Bread

The No-Knead, No-Fuss Recipe That Will Get You Baking Bread Every Week

April  5, 2017

This is it: the bread recipe so simple and good, it will get you baking bread every week—even if you’ve never made a loaf in your life. It’s the comforting, no-knead peasant bread that’s ready in as few as 2 hours, unlike other no-knead breads that are ready ... tomorrow.

It's the bread that, despite its relatively short rising time, has plenty of flavor and a lovely, moist crumb checkered with little nooks and bubbly pockets. And—my favorite part, and soon to be yours—a thin, crisp, buttery crust sheltering it all.

Alexandra Stafford—writer, photographer, and Food52 columnist—has been making this remarkable bread for 20 years, but had long kept the recipe secret, just like her mom had for twenty years before that.

But on Stafford’s popular blog Alexandra’s Kitchen, she had a platform, and an opportunity—to spur on new bakers, and untangle the assumptions that people who bake their own bread need to have special training, or some knack or intuition that others lack. "Some of the best cooks I know still won't open a packet of yeast," she told me.

She wanted her readers to know that making bread can be simple and rewarding, something you can do casually every single week, or on a whim—when you’re craving the scent of a toasted, yeasty cloud in your kitchen or the joy of pulling a warm tuft from a loaf still cooling on the rack.

Finally, in 2012 she convinced her mom to let her publish the recipe on the blog. The success of that post led to a book deal. At this writing, there are nearly 3,000 comments on that first post, with many readers claiming that this bread has changed their lives.

"I had never made a single variation of the peasant bread—didn't add a nut, seed, herb, cheese—till readers began writing in asking questions about making variations or sharing their own," Stafford told me. But the book that she and her mom built out of the genius master recipe (called Bread Toast Crumbs—on sale this week!) is a glorious thing—with close to 40 spin-off recipes for different types of bread, plus dozens of ways to use leftover slices and crumbs in all sorts of meals like the wildly popular ones she shares here on Food52 every week. Sarah Jampel, our indomitable Senior Staff Writer, has tested and documented 5 of those 40ish loaves here.

But why is the bread so smart and special? And how can you have a dough that’s so well-flavored and well-risen in so little time?

Just mixed (left) and after its 1 1/2-hour rise (right).
The risen dough's wet and sticky, so you'll use two forks to split it in two.

The most novel and important part of the technique is that the dough bakes directly in buttered Pyrex bowls (though you can easily modify for standard loaf pans). As Stafford told me, "My mom had adapted the recipe from an old French bread recipe. For whatever reason—probably being busy with three kids—she decided to skip the handling/shaping/cornmeal-coating steps and bake the dough in buttered Pyrex bowls. It worked, and she never made the bread any other way."

In Jim Lahey’s legendary no-knead bread recipe, too, baking in a contained vessel permits an extremely wet dough to turn into a loaf with a steamy, springy inner core. Only here, you can skip the step where you hold your breath and fling your dough (94% hydration, for all you bread nerds out there) into a scorching Dutch oven, like Lahey's famously does.

But Stafford also uses some very smart tricks for cracking the whip to get the yeast to do its thing. First, she calls for instant yeast, which can be mixed straight into the flour, so there's no need to activate the yeast in warm water first. You still want to start with lukewarm water, to get the yeast going (without killing it), so she helps you divine lukewarm water without a thermometer or guesswork, by combining 1/2 cup boiling water with 1 1/2 cups cold. Then, to create a warm, draft-free environment in which the bread will rise quickly, she simply preheats the oven for 1 minute, then shuts it off: Cozy proofing cubby, check.

All of this means you see (and smell) poofy, stretchy, bubbling, billowing dough quite fast, so you needn’t wait and wonder anxiously if your yeast is dead, or if your impression of a warm spot in the kitchen matches anyone else’s.

As Stafford writes, “It is not artisan bread, and it’s not trying to be.” And you very well may like it better than the finest artisan bread. I do. Although even if you don't, her book does give instructions for adapting this bread in just about every way imaginable, including several ways to make it come closer to artisan, depending on your definition. (A darker crust, more fermented flavor, hand-milled wheat? She has helpful suggestions for all of it.)

Make it for your family, your roommates, yourself—tonight. Then decide who you want to invite over next. “I whole-heartedly believe that if you know how to make bread you can throw one hell of a dinner party,” Stafford wrote in that fateful blog post back in 2012. “Because people go insane over homemade bread.”

And once you've made the first loaf, you'll want to try some others, too:

Photos by James Ransom

Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Perhaps a genius dessert? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].

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74 Comments

Picholine January 31, 2018
Recently I passed this recipe along to my daughters who are busy moms. Don’t have a lot of time for bread baking. I told them to follow the directions exactly and they could make this bread. They loved and are baking bread regularly like me with this recipe. They even make it more often because with their husbands and children it hardly lasts a minute.! Thanks! Alexandra.
 
rebecca January 30, 2018
I'm so so so in love with this bread and the story behind it. Love to cook never to bake...baking scared the "SH...." out of me. Yeast? What? Well...here we are - 16 loaves later. 10 given away as I am so damn proud of myself for baking this and I just had to share it. I actually gave my last loaf to my personal trainer who took it home and texted me later - OMG - My husband barely let me have a bite...what did you do?!" EZ - Classy - Gorgeous crust - I add flaky salt to the buttered bowls and that makes it even better. Thank you. You make me feel better about life with a silly little loaf of bread.
 
Judy December 20, 2017
This is the best easy bread I have ever made. I make it several times a week and am so thankful to Alexandra for this great recipe. I can't imagine why anyone is having problems and can only guess it is a problem with the water and yeast.
 
Alexandra S. December 27, 2017
So happy to hear this, Judy! Happy New Year!
 
Judy December 20, 2017
This is the best easy bread I have ever made. I make it several times a week and am so thankful to Alexandra for this great recipe. I can't imagine why anyone is having problems and can only guess it is a problem with the water and yeast.
 
Sally November 10, 2017
I live in the West Indies and make your bread every week with additions when I feel like it! It is a great recipe for a busy life! Thank you!
 
Alexandra S. November 10, 2017
So happy to hear this, Sally!
 
rebecca December 26, 2017
I've never ever tried bread before - I'm waiting 10 more minutes to see my "first rise" which is making me nervous :) I only have one pyrex bowl. Can I put the remaining portion in a loaf pan ? Also - when - (STUPID QUESTION) can I add the nuts or other items I want to use?) HELP ME!
 
Alexandra S. December 27, 2017
Hey Rebecca, how did it turn out? Yes, you can put the remaining dough in any oven-safe vessel — I like making mini loaves in ramekins or muffin tins. If you want to add nuts, add them when you whisk together the flour, salt, sugar and yeast. 1.5 cups is a good amount to start with.
 
ann D. October 16, 2017
I got instant yeast and I just brought it. It did not raise either time and I did use the oven trick. It looks so good I would like to make it.
 
Alexandra S. October 18, 2017
OK, Are you using 1/2 cup boiling water and 1.5 cups cold water to create lukewarm water? And for the warm oven trick, are you turning your oven on for one minute total, then turning it off? It should be about 105ºF and you you should be able to touch your hands on the oven racks. <br /><br />Where people have gone wrong in the past is that they preheat their oven at 400 (or other) for a minute, then put the bowl in to rise, but this is too hot and so the yeast dies. Other places people have gone wrong is using 1.5 cups boiling and 1/2 cup cold, which again is too hot, so the yeast dies. <br />
 
ann D. October 15, 2017
I have tried this twice and both times it would not rise, help, what am I doing wrong?
 
Alexandra S. October 16, 2017
Hi Ann,<br />Sorry to hear about the trouble! Question: what kind of yeast are you using? How long ago did you purchase it? Is the first rise going OK? Or is it the second rise you are having trouble with? Are you doing the warm oven trick to get the dough to rise in a timely manner?
 
Clémentine G. August 6, 2017
This sounds amazing, and I followed the recipe the best I could, but I didn't not manage to get my bread to rise properly... DO you have any ideas I could try next time to get it better ?
 
Alexandra S. October 16, 2017
Hi Clementine!<br />See questions above asked to Ann. We'll get to the bottom of it!
 
Tracey F. June 5, 2017
Can you use a gluten-free all-purpose flour?<br />
 
Alexandra S. October 16, 2017
Yes. But, it's not quite as simple. I love Cup4Cup gluten free flour. And adding eggs, honey, oil, and vinegar help the flavor. See this post: https://feedmephoebe.com/best-gluten-free-bread-recipe/
 
Tracey F. December 20, 2017
Thank you!
 
Tracey F. December 20, 2017
Thank you!
 
Pamela C. May 14, 2017
I can't wait to try this. Can this recipe be made in a bread machine
 
Printz May 5, 2017
Sounds delicious! Would adding fresh basil and sun dried tomatoes work in this recipe? I'm thinking for dipping in olive oil. Thanks!
 
Alexandra S. May 6, 2017
Printz, this sounds delicious! Definitely for the sun dried tomatoes — I would chop them finely. I've never tried fresh basil or parsley, but I have used fresh chives and scallions, so I don't see why the basil wouldn't work. I guess I worry a little about the basil because it tends to turn black when exposed to heat, but if you finely chop it, and add just a tablespoon or two, I think it will impart a nice flavor. Thyme and rosemary are herbs that also work well. You could also just do the sun-dried tomatoes and then make a basil-infused olive oil for dipping ... ??
 
Picholine May 3, 2017
Made this several times as previously reported. Recently made it with three cups of unbleached flour, one cup of whole wheat then added some raisins , walnuts, pepitas and flax seeds. Tablespoon of cinnamon and a little more sugar, not much. It was delicious and amazing toasted !
 
Alexandra S. May 6, 2017
That sounds so good Picholine! I love the breads with nuts and seeds, especially toasted.
 
Picholine May 6, 2017
It looked and tasted like those rustic loves that you buy at local bakeries, thanks for the post!
 
Alexandra S. May 6, 2017
So awesome, love it!
 
Annelle M. May 3, 2017
Wonderful bread! My addition was 1/2 cup cooked steel cut oats and proceeded with the recipe as written. The oatmeal added another dimension of flavor. I can't wait to try some of the recipes for variations.
 
Alexandra S. May 6, 2017
Yum! Can't wait to try this!
 
Picholine November 10, 2017
Did you add the oats in addition or take out the equal amount of flour?
 
Annelle M. November 11, 2017
In addition.
 
Victoria G. April 30, 2017
I can honestly say this bread has changed my life 😂 It's fantastic and we haven't bought any bread from the shops since I discovered this recipe. Simple and delicious. I've baked it so many times now I know if off by heart and can't wait to try out the variations.
 
Alexandra S. April 30, 2017
So happy to hear this, Victoria!!
 
Maureen April 29, 2017
I'm sure this has been posted but I missed it. How and how long can I store this bread? We are a small household of two and can't possible eat two loaves of bread before it stales. Can I freeze one loaf? Does it work for croutons? Thanks for any advice.
 
Alexandra S. April 30, 2017
The bread freezes beautifully! I usually slice it and freeze it. I wrap 6 slices or so in plastic wrap or foil, then tuck the bundles in a ziplock and freeze it—the slices make it easy for morning toast. You can definitely freeze the loaf whole or in halves or quarters if you anticipate using it more for dinner. Yes for croutons, too! My favorite mustard croutons from Bread Toast Crumbs:<br />Preheat oven to 400ºF.<br />Whisk together:<br />2 tablespoons olive oil<br />1 tablespoon vinegar<br />1 tablespoon Dijon mustard<br />1/4 teaspoon salt<br />fresh pepper to taste<br />Toss with 2 cups 3/4-inch cubed bread. Spread on sheet pan. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until golden.
 
Maureen April 30, 2017
Thank you so much! Those croutons sound fabulous.<br />
 
Dolo April 28, 2017
Would bread machine flour work for this recipe?
 
Alexandra S. April 29, 2017
I'm not familiar with bread machine flour, but bread flour can be substituted for the ap flour. What is bread machine flour?
 
Marcy April 28, 2017
I live in Denver, mile high city. Always struggle with baking anything (rising and rapid falling). Have never worked with yeast. Any altitude tips for this bread? Txs
 
4376ab April 28, 2017
I would love to hear any high altitude adjustments or tips as well!
 
Patty R. April 29, 2017
Me, too. I lived at sea level for many years and made yeast breads all the time. I've not been successful making bread since moving here. As soon as I saw yeast in this recipe, I groaned. Thanks!
 
Alexandra S. April 29, 2017
I always direct people to the King Arthur Flour site, because they have some great tips: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/learn/high-altitude-baking.html Here are some notes from them in regard to yeast:<br /><br />• decrease the amount of yeast in the recipe by 25%<br />• make water/flour adjustments as necessary to get a dough with the correct texture<br />• make sure your bowl has plenty of room for the dough to rise in.<br />• because rising times are shorter at higher altitudes, you can give the bread more flavor by allowing the dough one extra rise by punching it down twice before forming it/dividing it into the two bowls <br /><br /><br />
 
Patty R. April 29, 2017
Thank you, Alexandra Stafford. Very helpful information!
 
Alexandra S. April 29, 2017
Sure thing!
 
rebecca December 26, 2017
Marcy -<br />did you find the comments regarding cooking in our Mile High City helpful? I'm trying this recipe now and would love to hear what you changed? Thank you!
 
Ray K. April 28, 2017
I assume this recipe can be cut in half?<br />Thank you
 
Alexandra S. April 29, 2017
Yes!
 
lsm April 28, 2017
I have been baking bread for 10 years, and this is by far the easiest recipe I have made. When I first made this recipe I used a 8 inch by 8 inch metal pan. The results astounded me. I have also used a 9 by 13 inch pan. That one came out like Italian flat bread. Also use and angle food pan. I really do not think it matters what kind of pan you use as long as it is oven proof.
 
Alexandra S. April 28, 2017
So happy to hear all of this Ism. Great to know you've had success with all sorts of pans, and I think you are right in regard to anything oven-proof will work. Thanks!
 
Rosalind P. April 28, 2017
send me updates please<br />