How To Make Homemade Bread You Don't Have To Knead

Enjoy the taste of homemade bread without sacrificing an entire afternoon.

January 17, 2018
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I love good bread—fragrant, chewy, fresh bread. My mom made white bread or oatmeal bread frequently when I was little, and she would let me finish kneading a small loaf and put in a few drops of food coloring as I was doing the final shaping, then, when you cut the finished bread there were spots and swirls of pink and blue—I’ve never quite forgiven Wonder Bread for having colored spots on its bag and no colors inside the bread. 

These days I leave the artificial colors out and use whole grain flours for my bread on the rare occasion that I actually make it. My wrists don’t like kneading and making traditional-method yeast breads doesn’t often fit into my schedule. I’ve never been too impressed with bread-machine bread, either though, so when I saw an article about a couple of smart folks—Jeff Hertzberg, MD, and Zoë François—who had developed a nearly foolproof system for making no-knead bread dough in big batches, storing it in the fridge, and baking portions of it whenever you wanted a nice, fresh loaf, I was very curious. Would it really work? Was the bread really as good as they said it was? I had to try it for myself. 

I started with the basic Whole Grain Master Recipe, from the book Healthy Bread In Five Minutes A Day, and then tweaked the ingredients and tips based on my own trial and error to make my bread organic. This recipe makes four one-pound loaves and you can halve, double, or triple the recipe to match your family’s bread-consumption habits.

bread ingredients
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What You'll Need

5½ cups organic whole wheat flour
2 cups unbleached organic all-purpose flour
1½ tablespoons granulated yeast
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
4 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
4 cups lukewarm water
Large, lidded container (5 quarts is a good size for a single recipe’s worth)
Cookie sheet covered with a silicone baking sheet or parchment paper
Metal baking pan that will hold a cup of water (don't use a glass pan)
Cooling rack

Keep in mind that whole grain flours go rancid and turn bitter-tasting quite quickly at room temperature, so shop at a store with rapid turnover or one that keeps its whole grain flours in the cooler, and either buy only as much as you will use up in a few weeks or buy in bulk and store what you don’t use right away in the freezer to keep it fresh. You can save money by buying yeast by the pound rather than the packet and storing it in the freezer in an airtight jar.

Related: Why Your New Year's Resolution Should Be To Eat More Bread

dough in a bowl
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Mix Your Ingredients

Measure all the dry ingredients into the large container, and mix them thoroughly with a whisk. Pour in the water and mix until just blended. Put the lid on loosely so excess gas can escape and set the container on the counter. Leave it alone for at least two hours, during which the dough will rise and then fall. Then just put the whole container in the fridge.

Related: Should You Be Eating Fermented Bread?

baking bread
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Get Ready To Bake

Line your cookie sheet with the silicone baking sheet or parchment paper. Cut off about a quarter of the cold dough with a serrated kitchen knife, pick it up with wet hands, and tuck the rough edges underneath to make a smooth oval. This should take just two or three quick moves, as your aim is to touch the dough as little as possible. Place the oval, tucked side down, in the center of the cookie sheet. Cover it loosely to keep the surface from drying out. Put the covered loaf on the counter to rest for an hour.

Related: How To Make A 5-Minute, No-Cook Summer Jam With Any Fresh Fruit

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Bake Your Bread

After an hour, put the baking pan on the bottom shelf (you'll fill it with water later), and turn the oven to 450 degrees for 30 minutes. Uncover your loaf and brush the outside with water. Use the serrated knife to cut ¼-inch-deep slits across the top of the loaf. Put your bread in the oven on the middle shelf, pour a cup of warm water into the pan on the bottom shelf, and quickly close the door to hold in the steam. Set your timer for 20 minutes. At that point, slide the loaf off the cookie sheet directly onto the oven shelf, and set the timer for 10 more minutes—this will help the bottom crust bake nicely.

Remove the bread from the oven and let it cool completely on your cooling rack. This is the hardest part of the whole process for me because it just smells so good! But if you cut it now, the internal texture will not be as nice as if you let it cool. Repeat the baking day process until your dough container is empty, but don't wash it. Mix up another batch in it just the way it is; the little bits of old dough will help the new batch taste even better.