up using a ceramic casserole dish with a lid. Once the dish has been in the oven for about 1/2 an hour, take it out (carefully - its real hot) and upend the dough from the tea towel into the dish. Pop it straight back in the oven.


If you have a Dutch oven, the instructions are to cook it with the lid on for 30 minutes, remove the lid and  bake for another 15-30 minutes until the crust is a dark mahogany. I used a covered casserole dish for the first one and mine never get as dark as his do. Since then I have been using a ceramic loaf shaped dish and you can see the results above. I pop mine in for at least 1/2 and hour - until it looks and feels cooked like a normal loaf. Then I take the dish out of the oven and the bread out of the dish and pout it back into the oven. I usually leave it there for at least another 15 minutes. Until the bottom looks like its cooked. I find the bottoms don't cook very well in the ceramic dishes. I suspect its not hot enough.

This has been working for me for the last few weeks and we have been enjoying really yummy bread each day. I did do a free form loaf in the BBQ when we made pizzas and it too turned out well - flat though rather than a dome. The dough is really wet and doesn't hold its shape like kneaded dough's do.

I have been emptying the bowl of dough and making the new one straight into it unwashed - a sort of yeast and sourdough mix...? I have been washing the bowl every few days but wonder if the left over bits would gain a different flavour like sour dough. I suspect with such a long rise time you would probably have some wild yeasts in it anyway. So far there is no difference between an reused and a washed bowl...

Jim recommends that we wait till its cool before we eat the bread. I have to agree with him. The one we cut open before it was cool was a bit "gummy" inside. Once it was cool, the rest of the loaf was fine.

There is a great video on YouTube with Jim and a journalist that gives you a good idea of how it all goes together, but I think the book is better as it gives you more information on what you are doing and why. There are also step by step instructions and photos to follow. Its a six page recipe as there is so much information about what you are doing and why rather than just a 1/2 page do this that and your done.

If you can lay your hands on the book (and a Dutch oven) it wont be long before you are churning out great bread everyday!

Score card:
Green-ness: 5/5 for producing your own simple homemade food!
Frugal-ness: Worked out at something like less than dollar a loaf to make!
Time cost: 24 hours - or about 10 minutes three times.
Skill level: Beginner bakers!
Fun-ness: Really, really good fun to pull out of the oven and cut open!


EMMA said…
Your bread looks great. Took me five attempts to get mine to look right (the first four tasted amazing but looked rather flat). I'm at 1050m altitude and had to play around with the quantity of water and a shorter raising time before I got a loaf that pleased me! Like the tip about not washing the bowl - hadn't though of that!!!
Bon appetit!
Practical Frog said…
Glad it worked for you. It been a really good recipe/technique for me and I'm still churning out this loaf regularly. Enjoy! :) - Kara x
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