Recipes for No Knead and Other Tasty Breads

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The process of baking bread is like an homage to our past: One of our oldest foods is also one of the most satisfying to create from scratch. The smell of the classic heart-warmer can no doubt warm spirits on even the chilliest of days. As fall settles in, here are some tasty recipes for those with bread machines or sturdy palms: The no knead recipe requires neither.

Fast White Bread
From The Joy of Cooking

This is a quick and easy yeast bread designed to work with quick-rise yeast, regular active dry yeast works too. Stir together in a large bowl or the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer:

2 cups bread flour
1 tbsp. sugar
1 package (2? teaspoons) quick-rise or active dry yeast
1? tsp. salt

1 cup very warm (115 to 125 degrees) water
2 tbsp. butter or margarine, melted or softened

Mix by hand or on low speed for 1 minute. Add ? cup at a time until the dough is moist but not sticky:
1 to 1? cups bread flour

Knead for about 10 minutes by hand or with the dough hook on low to medium speed, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl and turn it over to coat with oil. Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place (75 to 85 degrees) until doubled in bulk, 40 to 45 minutes. Grease a 9-by-5 inch loaf pan. Punch down the dough, form it into a loaf, and place seam side down in the pan. Oil the surface and cover loosely with a clean cloth. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 20 to 45 minutes. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Bake the loaf for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake about 30 minutes more. Bake until the crust is golden brown. Remove the loaf from the pan to a rack and let cool completely.

Yields: One 9-by-5-inch loaf

For Bread Machines: Hearty Winter Bread

7/8 cup water
2 tbsp. butter or margarine
1 large egg
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup cornmeal
2? cup white bread flour
2/3 cup whole wheat flour
2? tsp. active dry yeast

Add ingredients in the order given by the manufacturer of your bread machine.
Select the sweet or basic setting and desired crust color setting; press start.

Makes a 2 pound loaf.

Onion Beer Bread
For onion lovers! This scrumptious recipe from The Flavorful Seasons Cookbook is easy for anyone.

3 cups self-rising flour
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
10 ounces room-temperature light beer
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup onion, minced
Nonstick cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients. Pour into a lightly sprayed 9-inch loaf pan and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

For those without a bread machine or a strong set of hands, there is another option: don't knead the dough at all. That's right; it's possible to bake bread without any palm work whatsoever. The New York Times posted the following recipe, which actually yielded an edible loaf of bread for this novice baker. Check out the December 2007/January 2008 issue of Mother Earth News for much more on this No Knead bread technique. I recently tried this technique for myself and have included my tips and mishaps in bold.

No Knead Bread
Time: About 1? hours plus 14 to 20 hours' rising

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
1/4 tsp. instant yeast
1? tsp. salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed for dusting (At my mother's suggestion, I ditched both and just used extra flour.)

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. (The dough will not just be sticky, it will be incredibly gummy.) Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees. (I let my dough rise for a full 18 hours resting on and/or close to a heating pad set on low, to combat the chilly air that had moved in the weekend I chose for my adventure.)

2. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. (I could not, and did not, 'fold' the dough. It was so sticky that the best I could do was attempt to turn it over. Luckily, my 'loaf' still rose as it should have.) Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour. (Again, I basically failed at this step. Even though I avoided terry cloth, the towel I choose was still porous enough that my dough completely cemented itself into it's grooves, and I could not keep my hands coated with enough flour to shape the dough into anything, as it was clinging to my fingers.) Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger. (Luckily, my dough still did this, though it was a huge amorphous blob, not a neat ball with a seam.)

4. At least a half an hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6-to-8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is OK ('Look like a mess' equaled a sticky, no-seamed blob of dough and way too much extra flour hanging out in the Pyrex dish I used.) Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

Yield: One 1?-pound loaf.

(Incredibly, despite all inconsistencies between my loaf and the one described in the recipe, I still created a sweet-smelling, slightly chewy but honestly and notably delicious loaf of bread with crispy, golden crust. I just had to dust an embarrassing amount of flour off of it before I sliced it up.)

You'll also want to check out Easy, No Knead Crusty Bread in the December 2007/January 2008 issue of Mother Earth News. There's even a video demonstration of the technique and an explanation of how it works. Happy baking!