Make Your Own (European Style) Bread

Post updated January 2013. I have been making this bread for years and love the recipe.

One of the things that I love in France, Germany and Switzerland is the bread! A basket of perfect croissants in the morning at a cafe in France, a bakery with at least ten types of fresh baked bread in Germany, the wonderful whole wheat breads served for breakfast in a tea room in Switzerland.

We have great quality bread in North America too – it is not all Wonder Bread here! In Santa Fe, Sage Bakehouse produces artisan, organic bread.

Jim Lahey, owner of Sullivan St Bakery in New York City, makes good European-style bread. You can purchase it at their store and other NYC locations. A couple of years ago, he published his recipe for No-Knead Bread on his website. A version of his recipe was printed in the New York Times in November 2006 – No-Knead Bread – and (it seems like) everyone in the US started making this bread.

My friend Chris (Slow Travel moderator) posted about it in the Food Forum on the Slow Travel Forums and many Slow Travelers started making bread and experimenting with the recipe (the Food Forum is for paid members only – they have a lively exchange of recipes). I missed all this because I did not read the food forum; I assumed they were always talking about meat, sugar and wine – which I am not interested in. Boy, was I wrong – my apologies to the Food Forum Followers!!

After everyone in the world had made the No-Knead Bread, I finally discovered it. Colleen emailed me that she was making “Chris’ Bread” and I got curious. I have not baked bread in twenty years. Back in my enthusiastic Macrobiotic days we used to “grow” our own sourdough and bake bread – but it never came out that well for me. So I gave up. But we like bread; our usual breakfast is coffee and toast (with good bread from Sage Bakehouse).

No-Knead Bread
No-Knead Bread. Pauline’s flour combination (2/3 whole wheat flour).

For the last few months I have been experimenting with Chris’ version of the No-Knead Bread and another version she sent me a link to – Multigrain No-Knead Bread by Ellen Jackson, on Culinate.

This bread is easy (and fun) to make, tastes great and can be made in many variations. The best thing about this bread is how little yeast is used (for those of us who do not like to eat a lot of yeasted foods) – only 1/4 teaspoon for a medium sized loaf.

Using Whole Wheat Flour

You need at least one cup of white bread flour to make these recipes work. Whole wheat does not have enough gluten and produces a heavy bread. More white flour makes a lighter bread, but whole wheat flour is more nutritious.

Chris and I both use the King Arthur Flours (available at Whole Foods). I use the Organic Whole Wheat. For the white flour I use either the Bread Flour or the Organic Unbleached White Flour (Bread Flour is best).

The photo below shows Chris’ flour combination (½ cup whole wheat, ½ cup Semolina, 2 cups unbleached bread flour). The photo above shows Pauline’s flour combination (1 cup white bread flour, 2 cups organic whole wheat flour).

No-knead Bread
No-knead Bread, Chris’ version (2/3 white bread flour).

Amazingly Easy and Delicious No-Knead Bread

by Chris and Pauline

No-Knead Bread recipe adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery and Multigrain No-Knead Bread by Ellen Jackson

  • 3 cups flour with extra for dusting
    Chris: 1/2 cup whole wheat, 1/2 cup Semolina, 2 cups unbleached bread flour.
    Pauline: 1 cup bread flour, 2 cups organic whole wheat flour (King Arthur for both).
    For a lighter bread use half/half or 2 cups white bread flour, 1 cup whole wheat.
  • 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
  • Cornmeal, wheat bran or whole wheat flour as needed for dusting

The bread is baked in a 6-to-8-quart heavy pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex – a Le Creuset 7 1/4 quart Round French Oven works well) or the La Clouche clay baker (this is what I use).

Yield: One 1 1/2 pound loaf

Step 1 – Create the dough mixture

Mix flour, salt and yeast. Add water.

Stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap (I use an old plastic bag cut down the side or a plastic shower cap). Let dough rest overnight (at least 12 – 18 hours) at room temperature.

No-Knead Bread
No-Knead Bread – create the bread mixture

The dough is ready

The dough is ready when its surface is speckled with air bubbles.

No-Knead Bread
No-Knead Bread – dough mixture is ready to start

Step 2 – Prepare the dough

Lightly flour a work surface and place the dough on it. The dough is wet and you have to scrape it out of the bowl. I use a plastic scraper to get it out of the bowl in one piece.

No-Knead Bread
No-Knead Bread – step 2

Working the dough

Dust the top of the dough with flour and fold it over on itself a couple of times (watch how they do this in the videos listed below – they flatten, fold in thirds, then fold in half). Use a pastry scraper in this step.

No-Knead Bread
No-Knead Bread – shape the dough

Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it sit 20 minutes.

Get out a cotton kitchen towel (not terry cloth – I use muslin). Dust it with wheat bran, cornmeal, or flour. The bread will rise in a large bowl, colander or proofing basket lined with the towel or you can let the bread rise on the towel on a flat surface.

No-Knead Bread
No-Knead Bread – ready to rise

The dough rises

Using just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to your fingers, pick up the dough and gently and quickly shape it into a ball. This part is tricky. Lately I have been taking the four corners and pulling them together in the middle to make a tight ball. Then press all the seams together.

Put the ball into the prepared kitchen towel, seam-side up (it will be turned upside down for baking). If rising on a flat surface, put seam-side down. It looks messy and misshapen. Cover the dough with another flour-dusted towel and let it rise for 2 hours. (You can let it rise for an hour or two longer if the timing does not work out for baking. I like to let it rise for 3 hours.)

Half an hour before it has finished rising, get the oven ready. Place the pot in the oven and preheat to 475 – 500 degrees.

No-Knead Bread
No-Knead Bread – the dough has risen

Step 3 – Bake the bread

The dough is ready to bake when it has more than doubled in size and springs back when poked.

Carefully remove the pot from the oven (it is hot!) and put the bread into the pot, seam-side down. This is the tricky part – slip your hand under the kitchen towel holding the dough, so that you are cradling the loaf in your palm. In one sure, confident motion, flip the dough into the pot, with the seam side on the bottom.

It is easier using the clay baker because the bottom has a low rim and you are not dropping the bread from the top of the pot. If using a light small proofing basket, you can turn it over into the baker and dump out the dough.

No-Knead Bread
No-Knead Bread – ready to go in the oven

Put the Bread in the Oven

Cover the pot with a lid, return it to the oven, and reduce the heat to 450 degrees. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and rotate the pot. Bake an additional 20 to 30 minutes, until the loaf is deeply browned.

When the bread is done the bottom is quite dark (just short of burned) and it sounds hollow when tap it.

No-Knead Bread
No-Knead Bread – finished bread

The Bread is Done

The bread is done – remove pot from oven and turn out the bread.

Cool on a rack before slicing. It needs to cool for at least an hour. I let it cool overnight and have fresh bread in the morning.

Fresh Baked Bread

High quality, organic, mostly whole wheat bread, fresh from your oven.

Timing the Recipe

You spend about 20 minutes working on this bread, but the time from start to finish is almost 20 hours.

Start the bread at 4pm, it has risen by 8am the next morning (16 hrs), another two hours rising and bake it at 10:15am.

Start the bread at 10pm, it has risen by 2pm the next afternoon (16 hrs), another two hours rising and bake it at 4:15pm or wait to bake when making dinner.

Recipes

Videos/Photos

  • YouTube Video: No-Knead Bread, by the New York Times. Mark Bittman, a.k.a. The Minimalist, shares a recipe on how to make no-knead bread where the secret is letting the time do the work. He is at Sullivan St Bakery and Jim Lahey demonstrates how to make the bread.
  • YouTube Video: No-Knead Bread, by Breadtopia. Another demonstration of making this bread.

Supplies

  • From Breadtopia: Bread proofing basket. I line this with a thin muslin towel (cut in half – half for lining the basket, half to put on top when the dough is rising). I found the dough stuck to the proofing basket even when I put some flour in it.
  • From Breadtopia: La Clouche clay baker. This is perfect for making this bread. The lower part has a low rim so it is easy to turn the bread over into it.
  • Le Creuset 7¼ quart Round French Oven. I used this when I first tried the recipe, but the constant baking was discoloring the pot and I like to use this pot for making soup, so I bought the clay baker. Also, with the high sides, it was hard to flip the dough into the pot.

Final Note (on a LONG post)

Why am I the inexperienced baker posting about baking this no-knead bread when there are far better resources for this? Because I want to tell all my friends about it – now I can just link to this post. And, to show that an inexperienced baker can make great bread.

The ironic thing (and I really mean ironic, with the correct meaning 🙂 ) is that I have been working on this post all afternoon and now it is 8:26pm and dinner is not even started. So I am writing about baking your own bread, but two Amy’s Veggie Loafs are in the microwave for dinner tonight!

Published by

Pauline Kenny

Pauline Kenny and Steve Cohen are US expats living in Dorset. We moved to the UK in 2010. Read about our move. If you would like to talk about travel, please join us on the Slow Europe Travel Forums.

5 thoughts on “Make Your Own (European Style) Bread”

  1. On the advice of testers from Cook’s Illustrated, who tinkered with Jim Lahey’s recipe for no-knead bread, I altered step 3 as follows: line a 10 inch skillet with parchment paper, sprinkle it with cornmeal, place the dough on it and let rise covered for 2 hours. Then lift it up by the paper and place in the hot dutch oven – eliminates the mess of flying cornmeal.

  2. That sounds like a good idea – I will try it. I am currently doing a smaller version of the multi-grain recipe (1.5 cups white flour, 1.5 cups whole wheat, 1.5 cups water, 1/4 tsp rounded yeast, 2 tsp salt, 1.5 Tblsp barley malt) and it is working well. I am using wheat bran on a muslin cloth in a bamboo proofing basket to let it rise – BUT my kitchen gets covered with wheat bran doing this. I will give your way a try.

    I bought the La Cloche Clay Baker from Breadtopia ( http://www.breadtopia.com/store/round-la-cloche.html ) and have used it twice. The crust is beautiful and it is easier to get the risen dough onto the flat bottom of the La Cloche (because you don’t have to drop it into a deep pot).

    We love this bread and I am making it twice a week.

  3. This recipe is easy and uses less yeast than the one you were using. I am getting some mixed up today and looking forward to home baked bread again. After 10 days in Tucson eating store-bought bread (whole wheat and organic) I realize how unsubstantial it is. Like eating fluff. We are very lucky to have Sage Bakery in Santa Fe with their great bread but I like my bread best.

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