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Advanced No-Knead Bread

by Victor @ Taste of Artisan

Exceptionally delicious no-knead bread that features airy and soft crumb, thin and crispy crust, captivating dark golden brown color and an unforgettable taste with a touch of sweetness that lingers in your mouth.

A loaf of no-knead bread on a brown wooden cutting bread. Beautiful dark brown crust.

No-knead bread was the first bread I ever attempted to make, about 10 years ago. In hindsight, my first bread was a disaster. It had bubbles inside but the crumb was dense nevertheless. The crust was hard and pale-ish . It tasted good but not ‘I can’t believe I made this bread myself at home’ good. It looked OK but not amazing.

I followed many no-knead recipes to the tee and was convinced that my bread was the best I could get in a home environment. It looked, well, just like everybody else’s, I thought.

The story behind this bread recipe

Fast forward many years. I’ve been baking primarily sourdough breads and never really bothered with unsophisticated no-knead breads any more. That was until I was going to visit my friends who specifically asked me to bring a loaf of my bread. Normally, that wouldn’t have been an issue, but I only had about 6 hours before I had to leave. Darn!

I ran into the kitchen and mixed some flour, water, instant yeast and salt. And a tablespoon of honey. Yes, a little bit of honey gives bread a hint of sweetness and extra flavor, something that everyone loves in my French baguettes. I used room temperature water not to rush bulk fermentation but making sure that I finish in time. I also increased the amount of yeast to 3 grams to make sure that fermentation doesn’t take too long.

To make a long story short, the loaf that I made that day turned out to be quite outstanding. I did not realize how good the bread was until I heard my friends go ‘mmmmmm’ while eating it. I tried it. It was fabulous. It was surprisingly flavorful considering it was made using commercial yeast and such a short fermentation time.

The crumb was exceptionally soft and airy. There was a certain moistness to it which I liked a lot. A touch of sweetness made me want to savor the bread in my mouth before swallowing.

 

 

No-knead bread, cut in half, cut side facing viewer, on a cutting board.

The crust was thin and crackly initially but softened over time and became slightly chewy. I liked it a lot.

Top down view of golden brown, crusty bread loaf on a white marble board.

Making no-knead bread

Suffice to say, this bread is now on a regular rotation in our home. I don’t change this recipe, I think it’s perfect. The only thing I do is substitute 50 grams of wheat flour for rye flour every now and again. It adds even more flavor. I do the same with my baguettes every now and again.

The ingredients

This bread recipe uses all-purpose flour, water, yeast, salt and honey.

I use King Arthur all-purpose flour as I love the results it gives. It’s been my favorite for years especially for making baguettes. There are other brands out there that are just as good or may be even better but this one is my favorite. I highly recommend it.

My favorite commercial instant yeast for this bread is SAF Gold. I heard so many good things about it on thefreshloaf.com and it did not disappoint. It gives my no-knead bread a quicker rise and, in general, produces a superior crumb texture.

A bag of SAF Gold yeast on a table.

Mixing the ingredients

Once you have your ingredients in place, dissolve honey in water in a large bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix by hand, squeezing the dough between your fingers. Cover the bowl and let the dough rest for 1 hour.

No knead bread ingredients mixed together in a bowl.

Fermentation

Over the next 3 hours the dough will undergo what is known as bulk fermentation during which it will develop  flavor, strength and double in size.

The strength is achieved by using a stretch and fold technique. The stretch and fold technique is where you pull each corner of the dough and fold onto itself, as illustrated in my French baguette and sourdough bread posts. This step is extremely important even though most no-knead bread recipes do not include it.

Below is the illustration of the stretch and fold  technique from my sourdough bread post.

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The purpose of the stretch and fold method is to stretch and align strands of gluten, which strengthens the dough. It results in larger bubbles in the crumb, making it open and airy. I do three stretch and fold iterations over a period of one and half hours.

Bread dough after stretch and folds.

At the end of each iteration I pick up the dough ball and turn it up side down.

Bread dough ball in a bowl.

By the time I am done doing stretching and folding the dough is smooth, soft and elastic, slightly risen with some small blisters showing on the surface.

I cover it and let it continue rising for another one and a half hours or so, until it about doubles in size.

Proofing

After fermentation the dough will need to be proofed. Make sure that the proofing basket is sufficiently floured with a 50/50 mix of all-purpose and rice flour to prevent sticking. For this recipe, you will need a 9″ round banneton.

My current favorite are wood pulp bannetons from Ernst Birnbaum. Ever since I’ve started using them sticking has not been an issue even with very wet doughs that I normally work with. You need just a tiny bit of flour and breads come out quite clean. You can buy these on Amazon, or order directly from Germany like I did. It will be more economical to buy there if you need a few of them, plus the variety there is unmatched.

A variety of wood pulp proofing baskets and brushes on a table.

Once the dough has sufficiently risen, I transfer it to a proofing basket seam side down.

Bread dough in a proofing basket.

Cover the dough with a paper towel to prevent sticking, then with a piece of plastic wrap to keep the moisture in.

Bread covered with a paper towel and plastic.

Proofing continues for about an hour or until the dough has increased in size about one and half times and is fully proofed.

The best way to tell if the dough is ready for baking is to gently poke it with a (lightly floured) finger. If the dough is sufficiently proofed the indentation springs back very slowly.  If it’s under-proofed, the dough will spring back rather quickly. Over-proofed dough won’t have much strength and the indentation will remain as is.

No Knead bread fully proofed.

Scoring

The ready to bake dough is gently turned over on a piece of parchment paper.

Bread dough turned over onto parchment paper.

The top is scored with a bread lame to allow the bread quickly expand in the oven, also known as ‘oven spring’. Without scoring, bread tends to have a denser, less open crumb, despite being perfectly proofed.

Bread dough scored with a lame.

The scores should be about 3/8″ deep and relatively short. If you go too far side to side and/or make them deep, the bread will spread out instead of rising up.

Baking

I bake my no-knead bread on a heavy duty baking stone with a steam pan for the first half (25 minutes) and without for the second half (25 minutes) with the oven door cracked-open. The oven is preheated to 500F but the temperature is reduced to 450F once the bread goes in. This dries out the crust, making it thin, crackly and beautifully colored.

Bread baking in oven on pizza stone.

Oven door cracked open with a wooden spoon keeping it ajar.

 

Tips and tricks

So, what made this bread so special and taste so different from other no-knead breads I made a long time ago? I don’t think it was one thing but rather a combination of little things. The list may not be complete but you will find some helpful points to help you take your no-knead bread to the next level, like I did.

  • Using fresh King Arthur All-Purpose flour. I love this flour. It makes amazing baguettes. It’s great for white bread too.
  • SAF yeast. So many great reviews gets this yeast. I’ve noticed an improved openness of crumb and softer texture when using it. For quicker rises I use SAF Gold.
  • Ditching the cast iron Dutch oven. The crust is so much better when bread is baked on a stone. And so is the oven spring. You can also bake larger or multiple loaves on a large stone.
  • Stretching and folding the dough during bulk fermentation. No, it’s not kneading. You don’t need to be too precise about it. But it helps the dough develop gluten strands which results in a much improved, open crumb and overall light and airy texture. Three sets of stretch and folds every 30 minutes are enough. Each set literally takes 5 seconds to complete.
  • Adding a bit of honey. It does wonders to the taste and makes white bread so much more enjoyable.
  • Weighing ingredients. Each cup of flour has a variance of 10-20 grams. Four cups can potentially reduce or increase your flour to water ratio by 10 percent. That’s huge and will have a noticeable effect on the final result.
  • Creating a sufficient amount of steam in the oven for the initial ‘oven spring’. This is achieved by using a water pan with a kitchen towel in it for slow steam release, preheating the oven slightly higher than the baking temperature, and spraying a bit of water in the walls of the oven after the bread is in.
  • Proper scoring improves the oven spring and, hence, the openness of the bread’s crumb.
  • Baking the bread during the second half with the oven door cracked open. This does wonders to bread crust, making it darker and giving it a thin, crackly skin.
  • Substituting 50 grams of all-purpose flour for rye flour. It adds more flavor and improves the taste.

Golden brown loaf of no knead bread on a light brown cutting board.

How to make this no-knead bread even quicker

Longer fermentation and/or proofing give bread better flavor and vice versa. But, sometimes we are in a rush and need make bread fast. Freshly baked bread that may not have all the flavor it could have is way better than no bread at all, right? You can easily shave off another hour or even two by doing these two things:

  1. Use warm water when mixing the dough
  2. Ferment and proof in the oven with the light on (stretch and folds every 20 minutes)

This will make the quickest no-knead bread but I guarantee you, it will still taste great and blow the socks off your friends who will try it.

Half loaf of easy to make no knead bread on a cutting board.

Advanced No-Knead Bread Recipe

Advanced recipe and technique to make the best no-knead bread.
5 from 6 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Appetizer, Bread
Cuisine: American, European
Keyword: no-knead bread, quick no-knead bread
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Fermentation and proofing: 5 hours
Servings: 12 servings
Calories: 187kcal
Author: Victor

Ingredients

  • 600 g all-purpose flour (about 4 cups using 'scoop and sweep' method; King Arthur brand recommended)
  • 450 g water (2 cups, room temperature)
  • 21 g honey (1 Tbsp)
  • 14 g kosher salt (1 level Tbsp)
  • 3 g SAF Gold instant yeast (1 tsp)

Instructions

  • Add the water and honey to a large bowl and mix until the honey is dissolved.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients and mix by hand, squeezing the dough between your fingers, until a sticky homogeneous mass is formed. Cover the bowl with a plastic wrap and let rest for 1 hour.
  • After one hour, perform stretch and folds every 30 minutes over the next one and half hours. Let the dough continue its fermentation for additional one and a half hours or until it doubles in size.
  • Shape the dough in a ball and transfer to a proofing basket dusted with a 50/50 mix of all-purpose and rice flour, seam side down.
  • Cover with a piece of paper towel (this will prevent sticking of the dough to the plastic wrap), then with a plastic wrap. Let proof for about 60 minutes or until the dough passes the finger test (see post for details). The dough will increase in size about one a half times or so.
  • Meanwhile, place a baking stone and a steam pan in the oven (see notes). Preheat the oven to 500F. An hour of preheating is recommended.
  • Turn the bread over on a piece of parchment paper. Score on top and place in the oven using a pizza shovel. Be careful opening the oven, it will be full of hot steam. Spray the walls of the oven with a bit of water (gentle mist) to re-create some of the lost steam and close the door.
  • Immediately drop the temperature to 450F and bake for 25 minutes.
  • Remove the water pan from the oven, turn the bread 180 degrees and leave the door cracked open. You can use a wooden spoon for that. Bake for another 25 minutes.
  • When the baking is done, remove the bread from the oven and place on a cooling rack. Cool for 1 hour at room temperature before slicing.

Notes

The steam pan is a bread pan with a rolled up kitchen towel inside and filled with water. As the oven preheats, the water will heat up and start boiling. The kitchen towel will ensure a slow and steady steam release during baking. I position the steam pan below the baking stone and to the side. If possible, the stone should not be directly above the steam pan for efficient steam flow.
If your oven, like mine, has a steam vent, you may want to close it with a kitchen towel during the first 25 minutes of baking.

Nutrition

Calories: 187kcal | Carbohydrates: 40g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 455mg | Potassium: 54mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Calcium: 9mg | Iron: 2mg

Update on November 2, 2019

This bread is even more flavorful when you add whole wheat and/or rye flour to it. Nuts and seeds are a great addition as well.

Whole what and rye no knead bread loaves on a marble table.

Made this bread with 60% all-purpose flour, 32.5% whole wheat and 7.5% rye flour. The taste is richer, more flavorful. You will get a less pronounced oven spring, and less open, yet still very airy and soft crumb. I like this variation a lot.

The other loaf is of the same composition, but I added a handful each of toasted sunflower seeds and walnuts. Loved it with my morning Americano.

Whole what and rye no knead bread loaves on a marble table.

Update November 6, 2019

This loaf is 75% all-purpose, 20% whole wheat and 5% rye flour. I mixed the ingredients too late in the day and finished bulk fermentation only around 10PM. As a result, I shaped the dough, placed in a proofing basket, covered and refrigerated overnight. This technique is called ‘cold retarding’, I use it for my French baguettes, sourdough bread and more. In the morning, I let the dough warm up for 90 minutes at room temperature, while I was preheating the oven, then baked as usual. There is quite a bit more flavor development due to cold retarding. The taste is just a touch sour, in a way like sourdough bread. Another great loaf that would sure put a smile on any bread lover’s face.

No-knead bread loaf, overnight retarding, nice open crumb,.

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Leave a Comment

 

20 comments

Esther December 11, 2019 - 8:35 pm

Your bread looks wonderful. I’m going to try your recipe-I normally use Jim Lahey’s. I love making no-knead breads with cold fermentation. Can I bake in my clay cloche or Dutch oven like I usually do? After scoring, I spray the loaf liberally with water, bake at 450 for 45”, uncover and bake another 15”. Turns out great, but I have an iron pizza stone – you say the stone might be even better?

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Victor @ Taste of Artisan December 12, 2019 - 3:28 pm

Esther, thanks for stopping by my blog. You can modify this recipe to include cold retarding, I do it too and described my process in French baguette and sourdough bread recipes. This recipe is meant to be a quick no-knead version. So many ways to make bread, which makes this hobby so exciting.
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Yes, you can absolutely bake in your Dutch oven or the cloche as usual. I can’t advise you about a cast iron pizza stone, I haven’t used it, but I can talk about the DO/cloche/pizza stone differences. They are subtle but still big enough to cause some people to prefer one method over the other(s). Baking on a stone presents less hassle over the other two methods. But you have to ensure proper steaming with this method, a hassle of a different kind I suppose. On average I get a bit less of an oven spring on a stone with a water pan. No blisters like you get with a cloche or a DO. This crust is thin and crispy. The crust in a cloche or DO is thicker and chewier. Some of my family members like that, some prefer the thin crust. You can’t bake baguettes in a cloche or DO. The bottoms in a DO tend to burn a little, causing a bitter taste. Overall, I prefer the stone over the other methods. I can also bake more on it. Lately, I’ve been experimenting with baking on a stone covering the bread with a large mixing bowl to trap the steam. I like the results.

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Peter November 15, 2019 - 12:42 am

Hello from Germany! I agree wholeheartedly with you regarding the superiority of wood pulp bannetons. I have been using them for many years without any negatives to say. Your bread looks excellent.

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Victor @ Taste of Artisan November 16, 2019 - 2:23 pm

Thanks you, Peter. The more I use these bannetons the more I like them. Made an 80% hydration sourdough yesterday, felt just a touch of stickiness when removing the dough from it but overall, very good. With other bannetons I would use lot’s of flour, here I only used 203 teaspoons.

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Mahvash November 14, 2019 - 10:03 am

I do the same thing for no knead breads but I don’t know why my crust is so so tough and very pale almost white

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Victor @ Taste of Artisan November 15, 2019 - 12:07 pm

Mahvash, it’s hard to say with so little information. Hard crust is a result of several factors, including too high of a temperature or too long of a bake. Some ovens bake hotter than they report due to faulty/inaccurate thermostats. Insufficiently proofed or overproofed dough can also contribute, as you won’t get a good oven spring. Too much steam can be a factor, or not enough steam which would lead back to poor oven spring. The flour itself can be a factor. Try a different brand, or try bread flour. Poor color points to too much humidity, hence the reason I crack the oven open during the second half of the bake. Did you try my recipe?

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Walt Morgan November 5, 2019 - 7:14 pm

Please help. The interior of my bread is always very dense. I have tired many receipts with the same results. I live in southern Louisiana and am familiar with good French bread. Need suggestions.

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Victor @ Taste of Artisan November 5, 2019 - 11:57 pm

Hi Walt, there are a few things that may be causing dense bread, but the first and most common culprit is poor gluten development and/or insufficient fermentation/proofing. Have you tried my recipe yet? Follow the instructions and see how it works out for you. Take some photos along the way and email to me, and if it’s still dense, email them to me, it will be easier to troubleshoot. Stretch and folds will help with proper gluten development. Make sure that the dough doubles in size during bulk fermentation. Else, the bread will be dense. Shape gently, don’t de-gas it and tighten too much. Proof until you visually see a 1.5 increase in size. Do the finger test. I say it’s always better to over-proof than under-proof. Why? Check this picture of my severely over-proofed sourdough bread (I got busy and forgot about it), it collapsed in the oven and came out as a thick pancake, but tasted great and was airy and soft inside.
< Sourdough bread overproofed
< Once you get this bread down, you can apply the same technique to other breads. I highly recommend trying my French baguettes, I make the using a similar technique, they are fantastic.

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J.M. November 3, 2019 - 7:44 am

Hi Victor, thanks for this great guide! This has become THE BREAD RECIPE for me. I can totally relate to what you said about how your early bread wasn’t as good. I baked your bread four times now and it sure is better than what I used to make even though I’d been baking no-knead bread for a few years. I must admit that my first attempt was just ok but I persevered and the results improved with more practice. My last loaf turned out so good that I would be happy to share a picture. Thanks again!
< No Knead Bread

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Victor @ Taste of Artisan November 3, 2019 - 1:21 pm

Hey J.M., thanks for sharing your picture (I attached it to your comment), and thanks for your feedback, your bread looks outstanding, better than mine;-) Love the open crumb, and the perfect gluten development. Excellent oven spring.

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Keith November 2, 2019 - 2:26 pm

I have just finished trying out this recipe and am very pleased indeed. The taste is superb, the texture excellent, both complemented by a crispy outer crust. I used 8% dark rye flour (10.6% protein) and 92% strong white flour (12% protein). I deviated slightly from Victor’s recipe in that following the stretch and fold process, I placed the dough in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning I removed it and let it warm up to kitchen temperature for about 45 mins. I then followed the recipe again. This loaf is hard to beat!
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Keith's No-Knead Bread - Dough
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Keith's No-Knead Bread - Proofed Dough
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Keith's No-Knead Bread - Finished Bread - Cut in half

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Victor @ Taste of Artisan November 2, 2019 - 4:52 pm

Your loaf looks fabulous, Keith. Very nice crumb, I would even say it looks perfect, and a lovely crust. Thank you for emailing me your pictures, I’ve attached them to your comment. I am sure others will appreciate your pictures too. Very happy to read about your success. I have many other bread recipes that I like, will be posting them in the coming weeks, months.

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Carter October 18, 2019 - 9:46 am

Hey Victor, love you baguette recipe and now the no knead bread recipe. Followed your instructions to the tee and got a loaf that looks almost like yours and the taste was outstanding. The bread was gone within a few hours! The 75% hydration is perfect for this bread. Now that I think about it, your baguette and sour dough bread recipes also use 75% hydration. Is that your sweet spot?

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Victor @ Taste of Artisan October 18, 2019 - 4:59 pm

Good to hear that, Carter. Never really thought of it before but now that you ask, it does look like 75% hydration is it for me though I make different breads with varying levels of hydration. It depends.

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William Richardson October 17, 2019 - 6:28 am

I weighed everything and the dough was too wet to hold any shape at all. I did continue on without adding more flour just in case it would come together later in the process. When I placed it onto the parchment paper it spread instead of holding a ball shape. It tastes great and has a nice texture and crust so next time I will add more flour or less water.

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Victor @ Taste of Artisan October 17, 2019 - 11:48 am

This dough is 75% hydration (ratio of water to flour) which is higher than the typical 65-72% hydration of common bread formulas but not uncommon. I go even higher than 75% for my standard sourdough bread. Higher hydration gives bread a very soft, open crumb and a nice chew. Working with higher hydration dough may take a little practice but it seems like you are on the right track. If you look at my pictures, the dough initially is very sticky but strengthens over time and after the stretch and folds. When I turn it over on the parchment it spreads out some and doesn’t have a ball shape. It’s normal. Yours seems to be fine too. In the oven, it will rise substantially.
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If the bread didn’t rise in the oven like mine, there are a few things to look into. Insufficient steam in the oven. The outer layer will dry out too quickly and prevent the bread from getting a proper oven spring. The dough is under-proofed – some oven spring and dense texture. The dough is over-proofed – nice open crumb but the dough spreads out too much and little oven spring. Scoring – if you score the dough too far side to side and/or too deep, it will spread out too much and won’t spring up properly. You also need to work quickly between turning the dough over on parchment and sending it to the oven. Finally, the temperature – the oven needs to be properly pre-heated, usually for 40-60 minutes. The thicker the stone the more you need to preheat it. It’s the thermal mass of the stone that gives the bread a lot of its oven spring.
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If you are having some challenges but want to learn and need some assistance, let me know. You can also send me some pictures, I’d love to see the results and it would be easier for me to help with troubleshooting.
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Working with higher hydration dough may take a bit of practice but it’s very rewarding as far as the taste and the texture go. You can lower hydration to 70% but I recommend that you slowly work your way back up as you get more comfortable. When I visit one of my favorite farmers markets (Sarasota, FL) I buy bread from a true bread artisan there. His bread is a work of art and has a superb taste. According to him, his breads are typically at least 75% hydration and many are around 80%. Here are some pictures of his bread that are my favorites.
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William Richardson November 2, 2019 - 1:39 pm

Victor, I live in France so there is a bit of difficulty getting the flour I am used to using when living in the USA. I have been baking bread for over 40 years and started making the no knead style of breads 7 or 8 years ago and have been quite successful with the proper flour. I think that might be the problem as I haven’t been able to find a reliable brand to work with . I must say that one of local prize winning boulangers has had problems with some of his flours lacking any taste recently. Your recipe has become my go to as a start. Thank you for the information about the bannetons as I have my first 3 and they work perfectly and now I’m sorry that I didn’t order more as the shipping was the same for up to 10.

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Victor @ Taste of Artisan November 2, 2019 - 5:49 pm

Hi William,

Sorry to hear about your challenges finding the type of flour you are used to working with. French T55 flour is considered to be the equivalent of the US all-purpose but it’s not the same, it’s ground coarser. I use T55 La Milanaise flour from Quebec, it’s organic, very flavorful, makes great tasting bread and baguettes, but coarser than KA AP flour. Perhaps you can find something that is one step finer than T55 but with the same protein content (11%). If not, T55 is a good choice. And if you are adding WW and whole rye, I guess it won’t matter much anyway.

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You are welcome for the banneton info, glad you found it useful, and ordered a few for yourself. Shipping to the USofA cost me a whopping 48 Euros so I ordered everything I thought I’d need, so far so good. Glad I purchased those brushes too, they are terrific and of very good quality. Should last a lifetime with good care. I think every home bread baker should get those, they are so much better than anything I’d used before. It’s hard to appreciate how much better they are until you start using them but once do, it’s hard to use anything else. This is especially true when you graduate to high hydration dough. There is practically no sticking even at 80% hydration, with just a couple of teaspoons of AP/rice flour mix. Take away a lot of frustration out of the equation.

P.S. Loved reading your blog. Subscribed.

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Eugene Tiffany October 16, 2019 - 10:38 pm

What is this 11/2 hours and 11/2 times mean? Never saw durations and size before. No idea what their timing and volume pertains to. That is, how much they are.

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Victor @ Taste of Artisan October 17, 2019 - 1:18 am

It’s 1 1/2 (one and a half) not 11/2.

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