No knead dutch oven bread is truly one of the most hands-off baking challenges you can try. If you’re new to bread making and want to make a loaf of something that is free from crazy preservatives and stabilizers this is a fun place to start . Smear a warm slice with butter or dip it in some olive oil and herbs for a special treat.
It feels like the most terrifying thing ever–making bread. I can’t tell you how many people I know who just won’t go near it for a lot of reasons:
It’s too hard.
It’s too scary.
It’s too time consuming.
But I will say that you can take it from this girl, who made her first loaf of bread when she was 9 and who has invested up to 26 HOURS in a batch of croissants (but only one time–good Lord that was enough of that) you can make this no knead dutch oven bread even if you don’t know your whisk from your spatula.
When I made this, I dumped the ingredients in a bowl, stirred it up and stood there.
Uhhhh…that was all I had to do besides walk away from it. For a day and a half! I thought something was wrong with the recipe.
But no. It’s true that the longer and slower this no knead dutch oven bread can “prove” if you’re British or “rise” if you’re not will result in a more flavorful loaf of bread. The longer the yeast has to sit and mingle with the flour and salt, the more robust its flavor.
And I know you want to put a flavorful loaf of bread on the table–nothing boring.
This bread looks almost identical to those fancy loaves you buy at the grocery store. In my Kroger those loaves are sitting on a shelf with a big sign that says “PLEASE USE THE TISSUE PAPER TO TOUCH THE BREAD.” And before I buy a loaf I always wonder what nose-picking three year old had their hands on it before I did. Or better yet, what nose-picking adult.
Block it out. Just block it out.
All the better to just make it at home.
Tips for the best dutch oven bread
- Use active dry yeast here. It comes in a three-pack strip in your baking aisle. You’ll find instant yeast and active dry. Both will possibly work but you really want ACTIVE DRY if you can get it.
- No need to buy bread flour for this–plain old all purpose will work. If you have bread flour on hand, I’d try it because I’m like that. But the first time through all purpose is fine.
- I’d recommend using sea salt here if you have it. I’m just a big supporter of its clean flavor. If you can’t get it, table salt is okay.
- Remember that even after the long rise this dough is quite wet. Work with it with flour on your hands but avoid putting a lot of extra flour in to the dough. That will keep the texture light.
- I used a 5-quart dutch oven because that’s what I have. If you have one a bit smaller, use that so your bread ends up taller. A bigger pot leaves room for the bread to spread out.
What can I use if I don’t have a dutch oven?
A dutch oven is a heavy deep pot with a tight fitting lid. They hold heat in really well and in this case–they hold in the steam which is necessary for making the golden crust on your bread. I believe a dutch oven is a fundamental kitchen tool everyone should have.
If you don’t have one, you’d have to concoct some sort of air tight, oven safe contraption. You could do a deep pot and seal the crud out of it with aluminum foil…it may not be as crispy, but the flavor should still be there.
What could I add to my dutch oven bread for more flavor?
The sky is the limit! The first thing I think is cheese or whole roasted cloves of garlic. Yummmmm. Of course fresh herbs would also be great. Rosemary, olive oil, or a few tablespoons of my homemade ranch dressing mix would add some zing. If you add any of these ingredients in to your dough keep in mind that they can all slow down yeast development so if you need to let yours sit longer than 18 hours–even 20 to 24–it will be okay to do that.
This recipe is inspired by my friend Jo Cook’s version of crusty bread.
No knead dutch oven bread
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons flaked sea salt OR 1 3/4 teaspoons table salt
- 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
- 1 1/2 cups warm water
In a large bowl, mix the flour and salt and stir to combine. Add the yeast and water to the flour and stir with a spoon until a sticky dough forms and no pockets of raw flour remain. (If you wanted to add cheese or herbs, do that here and stir them in.)
Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 18 to 24 hours. Until the dough more than doubles and has lots of tiny bubbles in it.
When you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 450 and put your 5 quart (or smaller) cast iron pot and the lid to heat up. Heat for 20 to 30 minutes.
When the pot is ready, remove it from the oven and set aside. Sprinkle the dough with a tablespoon of flour or so and flour your hands well. Make a fist and punch right into the middle of the dough to flatten it. Then working gently, shape the dough into a ball. Flour your hands as needed, but avoid adding any more flour to the dough. It will still be sticky. That's okay.
Sprinkle another tablespoon of flour inside the bottom of your pot and then set the dough inside. Cover with the lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake an additional ten. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.