"Mix it and forget it" recipes for irresistible, wholesome homemade breads

Nancy Baggett
Updated March 20, 2020

Pictured recipe: The Best No-Knead Whole-Wheat Bread

For anyone anxious about kneading or working with yeast, or just too busy to fit in traditional bread baking, the slow, cold-rise "no-knead" method is a boon. I especially love the convenience of starting a dough quickly and with very little kitchen mess, then coming back hours later to find it ready for me to start its second rise. From hearty whole-wheat bread and puffy Parmesan focaccia to rustic, seed-encrusted boules and aromatic, honey-spice fruit loaves, these easy breads are the best way I know to brighten cold-weather menus and boost my family's consumption of fiber and whole grains. I serve these breads fresh from the oven with soups, stews and simple entrees; in sandwiches; as breakfast toast; and even as nourishing between-meal treats and snacks. Read on for tips on making no-knead bread, then try one of these delicious No-Knead Bread Recipes.

Pictured recipe: Parmesan-Herb Focaccia

Here's how it works: I stir together the ingredients as I would those for a quick bread. I use ice-cold water, which eliminates the risk of overheating (and thus killing) the yeast. Then, after an optional flavor-enhancing cooling period in the refrigerator, the dough simply sits unattended on the counter to rise for 12 to 18 hours.

Want Warm Bread for Dinner?

Here's a sample no-knead bread timeline to get you started. Remember, you need to start making the recipe the day before you want to eat the bread.

Friday, 8 – 8:30 p.m.: Mix dough.

Friday, 8:30 p.m. – Saturday, 2:30 p.m.: 18-hour first rise.

Saturday, 2:30 – 4:30 p.m.: 2-hour second rise.

Saturday, 4:30 – 5:30 p.m.: Bake.

Saturday, 5:30 – 6:00 p.m.: Cool.

Saturday, 6:00 p.m.: Slice warm bread for dinner!

(Rising times and baking times may vary according to the recipe or rising method.)

Pictured recipe: Seeded Multigrain Boule

In a Hurry?

You can turn your microwave into a warm, moist environment to help accelerate the second rise of the bread dough. Begin by microwaving 1⁄2 cup water in a 1-cup glass measure just to boiling. Set the water in one corner of the microwave, place the pan of dough on the other side of the turned-off microwave and close the door. The dough will double in size in 45 to 90 minutes.

5 Tips for Great No-Knead Breads

Use Quality Ingredients

Flour is the foundation for delicious, fine-textured bread and is not the place to skimp. Freshness is crucial with all whole-grain flours and seeds, which contain fat that can develop off flavors quickly. Store whole-grain flours and seeds in the freezer.

Don't Omit or Substitute

With yeast breads, altering ingredients can not only affect bread taste, but also yeast activity and dough rising. For example, extra seeds, herbs, spices, sugar or salt can inhibit yeast growth, resulting in overly dense loaves. Conversely, omitting or skimping on certain ingredients, such as salt, can result in uncontrolled yeast growth and poor bread structure and flavor. These recipes were developed using table salt; using other salt may change your results. They will work with instant, quick-rising and/or bread-machine yeast. Active dry yeast cannot be used instead.

Pictured recipe: No-Knead Focaccia with Peaches & Prosciutto

Give It the Time It "Kneads"

Never hurry the first rise. Kneading by hand (or machine) develops the gluten for proper bread structure in conventional bread recipes. No-knead breads micro-knead themselves and develop gluten during the long, slow first rise (12 to 18 hours).

The length of the second rise can vary greatly depending on the temperature of the dough and the room temperature. The second-rise times should be used as guides only. The bread needs to rise until it doubles from its deflated size.

Too Wet or Too Dry?

Doughs bubble and knead themselves best when moist and slightly soft, but they hold their shape and bake best when fairly stiff. If you're not sure about your dough, it's best to err on the side of slightly too moist before the first rise; you can always add a little more flour to stiffen the dough before the second rise. Most recipes call for checking dough consistency at several points and adding more water or flour as necessary.

Bake Patiently

Preheat the oven thoroughly and bake on the rack specified—usually in the lower third (but not the bottom) of the oven. No-knead doughs are moister than conventional bread dough and routinely take longer to bake. When in doubt, it's always ­better to bake the loaf for a few extra minutes. Check doneness by inserting a skewer into the center of the loaf or checking the temperature with an instant-read thermometer (fully baked bread will be 204-206°F). Crust appearance is not a good ­indicator of doneness. (Want more DIY bread recipes? Check out these Healthy Bread Recipes to bake at home.)

Easy-Bake Breads | January / February 2009 EatingWell
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