Green Eats: No knead

Bread recipes without pressure.

Bread 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Bread 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
I have no trouble kneading bread dough; in fact I find it both relaxing and a wonderful remembrance of my mom, who taught me how to do it when I was young. I may have butterfingers when it comes to other things, but in kneading I’ve developed a kind of natural rhythm that people tell me is wonderful to watch, though they find hard to replicate.
The most important things to remember about kneading are to use the palms of your hands rather than your fingers, don’t over-flour the board or dough, and use the 1-2-3 method: Fold the top of the dough over the bottom, use one or both palms to push it gently away from you, then use one of your hands (depending if you’re a lefty or a righty), to turn the dough a quarter of the way around before folding, pushing and turning again.
But then again, there are those people for whom no explanation of kneading is good enough, which is why the no-knead bread phenomenon was developed.
Some claim that it was New York Times writer Mark Bittman who first gave the recipe for a no-knead bread, that he adapted from a recipe by Jim Lahey of the Sullivan Street Bakery in New York, but in any case it caused quite a stir; bloggers from all over cyberspace have fallen in love with it, and after trying a few recipes, I have too.
The concept is simple; you just have to get the proportions right. You mix the ingredients (flour, a tiny bit of yeast or sourdough starter, salt, water and your choice of flavoring ingredients) in a bowl with a wooden spoon, cover the bowl with a plastic bag, and let sit at room temperature for 18-20 hours (which means you can mix it all Friday and bake it Saturday night), shape the loaf and give it another two hours. And then the pièce de résistance: rather than baking it in a loaf pan or on a cookie sheet, you use a preheated heavy cast-iron type pot or earthenware bread bell-top cloche, around 20 minutes covered, and the last 10 minutes uncovered. It’s really shocking how well it works! The first time I made one of these no-knead breads, I used a recipe found on, which in addition to good recipes has video explanations. I adapted it a little and then made a tasty mistake – the exterior seeded part fell into the pot with the bottom down, with the result that the crust was seeded rather than the top. It was marvelous anyway. Here’s my adaptation of all the other adaptations I found:
Makes 1 loaf
Millet, three-toned quinoa, chia and amaranth are all available at health food stores. If you don’t have them, add a few different seeds like flax, sunflower seeds, coriander seeds, caraway seeds and/or pumpkin seeds to the dough or for the crust.
✔ 1⁄4 cup rye flour (or wholewheat flour)
✔ 1⁄2 cup whole-wheat flour
✔ 21⁄2 cups organic white flour (kemah organi menupeh)
✔ 11⁄2 tsp. salt
✔ 4 Tbsp. quinoa (I used multicolor)
✔ 3 Tbsp. millet or oats
✔ 2 Tbsp. amaranth (optional)
✔ 11⁄2 tsp. whole poppy seeds (not ground)
✔ 11⁄2 cups water
✔ 1⁄4 tsp. dry yeast
✔ 2 Tbsp. yogurt (I used buffalo yogurt)
✔ 1⁄2 Tbsp. amaranth
✔ 2 Tbsp. sesame seeds
✔ 2 tsp. fennel seeds
✔ 11⁄2 tsp. chia seeds
✔ Corn meal and extra flour
In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients (except for the coating) in the order given. Use a wooden spoon to blend. Cover with a plastic bag and let sit 12 to 20 hours.
Use a wet spatula to form the dough into a ball and detach it from the bottom. Transfer to a floured work surface and flour the top and your hands lightly. Form into a rectangle. Fold one side in toward the center and fold the other side on top of it. You may have to use a metal spatula to help you. Cover and let stand 15 minutes.
Grease another bowl and sprinkle the coating mixture on the bottom and sides. Dampen the top of the dough and place it, damp side down, over the seeds. Cover and let stand 11⁄2 to 2 hours.
Toward the end of rising time, heat the oven to 250 degrees, and place a ceramic pot with a cover inside for 20 minutes. Remove carefully with potholders, sprinkle the bottom of the pot with flour, and turn the bowl with the dough over into the pot. Bake covered for 20 minutes, remove the cover bake another 15 to 20 minutes till golden brown. Wait a few minutes and then turn the pot over to release the bread and set it upright to cool on a rack.