Human Flower Project

A Gift Bouquet of Flour

Peace on earth, and good bread to all people.


Bill Bishop with his first loaf of No Knead Bread

Photo: Julie Ardery

Wish we could send all our beloved readers flowers this Christmas. Here’s the next best thing: a bread recipe that will restore your faith in human culture.

Mark Bittman of the New York Times broke the story last month, an ecstatic article that had us cranking up the oven to 450 degrees. Bittman passed along an amazing recipe for No Knead Bread from Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery in New York City. We haven’t bought a loaf of bread since. Actually, this is the most valuable thing we learned all year. Not saying much? Well, just try it before you say so.

Our first loaf didn’t rise too much but it was chewy and delicious, with shatteringly crunchy crust. There’s only one trick to the recipe:  willingness to let things hang for a long, long time, since the dough needs just to sit there for about 18 hours on the first rise, three more for the second. In other words, this is the ideal undertaking for a couple of writers. It’s more fun than waiting to hear back from an editor and smells a whole lot better than watching paint dry.

So here you go. In lieu of flowers: flour. Happy holidays to all, and bon appetit. As we aspire to be in 2007, this recipe is very forgiving.

Jim Lahey’s No Knead Bread

Adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery

Time: About 1½ hours plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting

(Human Flower Project recommends King Arthur bread flour)

¼ teaspoon instant yeast

1 1/2 teaspoons salt (we have upped to 2 tsp.)

Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.

1.  In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 1/2 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, (we’ve been going 18) at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

2.  Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

3.  Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for 2-3 hours (we’ve been going 3 hours). When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

4.  At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.


Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/23 at 03:46 PM


Thanks for the bread recipe.  I’ll try it but first I have a few questions.  What is the seam side.  Where is the seam in a ball of bread? It’s not a baseball.  And I assume you don’t mean a bath towel, so do you mean an all cotton kitchen towel and if so should it be white or can it be one of those colorful towels like we hang next to the sink.  You know that I can cook meat, chili,  a casserole or two, potatoes, rice and vegetables, but I have never baked bread, or cakes or muffins or anything like that. This will be a first.    Merry Christmas!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/23 at 10:55 PM

Julie, this is so timely! I have my first loaf of no-knead bread making its second rise even as I write.

John, when turned out of the bowl I had a lozenge of dough. Folded one end in by about a third, folded other end over. That’s what I think is the seam. After folding and its 15 minute rest, when I scooped it off the counter I plopped it on a flour-dusted silpat mat sitting on a jelly roll pan. This will, I hope, make it easier to dump the dough into the hot baking pot (borrowed from a friend who has already baked his first no-knead loaf.)

Can I amend my Christmas list to add a bread-baking pot?

Happy holidays from

Posted by Judy on 12/24 at 09:05 AM

Dear John and Judy,

Please let us know how your loaves turned out! We made one yesterday, polished it off with country ham sandwiches at lunch, and started another batch this afternoon.

John, I think Judy’s explanation of “seam” is as good as we’re likely to get.  My only other thought: the side that looks more like a base than a ball may be the “seam” but it doesn’t matter.

Thanks to both of you for making December bright.

Keep the faith. Bake on!


Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/24 at 03:20 PM

There’s less than half a loaf left, Julie, which should tell you something about how my loaf turned out.

The pot I borrowed is only 2.5 quarts. When baked, the loaf just about filled it. That means it was higher / taller than had I used a 6 to 8 quart pot.

A friend stopped by with some holiday gifts, for a cup of tea, and to pick up his presents. I added a set of directions for baking no-knead bread . . .

This holiday season may your spirits rise as well as our breads.


Posted by Judy on 12/24 at 05:57 PM

I have been baking handmade bread for over fifteen years so the notion of not kneading a loaf seemed odd (there goes my tactile therapy session). But our first outing with NK-Bread ptoved a great success. Perfect thin crisp crust and good density loaf. Our guests were delighted but better than that, we finally had holey bread. Big holes at that !!! This recipe produces what I would call an excellent Ciabata. We’ll be tinkering in the lab to see if we can beef up the flavor a bit with a whisper of stone ground whole wheat. Will let you know how that goes. Thanks a great deal for this recipe !!!

Posted by Greg on 01/31 at 08:03 AM
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