No-Knead Bread

Imagine being able to enjoy a delicious, moist home-made sourdough loaf with a light crisp crust. Imagine being able to make such a loaf without any kneading at all. No, this is not an advertisement for a new kind of bread-making machine! I’ve simply discovered a new bread recipe that is perfectly suited for busy people who want to enjoy the taste and health benefits of slow-rise sourdough bread.

No-Knead Bread

First of all, I must give heartfelt thanks to Kurt, for giving such a thorough and enthusiastic introduction to making artisan bread at home on the Living Green Farm blog. Thanks for sharing, Kurt! We love your website, and this recipe has made a big difference in our lives around here! (Don’t get me wrong; I love the therapeutic activity of kneading bread dough. But these days, with a baby to cuddle and play with as well as all the usual Farmlet business, a no-hassle bread recipe like this is just what we need!)

The following recipe is the Farmlet version of Kurt’s “No-Knead Bread,” adapted for use with our wild sourdough starter and 100% wholegrain flours:


1/2 cup sourdough starter
2 cups whole wheat flour (We use freshly ground Arawa or Otane wheat)
1 cup rye flour (We use zentrofan rye flour that we buy from Terrace Farm in Canterbury)
1/2 tablespoon sea salt


1. Put all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix together with just enough water to make a loose dough (This might be a bit more or less than one and a half cups of water. Could be quite a lot less if your sourdough is runny!). The dough should be much wetter than regular bread dough, but still stiff enough so that you’ll be able to lift and manipulate it. Kurt describes the correct consistency as “stiffer than pancake batter, but still a bit moist and slumpy.” I would liken the dough to a rather sticky scone dough — for those of you who have ever made scones!

2. Cover the bowl, and leave the dough to rise for 18 to 24 hours.

3. Sprinkle a layer of cornmeal on a work surface, flour your hands, and turn the dough out onto the cornmeal. The dough will now be much stickier now than it was when you first mixed it 24 hours ago, but hopefully can still be folded over on itself a couple of times to form a very rough loaf (Don’t knead it!). This part usually works out really sticky, squishy and messy for me, but the end result has always been fine!

4. Spread a thin layer of corn meal on a smooth tea-towel and put the dough on top of it. Dust the top of the loaf with a little flour or cornmeal if it seems sticky, and fold the tea towel over to cover it.

5. Leave the loaf to sit at room temperature for another 2 hours.

6. 20 minutes before this second rise is finished, preheat your oven to degrees(475 degrees F) with the empty Dutch oven (or covered casserole) in it. 475 degrees F.

7. When the 2 hours are up, open the hot oven, take the lid off the Dutch oven, carefully transfer the risen loaf into the Dutch oven, and replace the lid.

8. Bake in the covered Dutch oven for about 30 minutes, then remove the cover and bake for another 15 minutes, or until the loaf looks nicely golden and crisp (more like 10 minutes in our oven!).

9. Remove loaf from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

Why does the bread require no kneading? It seems that the long rise-time and extra moisture in the dough allow the gluten molecules to align themselves as if they had been kneaded. Anyway, the result is very pleasing!

Why do you bake the bread in a Dutch oven, first with the lid on and then with the lid removed? To imitate the action of the fancy steam-injection ovens used by professional bread makers to produce a light, crispy crust.

15 Responses to “No-Knead Bread”

  1. Kirk says:

    This is the first place I’ve seen a recipe for no-knead with not only whole wheat flour but also a wild starter! I was wondering whether that would work. Thanks for the recipe and the story of your success with it 🙂

  2. pebble says:

    This looks great! Can you give the diameter of the Dutch oven? I’m trying to figure out what size casserole dish to what quantity recipe.

  3. Rebecca says:

    Hi Kirk and Pebble,
    Thanks for your enthusiasm regarding this recipe!
    @Pebble: The Dutch oven I’ve been using has about an 8 inch diameter.

  4. Kurt says:

    Thank you for your kind words! I still love this recipe. There has been a real surge in interest in this method; I was over at a friend’s house last night and she shared some small improvements with me that she read about in the magazine Cooks Illustrated. From your step 7:

    “…carefully transfer the risen loaf into the Dutch oven, and replace the lid.”

    This has always been one of the trickier steps; the Cooks Illustrated article says that if you let the final rise occur on a piece of parchment paper, when it comes to putting the bread in the dutch oven you can just pick up the sides of the parchment paper and drop the whole dough, supported by parchment paper, into the dutch oven! No more digging your fingers under the dough ball trying to get it separated from the towel! I haven’t yet tried this with parchment paper, but I can tell you that it doesn’t work with thin wax paper – the wax paper bakes itself onto the dough. So next time I will try true parchment paper, which is said to be thicker and more heat resistant.

    The other suggestion from the magazine is to add a small amount of beer (1/4 cup) and vinegar (1 tbs) in place of part of the water. Supposedly this gives a more sourdough-y type of taste for those using standard yeast.

  5. Rebecca says:

    Hi Kurt,
    Thanks for the extra tips. I’m curious to try the parchment paper trick. . . if I can just find some parchment paper on our next trip to town.

  6. Eileen says:

    Becky and Kurt.
    Hiya, and oh my mouth is watering to try this bread. I tried the links on the sourdough bread starter and neither Farmlet or Kurt’s site brought it up.
    Can you post what goes into the sourdough starter?

  7. Kevin says:

    Hi Eileen,

    Here’s that link to Becky’s Sour Dough starter post:

  8. Laura says:

    I’m so glad you posted this recipe. I’ve been wanting to try to make a sourdough bread. (I’ve attempted a starter a few times already!) I recently found someone nearby who will share their starter with me! With three little boys, the youngest at 6mos. of age, I’m excited about trying this no-knead bread. I drop by here often, but have never “commented”…this time I just wanted to drop a line to thank you for taking time to post this. Have fun eating your yummy bread while you cuddle with your little one.


  9. Ian says:

    No knead bread is a no-brainer! I read a NY Times article earlier this year on it and had wanted to try it with 100% sourdough starter (no yeast)just as you’ve done, but no-one in the house could stand the smell (or taste) of my attempts before I even got that far, so I gave up. Going to try it again thanks to this post!

  10. Rebecca says:

    Hi Ian and Laura,
    Good luck with your bread experiments.
    @Ian: I’m not sure if the smell and taste problems would be due to a different starter, different method and climate, or just a matter of personal taste! We’ll be interested to hear how you get on.
    @Laura: I hope you get to enjoy yummy bread while you cuddle your little ones, as well. We are certainly doing so.
    Thanks to both of you for taking the time to comment.

  11. Johanna says:

    Hi Rebecca – that looks delicious. Great idea to do it with sourdough!

  12. New in Kapiti says:

    You can also use other pans for cooking: I’ve use stainless pots of various sizes with success. In general, you are probably ok with anything with a lid that will hold some heat, though I have not tested that theory by using, say, a thin enameled pot.

    Parchment paper work great, if you have it. But, then again, just plopping the dough in the preheated pot works well, too. This is a fairly forgiving recipe.

  13. adekun says:

    Stuff like that is a real rarity in Japan. I doubt many natives would touch it. 🙁 It looks so good.

  14. I’ve created a link to this post in the “Recipes” section of our newest “Cast Iron Around the Web” entry at

  15. Rebecca says:

    Hi there,

    @Adekun: I loved lots of the food in Korea, but not the bread! Japan sounds similar in that regard. Most of the bread in Korea tasted like cake to me, and I certainly never came across any good strong sourdough. Just as well kimchi is so yummy!

    @Rick:I’ve just been checking out your cast iron cooking site and it looks neat. Maybe I’ll have a chance to try some of those recipes.

    @New in Kapiti: Hadn’t thought of making the bread in a stainless steel saucepan, but it’s a great idea for anyone without a Dutch oven. Thanks for letting us know that it works.

    Thanks to all for the comments.