Monday, March 8, 2010

No-Knead Dutch Oven Basic Bread

There are a couple of trends I've been noticing across the intarwebs worlds of breadmaking.  One of them is the "No-Knead" breads.  These breads seem to have these common characteristics.

  1. The dough is VERY wet and goopy, just on this side of a batter.
  2. They are made with a very long first fermenting, such as overnight or longer.
  3. The dough is handled very little, hence the name "No-knead"
  4. They are baked in a small, enclosed space, to trap moisture and enhance the crust.  (Hmmm... Sounds like a dutch oven...)
  5. The crumb structure is full of large holes.

I've been really intrigued with the idea, and have wanted to try it.  Matt, over at "One Off", made a loaf, and spelled out the directions so clearly that I thought I'd give it a try.  This particular recipe and procedure reminds me a lot of the French Bread I did a while back.  It, too, has a long ferment time (a preferment, in fact), and it also uses only the basic four ingredients (flour, water, salt, yeast).

No-Knead Dutch Oven Basic Bread ("Pain Ordinaire" in french)

12" Dutch Oven

10-12 Coals below
19-23 Coals above
(use higher numbers in colder weather)

  • 6 Cups of Bread Flour
  • 1/2 tsp Active Dry Yeast
  • 2 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 3 1/4 C Water

I started the day before, at about 4:00 in the afternoon, by mixing the ingredients.  You might notice that my ingredients are double that of Matt's.  He baked his in a terra cotta flower pot, and that's a little tighter quarters than a dutch oven.  I mixed the dry ingredients first, whisking them all together, then added the water.  Afterward, I adjusted the consistency by adding a bit of flour (if it needs, you could add water instead).  From what I've seen and read, you want it to be goopy, but not a batter.  It should still stick to the sides of the bowl.  It should have enough liquid to jiggle in the bowl, but not be runny.

I covered it with plastic wrap and set it aside on my kitchen countertop.

The next day, at about 11:00 or so in the morning, I saw that it had puffed up very nicely.  I put a lot of flour out on my countertop and, with a spatula, dumped the dough out onto it.  It immediately flattened out pretty nicely, but I dusted the top with some flour and spread it just a bit more.  I picked up both sides, right and left, and did a "letter fold".  By that, I mean that I brought one side two-thirds of the way over toward the other side, then folded the second side fully over that.  I dusted it with more flour, turned it, and did it again.  Then, I did it a third time, just because, I guess.

Finally, I put some parchment paper in a bowl.  I picked up the dough (with heavily floured hands) and wrapped it into a boule and set it in the bowl, on the parchment.  I set that aside for another rise.  The plan is to let it rise for a couple of hours.

After about an hour, I started some coals up.  My coals must've been a bit damp, because I had a tough time lighting them.  A half hour or so later, I had some lit, but not strongly, and not as many as I'd have liked.  Still, I put them under and on an empty, oiled dutch oven to preheat.  Meanwhile, I tried to get more coals lit and burning.  It just wasn't happening like I would have liked.

At some point I decided that the dutch oven was hot enough and I gently lowered the dough and the parchment into the dutch oven.  I folded the remaining parchment over and put on the lid.  By then, I had some more coals ready and I added them to heat it up some more.

It baked about an hour or so.  When it was done, it looked really great, smelled really great, and, after cooling, tasted really great.  There wasn't the big holes, though, in the crumb.  I've never been able to pull that off.  I suspect it's because the oven wasn't hot enough.  I'll try it again really soon, and see if I can make it work. 

It tasted really good the next day, too.  I don't know how well it will preserve over the week because it's already gone.  I guess that's a good sign, right?


Mark has discovered a love of Dutch Oven Cooking. Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.


  1. The longest any of my loaves has lasted is 4 days, and it was still pretty fresh. I just laid the loaf cut-side down on the counter or cutting board and covered it with a dish towel. Kept the crust, and only dried out ever-so-slightly.

  2. When I do this bread, it doesn't last more than about 2 hours before it is completely consumed, so I can't speak to the keepability of it. Do you know how hot you did get your DO? I will put my DO inside my regular oven at about 475-500 degrees and preheat for close to an hour that way. Maybe that's cheating, but then I know I have a consistent, high temperature. I toss 1/4 cup water in the DO just as I close up the lid to give it a little extra steam. It's usually done in about 30 to 40 minutes.

    Sometimes the dough spreads way out, but if I add some gluten or dough enhancer to the dough when first mixing it up, it will keep a taller, rounder shape. Just don't get too much extra flour into it when you're shaping it, and don't fold it too many times or you'll work your air bubbles out of it.

  3. Looks yum! I wish you lived closer so I could taste-test!

  4. I'm so impressed you did this in the Dutch oven. I've done it in the Dutch ovens without legs (you know, the kind you put in the oven) and would have never attempted this in the real Dutch oven until your post. You have given me the courage to try it this summer!

  5. Okay, I kindof asked this elsewhere, but how do you get it to do the preferment for so long out in the woods? No room temp, especially at night. Guess I should try it at home outside and see what happens... Unless someone has experience to share.

  6. Well, I've been experimenting lately with the book "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day". The idea is to mix the ingredients, let it ferment for a few hours, then let it continue to slow ferment in the fridge overnight, or even over days. I've never made bread like this "in the wild", but I would imagine that as long as it doesn't freeze, it would work just fine. Try it and let us know!

  7. Tried a no knead batch of bread entirely outdoors. Upper 70s during the day, about 50 overnight. Whisked 3 cups bread flour (going to try spelt flour with a couple tablespoons barley flour next time) with 1/4 tsp quick yeast and 2 tsp sea salt then stirred in one bottle lager (non-alcoholic works just as well as regular for flavor) this made a lovely loose dough. Covered large bowl with plastic wrap and sat out on deck from about 2pm til 8am. Bubbled up nicely. Removed to a floured board and shaped into a round loaf sprinkling with a little more flour. Placed in a parchment dutch oven liner on a plate (to avoid breaking bubbles as much as possible) and let sit for two more hours while it about doubled. Preheated 12" dutch with 10 coals underneath and 25 on top. Placed parchment in dutch and baked for one hour turning every 15 minutes. Absolutely gorgeous bread. The only thing I would add is a slice down the center of the dough for expansion and possibly 5 more minutes baking. So definitely will be a camping success without room temperature!

  8. Any other tips for cooking Dutch in a regular (mine is electric) oven? No charcoal fires are allowed in the community where I live. I love to do bread, and reading robmba above sounds like it works. When exactly did he throw in the water? Any tips would be appreciated.

  9. Actually, just bake it at 400 in an indoor dutch oven. If it's in a covered pot, it will steam itself, so you don't need to spritz it!

  10. When I bake bread, I add about 1/3 tsp powdered ginger to a 3-4 cup recipe. You can't taste it, but it acts a bit like a preservative. I think it adds a day or two for me, it's probably different for everyone.

    I have a Family Grain Mill, and grind my hard white wheat just before using it. I usually toss in some millet, amarenth, oats, or other grains nearby in the kitchen, and a dozen or so chickpeas in the grinder as well. Occasionally for a lighter loaf or rolls, I may add 1/4 of the total flour as store bought white flour. Both Mom and our ranch cook had good grain grinders, so I grew up with the fresh ground stuff.



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