artisan bread – four ingredients – no work – unbelievable

Jim Lahey, of Sullivan Street Bakery  created this ridiculously simple bread recipe at least six years ago. It’s been blogged many times and yet I only stumbled across it last week. I’ve tried for years to recreate the bread I eat in Tuscany with zero success. I wanted a bread with a crunchy crust and an interior that needs your neck muscles to take the bite. A chomp and head pull sort of thing. You have to use your imagination! 

When I read the recipe, initially, nothing jumped out at me as being unusual. That’s because I had quickly skimmed it without paying attention to the technique. Luckily, having printed the recipe, as I was editing photos for another post, I spotted the recipe sitting on my desk. I picked it up and took a closer look. The 1/4 teaspoon of instant yeast grabbed me immediately. Holy cow – a twelve hour rise. Now, I was intrigued. I didn’t really believe I’d be successful but I was ready to risk three cups of flour to see what kind of bread it would produce. Something that will help you understand my excitement is knowing that I live in a city without a great bread bakery. The white bread sold in Saint John is insipid.

From the start to the moment I cut into the loaf, I had little faith. When I sawed the bread in half and saw the crumb structure [the texture of the inside] I actually squealed. This is the bread I’ve been searching for. It is HANDS-DOWN, WITHOUT A DOUBT, the best, most perfect loaf of bread I’ve ever made!

In the New York Times u-tube video  Jim Lahey tells food columnist Mark Bittman that a four year old could make this bread. Other than having to handle a 500*F pot, I completely agree! It is absolutely effortless to make and the result is mind blowing.

I took the shot below moments after the loaf had come out of the oven. As I was focusing in on the bread, I could hear the crust cracking as it began to cool. I kid you not, I was so excited I almost peed my pants. Probably more information that you needed… I waited an hour before I cut into the loaf to make sure the crust had time to set. The aforementioned squeal! I couldn’t believe it. The elusive bread that I’d been chasing since my first trip to Tuscany was sitting on my kitchen counter and I’d baked it! It was a hallelujah moment.

Now that I’ve found the recipe, I’m going to invest in a pot with a smaller bottom diametre so that my loaf will be higher. A three quart pot with a seven inch diametered bottom would be perfect!

So happy to be able to share this recipe with you. I really hope you give it a whirl!

NO-KNEAD BREAD – adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 ¾ cups water
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoon salt
cornmeal (for dusting)

THE STEPS:

  • Mix all of the dry ingredients in a medium bowl.
  • Add water and mix together with a wooden spoon. The dough will be sticky and lumpy.
  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rest at least 12 hours at room temperature. I left mine for 20 hours. The dough will have bubbles on the surface and be very tacky.
  • Sprinkle some cornmeal, making an eight” circle, onto a piece of waxed or parchment paper
  • Using a rubber spatula, scrap the dough out of the bowl onto the cornmeal sprinkled circle
  • Fold each side of the dough onto itself, making a smaller neater ball.
  • Using another piece of baking paper, again sprinkle it with cornmeal
  • Lift the parchment paper with the dough ball up and quickly invert so that the dough ball lands seam side down on second piece of parchment paper. The top of your dough ball will be covered in cornmeal.
  • Cover the dough with a cotton towel – don’t use terry-cloth and let rise 2 hours at room temperature, until more than doubled in size.
  • Place a heavy 3-5 quart covered pot in oven and turn oven 500°F. No need to put lid in oven. I used my Le Creuset 3 qt casserole.
  • When oven is ready, remove the pot from the oven and place the dough in the pot seam side up. Using the parchment paper lets you lift the dough easily.
  • Cover with the lid, place pot back in oven and bake 30 minutes
  • Then remove the lid and bake 15-30 minutes uncovered, until the loaf is nicely browned.
  • Remove from oven and invert onto a cooling rack.

THE LOVE: The most important thing with this recipe is to give the yeast enough time to do it’s thing and to use a good heavy pot with a secure lid.

click here for the printable recipe

one year ago: oatmeal date buttermilk muffins

two years ago: citrus glazed poppy seed orange and lemon muffins

Thanks for reading.

  • Ralph

    This bread took me back to Cortona………………………………..! What a treat!

    • Michelle

      xo – now it’s time we go back for real! hint hint

      • meggie

        Maybe you will remember your kids this time?

        • Michelle

          I’m puzzled. When did I forget you?

  • I have made this bread many times and I always forget how good it is, thanks for the reminder and on my to do list once again. Try the no knead pizza dough…:)

    • Michelle

      Thank you – I will! And thanks for reading…

  • When I moved last year, I got rid of my pizza stone that I made this ridiculously easy and cheap bread on because my son did not share my enthusiasm for this awesome bread. I also used it to make bread bowls like those sold in Tim Horton’s. It was also recommended in Arthritis Today Magazine because you can have fresh baked bread in 5 minutes a day and it does not require any kneading.

  • Looks amazing!

    • Michelle

      It was! Ralph and I actually negotiated the last piece… I won!

  • Dennis

    Jim Lalhey has a great book with many no knead breads. I have tried several of them and they all turned out great. You must give the yeast time to do its job, but it is worth the wait.

    • Michelle

      Thanks Dennis – I’m going to buy a copy. You know my obsession with cook books!

  • Kim Killam Brown

    Looks just like the bread I was used to, over there! Will have to try it!

    • Michelle

      Let me know what you think. We love it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Maria

    Have you tried using other flours (spelt, whole wheat, etc)? Thanks.

    • Michelle

      I haven’t but another reader has with success. I’m going to try all sorts of flours just to see what happens…

  • I’ve been making the no-knead artisan bread for about five years now. It’s hard to go back to making it the “old fashioned” way. I keep a large jar of dough in the fridge at the ready. When I’m ready to use it, I leave some behind and simply add to it, leaving it out for 24 hours again. I love making pizza with this dough. It turns out rustic and delicious!

    • Michelle

      I have another bowl on the counter right now! You’re right – I’ll never go back.

  • PS. I use freshly ground wheat and Speerville unbleached flour

    • Michelle

      Good to know! I love playing around with different flours.

  • You’ve inspired me to try an artisan bread in my bread machine! Thanks!

    • Michelle

      Hmmm…drop me a line and let me know how it works.

  • i actually had you taste this bread one night at one of our book clubs!!haha–i have the book and have been making it for many years as well—‘ when the student is ready,the teacher will appear’……xox

    • Michelle

      I can’t believe I didn’t ask for the recipe that night…Everything you serve is so delicious I was probably distracted! xo