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Jim Lahey's No-Kneed Bread

I remember my mother tossing out failed loaf after failed loaf of bread as a child. She never mastered the art of making yeast-risen bread. It is too bad Jim Lahey wasn’t around then, as my mother would have been ecstatic each time she pulled a perfectly baked loaf of bread from the oven. It really is the easiest recipe that I’ve come across for making yeast-risen bread. Go! Bake! NOW!

Yield: one 1-1/2 pound loaf


  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon dry, active yeast
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed

Preparation Procedure

  1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast, and salt. Add water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18 (I’ve had success with as long as 26 hours), at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees. This will form what is called a “sponge” in baker’s parlance.
  2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes. Fold it over on itself twice.
  3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
  4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 20 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 10 to 15 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.
  5. Alternatively, I’ve baked the dough on parchment paper with on a cookie sheet. I lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees for this method and bake for 30 minutes. The loaf should be golden and hollow-when-thumped. If it looks like bread, it is!
  6. Place loaf on a cooling rack and wait for it to cool before slicing. The bread will crackle as it cools.
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