A need for no-knead

Henri weathers the January storms with homemade bread

Two years ago, the New York Times published a recipe for “No-Knead Bread,” adapted from Jim Lahey’s Sullivan Street Bakery in New York City. The recipe generated a huge response. Fanatics swore by the rustic, artisan-type bread that was supposed to be absolutely delicious as well as inexpensive and easy to make, although the recipe called for the dough to rise for 14 to 20 hours. Henri had always wanted to try it.

Turns out, the current Cooks Illustrated magazine (January-February) has a recipe for “Almost No-Knead Bread,” modified from the Times recipe. It also turns out that the recipe’s fans have swarmed the Internet, posting their raves and suggested variations on a wide range of Web sites and chat rooms. There are even videos that show how to make the bread, including one in which a chef from Cook’s Illustrated’s test kitchens explains, and demonstrates, how the recipe works).

The weekend of the big storm seemed the perfect opportunity to try it—fortunately, power returned to Chez Bourride late Friday night.

It’s no wonder the bread has such a following. Colette and I were astonished at how well our very first loaf turned out. It was soft and chewy, with a thick, hard crust. We devoured it in about 45 minutes (with pesto and Parmesan dipping oils and a very nice pinot noir) and immediately mixed up two more, which we let rise overnight and cooked the next day.

Cook’s Illustrated Almost No-Knead Bread


3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water (7 ounces), room temperature
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (3 ounces) mild-flavored beer (lager—non-alcoholic OK)
1 tablespoon white or red vinegar


In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add water, beer and vinegar, and stir with a rubber spatula until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, and let sit at room temperature for eight to 18 hours. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles.

Set dough on a lightly floured work surface, sprinkle it with flour, and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

Lay a 12-by-18-inch sheet of parchment paper into a round frying pan, pie pan or similar container. Grease with a little oil. Shape dough into a ball, and place seam-side down on the parchment paper. Cover with a towel and let rise for about two hours. When ready, dough will have doubled in size, with bubbles on the surface. Lightly flour the top of the dough and, using a sharp knife, make one slit in the top of the dough.

A half-hour before dough is ready, put a heavy 4- to 7-quart covered pot (cast-iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) into cold oven and heat to 500 degrees. After 30 minutes, remove pot from oven. Pick up dough by the parchment paper and lower into pot (let any extra paper hang over the edge). Cover, place in oven and reduce temperature to 425. After 30 minutes, remove lid and continue baking for 20 to 30 more minutes until loaf is deep brown. Carefully remove bread from pot and cool on a rack. Try not to cut into it for at least one hour.


1. If you don’t have parchment paper, let the dough rise the second time on wax paper or on a cotton towel covered with flour. When you are ready to put it into the pot, carefully slide your hand under the towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed (it will even out as it bakes).

2. The bread is best the day it’s baked, but will keep for two days wrapped in foil or plastic. Put into oven and heat for 5 to 10 minutes to get the just-baked crustiness back.