No Knead Bread Variations
There are countless ways that making food from scratch offers a huge savings over buying the pre-packaged version in the grocery store. One of the best examples is Roasting Whole Chickens and Making Chicken Stock. A very close second would be baking your own bread. It’s no secret that we’re crazy about Jim Lahey’s No Knead Bread around here. This big, beautiful loaf can be made in your own kitchen for less than $1 a loaf. You would easily be paying 5 times that in a bakery or grocery store for something of similar size and quality. Multiply that over the course of a year and that is some serious savings. Enough to justify buying a Dutch oven(Amazon). Or four. But who’s counting?
Baking bread around the holidays is great for bringing to any gathering or giving as gifts (see below). In this post, I’ve included our version of Lahey’s recipe, as well as included a long list of possible variations. Once you have the hang of the basic recipe, start putting your own spin on it!
Basic No-Knead Bread (go here for the step-by-step recipe)
slightly adapted from Jim Lahey’s original recipe (Amazon)
6 cups bread flour (recommended) or unbleached all-purpose flour, more for work surface
1/2 t. instant or active-dry yeast
2 1/2 t. salt
2 2/3 c. cool water
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, yeast, and salt (add any additional ingredients here). Add the water and stir until all the ingredients are well incorporated; the dough should be wet and sticky. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough rest 12-18 hours on the counter at room temperature. When surface of the risen dough has darkened slightly, smells yeasty, and is dotted with bubbles, it is ready.
- Lightly flour your hands and a work surface. Place dough on work surface and sprinkle with more flour. Fold the dough over on itself once or twice and, using floured fingers, tuck the dough underneath to form a rough ball.
- Generously dust a cotton towel (not terry cloth) or parchment paper with enough flour, cornmeal, or wheat bran to prevent the dough from sticking to the towel as it rises; place dough seam side down on the towel and dust with more flour, cornmeal, or wheat bran. Cover with the edges or a second cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours, until it has doubled in size.
- After about 1 1/2 hours, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place a 6-8 quart heavy covered pot, such as a cast-iron Dutch oven, in the oven as it heats. When the dough has fully risen, carefully remove pot from oven. (You can add some olive oil to the bottom of the pot, if you want.)Remove top towel from dough and slide your hand under the bottom towel; flip the dough over into pot, seam side up. Shake pan once or twice if dough looks unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes.
- Cover and bake for 40 minutes. Uncover and continue baking for 10-15 more minutes, until the crust is a deep chestnut brown. The internal temperature of the bread should be around 200 degrees. You can check this with a meat thermometer, if desired.
- Remove the bread from the pot and let it cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.
If you want to stir in additional ingredients to your bread, add them to the dry ingredients (flour, yeast, salt) before adding the water. This will ensure they get evenly incorporated to the dough. Then proceed with the recipe as written.
The list below is by no means an exhaustive one of possible variations. Olives, herbs, roasted garlic, or caramelized onions would be good. Or cinnamon raisin! Or roasted pepper! Go to our No-Knead Bread FAQ page for more ideas or create your own combination! We’d love to hear your favorite combination in the comments section!
And I know someone is going to ask: Do you have a gluten-free version? I have searched high and low for a good gluten-free option, but none of the recipes I found seem to be that popular. I am a total amateur when it comes to gluten-free baking, but I am intrigued by the cup-for-cup gf flour. However… I always balk at the price. It would make one expensive loaf of bread. Does anyone have any brilliant gf ideas?
Cranberry Orange Bread
This version can stand on its own with no problemo. Serve it with some butter and call it a day. But! If you really want to win friends and influence people, invite them over for breakfast and serve this as French toast. They will want to make you President of something, even if it’s just the PTA.
zest of 1 orange
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. dried cranberries
1/2 c. sunflower seeds or walnuts
Four Cheese Bread
I can barely handle this bread, it is so delicious. The first time I served it (Christmas Eve 2013, with 3 kinds of soup), people kept asking, “What is in this bread?!” Cheese! But not just any cheese. Trader Joe’s shredded Quattro Formaggio. Adding some chopped green onion isn’t a bad idea, either.
1-2 c. shredded cheese
1/4 c. chopped green onion (optional)
Depending on the saltiness of the cheese, you may want to decrease the salt called for in the recipe by 1/2 teaspoon. In addition to mixing shredded cheese into the dough, I also sprinkle some on top when I remove the lid for the final 10 minutes of bake time.
Sandwich Bread (with almond flour)
My smarty-pants husband has the mind of an inventor, so on those rare occasions when he enters the kitchen to cook rather than to eat, he’s always trying to put his own spin on recipes. He offered to stir together a batch of bread one night. When I baked it the next morning, it had a finer, softer crumb (interior) than usual. His secret? Almond flour. This bread makes the best sandwiches or toast.
1 c. of almond flour for 1 c. of unbleached flour
Dark Chocolate Coconut Bread
I’m not a huge fan of sweet breads, but my husband loves them. I cut our recipe in half (back to Lahey’s original amounts) to make a smaller loaf. This bread is great toasted or served up as an afternoon snack.
Add (to 1/2 of original FLNW bread recipe):
2 T. brown sugar
1/2 c. chopped dark chocolate
1/2 c. shredded coconut (I use Bob’s Red Mill unsweetened coconut flakes)
Cut the covered baking time to 30 minutes, uncovered for about 10 minutes. Sprinkle some shredded coconut on top of the bread when you remove the lid for the final 10 minutes of bake time.
Tomato Basil Cheese Bread
This combination came compliments of a FLNW reader. I owe you big time. This makes the most rich, savory loaf of bread. It is delicious served with soup or spaghetti and even better turned into grilled cheese sandwiches.
2 T. tomato paste
1 c. shredded cheese
1/4 c. finely shredded fresh basil leaves
Depending on the saltiness of the cheese, you may want to decrease the salt called for in the recipe by 1/2 teaspoon.
Whole Wheat Bread
You can play around with different amounts of whole wheat flour, until you find the ratio that you prefer. I like to substitute 3 cups of whole wheat flour for 3 cups of unbleached flour. If you want a lighter loaf, try half of that. Adding some honey or molasses adds a nice touch of sweetness. Cinnamon is also a great addition to this bread. If you go that route, use sugar instead of honey or molasses as a sweetener.
1 1/2-3 c. of whole wheat flour for the same amount of unbleached white flour
3 T. honey or molasses (optional)
1 T. ground cinnamon (optional)
Trying to think of a gift for the person who has everything? Wanting to bring something special to the friend who just had a baby? Bake them a loaf of bread! If you wrap it up in a big kitchen towel and tie it with a nice ribbon, you are practically Martha Stewart. Of course, Martha would embroider her towel with the person’s monogram and braid her own ribbon from horse hair on her country estate, but who cares! You baked a loaf of bread! Give it to someone and watch their eyes light up. It’s a good gift.
For wrapping the big loaves of bread, I like to use a towel around 20×24″. These 18×30″ Liliane Collection Kitchen Towels (Amazon) would work great. They have excellent reviews and a variety of uses. Ditch the wrapping paper and gift bags in favor of something that’s actually useful this year! At less than $1.50/towel, buying a 13-pack is a great way to stock up for the people on your list who will be receiving home-baked treats.
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