Jacques Pepin’s No-Knead Bread

I’ve always been a little wary of baking. You usually need special ingredients and equipment, and you need to use precise measurements. This doesn’t match up with my normal use-whatever-I’ve-got style of cooking. And yet there’s also an allure to baking, especially the baking of bread. There’s something primal, almost magical, about creating what has been a staple food for centuries in your kitchen at home.

One of the reasons I had been thinking so much about making bread at home was Jim Lahey’s no-knead bread (it requires a minimum of ingredients, equipment, and effort (which makes it perfect for me)), and I was planning to make it eventually. Then I saw an episode of “Jacques Pepin’s More Fast Food My Way” in which he made a version of no-knead bread with an interesting twist: you mix the dough in the pot that you cook it in, so there’s almost no clean-up necessary. On a side note, Jacques Pepin has quickly become one of my favorite food personalities, but that can wait for another post.

So here’s what you do. Start the night before to ensure proper rising time. In a large, non-stick, oven-safe pot mix the following ingredients:

1 1/2 cups of room temperature water
1 tsp of yeast (or a bit more)
1 tsp of salt (or a bit more)
4 cups of flour

Stir it up until it’s thoroughly mixed, then let it sit, uncovered, at room temperature for about an hour and a half.

When you check back, the dough should have puffed up a little bit. Knock it down by mixing it up again for a moment, you don’t have to do too much. Then cover it and put it in the refrigerator overnight (10-12 hours).

The next day, preheat your over to 450 degrees. When it’s at temperature, take the dough out of the fridge and take the cover off (it should have risen again overnight), and put it straight into the oven. Then walk away for about 40 minutes.

After forty minutes, take the pot out of the oven (please use oven mitts when doing this). You will see that you have a perfect crust poking out from the pot. Let it sit and cool for a few minutes before turning it out.

If your cookware is like mine, that is to say so used and abused that the non-stick has worn off, you may need a spatula to help you get it out. I did intend to score the top before baking and did not, and you can see the top went a little lopsided. Never you mind, this was perfectly crusty and chewy, this is some seriously good bread (though mine needed a little more salt). Dipped in olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt it was truly delicious.

I have to admit, though, finding out how easy it is to make bread is a bit disappointing. On one hand it’s very gratifying to be able to produce such a great product on (basically) a whim. On the other hand, the process is so completely easy and almost foolproof as to demystify the nature of bread. It’s a bittersweet feeling, and an wholly unexpected one. All I wanted to do was bake a loaf of bread.

Maybe this is why I avoid baking. It’s also why I will continue to make bread, hopeful of recapturing that feeling of making magic in the kitchen.

  • Linda

    Can’t believe it is so easy and no kneading? Great looking crust and looks chewy. Will try it myself!

  • Liliana

    I made it immediatelly after the show, and it works exactly as he says! Marvelously easy!

  • Maureen Karpan

    Yikes! I appreciate you posting the reciple but I mixed it and the dough didn’t look right at all… too stiff… so I went back to watch the episode again, and it is actually 2 1/4 – 2 1/2 c. water, not 1 1/2 cups. You might want to correct.

    It is delicious though. I made it some months back, right after I watched the episode… mmmmm!

  • http://www.eattoblog.com Howard

    to everyone reading this post:

    I am aware of a discrepancy between the recipe on pepin’s website and this post. i also seem to remember that at the beginning of the episode he mentions the larger amount of water, but when he actually makes it he uses less. either way, it misses the point of this recipe. it’s a no-muss, no-fuss thing, and it doesn’t rely so much on exact measurements. i have made this bread 4-5 times now using the recipe posted above, with no problem. however, if you find you need to add more water then by all means, add more water. thanks for reading!

  • http://www.livingstepbystep.com ameena

    I have been baking bread my whole life and I have been using this recipe since I saw it on PBS. I use it for loaves, rolls, pizza, etc. American Test Kitchen just did some testing on yeast dough rising. They concluded that the best product comes from a slow rise in the refrigerator–better crust, crumb, texture.

    Thanks for your blog. Good wishes for good food.

  • Marge

    I was concerned about possibly damaging my no-stick cookware in such a hot oven so I substituted a lightly greased glass corningware pan. Needless to say, I had a bit of difficulty removing the bread after baking but did manage. My result was a crusty, very rustic, unpretentious type of bread – certainly, easy to prepare & excellent for dipping into hearty soup, chili, stew etc. but, in my mind, nothing special. Alton Brown offers an easy prep bread recipe that is excellent.

  • Kim

    I’ve tried this recipe several times now. Having found prep to be so quick & easy, I reduce the ingredients to half (adding a bit of sugar to the mix), refrigerate overnight and place into oven as soon as I wake up. This way I always have fresh bread. By the time I’m ready for morning coffee, there is a loaf of warm bread waiting along with a great baking aroma. This is delicious topped with some melting sweet butter, honey and a big mug of hot coffee for breakfast and then some thick slices to soak up the juices of wine sauteed shrimp this evening.

  • Kim

    Living alone, I do not have need for very much bread so I cut this recipe in half, add some sugar; prepare dough in the evening; refrigerate overnight; bake off in the morning for fresh breakfast bread served with sweet butter & honey. This gives me a small, compact, wonderfully fresh bread to start the day. I do spray the loaf with water several times during baking for even a more crisp crust. Simple . Quick . Delicious

  • regina

    I think you should change the recipe to 2 cups water. Works better

  • Teresa

    I have been baking bread for over 40 years, so I don’t feel that I have much to prove anymore. I just want good healthy bread with a minimum of fuss. My mother gave me a bread machine which seemed easier to use in my tiny apartment kitchen. I was never really that enamored of that machine…it still required fiddling. It eventually gave up, and I began exploring other methods.
    After researching and trying several no-knead methods and being very pleased with most of them, I decided I didn’t need to replace my bread machine.
    I especially loved that I didn’t have to add oil or sugar to it.
    Then I came across the Jacques Pepin method.
    WOW. I like this even better! A couple of times when making a no-knead recipe, I had ended up with bread that was a bit too moist in the center. So after seeing Pepin’s REALLY moist dough, I was a bit worried. I also don’t have a non stick pot, but I came up with a solution:
    -I mix the dough very quickly in a bowl, then put it into a springform bundt pan to make sure it gets cooked well all the way through.
    I also made it with 1/2 whole wheat flour the first time. Because of the whole wheat, my dough looked less wet than it looked on the video, but I thought I’d just go with it and see what happened.
    Wonderful! So cute too! I cut it like a bundt cake and get cute smallish slices. The inside texture is finer than the Artisan no-knead recipes. The crust is crisp but also seemed a bit too chewy/tough. Maybe I overbaked it.
    The next time I made it, I doubled the recipe using 1 part whole wheat flour, 1 part spelt flour and 1 part white flour. I put some of that dough into a parchment paper-lined pyrex loaf pan that time. It rose nicely in the fridge and was no problem getting out of the pan.
    This way I added about a minute to the prep time by mixing it in a bowl, plus I now don’t have to go out and buy a non stick pot. Of course, I now have the “really heavy additional chore” of swishing cold water in the bowl to rinse out the residue – but I feel that it is worth it. It is still less mess and fuss than any of the other no-knead methods.
    I am SOLD.
    Now if I could just make a great challah this way!

  • http://www.eattoblog.com Howard

    @teresa – wow, thanks for the tip. i just got some whole wheat flour from a friend, i’ll try using it next time i make the bread.

  • http://www.breadmanbreadmachine.info Breadman Bread Machine

    That bread looks wonderful! I will definitely have to try the recipe.

  • http://breadboxes.org/ Jay

    Bread is my favorite… good stuff ^^

  • Anne

    I have had this recipe for several years – BUT the show I watched had the dough rising on the counter overnight and you shaped it the next day – 1 or 2 rounds, let rise for 2 hours on a corn mealed sheet and than flour and score in a pattern on top and slashing the sides. Looks like the best rustic bread ever found and the taste and texture is amazing..Oh – you throw 1/8 C of water in the bottom of the oven.

  • http://www.eattoblog.com Howard

    @anne – thanks for the recipe — i’ll have to try that out.

  • Yin-Yin

    Can this be done in a cast iron pot? It seems to me going straight from the fridge directly to a 450 degree oven would cause it to crack. Has anyone tried it? I’d hate to destroy my $200 pot for $.20 bread!

  • http://www.eattoblog.com Howard

    @Yin-Yin — i wouldn’t risk it, but i think you could leave the dough in the cast iron pan out on the counter overnight rather than in the refrigerator. if you try it, let me know how it goes.

  • Andrew

    I just tried this recipe (as well as the tuscan flatbread–quick, awesome, no fuss recipe) today. I used instant yeast and AP flour and my dough rose very minimally–both after the 1.5 hrs and when I took it out of the fridge this morning. It didn’t look nearly as air as Jacque’s did on the show. After baking, however, the texture was amazing and not as dense as I expected, but I found the flavor of both the cooks illustrated no-knead bread (which adds beer and vinegar to the dough) and alton brown’s (pretty similar to this recipe but longer rise time) to be better. Next time I’ll try adding some sugar like other have said and vinegar like in CI’s recipe. Oh, a good tip from CI–if you’re unsure when the loaf is read, stick a thermometer in the dough and it’s done when the center reaches 210 degrees.
    Also regarding sticking and cast iron, after the initial 1.5 hour rise, I transferred the sticky dough to a piece of lightly oiled parchment paper before putting it back in the bowl I mixed it in and then into the fridge. In the morning I lifted the parchment and dough in an 8inch cast iron (recipe was halved) and then into the oven. Worked beautifully with super easy cleanup and no teflon needed. It would probably be alright in a nicely seasoned cast iron without the parchment but i didn’t feel like risking it.
    Even though the flavors didn’t develop as nicely as some of the other no knead recipes I’ve tried, the convenience and simplicity and wonderful texture will probably turn this into my go-to bread recipe.
    Did anyone else have issues with rising? I made another dough this morning using active dry yeast instead of instant, also using AP flour. I may try using bread dough as that has given me the best rise in previous bread-making.
    Thanks Howard for sharing!

  • Jami

    I just pulled this bread out of the oven and it looks great! I totally cheated when making this.. I mixed it and let it rise the first time in a mixing bowl. For the second rise and baking, I put it in a greased loaf pan. At my house I just know what no one will eat ‘funny shaped’ bread.

    Thank you so much for posting this recipe!

  • Mickey

    I LOVE this no-knead concept. I’ve been using a bread machine to avoid having a flour-covered kitchen, but it feels sort of antiseptic (and loud–the squeaky gears make me a little nuts). This recipe is a nice blend of easy clean-up, and hands-on baking fun.

    I just baked a half-recipe using a 2-quart enameled cast-iron dutch oven. This time, I tried the recipe with the 1 1/8 cup water listed in JP’s original recipe, and used bread flour because that is what was in the pantry. And, I set the oven at 425 (the perils of groggy early-morning baking), which seems to have done no harm.

    Next time, I plan to try it with the smaller amount of liquid Howard recommends, to see how that changes the bread. The larger amount of liquid gave it a surface that is full of large air bubbles, so it definitely is not as gorgeous as Howard’s picture. But it tastes great with olive oil, salt and pepper for breakfast, and the center is tender, but not wet.

    Like earlier posters, I was worried about putting the cast iron through a fridge-to-oven heat change, so I left the covered pot out on the counter for 9-10 hours overnight. The kitchen in winter is about 58-60 degrees F. overnight, and the dough rose to 1 inch below the top of the pot, so that aspect worked great. I was worried that I would wake to bread risen up and stuck to the bottom of the lid, but no worries on that front.

    I look forward to playing around with this recipe. The sugar and vinegar variations sound intriguing, and I’m thinking about leftover black tea, brown sugar and orange zest, or adding a little olive oil as part of the liquid.

  • Mothercrone

    I made this bread today. Purchased a brand new good quality 3 qt non-stick pot. The bread looked beautiful, exactly like Chef Pepin’s. I let it rest for a bit, however, the bottom stuck to the pot. I turned the pot upside down and let it rest for a couple of hours. The bread came out but with some sticking (not enough to destroy the bread). It looks to me like I should have baked it longer than the 45 minutes I did in my oven. Or perhaps it was the hot and humid weather.

    Anywhooo, the taste was excellent; sort of reminds me of a giant English muffin. The next time I’m going to bake it for a longer period of time.

  • Conny

    Pepin uses a whole package of yeast for 4 cups of flour when making Gros Pain on the show, so 1 teaspoon seems way too little, but I’m giving it a try anyway. We’ll see how it turns out. :)

  • Conny

    I used King Arthur unbleached white whole wheat flour and pre-mixed the ingredients in a bowl. The dough was extremely thick and dry, so I added water until it reached a more manageable consistency.

    I transferred the dough to a buttered and bread-crumbed (instead of floured) 5×9 Anchor glass loaf dish around 3 p.m., put it in the (unheated) oven for 1.5 hours, then covered it with cellophane wrap and put it in the refrigerator.

    I took it out at 7 this morning and, figuring it may not be the best idea to move a very cold glass dish into a hot oven, put it in the oven without preheating it, then lit the oven, set it to 450F and left it alone.

    After 50 minutes, I took out a brown loaf with a rather strange looking surface. I let it cool on a wire rack for about an hour and the bread slid right out of the pan. And let me tell you – it smelled absolutely delicious, was wonderfully crispy on all sides (including top and bottom), and sounded perfect when tapped.

    Remembering Pepin’s instructions to let it cool on a wire rack for several hours before cutting it, I left it alone until around 2 p.m., but then I couldn’t wait any longer and had to try a slice, with some Plugra European style salted butter.

    And let me tell you – I almost cried! I moved here from Germany in 2000 and have made many a loaf in my bread maker, trying to recreate the texture and taste of German bread, but this is the first time I’ve been successful, thanks to this recipe. You can’t imagine how happy I am to have found it. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

    And thanks to Pepin, of course, without whose show I would have never gone looking for his bread recipes.

  • Conny

    I just watched Pepin’s video and he calls for TWO AND A QUARTER/TWO AND A HALF CUPS OF TEPID (!) WATER (not 1 1/2 cups). – Just thought I’d let you know. :)