Shape this Versatile Dough into a Sandwich Loaf or a Boule
Do you shy away from making homemade bread? Afraid it will take too much time and effort? A lot of people feel the same way.
Well, fear no more. Because with surprisingly little effort, you can make a loaf of bread that’s better than any of the commercial packaged stuff you buy at the grocery store. One that even rivals the pricey artisan bread sold at specialty bakeries.
When I say a “little effort,” I mean it. This recipe will take you about 10 minutes of active time. No proofing the yeast, no kneading (though you do have to let the dough rise for a few hours).
The result is a yeast-forward white bread with superlative flavor. You can use it to make sandwiches, yet it’s crusty enough to serve at your fanciest dinner party. And the same dough works equally well as a loaf or as a rustic boule.
Once you taste it, you may never bother with store bought bread again.
About This Bread
Here are a few things you might want to know before baking this bread (although you can skip right down to the recipe if you’re so inclined; there’s nothing in this section that’s essential to preparation).
When we think “white sandwich bread,” many of us (at least in the US) picture Wonder Bread. With its squishy texture and flaccid crust, it makes a convenient vehicle for a slice of bologna, but that’s about all.
So let’s be clear upfront: This recipe doesn’t produce anything resembling Wonder Bread. Our no-knead recipe makes bread with a reasonably substantial crust — so if you want something you can gum rather than chew, that’s not what you’re getting. But the crust isn’t brittle, so it works fine for a sandwich. This bread isn’t as shatteringly crisp as a French baguette, but it has body and structure. So if you bake it in a boule shape, it’s right at home at a dinner party.
This bread has a more open crumb structure than your typical sandwich bread (“crumb” just means how one defines the inside of bread). Having an open crumb structure means that the holes in a slice of this bread are larger and more irregular than the tight, fine pores of Wonder Bread. The crumb structure results from high hydration (lots of water content), combined with no-knead preparation.
If we introduced steam to the oven while baking this, the crust would become crunchy like a French baguette. In this recipe, however, we’re not adding steam, so the crust comes out a bit more chewy than crunchy (but it’s still leaning towards the “crusty”).
This method of bread making has been around for ages, but many of us first learned about it in an article by Mark Bittman in a November 2006 New York Times article. Bittman learned the technique from Jim Lahey, who subsequently published My Bread, a cookbook detailing how to make all kinds of no-knead breads. Around the same, time Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois published Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. The two books present somewhat different methods (Lahey uses a low-yeast method, which allows the flavor of the wheat to come forward; Hertzberg and Francois use a high-yeast method, in which the flavor of yeast dominates), but both are quite good.
Recipe: Easy No-Knead Homemade Bread
In the past, I’ve baked plenty of bread, but lately Mrs. Kitchen Riffs has become the bread baker in our household, and she adapted this recipe. You can use the same basic recipe (with some adjustments noted in the Ingredients section) to make either two sandwich loaves or one large boule (a round or oblong loaf).
For the sandwich loaves, you can use any standard loaf pan that measures 9 x 5 x 3 inches. Nonstick pans work well (but grease them anyway; this dough is so wet that it may stick to the pan if you don’t). If you use Pyrex loaf pans, you can reduce your oven temperature by about 25 degrees F.
For baking a boule, we use an oblong Dutch oven with a 4-quart capacity. But you can use any deep pot or pan that’s ovenproof. (Note: In this recipe, we’re not preheating the Dutch oven, nor are we covering it with a lid. Doing so would produce a crunchier crust, but that’s a recipe for another day.)
This recipe is adapted from Nick Fox’s November 2007 New York Times article, Soon the Bread Will Be Making Itself (which in turn was adapted from the book by Hertzberg and Francois). It makes 2 loaves of sandwich bread or 1 large boule, depending on which ingredient measurements you choose.
Hands-on preparation time is about 10 minutes. Unattended rising time is 4 hours minimum. Baking time is 30 minutes. At almost any point before baking, you can put the dough in the refrigerator and pull it out when you’re ready to continue (see Notes).
For two loaves of sandwich bread:
- 5¼ cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting dough
- 1 tablespoon instant yeast (see Notes)
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 2½ cups lukewarm water (about 100 degrees)
- 2 tablespoons butter for greasing loaf pans; or substitute baking spray
- 4 scant cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting dough
- ¾ tablespoon instant yeast
- ¾ tablespoon kosher salt
- 2 scant cups lukewarm water (about 100 degrees)
- 1 to 2 tablespoons butter for greasing loaf pans; or substitute baking spray
- In a large bowl, whisk flour, yeast, and salt together. Add lukewarm water and stir with a wooden spoon (just enough to mix together, with no dry patches). Dough will be loose and wet. Cover with a dishtowel. Let dough rise at room temperature for at least 3 hours (up to 5 hours).
- Proceed with the rest of the recipe at this point or refrigerate, covered in plastic wrap, for as long as two weeks.
- If making 2 loaves: When ready to bake, grease two loaf pans (see headnotes). Place dough on floured board and sprinkle lightly with extra flour. Cut dough in half with serrated knife. Take one half of dough and pull/stretch into a longish strand (dough will be very loose). Then form into an oval shape. Place in a greased loaf pan. Repeat with second half of dough. Let dough rise in pans for at least one hour if fresh (two is better), plus an extra hour if refrigerated.
- If making a boule: When ready to bake, grease a round or oval Dutch oven or pan (see headnotes). Pull/stretch dough into a longish strand (dough will be very loose). Then form into an oval shape. Place in greased pan. Let dough rise in pan for at least one hour if fresh (two is better), plus an extra hour if refrigerated.
- Heat oven to 450 degrees. Place loaf pan(s) on middle rack and bake for 30 minutes. The bread is done when an instant-read thermometer measures 200 degrees F.
- Like most bread dough, this takes well to refrigeration. If you want to slow down the rising process at any time, simply pop the dough into the refrigerator. We most often refrigerate after placing the dough in baking pans (Step 3 or 4). But you can refrigerate right after mixing the dough (Step 1) if you prefer.
- If you’re making the 2-loaf recipe and want just one loaf, you can refrigerate the dough, divide it (Step 3), and then place one half back in the refrigerator.
- We often mix the bread dough one day, bake part of it the next, and the rest of it a few days later.
- We specify all-purpose flour because that’s what most of us have in our kitchens. We like King Arthur unbleached flour. If you like, you can substitute bread flour; if you do so, you may find you need just a bit less flour than the recipe calls for.
- White flour, of course, isn’t as healthy as whole wheat flour. And in commercial bread, it isn’t as flavorful — which is why many of us buy whole wheat. But we have discovered that this bread has much more flavor than most commercial whole-wheat breads. Because it’s so good (we’ve been eating a lot more bread lately!), we have not been in a hurry to develop a whole-wheat version. But eventually we will.
- We use instant yeast because it’s so easy. You don’t need to “proof” it — you can just mix it in with the other ingredients. You can also use cold ingredients; the yeast will still do its thing.
- If you buy instant yeast in bulk (it’s available in 1-pound packages), you can store it in an airtight container in the freezer for a couple of years. It’s much, much cheaper when you buy in bulk.
- You can substitute active dry yeast if you want. You’ll need about 1¼ tablespoons for the 2-loaf recipe, or about 1 tablespoon for the boule. In Step 1, dissolve the yeast in the warm water (you can proof it if you want, but as long as it hasn’t expired, there’s really no need); then add the salt and flour.
- Because this recipe uses quite a bit of yeast, it has a very yeast-forward flavor, which most people like.
- We suggest using warm water just to speed the rising process; you can use cold water if you want — it will just take longer.
- Make sure the water is truly lukewarm, not hot. You don’t want to kill the yeast.
- Hydration facilitates gluten formation and helps the yeast do its work. This recipe has a high water content — which is one reason you don’t have to knead the dough.
- An instant-read thermometer is perfect for checking the internal temperature of almost anything you bake or cook. Most of the ones you can buy are accurate, although some may take 10 or 15 seconds to accurately record temperatures. My favorite instant read thermometer is the Thermapen. These are accurate to less than 1 degree F, and take a reading in 3 seconds or less. The downside? They’re pricey (about $89). But they’re worth it.
- Slicing this bread is easiest with a serrated bread knife or an electric knife.
- Because there’s no fat in this bread, it will begin to stale in about 24 hours. To prolong its life, we freeze it. You can freeze a loaf whole and then slice as needed, but slicing frozen bread can be difficult. So we slice it before it goes into the freezer, placing small squares of parchment paper between the slices so they don’t freeze together. We double wrap the bread before freezing (put it in a plastic bag, and then into a freezer bag). When ready to use, we just pull out as many slices as we want.
- BTW, this bread makes some of the best toast you’ll ever eat.
- When making toast for a crowd, the easiest way is to put the bread on a baking sheet and slide it under the broiler. Watch carefully, because when it begins to brown, it can burn in a hurry. Once the top is browned, flip and toast the other side.
The Staff of Life (Really)
Mrs. Kitchen Riffs and I were having a big weekend breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, and toast. The toast was getting a lot of love. The rest of it? Not so much.
“Maybe I shouldn’t have made so many eggs,” I said as I buttered my second piece of toast.
“Or bacon,” Mrs K R agreed as she took a bite of her jam-coated slice.
We’ve all heard bread called the “staff of life.” And so it was, for thousands of years — ever since our ancestors started cultivating grains in the Neolithic. Even today, we talk about “bread winners” and “putting bread on the table.”
But the packaged stuff so many of us eat today tastes like — well, nothing at all. Who would want to live on that? So it was a treat to bite into bread that was, well, really worth eating.
“Should we make another round of toast?” asked Mrs K R.
I loaded up a baking sheet with slices of bread and slid it under the broiler. And pondered what I could make with leftover scrambled eggs and bacon.
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This bread looks so fantastic! I've baked a lot of bread at home but not recently. I'd definitely like to give it another go!
Now that the weather has cooled, I'm back into baking bread. Yours looks perfect for sandwiches...but I'd love a thick slice warm from the oven smeared in cold butter! YUM!
Great detailed post! My husband bought me Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day and I really like it. I recently bought a couple of the tools and plan to start making homemade loaves a lot more than i used too!
The bread looks great! I totally agree, the supermarket bread has little flavour (and probably so high in additives it's not good for us anyway!) Must try this recipe out one day and make some of my own!
Hi Clare, it has great taste and is really easy. Maybe time for you to begin baking bread again? ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Lizzy, you raise an excellent point that during the warm months having an oven cranked baking bread isn't always appealing. But those of us in the Northern hemisphere have no excuse not to be baking! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Alyssa, isn't that a nice book? Loads of good info. Once you get into the routine of baking bread, it's so easy to do. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Ali, this is definitely worth trying - pretty simple, and so flavorful! Hope you enjoy it. Thanks for the comment.
I love all those delicious nooks and crannies in your bread. Sounds like a pretty foolproof recipe will have to give this one a go. Take care, BAM
This looks fantastic!! I love homemade bread, I don't make it nearly enough. I'm bookmarking this to make it later, yum!
John - what a gorgeous loaf of sandwich bread! Bobby makes the boule and we love it, but I do love the idea of the sandwich loaves. I'm forwarding this to him. Love all of your wonderful notes. Very, very helpful as always! BTW - I sent you a direct email. Please check your gmail. Thanks!
Hi Bam, I have some really cool pictures of the bread in loaf pans before being baked - nooks and crannies galore! This really is an easy recipe, and has good flavor. And it's ideal if you like toast. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Cathleen, you're so busy at the moment that you barely have time to make smoothies! ;-) Although this recipe really takes very little time, and you could probably fit it in around your studies. Thanks for the comment.
Hi MJ, thanks for the heads up re the gmail - the spam filter actually blocked your email. But I rescued it and responded. Anyway, I'll be curious to see how you and Bobby like this. If you're OK with a loose crumb structure (for sandwich bread), this bread makes terrific sandwiches. And wonderful toast. Thanks for the comment.
It's amazing that you can make bread that looks that good in such a short space of time. I would have thought hours would have been involved here xx
I am surprised that bread is not kneaded, really nice recipe
Beautiful! Iam a big fan of no-knead breads. This one looks really good and so soft.
I've been making this bread for a couple of years. It's just wonderful. We rip a hunk off, dip it in really good olive oil with a touch of balsamic vinegar and then in dukkah. I could live on it. :)
What a fun and genius idea! I can't believe this recipe's been circulating since 2006--my parents always remind me that 3-D movies have been happening since forever, and that the fact that they're back in "vogue" now really just shows how we everything repeats. Philosophical parents--go figure. Anyway, thank you for sharing this wonderful, "knead-to-know" recipe!
Now this is my kind of bread! I'm not a bread maker but this could convince me to try it!
Hi Charlie, it does take time to let the bread rise of course, but the active time is next to nothing. Our kind of recipe! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Raymund, I'm surprised about the no kneading myself, but if it works - and it does! - I'm all for it. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Rosa, it's such good bread! And you get the pleasure of the aroma as it bakes, then the flavor when you take your first bite of bread that's still warm. Bliss! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Maureen, isn't this great stuff? It's so easy I really can't see us buying store bought bread again. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Ala, actually this bread goes way past 2006 - but it was back then that Bittman clued us in. And most things do eventually repeat - a reminder to never discard anything! Although I always do, because we have too much "stuff" as it is. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Kristy, this is dead easy to make - it takes about as much effort as making packaged Jell-O! OK, a bit more than that, but just a bit. Thanks for the comment.
This looks so soft and delicious my friend, I would never believe its no knead :)
Choc Chip Uru
Hi Uru, it's really good bread! And so easy - perfect for us. ;-) Thanks for your comment.
I, too, have a recipe for a no knead bread but not for sandwich loaves. This one I have to try. These no knead recipes are the best and the bread is just incredible. Just look at that crumb within your loaves. And you have to really go some to find a bread with better flavor. Thanks for sharing a great recipe, one that I hope becomes a "regular" in my bread baking.
I love recipes like these. Easy and hassle free. I am going to bake this coming weekend.
Hi John, aren't the no-knead recipes great? We actually use this recipe more for bread than we do for boules, although it works great for both. Thanks for your comment.
Hi Vijitha, I hope you enjoy making this bread! I know you'll like its flavor. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Perfection in a loaf of bread. You my friend rock. I cannot get over that first photo. I swear I want photography lessons from you. And if you want to serve up bread while we learn I'm totally down with that.
Hi Kim, those black acrylic shots are fun, aren't they? They're actually pretty easy, although you have to figure out how to do them. Your camera needs to be level, or a bit above level, with the subject (to maximize the reflection). You can't have the light shining where it will reflect back into the camera lens. And you have to block off any extraneous reflections. Oh, and because black acrylic attracts dust like crazy, you will have to do dust spotting in post production. Thanks for the kind words, and the comment.
Looks fantastic. I've actually never baked my own bread before (although I'm attending a bread baking class tonight, coincidence??) Seems like the universe is sending me its own bread baking message, haha.
We often make bread but we use a breadmaker for the mixing, rising bit and then take the dough out. I always thought sugar was necessary to feed the yeast but obviously that is not the case. Your bread looks wonderful.
I love a loaf with an airy crumb like that. This is a beaut! And the fact that you don't have to knead it very much makes it all the better.
Hi Christine, that really is a coincidence! I think the signs are clear that you need to start baking your own bread. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Suzanne, if you're proofing yeast, sugar helps it proof a bit faster. But you can also use flour - as far as the yeast is concerned, it's almost like sugar but it takes a bit longer to work than sugar. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Carolyn, isn't the crumb structure pretty? And the flavor - and lack of need to knead - makes it a fun and easy recipe. Thanks for the comment.
I shy away of making bread because the tropical climate is to humid and the yeast doesn't come up which is a headache and tasted so weird. So I am waiting for the winter to come, because I got an oven only recently as well. Plus one of these days my yeast is suppose to come from europe so then I ll be kicking in! =D
Your bread looks so perfect, I am jealouse now!
Very yummy looking and I know that aroma must have been crazy good as this baked!
Hi Helene, I hope your yeast arrives soon! And cooler weather as well, so you can bake your own bread. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Café Sucré Farine, the aroma was so excellent. It's the best thing about baking bread. Also in a way the worst - you can help but dig in when it's hot from the oven! Thanks for the comment.
Just gorgeous!! I really have been wanting to make more bread lately, especially no knead. This looks like a great place to start, thanks!
Hi Katherine, making bread is fun! And this recipe certainly is easy. You'll love it. Thanks for the comment.
I love the flexibility of the no knead bread...and yes, I should make it more often :)
Your bread looks awesome and perfect crumbs.
Thanks for the tips and have a wonderful week ahead.
I love making bread! Kneading is one of my favorite parts, because I love to dig my hands into the dough. But this no-knead bread looks so perfect I just might have to try it!
Hi Juliana, yes you should! ;-) The flexibility really is one of its great virtues. Thanks for the kind words, and the comment.
Hi Jeanne, I totally understand your love for kneading. Back when I used to bake bread a fair amount, that was one of the things that appealed to me, too. The virtue of this method is it's just so easy - it takes so little active time. Great for people who can't find the 20 or so minutes it takes to knead bread. Thanks for the comment.
I really, really need to start making my own bread. I always intend to and then something always seems to come up. Your loaves look great.
I love how simple the recipe is, and I just learned something new today! I for some reason did not know that the loaves I have been making is called boule:-) I made a no-knead bread, but the process took me like 15 hours to do, through all the procedures. This would be sooooo much better for this crazy busy schedule! Your bread looks fantastic! Take care, Terra
Hi Food Jaunts, you do! ;-) This method is so easy that you have no reason not to!
Hi Terra, you can stretch this out as long as you want - way beyond 15 hours! ;-) Just stick it in the refrigerator - the bread will keep rising. And then pull it out when you're ready to bake. We haven't tried it, but supposedly you can do this one weekend, be gone all week, then bake when you get home. How cool is that? Thanks for the comment.
I think I read someone's blog about the same article and her bread came out really well too! I gotta believe this story and give it a try. I am in and out of the house all day so I have been hesitant to work with bread, but I love bread so much that before starting a food blog I enjoyed trying out French baguette etc... the freshly baked bread is the best. I'm not experienced but still I enjoyed eating bread all day. :D Thanks for sharing this recipe John!
Hi Nami, this bread really is super easy. And really flavorful! This is the perfect bread for someone with a busy schedule likes yours - anytime you need to go do something, you can just stick the bread in the refrigerator and it slows things down (although it still continues to rise). This is definitely worth trying - we haven't bought bread since we started playing with this method of bread baking! Thanks for your comment.
I used to make bread all the time for my kids. I loved to knead the dough and so did they. These days I'm not that inspired to get that arm workout, so this crusty load is right up my alley!
Hi MotherRimmy, kneading is a lot of fun, but it does take some work. This bread is so easy, and the timing is so adaptable, almost everyone can fit it into their schedule. The only downside is it's so good you may find yourself eating more bread than you expect! Thanks for the comment.
I love homemade bread bu use the bead machine for convenience. I do enjoy hand shaped loaves and rolls every now and then when time permits. This no-knead method sounds very doable.
Hi Biren, the no-knead method is really easy. I know a bread machine is, too, but this method is worth a try sometime, particularly if you want to bake a shape that the bread machine can't handle. Thanks for the comment.
Thank you Mrs. Kitchen Riffs for being the bread baker. I do shy away from baking bread. Your recipe looks incredible. I would love to attempt the boule. You have inspired me to at least think about it. Delicious bread!
Hi Judy, this really is an easy bread to make. We haven't bought bread in months - Mrs K R has been making all of ours! (And she's working on some new recipes.) This is really worth trying - you have so little to lose, so much to gain. Thanks for the comment.
Can I bake this recipe in mini loaf pans? and if so, should I reduce the baking time?
Hi Anonymous, you can definitely make this in mini loaf pans. Haven't tried it so don't know the baking time, but it should be pretty close to that of a regular loaf. I'd start checking after 25 minutes. Let us know how it turns out!
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