Tuesday, February 12, 2013

No-Knead French Bread

Have you ever made a recipe that has changed your life . . . or at least the way you look at food? Well this is one of those recipes for me. A few weeks ago I wanted to serve my Garlic & Herb Cheesy Bread but I didn't want to make the trip into town to buy some French bread. I found this recipe in our church cookbook, but I was skeptical because when I've made homemade French bread before I've been disappointed that it wasn't like what I can buy at the grocery store. My friend Kim is the one that submitted the recipe, so I knew it had to be good. I decided to go ahead and try it and I'm so glad I did! No longer does bread making have to mean hours of kneading and rising. In just about 1 1/2 hours you can have two (or three) loaves of French Bread that's just as good - or even better - than you can buy at the store.
  Of course, I did change a couple things, but nothing too major. It's ridiculously easy. I'll show you how it's done.
First, put 3 cups of bread flour in a large mixing bowl. (The original recipe says just flour - AP flour - but I like the chew you get from using bread flour.)

To the flour, add 2 Tbs of fast-acting, instant or quick rise yeast. (This yeast is packed with vitamin C that allows it to rise instantly without any blooming.) The brand doesn't really matter, just the type.

3 Tbs of sugar is added.

and some salt. The original recipe says to add 1 Tbsp of salt, but I like to use the salted water from cooking potatoes or pasta to make my bread, so I don't add a full Tbsp of salt.

Then comes the HOT water. Kim says to add hot tap water, but I like to use water with more starch in it (like potato or pasta water) because it gives the bread a nice chewy texture. The water just needs to be over 105F and less than 120F. If the water is too hot it will kill the yeast, and that's not good.

Stir in the water and then add in 1/3 cup of veg. oil.

Mix everything together very well, until smooth.

The last step is to cover the dough with 3 cups more bread flour. DO NOT stir it in. Just put it on top, and leave it alone. (I leave my spoon in too. It makes things less messy later on.)

Cover the bowl and let it sit for 10 minutes.

When 10 minutes is up, it should look something like this.

Gently stir everything together.

When you've stirred it as much as you can, it will look something like this:
Cover it again, and come back in another 10 minutes. (You'll do this for a total of 5 times.)

After 10 minutes, this is your dough.

Stir again. When you've stirred all you can, then cover it and leave for another 10 minutes.

This is it after the 10 minutes.

Stir again. Cover and leave for another 10 minutes.

You're almost done! This is the dough after 40 minutes.

Stir one last time, making sure that all the flour is completely incorporated. Cover and leave for 10 more minutes.

After the last 10 minutes, this is it!

Cover a flat surface with a little flour. (I like to use my dad's old Tupperware mat that's used to roll out pie dough.)

Turn the dough out from the bowl and divide it in two (or three if you want smaller loaves.)

Take each half and press it out into a rectangle shape (about 9x13). You could use a rolling pin for this, but I'm all about saving dishes, so I just flatten it out with my hands.

Roll it up (I roll the long side to get a loaf that's over a foot long.)

When it's rolled it looks something like this:

Cut slits into the top of the loaf (this is just to make it look pretty).

When both loaves are formed and scored, I like to spray them with some non-stick cooking spray. This keeps the loaves moist while they rise for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, they have doubled in size and look like this:

They get baked @ 350F for 30 minutes until they are brown and hollow sounding when tapped.

They are very pretty.

I just had to take a couple of shots. After they cool, they are ready to eat just as they are, our you can turn them into something more. (Like Spinach Artichoke Bread, or Garlic & Herb Cheesy Bread - both recipes coming soon.) Enjoy!
*Update - if you like your loaves more crusty and a little darker, brush the loaves with either butter or an egg wash, and turn up the heat to 375F for the last 10 minutes.

Here's the recipe:

No-Knead French Bread

6 cups bread flour, divided
2 Tbsp quick rise yeast
3 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp salt (3/4 Tbsp if ising salted potato or pasta water)
2 1/2 cups HOT water (105-120F)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
non-stick cooking spray

In a large bowl, combine 3 cups flour, sugar, yeast and salt. Add the water and mix well. Add the oil and stir until smooth. Add the remaining flour on top, but DO NOT stir. Cover and stir every 10 minutes (5 times) for 50 minutes total. After the 5th time, pour out onto a floured surface and divide into two (or three) equal pieces. Roll or press out each piece into a rectangle (about 9x13 size). Roll up on the long sides and place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Cut slits in the tops of the loaves and spray with non-stick cooking spray. Let rise 30 minutes, until doubled in size. Bake @ 350F for 30 minutes. Loaves should be brown and sound hollow when you tap them.


  1. Trying this today! =) I will let you know how it goes.

  2. Turned out super good! I of course made some alterations to fit my at-home ingredients/laziness. I used regular flour because I had so much of it. I actually made this kneaded bread. My hand/arm was super tired from squeezing lemons all day so instead of mixing by hand I put the dough in my KitchenAid and kneaded it. I do have a question about the potato water. Do you make it the day of and use it or do you save it when you make potatoes and then use it for baking later on? I did not use any, as I was not making potatoes that day. Despite all the changes, the bread was amazing! Thanks, Shammah and Kim!

  3. I'm glad the recipe worked well for you. Using a Kitchen Aid is a great idea! All purpose flour and regular, dry active yeast can both be substituted in this recipe with good results. I just like the extra "chew" that I get from using bread flour. And I exclusively use instant, or fast acting yeast because it works in every recipe, every time.
    When I use potato or pasta water I usually am making the potatoes or pasta at the same time as the bread, so I just use the hot water after I drain off the potatoes or pasta. If I don't make the bread that same day, but know that I want to make it soon I will put the 2 1/2 cups of water in a sealed container and put it in the fridge. It will keep for a couple days that way. Then when I want to make my bread I just put the water in the microwave for about a minute (until it is 105-120 degrees F). I hope this helps. I'm glad you liked the bread. :)

  4. This is an amazing recipe. I ran across it on Pinterest, and aside from hot cross buns, I can't see myself making anything else for a while. I added two eggs and a bit more flour, and it added greatly to the texture, making it more like a ridiculously easy ciabatta or a croissant. I also like to add 1/4 cups of wheat germ, powdered milk, wheat bran, rye flour, and flax meal for extra flavor complexity. Thank you for the recipe! It's my new favorite!

    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed it! I'll have to try it with your variations. The addition of the eggs would make it wonderfully moist and rich. I rarely keep wheat germ or flax meal on hand but I really should go purchase some just so I can see what all the fuss is about. :) Thanks for your comment!!

  5. Just got them into the oven, they look fantastic easiest recipie ever. Thanks a lot.

  6. Yay! I'm so glad the recipe worked well for you. Thanks for stopping by! :)

  7. From Suzanna Banana

    I've made this recipe many times but decided to comment today. I absolutely LOVE this bread. Who would think something so good was so easy to make.

    I've made the loaves as insturcted, and I've made this into dinner buns, and mini loaves when company comes (this is very popular with the guest. Who doesn't like individual loaves like in a restaurant?), and even cinnamon buns. Next to try is monkey bread.

    You see, my excitement is not only the quality of the bread but the fact that it requires no kneading. I have a back injury and am not able to stand for long periods of time. Not only that, my hands are very weak as are my arms. This solves that problem.

    My favourite way to make this is into four small loaves. As soon as they are cooled down, I bag each separately and freeze them. When I want to serve, I just pop one loaf into the oven for a few minutes, right on the rack (temp doesn't matter, just watch carefully). Just like fresh baked. Honest.

    French toast is fabulous made with nice thick slices.

    OK, I'll stop the gushing or you'll think I'm a stalker! Thank you for helping to make my work easier.

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