Friday, August 9, 2013

"No-Knead" Dutch Oven Sourdough Bread

This recipe originally appeared in the New York Times in 2006. Since then it has been adapted hundreds (probably thousands) of times by various cooks & bakers and for good reason - it's a very simple recipe that's easy to tweak. So long as you have flour, yeast, salt, water and a dutch oven (or other oven-safe pot with a tight fitting lid) you can make amazingly, ridiculously good bread at home. This stuff is restaurant good (even better than most restaurants, to be honest).

It's super simple and takes almost no actual physical work. It DOES, however, take about a day to produce. It's not that big of a deal because you're just waiting.

Since this is called a "No-Knead" recipe, I'll just go ahead and spoil it - you have to knead a little. Like 10 seconds, that's it. And while I'm at it, the original recipe says to just mix everything by hand but I had bad results the first time I made it like that. I've used my stand mixer ever since and have had great, repeatable results, so that's how I'm going to show it here. By all means, if you want to forego the mixer, do it by hand as the original recipe was written but it's easier and faster with a mixer.

Anyway, enough explanation. Let's mix!

"No-Knead" Dutch Oven Sourdough Bread
(from Alton Brown's recipe - here)

17 1/2 oz bread flour, plus extra for shaping
1/4 teaspoon rapid-rise yeast (or active-dry)
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
10 1/2 oz filtered water

~2 tablespoons cornmeal

That's it!


I begin by getting my mixing bowl on a scale. Weighing out your ingredients is key.

Add 17.5 oz bread flour.

Add 1/4 teaspoon yeast.

Add 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt.

This is what mine weighed for you neurotic folk.

Zero out your scale:

Add 10 1/2 oz filtered water.

It's ok if you do 10.6 oz as my daughter was helping me pour the water.
This is what it should look like:

At this point you can just mix it together until it's a shaggy mess. I had problems with the flour fully hydrating after the 19 hour fermentation period, so you've been warned.

If you want to guarantee success, pop on the dough hook and begin mixing.

Lowest speed until everything starts to come together:

Like so.

This probably took less that 60 seconds.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl and prepare to mix again.

This time medium-low.

Mix until it pulls away from the sides of the bowl and crawls up the hook.



Go ahead and stop the mixer.

Again, really no more than 60 seconds here, but it's ok if it takes longer. Time isn't the indicator here, getting it to pull away from the sides is what you want to get to.

Pull it off the hook.

Kind of get it centered in the bowl. DO NOT grease the bowl.

Just cover it with plastic wrap.

I like to secure it with a rubber band.

Now we let it "sleep" as my daughter likes to call it.

The recipe says to wait 19 hours. I've done this on either side of that mark and been fine. I think the least I've ever done is 16 and the most was over 24, maybe 28 hours even. In any case, the bread tasted fine to me.

Just toss it on top of the fridge or something and let it sit, undisturbed, at room temperature.

"Good night bread, see you in the morningtime!"


Ok, next day:

You will see that a lot of activity has happened while we waited.

It should look "moist" and have a lot of bubbles all over the surface.

Remove the plastic wrap.

Dust your fingers with flour.

Just pull the dough away from the sides of the bowl quickly.

It'll be sticky, it's ok.

Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface:

Now we knead for seriously, like 10 seconds. 

3 to 5 times turned over on itself, just to distribute some of the bubbles.




Just roll it into a ball shape and let it sit for 15 minutes.

"Goodnight bread, we'll see you in 15 minutes!"
While you wait, grease a small bowl that's about the same size as your dutch oven.

Sprinkle it was a tablespoon of cornmeal. This will ensure that the bread comes out quickly when we toss it into the hot dutch oven.


After your 15 minutes is up, we're going to form the dough.

Just pinch the edges like a coin purse or something to tighten the skin.

Drop it seam-side down into the bowl.

Sprinkle with cornmeal and let it sit, again.

Cover with a towel and let it rise for 2 hours.

When 1 hour 30 minutes have passed, toss the dutch oven in your oven and preheat to 450F.

We want everything to get up to temp and it'll take about 30 minutes.

*A note here, I bake this bread at 425 because my oven runs hot. I nearly burned the bottom of my bread the first time I made this at 450, so be aware and use your nose. If you smell it burning, pull it immediately. 


When your oven is preheated and your dough has rested it's time for action.

This is kind of dramatic so I couldn't take pictures, but you want to turn out the dough either into a tea towel or just your hand or just use the bowl, but you want to remove the piping hot dutch oven, un-lid it and get the dough in there as fast as possible.

I then score the top a bit.

Totally optional.

Put the lid on the dutch oven and bake for 30 minutes.

The lid acts as a steam-injected oven and gets you professional results. It's really the magic of this recipe.

After 30 minutes, remove the lid and bake for 13-15 more minutes, depending on your oven.

Remove and check the temp. It should be around 212F. If it's a little under, that's ok.

Let cool on a rack for 30-45 minutes, then dig in.

I was completely floored at how good this bread was the first time I tried it. It was some of the best bread I've ever had. I could not believe I made it in my kitchen with so little effort. No starter, just regular yeast and regular flour, salt and water. So awesome.

This bread is good enough to eat on its own, but you can serve it with some good olive oil and balsamic or something. It's very, very good.



  1. Wow! This looks really incredible. You're also creating great memories for your little girl by letting her be a sous-chef in the kitchen. My dad is also a fantastic cook: he would always pack our lunches as kids, and now that we're older, he's still the cooking powerhouse in the family. We're all very close to him, and whenever I go home, I always still observe his cooking chops!

  2. That makes me so happy. I am definitely trying to give her good memories around cooking and she really does love it. My son is now starting to get in on it because he wants to be just like his sister. It's adorable.

  3. That is really wonderful to hear--way to go, Papa! Passing on a love of wholesome, healthy cooking early to children never leaves them, and will help siblings bond as they get older. Making good food is interesting that way--my sister and I have very little in common, and rarely socialize, but we always meet halfway with an enthusiastic smile in the kitchen!

  4. While watching your "Good Eats" from Netflix I became fascinated by this sour dough method of making bread. Goofed up by using 17 oz, by volume of flour, knew later this wasn't right, so got up at 3 A.M. (6 hrs from start) and added more flour. I been making bread for years so I added flour until I "felt" it was the right consistency and let it rest another 13 hours. Wow! It was wonderful bread! Thanks so much for sharing. When I make it again, following the recipe and weigh the flour, it should be a home run!


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