Tuesday, August 25, 2009

No Work Bread Recipe

Last Christmas, my husband and I bought our son, twelve at the time, a cookbook. We did this because he is not only an enthusiastic eater, but he also likes to experiment in the kitchen and try whipping something up - especially if he wants something and I don't really want to make it! For instance, he recently made a delicious cherry pie because I resist making pies and we had a lush crop of delicious Evans cherries in our backyard.

Today, I'd like to share a recipe that some people have asked me for. It's from the cookbook we bought for our son - yes, I've almost monopolized the book! The book is called How to Cook Everything : 2,000 Simple Recipes for Great Food (
http://www.amazon.com/Cook-Everything-Completely-Revised-Anniversary/dp/0764578650/ref=pd_bxgy_b_img_c and http://www.howtocookeverything.tv/) You can also find the book on Amazon.ca
Well, here's the recipe! I hope you enjoy it!

Jim Lahey’s No-Work Bread

4 cups all-purpose or bread flour, plus flour for dusting (up to half whole wheat)
Scant ½ teaspoon instant yeast
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups water at about 70˚F
Cornmeal, semolina or wheat bran as needed

1. Combine the flour, yeast, and salt in a large bowl. Add the water and stir until blended; you’ll have a shaggy, sticky dough (add a little more water if it seems dry). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a tea towel. Let the dough rest for about 18 hours at about 70˚F. The dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Rising time will be shorter at warmer temperatures, a bit longer if your kitchen is cooler.
2. Lightly flour a work surface, remove the dough, and fold once or twice; it will be soft but, once sprinkled with flour, not terribly sticky. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or the bowl and let rest for about 15 minutes.

3. Using just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking, gently and quickly shape the dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton (not terry cloth) towel with cornmeal or wheat bran; put the dough seam side down on the towel and dust with more flour or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When its ready, the dough will be more than doubled in size and won’t spring back readily when poked with your finger.

4. At least a half hour before the dough is ready, heat the oven to 450’F. Put a 3- to 4-quart covered pot (with the cover) – it may be cast-iron, enamel, Pyrex, or ceramic – in the oven as it heats. When the dough is ready, carefully remove the pot from the oven and turn the dough over into the pot, seam side up. (Slide your hand under the towel and just turn the dough over into the pot; it’s messy, and it probably won’t fall in artfully, but it will straighten out as it bakes.) Cover with the lid and bake for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for another 20 to 30 minutes, until the loaf is beautifully browned. (If at any point the dough starts to smell scorched, lower the heat a bit.) Remove the bread with a spatula or tongs and cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes before slicing.

The Science behind No-Work Bread

This bread puts time and moisture to work so you don’t have to. The dough uses very little yeast and compensates for this by fermenting very slowly, giving the yeast time to multiply on its own schedule, and this delivers a more complex flavour than simply yeasted homemade bread. The dough is extremely wet, more than 40 percent water, which produces crisp crust and a large well-structured crumb.

You couldn’t knead this dough if you wanted to. And there is truly no need. The moisture in the dough – combined with the long fermentation time – gives the protein in the flour (gluten) an environment that lets it move around and develop a distinctive elastic, weblike structure, which is necessary to trap CO2 generated by the yeast as it feeds.

By starting this very wet dough in a hot, covered pot, you develop a crunchy, chewy, bakery-style crust, since the moist enclosed environment of the pot is, in effect, the oven, and that oven has plenty of steam in it, which is necessary to create that kind of surface.
Here's a video of Jim Lahey himself demonstating the ease of making this bread. I did notice that the recipe is a little bit different in quantities, but it gives you the idea.


  1. I know you love it! I'll make it again soon, when the weather isn't so warm!

  2. Hey Mom! You should post another one about Katie. I've videotaped allot of interesting film about her.

  3. Looks good!!!

    I just want you all to know that Kate was anxious about going into school by herself today. But Esther came up before the bell and reminded her that she'd be there to push her on swing at recess. I know this was very encouraging to Kate and I didn't have to accompany her in today. THANKS Esther! Erin

  4. My new blog is: