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St. Jim Lahey (Sullivan Street Bakery) and St. Mark Bittman should be canonized for their No-Knead Bread

Kudos to those working towards the betterment of humankind. Breadmaking is far more useful than many other occupations and these two guys are my new heros.

For more years than I care to count, I tried my hand at replicating good, honest bread. Tried all the recommended trucs - saving a knob of dough for the next batch, nuturing a sourdough starter that's older than my son, spritzing the loaf, pan of water in the oven, the long slow cool rise, esoteric flours -- you name it, I've tried it. Made some decent bread along the way, but the Lahey-Bittman loaf beats 'em all.

........ and could anything be simpler? Three ingredients + water and some free time = great bread. Must admit that I violated the first rule of recipe-followers everywhere. I deviated from the published word first time through. On a whim, I proofed my instant yeast prior to adding it to the flour. Glad I did. It was dead. Substituted regular active dry yeast and still made a fabulous product. Mea Culpa. I'll buy new instant yeast and try it tomorrow. Meantime, what a coup for all of us who love great bread. Thank you St. Jim and St. Mark, we honor your contribution to our happiness.

P.S. I know the Le Creuset Doufeu took a drubbing a while back, but I think this bread will be another great use for this pot. There is no plastic knob on top, nothing to unscrew or wrap in foil. Just those two lovely metal handles to heat along with the rest of the doufeu.

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  1. I was not the one to recieve baking skills among my siblings(my brother got them all) and so it was with total amazement that I removed my first no-knead loaf from the oven. I ate the whole thing in about twenty minutes.
    Today I had my mom's first whack at it, with a 1-to-2 ww to white mix, which was fantastic.
    Anyone experiment with rye flour yet?

    4 Replies
    1. re: ghbrooklyn

      Trying a 2:1 bread:rye ratio in (countdown) 2 hours. Will report back...

      1. re: Pei

        thank you. this was a conversation topic today, so I'm looking forward to your results.

      2. re: ghbrooklyn

        I used 2.5 cups AP flour to .5 cups rye - gave the boule a subtle (not over-powering) and delicious nuttiness - it's awesome...

        1. re: ghbrooklyn

          I've used various combos of white, ww, and rye. I like the white with a touch of rye the best. the rye gives it a nice, faintly sour tang.

        2. Made this over the weekend. Very impressed, just used AP flour for the first try, came out fantastic. Wish I had a few more LC dutch ovens. I also just used regular yeast, no proofing, but used a heaping 1/4 tsp. came out great.

          Jim Lahey....we speak your name


          3 Replies
          1. re: stevuchan

            Is there a place to get high-quality, inexpensive dutch ovens?
            They could come in handy now...

            1. re: jessechef

              Camping stores carry cast iron Dutch ovens for about $20.

              1. re: jessechef

                Just bought an enameled cast iron one at Target for $40, 4 qt. I'll tell y'all how it works out.

            2. And just a short while back, we weren't allowed to eat bread anymore (Atkins, South Beach) and bakeries were going out of business. We ate the loaf I made with cultured organic butter and home made blueberry jam. Welcome back bread!!!! I've missed you . I'll bet the folks at tomorrow's pot luck won't believe I made this bread. Can't wait.I'm gonna slash Lahey and Bittmans initials into every loaf I make forever.

              1 Reply
              1. re: missclaudy

                Maybe that's why everyone is going so crazy about it. It's an Atkins backlash! lol It's good to see bread back in fashion, isn't it?

              2. i don't have a big enough dish? my biggest is 2.5 quarts. i never make big dishes as its just the 2 of us.. will it work in that?

                3 Replies
                1. re: RiJaAr

                  If you have two of the pots, you might try dividing the dough.

                  I recently wrote a post ("Smoke Alarm Announces No-Knead Bread")about using a clay romertopf. That was distinctly not a "Do Again" since the meat fats in the clay, from many years of use, produced volumes of smoke at 500 degrees!

                  Do you ever make soup? Perhaps you could use that pot for the bread.

                  1. re: Sherri

                    You're lucky you didn't lose the pot entirely. I once made the mistake of using mine on the BBQ. That clay isn't up to serious temps. Mine split in two. You can't count on most ceramics holding up past 350 degrees. I've had the newer Emil Henry white clay containers snap in two on me too. ...though I've got an old red clay one that can take *anything*!

                    A Romertopf pot can be mended with an epoxy glue but I didn't feel good about cooking with it with food exposed to glue.

                  2. re: RiJaAr

                    My father just made two small ones (divided the dough) with great success.

                  3. I've tried it twice. It was gorgeous, but I wasn't happy with the internal structure, too wettish. Any tips? I intend to keep trying and have both rye and buckwheat to work with. My husband makes salt-rising bread. It is quite a production, complete with thermometers, heating pad, etc.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: magnolia

                      Cook it longer at the lower suggested temperature....

                    2. I have reported this elsewhere, but as a verifiable No Knead maniac (with a new "bread belly" to prove it), I have to urge other No Kneaders to experiment with the various excellent flours and additives available at the King Arthur Flour website. I'm starting to sound like an infomercial, but these all make fantastic loaves:

                      European-Style Artisan Bread Flour
                      Sir Lancelot High Gluten Flour (Highest Gluten Flour available)
                      French Style Flour (Use recipe to make baguettes!)

                      These additions are great too:
                      LA-2 Pain de Campagne Starter (From France - Make real Pain de Campagne

                      Heidelberg Rye Sour ("Why can't you get your rye bread to taste JUST RIGHT?! Try our Heidelberg Rye Sour powder!")

                      1. Sorry for revitalizing this thread after so many days but I must report first time success with the no knead bread-making approach. Then a second loaf that was more in line with a whoops gotta go, we're being invaded (one of those Israelite unleavened deals).

                        I think my main deviations on the second batch of Lahey-Bittman bread:
                        -- I used a teaspoon to measure a quarter teaspoon. It's better to use half a teaspoon and only fill it half full. I thought Christ surely it needs a bit more yeast.
                        -- I used a restaurant style spatula to mix the initial dough rather than plunking my hands in it like Mr Lahey.
                        -- I went for the 12 to 18 hours of waiting for stage 1, but for stage 2 kneading which isn't meant to be called kneading -- is it shaping? The dough didn't rise as well as the first time: surprised?

                        I'm now on my third loaf. Actually the first one was excellent. I'm really looking into making variations so that I can learn what works. Cheers...

                        1. Keep up the good work Theo! I love this bread and haven't stopped making it since I first read about it in Bittman's column in the NYT. It's no longer a fad with me, it's a part of my life!

                          1. It is a good way to make bread but I'm curious to know -- what's so hard about kneading bread? but I was impressed how little yeast is needed.

                            My second batch that didn't rise properly seemed alot like the Turkish flat bread served at the Turkish Restaurant (the one frequented by expats) -- it could have been put on a flat pan but you'd need the cover the bread for at least thirty minutes.

                            1. I have found over time that doubling the recipe (except for the yeast) makes a great size when there are four people eating together. The size of the loaf is more attractive to bring places. It's amazing the way people's eyes light up when they see it coming.

                              I've added rosemary and chopped olives for a great alternative taste. Has anyone tried parmesan/cracked peppercorn?

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: thinks too much

                                What diameter pot do you use?
                                ...and is the timing different...enclosed and open..
                                Temperature you use??


                                1. re: ChowFun_derek

                                  I use a Lodge cast iron dutch oven, 12" diameter at 450. I finally have a use for it when I'm not camping. It's huge! The timing I find just about the same: 30 minutes covered, only 5 uncovered. I had been thinnking that it's more ideal this way because the smaller batch would spread out in the space and I'd get a relatively flat loaf.

                                  1. re: thinks too much

                                    I've tried cooking the no-knead in my 12" lodge dutch oven (also originally intended for camping...and extremely heavy) and a single batch makes a very flat loaf indeed, about 2.5 inches at the thickest point..although I found that the loaf did not spread out to cover the entire bottom. I've since switched to a much smaller enamel cast iron pot that I found at Marshalls and since a double batch isn't really feasible for us. With just two of us, that huge loaf would go stale before we even made a sizable dent in it. I think my boyfreinds parents thought I was a little crazy lugging that giant thing around the kitchen for a loaf of bread...but I thought it was worth it even for the flat loaf. So crusty and good.

                                    1. re: wawajb

                                      I have had higher results with a 3 cup batch if I grab the dough and pick it up in a bunch after I drop it into the pot, but often the cornmeal forms a small pocket on the inside of the bread where the dough folds over itself. If you've found an ideal container this post is useless, but I consider hauling my dutchie around a tiny bit of weight training.

                                2. re: thinks too much

                                  After reading this, I had to try parmesan/cracked peppercorn, but I only got around to it this weekend. It turned out very tasty. I added about 1/4 c. shredded cheese and enough cracked peppercorns so that my dough looked lightly speckled (sorry, didn't measure) while doing the initial mixing. Then I quickly added matchstick sized pieces of cheese to the top of the loaf in a starbust kind of pattern after I flipped it into my preheated pot. (which I love btw...it's about 3 qts, which is much smaller then recommended, but it gives me a nice, tall, perfectly round loaf. Much better then the flat misshapen loafI got out of my 12" lodge dutch oven)

                                  The only issue is that this loaf came out with a much thinner and softer crust than any no-knead I've made up till now. I blame the cheese on top...but it looks very pretty and tastes great, so no regrets. I wish I had taken a picture though...

                                3. Bakers beware. Check before you buy!

                                  I haven't been totally happy with my last few loaves until i realized that unthinkingly i've brought the "rapid rise" dry yeast instead of just "active dry". They come in the same packaging in Fleishman's and that's why I didn't look carefully. Yesterday I tried the regular active dry yeast, and confirmed that the slightly off taste of the previous loaves were not my imagination.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: HLing

                                    I'm not sure that's it--i'm almost positive that in the follow up to the original ny times article, bittman mentioned that you can use either kind of yeast. That being said, i haven't had great results lately either, and if that's why, the info would be very welcome.

                                    1. re: rose water

                                      The yeast I use for this, and have had 100% success with, says "active yeast"

                                      NOT rapid rise. I still love this stuff, make it once a week.

                                    2. re: HLing

                                      Well, the original BittLay recipe calls for instant yeast or rapid rise yeast, and that's what I always use and it always comes out fab.