A Lazy Baker’s Dream: Whole Wheat No-Knead Bread

So the past days have been nothing short of pure madness. I spent the last 48 hours in a Chuck Berry laced state of delirium. Having an 8 page paper worth 25% plus an econ problem set due on the same day is not an ideal situation, especially when you procrastinate like I do. So after a long sleepless night filled with symbolic interaction theory and immigrant families I had to stumble to class, turn in a paper, then shuffle off to the library for (sob) 4 hours to write a problem set. This barely left time for sleep, let alone cooking/eating, so I’m dipping into my reserves and bringing you one of my favorite all time recipes. Let’s get a little background here now; I LOVE bread. I’m a huge carb fiend. But I’m also lazy and waste all my time watching food network somehow really busy. We all know that making bread takes a long time and while I really do enjoy kneading bread sometimes I was beyond excited when I found out about this bread (WHICH YOU DON”T HAVE TO KNEAD AT ALL). I remember the first time I made this recipe. It was when I still lived in residence and I didn’t have my own kitchen so I had to cook in the basement of the commonsblock. I was using the original no-knead recipe which is just white bread. When I pulled it out of the oven I almost cried. Once I cut into it and saw the crumb I really did cry. The holes! The chewiness! It was amazing.

Shaggy dough

Since then I’ve made this bread countless times and I’ve started making my own variations. There’s the olive oil and rosemary kind and the roasted garlic and parmesan loaf and of course the whole wheat variation. I love all of them, but the whole wheat is definitely my favorite. That’s why I’m sharing it with you. I promise we’ll get to the others another time, but this whole wheat bread is seriously the best I’ve ever had. It’s crusty, chewy, and hearty. Perfect for eating with winter soups and stews. And SO easy to make.  And you bake it in a pot! How cool is that?! So anyways, to make the dough you literally mix a little yeast, some flour, salt, and water in a bowl. Mix it up till well combined and “shaggy” then let it sit for 12-18 hours. Yes that does say 12-18 as in twelve to eighteen. That is a very long time to rise BUT think of it this way. You can mix it before you go to bed, wake up and throw it out onto the counter for two hours, and have a fresh loaf of bread by mid-morning. It’s so worth the wait.

This is what happy yeast dough looks like

One of my favorite parts about making this bread (besides eating it) is how poofy and bubbly it is when its ready to rise. You can tell just from looking at it in the bowl how happy the little yeasts are and how well developed the gluten is. I love it. Once its had its ridiculously long rise its going to be quite sticky, even stickier than it was when you first mixed it. So you gotta cover your hands and your counter in a good coat of flour. Then comes the fun part. Pat it down and feel all the gas escaping from your dough! So fun! So gassy! Some people may tell you to punch your dough down but really you don’t need to be violent. We all just want to have fun here. The dough (hopefully) hasn’t done anything to you so you don’t need to smack it around. Just give it a nice pat. Show it how much you appreciate it. Once you’re done showering your dough with love, dump it out onto your floured counter.

Look at those sexy ass gluten strands!

The strands are a good sign. In fact they’re a great sign. That means you’re bread has well developed gluten which means its going to be chewy and delicious. Yay! It’s a good idea at this point to have a lot of flour around to put on your hands and on your counter. This dough is gonna be a bit crazy so make sure you’ve got a spatula around to clear it all out of the bowl. Once its all out sprinkle some flour on top too and fold it over a couple times to coat it in flour. Shape it into a circle and either cover it with plastic wrap or put your bowl over it. I prefer putting my bowl upside down over the dough because that way it keeps it from spreading out over the counter and it saves plastic wrap. Let it sit for 2 hours/till its risen.

Ready to rise

The best way to test if something is risen and ready to bake is to poke it. If the indent from your finger stays its ready to bake! If the bread springs back it isn’t risen enough and it needs more time. Sooo after two hours my bread was risen and lovely and ready to bake.

Ready to bake!

During this second rise, about half an hour before your dough is going to be ready, make sure to crank up your oven and put your baking pot in to preheat. I use a big dutch oven I got at Value Village for about 8 bucks and it works like a charm. I’ve also read about people using skillets, ceramic dishes, etc. Really you just need something with a heavy bottom that will heat up well and serve as a kind of baking stone/insulator for the bread. Anyways, getting the bread from the counter to the oven is always a bit of a chore. It is very wet stretchy dough that doesn’t really hold its shape so you pretty much just pick it up with both hands and dump it into the pot. Make sure you put a some flour in the bottom of whatever your baking it in or it will stick like a mofo. I found that out the hard way. After you’ve dumped your dough in give it a good shake so it can settle evenly.

Looks kinda funky but just wait till it's baked...

Cover your pot and let it cook covered for 30 minutes. After that you take the lid off and let it cook for about ten more minutes. Then it should be nice and brown and ready to come out of the oven. Make sure to be careful taking it out of your pot as the bread and the pot will be freaking hot. I’ve burned myself a few times after forgetting that the pot has also just been in the oven for over an hour. Pull your bread out and set it on a cooling rack and take a moment to admire how incredibly beautiful your bread is.

Seriously, I doubt even my own kids will be this good looking

It’s round, it’s golden brown, and it’s damn sexy. Now I’ve read some people’s posts about this bread and they say to wait to cut it till its cooled completely. I saw screw those people and cut it as soon as its cooled down enough that you can touch it without burning yourself. The crust will still be hard and the inside will be so chewy and warm. Put on some butter and watch it melt simply from the heat of your freshly baked bread. Eat it, cry, and swear to yourself that you’ll never buy that crappy whole wheat bread you’ve been buying from the grocery store again. It’s great plain too. Or in a sandwich. Or with cheese. Or toasted with eggs. Really you can eat it anyway you want to. It’s the best bread I’ve ever had and I bet it’ll be pretty high up there for you too. SO make it, eat it, and listen to Chuck Berry!! He’s as great (if not greater) as this bread. Swears.

"I can't get enough of this bread, baby" - Barry White, 1974

Whole Wheat No-Knead Bread

Adapted from Jim Lahey’s recipe
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/3 tsp dry active yeast
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 2/3 cup water
  • More flour for dusting

Mix whole wheat and all purpose flour, yeast, and salt in a large bowl. Add water and stir till well combined and dough looks “shaggy.” Cover with plastic wrap and let sit in warm draft free area for 12-18 hours. I usually put mine in my microwave to rise. If you want to let it rise for longer then put it in the fridge. Let sit for max 48 hrs. Once dough has at least doubled in size and its all bubbly its ready to go. Generously flour your counter and hands and turn the dough out onto the counter. Turn it over onto itself a couple times till completely covered in flour and a bit more workable. Shape it into a circle and cover with either plastic wrap or a bowl. Let rise for an additional two hours or until it has double in size and passes the poke test. About half hour before dough is ready turn oven up to 450º and place heavy 6-8quart pot in the oven while it preheats. Once dough is ready take pot out (careful it’ll be really hot) and place on either a hot plate on the counter or on your stove top. Pick up the dough with both hands and transfer it to the pot. Give the pot a good shake to get the dough evenly distributed. Cover and place back in the oven. Let bake for 30 minutes then uncover and bake for additional 10-15 minutes. Once finished the bread will be golden brown. Remove from pot. Let cool on a rack.

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