Rosemary Lemon No-Knead Bread Recipe

It’s been a while since I’ve baked bread at home, although a slice of fresh, crackling, crusty bread is something I could devour any day of the week.

I made the now famous No Knead Bread a few times since Mark Bittman first wrote about the method in the New York Times two years ago.  By now the recipe for this remarkably easy to make, deliciously hearty loaf has been blogged, You-Tubed, and otherwise replicated hundreds, if not thousands, of times.

What makes this recipe a standout for me is how much it resembles the bread I grew up eating; real Italian bread baked by neighborhood bakeries in small batches in clay ovens, often with crusts so burnished and substantial you could chip a tooth (or two) if you bit in too eagerly.

That bread is becoming harder to find. On my visits to Providence, Rhode Island – the place I’m from – I  try to make a pilgrimage to some of my favorite bakeries before they dry up and disappear like dandelion seeds in the wind.

Here in St. Louis, a city that boasts a respectable Italian-American population, you will be served a version of Italian bread that I can only describe as tragic. Sorry, folks, but calling a pasty, pale blob of starch that a only toothless person could love Italian bread almost feels like a personal insult. Maybe it’s something in the water.

Palmieri’s Bakery on Federal Hill in Providence is one of those old-world bakeries whose products are the standard by which I judge all other bread. Although the last time I visited, I almost cried to see how the place had been spiffed up – the charming old wooden racks, counters and worn linoleum floor I always imagine dusted with a layer of flour and breadcrumbs were gone, replaced with sterile white formica and a shining tile floor. Oh well, remodel they must, but the bread was still the same: fragrant, dark-crusted and dense with a moist, open-textured, cream-colored interior.

Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery came up with the technique of mixing a wet dough comprising flour, water and a mere spot of yeast – barely laying a finger on it – and then letting if ferment slowly before plopping it into a “blazing hot” cast iron pot with a lid to bake.  The resulting loaf looks like it should be sitting on a worn wooden table in a Tuscan farmhouse kitchen. How brilliant is he?

See Jim Lahey demonstrate his famous no-knead technique here.

And the interior of the bread, or the “crumb”, is to die for; just look at the open, airy holes in my No-Knead bread:

The method is simple, but making this bread does require that you think ahead 24 hours, if that’s possible. I’m not much of a planner-ahead-er, but if I can do it so can you.

It also helps to have a bench scraper to help maneuver the sticky dough from bowl to counter, and a nice heavy pot (with a lid) for baking. I have a few lovely Le Creuset vessels lying around, but you don’t need to use one. Baking the dough in something like a round Pyrex casserole will work too, according to Lahey.

Happy 2009…now go bake some bread!

Rosemary Lemon No-Knead Bread

from Williams-Sonoma:
3 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp. active dry yeast

1 3/4 tsp. salt

2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary

2 tsp. chopped lemon zest

Cornmeal or flour as needed

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine the flour, yeast, salt, rosemary and zest. Add 1 5/8 cups water and stir until blended; the dough will be shaggy and very sticky. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough rest at warm room temperature (about 70°F) until the surface is dotted with bubbles, 12 to 18 hours.

Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface. Sprinkle the dough with a little flour and fold the dough over onto itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest for 15 minutes.

Using just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to the work surface or your fingers, gently and quickly shape the dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel, preferably a flour sack towel (not terry cloth), with cornmeal. Put the dough, seam side down, on the towel and dust with more flour or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise until the dough is more than double in size and does not readily spring back when poked with a finger, about 2 hours.

At least 30 minutes before the dough is ready, put a 2 3/4-quart cast-iron pot in the oven and preheat the oven to 450°F.

Carefully remove the pot from the oven. Slide your hand under the towel and turn the dough over, seam side up, into the pot; it may look like a mess, but that is OK. Shake the pan once or twice if the dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with the lid and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and continue baking until the loaf is browned, 15 to 30 minutes more.

Transfer the pot to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Using oven mitts, turn the pot on its side and gently turn the bread; it will release easily. Makes one 1 1/2-lb. loaf.

Adapted from Sullivan Street Bakery (New York City) and Mark Bittman, “The Secret of Great Bread: Let Time Do the Work,” The New York Times, Nov. 8, 2006.

Comments

  1. Okay, I haven’t attempted this bread because I’m not much of a planner. But if I go to the kitchen right this minute and mix up the ingredients, I will be in for a treat tomorrow…..like The Little Red Hen (sort of).

    I think your twist of lemon & rosemary is what did it. You are awesome!

  2. Nice crumb!

    I’ve had this bread on my list of new recipes to try ever since I saw it on the Williams-Sonoma site. One of these days I’ll figure out what to bake it in!

  3. Anna, yes, yes go mix it up and forget about the whole thing until tomorrow. It’s so good.

    Hi Prudent Homemaker – thanks for complimenting my crumb! Maybe try the Pyrex and see how that works.

  4. Yep. it IS good. Nice post, “Karen” :-)

  5. This seriously looks amazing! I can’t wait to try it!!!

  6. Oh, you just gave me a reason to buy the 2-3/4 qt Le Creuset pot! I’ve been looking for a reason to buy it!

  7. Woo! I think the Universe pointed me to your blog this morning, cause I’ve been dreaming about bread! But wanted something…easier…than what is usually required. What an inspired idea and great flavors…and what a wonderful scent will fill my kitchen!

  8. My pyrex only has a plastic storage lid–doesn’t this thing need a lid?

  9. Prudent Homemaker, try to use the round casserole-type Pyrex that comes with a glass cover…can be found at Target or maybe even your grocery store.

  10. Hey!

    Lovely blog! I have my own blog http://youarecookingblog.com/. I would love to add you to my blog roll and hope you will do the same – let me know your thoughts. I’m also part of http://www.ShesConnected.com. You should check it out and add your profile, it’s a great way to promote your business and blog.

    I look forward to connecting with you and continuing to read your blog.

    Best,
    Kayla

  11. I keep seeing kudos and raves for the no-knead bread, but just have not gotten around to making it, but looking at your pictures, I am really inspired, I can almost smell your bread!

  12. Yum! That looks so good. I need to make this bread!

  13. Thanks for visiting Kayla – I will check it out.

    Deborah, nice to hear from you! I know you’ll get a lot of pleasure out of this recipe – let me know if you make it.

    Hi Hallie – yes, I think so too!

  14. Hi! My sister sent me the link to the William Sonoma recipe awhile back and I forgot about it. Then I saw your post, which reminded me. I made it once (great success!) and have one batch rising at home right now. I make it in a Le Creuset 5.5 qt pot and it works out fine. Thanks for the inspiration!

  15. Thanks for inspiring me–I’m trying a version of this, except I added a dash of olive oil, a dash of balsamic vinegar, a little garlic, and the rosemary.

    I’ll let you know how it turns out…

  16. I agree the bread that I have found served at every Italian restaurant here usually seems to be a miserable afterthought. Not even worth the calories to try it.

    I’ve made Bittman’s bread a number of times and I love it. I’ll give yours a try — thanks for the suggestion.

    I use a Staub pot — like it a lot.

  17. I tried this bread and loved it, but it scorched the pan and set off the fire alarm. I used a cast iron pot.
    I will try the pyrex one with lid. Does this burn on too?
    Thanks so much.
    Margie

    • Margie – Hmmm. I wonder what happened? There might have been a little too much excess flour on your dough, which does tend to burn. I haven’t tried the Pyrex, but have heard it does work. Let me know your results when you try it out.

  18. Made this bread the other day…..WOW!!! what a hit it made and so easy to make. Making a batch now…going to try garlic and olives this time.
    Thank you so much.
    Janet

  19. mr grumpy says:

    A heavy, cast iron frying pan works a treat and, if for some reason you don’t already own one, costs a fraction of a le creuset. Some hot water tossed into the oven as you load the bread (don’t hit the glass window!) provides the steam.

  20. how would something like a cast iron dutchoven work?

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