It has been way too long since I baked a loaf of bread. You see, I went on a bit of a bread-baking bender after taking a class a couple years ago. There was White Batter Bread and Chocolate Orange Bread, a Fougasse, a Pumpernickel (later updated to my now-favorite Russian Black Bread), darling Bretzel Rolls, ever-so-popular No-Knead Bread, homemade English Muffins, a Potato Rosemary Bread (nom), an Italian Bread that felt like it took 100 years to make, oh and then some miniature Soft Pretzels, and this doesn’t even include the insane homemade pizza bender that followed. Is it any surprise I took a little break from bread-making for a while shortly after I started by yeast by the jar?
Nevertheless, it took something new and different to lure me back, something it would be near-criminal not to share. I’m talking about bread that doesn’t require you to dote on it or force you to adhere to an unforgiving schedule. Like, whoa, right?
Here’s how most bread is made: You proof some yeast for an exact amount of time, you mix the ingredients together, you knead for a certain number of minutes (because recipes always specify, which seems awfully bossy if you ask me), you let it rise for a specific number of hours, you deflate the dough and form it into a loaf, you let it rise once again for a set amount of time and then you bake it for a really precise amount of time that does little to consider variations in yeast quality, oven temperatures and the length of the bread.
Given all of these really specific instructions that tend to span just about five hours, no wonder, really, that almost 50 of you told me that baking bread was your biggest cooking phobia.
Enter Laurie Colwin (quite possibly my new favorite food writer after I practically ate her Home Cooking book whole when I finally tore into a couple weeks ago, and you should too): She shares a recipe that doesn’t require you to stay home all day, fretting over a dough (Will it rise? What if it rises too much? What if I don’t punch it down soon enough?) and being inevitably disappointed when your reward for your dedicated hours is, well, just a loaf of homemade bread.
Reading English Bread and Yeast by Elizabeth David, Colwin learned that bread dough will rise slowly at room temperature by using less yeast. (We were introduced to this concept with the No-Knead Bread, and it’s great to see another application of the principle.) Furthermore, the bread develops the taste of wheat, rather than yeast, creating the kind of homemade bread aroma that has lingered in our apartment for three days now.
First read this: Now, if you’re one of the 50 (fifty!) people who said that bread making terrifies you, I do have what I think is a great starter post for you, Eight Tips for Less Intimidating Bread, wherein I do my best to demystify bread-baking.
One year ago: Seriously Red Red Velvet Cake
Two years ago: Bingo! White Batter Bread (another no-kneading-required bread), Chocolate Orange Bread
Wheat Bread Without a Timetable
Adapted very loosely from Laurie Colwin’s Home Cooking
This recipe yields a fairly dense, dark wheat bread. You could swap out the wheat flour with any amount of white, if you wish to tenderize it a bit. The recipe differs from most bread recipes in many ways: there’s no set schedule, it’s incredibly forgiving and it’s actually coated with flour, not oil, when it rises. But really, Colwin says it best:
“Bread like this will astonish your friends. It makes a perfect house present. Even if the crust splits during baking, it is still a wonderful-looking loaf. The actual man work, so to speak, is under half an hour. The yeast does the rest for you. You, of course, get all the credit.”
1. Into a large bread bowl, put 1 1/2 cups unbleached white flour, 1 1/2 cups stone-ground wheat flour and 3/4 cups coarse ground whole wheat flour (if you can’t find coarse ground, simply add regular whole wheat flour. I used buckwheat flour, because I’ve been feeling guilty about buying it eons ago and never using it.). Add one heaping teaspoon of salt, a half teaspoon of sugar (my addition, I think bread benefits from a little sweetness) and one tablespoon of wheat or corn germ. (I’m pretty sure I used bran instead, because that’s what I had on hand. Really, you can’t break this bread.)
2. Mix 1/2 scant teaspoon of yeast (active dry is just fine) with 1 1/2 cups of liquid–half milk, half water, or more water than milk–whatever you have on hand. (If you’re going to leave it overnight, use 1/4 teaspoon of yeast.)
3. Pour the liquid into the flour and stir it up. (If you have a KitchenAid, you can use the paddle attachement for this, then switch to the kneading hook when you’re done.) The dough should be neither dry nor sticky, but should tend more toward to the stick than the dry. If too sticky, add a little more flour.
4. Knead the dough well, roll it in flour, put it in a warm bowl (although I have put it in a regular old bowl right off the shelf, says Colwin, as did I) . I covered mine with plastic wrap at this time–a towel works as well–but realize it might not be neccessary. Leave it in a cool, draft-free place and go about your business. (We decided to check out the 8th Annual New York Pickle Festival, not that you asked.)
5. Whenever you happen to get home, punch down the dough, knead it well and forget about it until convenient.
6. Sometime later (with a long first rise, a short second rise is fine, but a long one is fine, too) punch the dough down, give it a final kneading, shape into a baguette* (see my notes below), slash the top with four diagonal cuts, brush wtih water and let proof for a few minutes (it was 30 minutes, in our case). However, if you haven’t the time, it can go straight into the oven.
7. You can preheat the oven or put it in a cold oven, it matters not a bit. Bake at 450° fr half an hour. Turn the oven to 425 ° and bake for another five to twenty minutes. (This range is long because I found my bread was done–sounded hollow when I tapped the bottom, quite brown on the outside and registered 200 or so on a thermometer, all different techiniques to check for doneness–after just 5 more minutes, but Colwin suggests 20. It will vary based on the density of your bread, the size of your baguette, etc. etc. so just check in with it every five minutes or so.)
* Deb’s Baguette Technique: (You can see this in photos throughout the post.) Pat the dough out gently into something approximating a rectangle. On the long side, fold in the bottom two corners, just a bit. Now begin rolling the dough, tucking the seam underneath.You can stretch the baguette at this point to make it longer or leave it as is.
166 comments on bread without a timetable
That looks SOOOOO tasty, and the recipe is not nearly as scary, but where do you find wheat germ? And what it is?
Hi – I’d like to introduce myself as The Person Afraid to Make Bread No.51!
This was a fantastic post.
I’m convinced I should give it a whirl… :)
p.s. I’m a huge SK fan!
It’s funny that you brought up Laurie Colwin because I read your blog the same way I read Home Cooking…each blog post is like a chapter of a book. I loved her stories about cooking all the different ways she used to cook eggplant.
thank you. i just spent the better half of the evening and night making tiger bread – it didn’t even come out well. thanks for this – it might restore my joy in bread baking.
This looks really fantastic. While I’m not intimidated by bread, I rarely bake it because — who can sit around for hours at a time waiting for it to rise, and then rise again (like a phoenix out of the ashes… sorry, couldn’t help myself)? I live in Southern California, it’s practically criminal not to be outside doing stuff. Can one make this with all white flour? Not a big fan of whole wheat.
Any recipe that includes the words “sometime later….” is enough for me. So laissez-faire! So doable!
wheat germ comes in a jar, usually it’s next to the oatmeal. There is plain and i think honey flavored. But I dont really know what it is. Guessing a certain part of the wheat plant, or something left after you make flour.
I love bread.
Nothing seems to knead as well as a bread machine, though.
I have some pizza dough in my machine right now.
It will be made into some delicious Stromboli in about 2 hours.
Would it be crazy to use 3 3/4 cups of whole wheat flower and no white flour at all? I don’t want to break the recipe, but i am trying really hard to eat all whole grains when it comes to bread.
I worked for five years in a bakery (free bread daily….why did I quit again? oh yeah- MONSTER boss) and learned a great deal about bread, esp. that it is wayyyyy less complicated than any recipe makes it out to be. I make it all the time at home, throwing whatever into the bowl. Sometimes it works, sometimes it becomes bread crumbs, croutons or even bird food but time, temp, humidity and everything else is always different each time I make it. This recipe is perfect for those breadaphobics. I love its versatility and want to make it NOW.
This is exactly what I needed! i am putting together a thank you basket for a neighbor and a warm loaf of bread is the perfect way to finish it off. I am so excited to try it. Thank you for the wonderful blog!!!
I love step no. 5. It’s the kind of directions I give my friends when they ask me how I make something, and it drives them nuts. This bread looks awesome!
Oh I think this has to happen today. I desperately need something to take my mind of the minutiae of life at the moment. Thanks again for giving me something to do in the kitchen.
I have no choice but slow rise (unless I use my oven with a pan of hot water on the bottom shelf as the rising box) because I live in the San Fran Bay area. The humidity is low and it doesn’t get really hot most days. Having made wonderful bread in a tropical climate and on the humid east coast, I thought these weren’t the best conditions for bread making. Finally, I just stuck the dough aside to take it’s time and let it deal with these Bay Area conditions..I found I actually had better bread. It was that slow rise that allowed the moisted wheat to come forward and that yeasty flavor to mellow, just like your featured recipe. And I thought I was just a dough abuser..will wonders ever cease?
Oh, how I love the smell of baking bread. It’s almost intoxicating. Thanks, Deb, for the nudge…and the forming instructions I need to get back into the bread routine. As always, the site is lovely and stimulating.
RE: Wheat germ…get the UN-toasted variety and keep it in the fridge or freezer. It will go rancid fairly quickly at room temperature. Hodgson’s Mill is one source, Bob’s Red Mill another. Both brands are found in many large supermarkets and wheat germ is almost a mainstay in health food stores. Make sure to buy it somewhere you know there will be a fast turnover.
Oh..one more thing. Your name was mentioned on the cable info for the Martha Blog Show Wednesday the 17th as .. “featuring Deb Perelman and Matt…”. That sounds to me like you are going to be ON. Hmmm…How’s your hair?
I have the same question as City Girl, can we use all whole wheat flour and if so, what would the proper amount be?
Thanks so much, I can’t wait to get some wheat germ at Whole Foods tomorrow and give this one a whirl.
You can replace the white flour with wheat flour in any recipe. However, at least personally, it is not to my taste to have 100% whole wheat bread as it gets quite untender and dryish. This bread in particular is quite stiff as it is, with 2/3 whole wheat and 1/3 white, so I’d be particularly wary of going totally whole wheat with it. But it doesn’t mean it can’t be done.
nice! i love making bread, but usually go with the bread machine to make the dough because my cooking style is…not especially precise. nor patient.
Man Deb, this looks bloody brilliant! If only our oven (at least 23 years old, according to our landlord) knew how to stay at anything approximating a steady temp. There is no torture more cruel than putting a baker into a kitchen with a non-functional oven.
Laurie Colwin’s column in Gourmet was my introduction to food writing. I even made her pumpkin tian for my polite but nonplussed family! I was fairly devastated when she died … it was probably the only time I was truly affected by the death of someone I didn’t know personally. I recently reread Home Cooking (photocopied this recipe, byw) and was amazed at how current and fresh her ideas about food still are … she was a great advocate of buying locally and eating seasonally. I’m glad to see that you are getting her name out there again and hope people pick up her books and get to know her.
Oh, how was the pickle festival? I had plans to go but we got scared off by the gross sticky weather, and the idea of crowding around lots of other people under said sticky conditions. My pickle-love won’t be deterred, though, and I’ll probably go to Gus’s next weekend to satisfy my cravings.
The bread looks great too – thanks for the un-intimidating recipe!
Love Laurie Colwin. It was such a loss when she passed away, years ago. I tried this bread, without success, also years ago. I think I’ll try again. Take a look at “More Home Cooking”. It is also fabulous. I think the books are compilations of a column that she wrote for Gourmet. Maybe I’ll try her gingerbread tonight.
That is a gorgeous loaf of bread – I’ve never made wheat, even though that’s always what I actually eat store-bought. I think this will be perfect smeared with some butter and honey, served with the squash soup I’m making tonight.
Wheat germ is really good. It is sold, as someone else mentioned, in stores usually near the oatmeal in the cereal isle. Where I live, I buy it by the jar. There’s toasted and honey toasted. I use it as an additive to my homemade breads, cookies, oatmeal, cereals. I put it in yogurt with strawberries; even my two teen boys request it in their yogurt for lunches. The more the better, they say. Store it in the fridge.
Hi Deb, I have been reading you since your blog was on that other women’s website, cannot even remember what it was called. I cannot believe I was reading about your wedding 3 years ago!! Anyway, just wanted to wish you Mazel Tov belatedly on your anniversary. I still love your blog and hope you are finding happiness in your new venture.
Awesome timing! I’ve been looking through your bread recipes all week trying to find one that’ll fit with the work/home/sleep schedule. Am planning on making your pizza dough (for the 3rd time in a month) tomorrow.
Incidentally, what happens when you let a standard bread recipe (like your no-knead bread) rise all day (mix in the morning, rise during work)? Is it fine as long as I use less yeast? Thanks for the great recipes!
A non-food read from the lovely, late Laurie Colwin that you’ll probably enjoy is Happy All The Time, a sweet and charming novel about a two young couples in love. It’s delightful and satisfying in the way that only an unfallen souffle can be.
You might also want to look at http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com/ I have heard great things about this book, but still have not picked it up.
Oooh Deb, as one of the 50, I thank you. I went back to that 8 tips post too, and I have decided that dill bread is the perfect vehicle for the week-old dill in the fridge. Yum.
omfg! you’re on martha tomorrow…are you holding out on us? I am SO excited. and with perez hilton…so classy :) can’t wait to see you on with her!
Ha! I just posted a Laurie Colwin recipe today, too (what I call At Last! Black Bean Soup, it would go great with your bread.
I discovered Laurie Colwin only after she died but when her written-ahead columns were being published in Gourmet. I suppose there are copyright/other issues but I always wish there were a whole section of Laurie Colwin recipes on the Gourmet website. I gave my copy of Home Cooking to Pille from Nami-Nami when she visited the States, must remember to order another.
PS Laurie Colwin’s fiction is worth investigating too —
Did you bake it on a stone? Does it make much difference to use a stone or a sheet?
Oops, just looked at the 8 tips and you already answered!
Great bread recipe – Looks delicious.
About the Martha Show tomorrow, for the last time. ;)
I am not going to be a guest on the show. I had been invited to be one a couple weeks ago, but in the end, they couldn’t squeeze me in. I will be there, however, and there is an off chance you may see me say hi. However, it could also be too busy of a show for that, and I don’t want all of you recording the show for no real reason! But here’s why you should, anyway: Matt of mattbites.com is baking cookies with Martha! And all sorts of other cool bloggers will be there like Meg from Cute Overload (omgaaah) and I even hear that Ms. Homesick Texan will be joining the audience! It will be a fun show no matter what.
And now you know everything I do! I do appreciate your enthusiasm, however, and know that the listings are a little confusing.
Ooh I want to make bread but having no bread machine or Kitchen Aide it always seemed rather daunting. But this is nice and straight forward so I’ll have to try it soon. After all you were right about pizza crust being easy to make. How do you go about freezing (and unthawing) pizza dough anyway? I’d like to make a few batches and have them on hand for quick and easy Friday movie nights.
OH WOW! Gorgeous! I love love baking bread but it is so hard to find a day that can revolve around the bread’s schedule… Thank you for the perfect recipe for this gorgeous, flexible bread! I’m so excited that it includes whole wheat, too!
i love love love laurie colwin. if i was forced at gunpoint to pare down to two cooking books (from like 50…), i would definitely choose “home cooking” and “more home cooking”. her pasta with beets and chocolate cupcakes and “desserts that jiggle” are now part of my dna. i’ve wanted to make this bread for a while–thank you for reminding me about it. (oh and i loved “happy all the time” and can’t wait to read more of her fiction.)
Yes! I need this recipe since I’m way too lazy to follow a bread schedule on the weekend. Thanks, Deb!
Im supposed to be studying for the NCLEX..
Almost everyday after a bit (not enough) studying I put a stick of butter out to soften.
Ive made the key lime melt aways (again!), world peace cookies, coconut cupcakes from Elise, that crazy moist chocolate cake and this afternoon I made the salted oatmeal cookies.
If I spent as much time studying as I do baking I would surely pass!
After reading this recipe on tomorrow’s schedule is bread..Last week I tried 2 days in a row and failed miserably at baguettes!
You say this recipe is forgiving.. Will it forgive me for leaving out the wheat germ??
I have made a couple of your breads and have turned out beautifully, so I am definitely giving this one a shot!
Your bread looks beautiful! I absolutely LOVE making bread, and I don’t get why people use bread machines. Kneading the dough from a floury, sticky mes into a smooth, elastic mass of yumminess is the best part! Well, next to eating it fresh out of the oven… :)
I’m looking forward to giving this a try this weekend…my first bread baking experience without my bread machine. Should I be ashamed to admit that? ;) ::yikes!:: I’m thinking this would make a good in-law “just stopping by” gift.
Oh goodness Laurie Colwin! Her column was my favorite thing to read in Gourmet until she left us too too early. I adore her.
Yeah, bread scares me too. Mine is always sorta bland but hey, hope springs eternal and you are very inspiring, Deb.
I LOVE making bread, and this recipe looks so easy and fool proof. I can’t wait to try it!
I envy you the discovery of Laurie Colwin — you’re in for an amazing treat. Her fiction is as wonderful as her food writing. My Colwin-consolation is that re-reading her is a joy, too. I’m starting my dried fruit for her black cake this weekend . . . and this bread tonight!
Gorgeous bread! I wonder if a gluten-free version is possible… hmm…
A wonderful and beautiful loaf! I love making my own bread, but I haven’t tested that kind of recipe yet… Very useful!
slow rising with less yeast produces the best flavours. your bread looks spectacular.
Now that the cool(er) weather has arrived here, I’ve been hankering to make some fresh bread — Tried making some with my bread machine but it’s just not the same … there’s no gratification listening to the ‘spin cycle’ when I could be getting covered in flour and kneading vigorously instead ! I like your generous use of the word ‘forgiving’ in this recipe – Making this bread tonight for stress release ;P
Thanks again Deb for another wonderful simple recipe that is very well timed :D
DEB!!!!! I JUST SAW YOU ON MARTHA!!!! :-)
Thanks for this, Deb! The bread looks fabulous and I can’t wait to try it. I’ve yet to try my hand at homemade bread…
Also, let me mention a book I’m working on since it fits so well into this thread. It’s Nancy Baggett’s Kneadlessly Simple:Fabulous, Fuss-Free, No-Knead Breads and it’s slated to come out in January. ‘Gonna be a good one for all of the folks scared of kneading!
Deb—I have to admit, I’m breadphobic too. For me, it’s not so much fear [well, maybe a little] as it is impatience with something that sounds too demanding, precious and fragile. This recipe definitely sounds sturdy and forgiving, like something I’d be happy to try. Thanks! And by the way, I’m even more intrigued by the New York Pickle Festival than I am by the bread—how was that?!?
Beautiful production photos, and such a nice dense loaf. It is obvious from the rise-poke stage that this one is toothy. I love the process of making bread, particularly kneading it by hand (more therapy than squeezing a stress ball). but my holy grail of wild yeast sourdough escapes me time and again. although I’ve made many find rock hard discus loafs.
I REALLY needed to read this post today. I had an awful time Monday and Tuesday with bread and felt so out of touch with my kitchen – I was deflated and discouraged. But this post gives me hope! My kitchen aid mixer is still on my wish list, but in the mean time I am going to try to make this by hand. Thanks again for the step by step instructions and great photos.
I know there is a method that will allow the “plastic” skins of green peppers to slip right off so that when you do stuffed peppers etc every bite is tender. Can anyone tell me how to accomplish that.I’ve checked website after website to no avail and begin to think I dreamed reading this short cut! Appreciate any help greatly.
Great to see you on Martha. It’s always fun to put faces with names AND blogs! Wish she would have given you more airtime–instead of Perez–maybe it’s just me, or maybe it’s the whole food blogging world who would agree with me!
I actually like making bread and just posted some last week on my blog. I have a recipe similar to the one you posted that is amazing and a great no-fuss bread.
Thanks for sharing this one.
Watching you on Martha right now ! :D
omg! you’re on Martha!
Colwin was great. Make sure you have both of the Home Cooking books. They rock.
Wow this is freaky, I was given the Home cooking book for my birthday on the 11th AND read that chapter with the same glee at the thought that I could try making this bread after my baby comes (induction this friday!)… Have you read the black bread recipe? I am also planning to find a way to make that with a little one in the house too – do you think I’m being over-ambitious? Nigella adapts the BB recipe for English folk in HTBADG if anyone’s interested. Very excited that you’ve made the bread and congrats on the Martha appearance.
Congrats on Martha! This looks actually easy to make. The step by step instructions and photos are pricless. Thanks!
My mother was the everyday cook in our house but every so often my dad would take over the stove. It was always an event and a treat especially when he made bread. It was an all-day affair that resulted in the best bread, kuchens and cinnamon buns as well as, the best smelling house on the street.
As a new reader of your blog, I appreciate that you include a note showing what you posted the previous year. My sister has been nagging me to find a good Red Velvet Cake recipe and of course to make it for her. Yours is not a good recipe–it’s a great one. Thanks to you I will have a very happy sister and neighbors tonight.
You haven’t said anything about it but I wanted to congratulate you on Martha. That is HUGE! I hope you do a post about it!
I adore Laurie Colwin’s food writing and novels, though I tend to use her recipes as broad ideas, not precise recipes.
White whole wheat flour is a great way to get lighter whole wheat grains into breads; I find that many breads work just fine with the “on your own schedule” approach, esp if you view the fridge as your asset!
DeB! i made the white batter bread when i came home from work last night and we enjoyed it (warm) with dinner. It was pretty amazing for so little work, and so little time.
Tonight’s burger night and i dont have any buns. i asked him “would you eat a burger on this bread?” He said “sure, if you make it round”! i love me a versatile bread. i also love me some deb.
Good lord, how can I become a better baker? I am more the buy the french bread, drizzle with olive oil and herbs and call it hand made by holly j.
This was the very first loaf I ever made( years and years ago). I really miss Laurie’s writing. She was an amazing food writer.
I am waiting for a text message from you to meet you and Perez fucking Hilton for drinks. I hope you worked that. Seriously, I’ve never known you not to be able to charm the pants off a gay.
“Sarah Pearse September 16, 2008 31omfg! you’re on martha tomorrow…are you holding out on us? I am SO excited. and with perez hilton…so classy :) can’t wait to see you on with her!”
Sarah, Perez is a “he.” I think…
Deb..ya looked good on Martha..just not enough air time of you! That was a good show. You really should do an off topic thread about the show and what you are going to be doing for Martha. (I think you mentioned you were going to be doing something for her..yes? No?)
i believe sarah meant martha, not perez :)
Saw you on Martha today and I was very excited! It was a great show!
Seeing your return to bread making reminds me I should make my own return to the craft. I love my “no fail” bread recipe, but always enjoy trying others. If any of your readers have never ever tried bread making, I’d suggest using this recipe to ease into it as it waylays any and all fears: http://straightfromthefarm.wordpress.com/2007/12/20/homemade-bread/
Saw you on Martha today, I put all plans on hold for the hour so I could see you and the 3191 girls!! Love your site!
I tape Martha every day and watch it at night. Imagine my surprise when I saw you and this blog! I have been reading your blog for a while now and I recognized the cake instantly!! Great job. And you looked great too!!
Taped Martha yesterday because you were going to be on – I agree 100% that you would have been more interesting that Perez. But at least you looked cute – I like that dress!
I’m making bread this weekend because of you. I’m going to try my hand at the Russian black bread. The man in my life is also Russian and it can be terribly intimidating at times to try out the many incredible Russian recipes that his mom and aunt and grandmother are already so much better than me at. They buy their black bread though so if I can pull this off it might earn me a few points. For now, I just told him I was “baking bread” this weekend (no specifics) so as to not get his hopes up. Keep your fingers crossed for me! Also, do you have any other good Russian recipes you can point me towards?
“Zoe September 17, 2008 74i believe sarah meant martha, not perez :)”
LOL I know, but I couldn’t resist it.
perfect timing – i’m just working on my fear of yeast. i successfully made some damn fine cinnamon rolls over the weekend, and want to try an actual loaf of bread (after all, even if you screw cinnamon rolls up there’s still all that sugar and spice and butter).
I don’t know if you are familiar with Peter Reinhart, but he published a book last year that won a James Beard award. He has amazing recipes for whole grain brains.
We are also big fans of Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book. Whenever I make bread from there, we always joke about how we can’t understand what people are talking about when they complain about whole grain breads being so dense; mine come out quite fluffy!
Oh my, that looks amazing. With a thick smear of butter? I’m swooning.
I went on to read your tips for less intimidating bread making but I’m still timid. No matter what type of yeast I use the bread NEVER rises! Is the water too cold, too hot, what am I doing to kill the yeast? I noticed your recipe doesn’t say the temperature of the liquid to dissolve the yeast in. I will try your recipe but in the past, I’ve done everything but stand on my head to try to make a decent loaf of bread, mine is ALWAYS flat, chewy and disgusting. Any ideas?
Hi Stephanie — If your yeast *never* works it is more than likely that it is not good. Yeast is surprisingly hard to kill. You can proof it in warmish water–like 110 degrees, warm, but not yank-your-hand-back hot–but it’s not necessary to get most varieties started. Many of the bread recipes I share, such as this, have you skip this step entirely.
I don’t have that bread making phobia, but I’ll probably try this. The thing I love about bread making is that it is pretty forgiving. I usually make bread without benifit of a recipe or measuring. I tried a ciabatta recipe the other day that required no timing. You mix it, leave it, stir it down, add the remaining ingredients, leave it, stir it down, leave it, shape it, leave it, bake it. No kneading required. No proofing required. It was great although I missed the kneading. I even threw it in the refrigerator to wait while I ran out for a few hours. Great taste, good for a busy day when you don’t know when exactly you’ll get back to it.
I’ve spent the last several months researching but never quite buying a bread machine…I was convinced I needed one. I made this bread today (well, started last night!) and it was wonderful. definitely don’t think I need a machine any longer. thanks, Deb!
OK, this bread is definitely fool proof! I couldn’t find course ground wheat flour so I grabbed buckwheat, but turns out it was buckwheat waffle/pancake mix. I used it anyway and the bread still turned out great. The aroma is just fantastic. I’m no longer afraid of making bread so thank you very much Deb!
what would be the shortest amount of time you can let it proof for?
Do you think that an ordinary amount of yeast would work if the dough rests in the refrigerator (like no-knead bread, or slow-ferment pizza dough)? My kitchen gets so hot, that a cool space is hard to find. Since yeast is less active when it’s cold, I would guess that a little more would be necessary in a colder environment.
Hi Amber — You could either use less yeast and do it at room temperature for the same or more hours (up to overnight), or use the regular amount and let it rise in the fridge overnight. If in the fridge, you should bring it back to room temperature before going onto the next step. Good luck!
Yep…. all those fiddly instructions threw me off for years.. …and the yeast…yeh..yeast…I was afraid of it for some reason…lol… but, now..I love bread making. And this sounds like the very simple Tuscan Peasant loaf I recently made…such fun and no specific timetable…love it….
This breat looks divine! I’ve only made it with a bread machine before so I’m anxious to try your method.
I’m making this right now. One problem: my dough is really dry/tough. I used all-purpose and whole wheat flour (at a 1:4 ratio), because that was all I had on hand, and followed everything else pretty much to a T. When I was kneading, the dough never really became elastic, even after going at it for a few minutes. Is it possible that I ruined this foolproof recipe?
“…I wanted to try something new since my go to recipe is make the night before and last night the internet was down. So I made smitten kitchen’s bread without a timetable…”
Thanks for a great recipe! It was wonderful!
I found it very amusing to see you say that at least 50 people said that baking bread was their biggest kitchen phobia. For me, it’s a sponge cake I think. You know, folding in egg whites, without folding too much. Then you fold too much and you end up with something just flat like a thick pancake. Yeesh. I make bread on a constant basis. Last year I posted a bread recipe that you could get a loaf of bread in around an hour-90 minutes. I was baking a loaf ever two days at one point about a year ago, because we were just so broke, it was the one really cheap way I could bake for us, and bake something that we ate every day. I can’t do it now though, because you use a microwave (trust me) and we don’t own one now. But I love making bread. The whole kneading process and the rising. I do understand however, the terror behind it :)
I made this bread for the first time 2 days ago, now I’m making my 2nd and 3rd loaves! I really love the flexibility of this recipe. The first loaf we ate at 1am with butter and jam. The toast the next morning was heavenly. Mine was done just at 5 minutes after the first 30 minutes. I’m going to let these go a little longer this time to see if the results are even better.
Would I be able to use all white flour with this? Do you have any suggestions for the switch?
I just made this bread…the first loaf of bread I have ever made! And I am so proud of myself. I was intimidated by other bread recipes with precise times for each rise and how long to knead the dough, etc, etc. But this was fun and easy and the end result is delicious!
One thing though, my loaf was quite done and on its way to burnt on the ends after the first thirty minutes, but I think maybe my oven runs a little hot.
Anyway, I will definitely be making this again…and hopefully some of your other yummy-looking bread recipes too!
I made this bread today too, and I agree with Helena (thank goodness you posted that, Helena!). I put it into an unpreheated oven for 30 minutes at 425 and it was done done done. The crust was very crunchy and much browner than I prefer… though the inside was *just* done. I wonder if I should have turned it down a little earlier so it had a bit more time in the oven.
The bread was okay but not as amazing as I’d hoped. It was quite dense, even with 1 cup less whole wheat flour. I also used a 3/4 cup of buckwheat as Deb did, so maybe that had something to do with it. Anyways, the flavour was pretty good, so I’ll definitely try this again.
I’ve been meaning to make this bread for ages, and I finally did. I used the smaller amount of yeast and let it rise overnight on the counter. I also used about half white flour, half white whole wheat flour, and a generous T. of wheat germ. I baked it on a baking stone preheated to 450. It was definitely done after 30 minutes, with some edges almost too brown, so I took it out. Delicious! Next time I will try baking at 425 and see if I like the crust even better. I will definitely be making this bread all the time!
This bread is baking in my oven as I type. I bought Home Cooking last week and thought about baking this bread someday….Then I stumbled on your post when I was browsing your site, which caused me to run out and buy WW flour and wheat germ to bake today!
Delurking after spending the last four days perusing pretty much every single post in the archives, heh. Great site and congrats on your cute lil bebeh.
Full of smugness and self-satisfaction after great results with the no-knead bread, I decided I was on a roll and started this no-timetable one…I used instant yeast instead of the active dry and made the stoopid mistake of adding it to the cold milk instead of just to the dry ingredients. The dough’s on the second rise now and I’m pretty sure it’s not going to rise sufficiently since it didn’t seem the first rise was very high. Hope this prevents anyone else making the same mistake, meh and waah.
I take it all back! Worked out perfectly after all, really a very forgiving dough.
i decided a couple of months ago that i want my children (who i don’t even have yet) to grow up with certain memories. the smell of fresh baked bread is one of those memories. and so i decided just get on with learning how to do it. i read a LOT about bread and then, i found your bread posts. i made this bread yesterday and it really WAS easy! i didn’t have WW flour so i just used 2 cups of white “best for bread” flour and 1.75 cups of all purpose. i used bran instead of any kind of germ, and rice milk instead of regular milk. i think i also used golden brown sugar instead of white… i can’t even remember. :)
and then, because it had cured my fear of bread i went ahead and made two loaves of white bread from the joy of cooking. i sort of followed their recipe, sort of didn’t. and it turned out JUST FINE.
thank you so much for all of your informative and encouraging posts!
jen in newfoundland.
I did everything (first nap of 2 hrs and second one an hour may be) as said and the crust turned out exactly like the photo but the inner part was still soggy. Do you think the temperatures went wrong? or kneading was less or sleeping time was less?
Can you leave the wheat germ out? Other than being good for you, what does it DO? :)
Aren’t you posting copyrighted material?
Deb: While this bread looks fantastic (I haven’t actually tried any yet), it set off my smoke alarm after being in the oven for under twenty minutes! I live in a college dorm and don’t really think my oven is that great. Any clues as to why this happened?
Sounds like the oven runs very, very hot…
I love the mushroom stilton galette, but especially the crust and use is with a lot of other fillings. I use yogurt instead of sour cream and it is perfect. Thank you
will not adding the bran have any effect?
ok this recipe is amazing…my entire family thinks I am genius for baking what turned out to be the yummiest baguette of wholewheat bread. Thank you for this recipe. It’s so simple and required no fuss. My four year old daughter ate most of it still warm from the oven with home-made butter….now that’s special!
Five Stars! I like to make bread often and this was just so easy. It is very soft inside with a nice crisp shell that is not too hard. I might try it all whole wheat next time to see how it does. I will be sure there is butter in the house next time I make it!
Deb. You’re my hero.
Yum. This was a great bread, nice and moist in the middle but not gummy (ie, it actually got done without drying out!) Thanks for sharing the recipe!
What I really need is a bread that can be made quickly, because once I’m finished browsing through all your old bread posts with their lovely photos, I don’t have all day to make it anymore! :) But this one fit into my day well yesterday despite being started at 1pm…
I also doubled it, to get two loaves, and despite the many compliments it received at fellowship this morning, I still had a whole loaf left to bring home for myself – yay! nom, nom
Simply wonderful! Bookmarked a few days ago, tried today with more white than wheat flour: it was perfect and sooooo easy!
Thanks for sharing!
Attention those without wheat germ, bran, or whatever: not necessary. Just popped this out of my oven at 11:30pm with none of that fancy stuff except whole wheat flour and it’s delicious.
I love this recipe, Deb. I rarely pay attention to specifics when cooking…it’s so bothersome, I just go with my intuition, it sometimes leads me astray but…whatever. As long as it’s edible. I’ve got this dough mixed up and rising right now. I’ll deal with it when I want to. No-knead bread is next! I’ve been so reluctant to try it since I actually like kneading. I think it’s the best part of the bread-baking process. I would just feel empty looking at a piece of homemade bread knowing that I hadn’t kneaded it. May have to give it a go anyway, I’m rather curious about this slow-rise business.
Have you ever made semolina bread? That’s a real fun one to make and very tasty too!
Can you tell me if I can do this with white bread? Can I do this with any kind–like rye, pumpernickel, add-ins like herbs, cheese, etc.? My bread machine just broke and I’d love to make my own, but I”m not very brave about experimenting. (I have enough failures following recipes.)
Is it possible to just *just* water for this recipe. I’m going on a NO dairy diet (and no soy milk or rice milk either) and want to be able to make this forgiving recipe. :)
Even easier no timetable bread.
1) If using, activate dry yeast. I find 1 teaspoon sugar in ~2 fl oz of boiling water, topped up with~4 fl oz cold water, then adding ~1teaspoon yeast works well. Leave to activate for time it takes you to drink tea/coffee made withs made boiling of kettle.
2) In a large bowl, place about 1lb- 1.5 lb bread flour( white, brown, mixture, rye, etc. They all work), add a generous teaspoon of salt and~ 1 oz/2 teaspoons fat or oil ( butter, vegetable shorting, olive oil, vegetable oil.
3) Mix yeast and flour. Try to bring together into a dough ball, add more water/flour if clearly too wet/dry.
Turn out onto a clean floured surface, knead for between ~6-15 minutes ( will depend on flour mix and technique) or until texture changes.
4) Stick back in bowl, cover with airtight cover. Ignore for ~2 hours or longer. Depends on temperature.
5) If dough ready too soon, and you’re about, Add a splash more flour and knock back by kneading for 20 seconds. Return to bowl
6) Turn on oven, shape dough to whatever you want and bake at ~ 360 degrees for as long as it takes. Pizza will be 8-10 minutes, a loaf could be 45…
7) Add a bit more flour to any left over dough, return to bowl, and save for tomorrow- one batch of dough can be stretched over 2-3 days quite happily like this.
N.B The teaspoon is the only half way critical measurement here, all the others are approximate and can be done by eye or feel.
I made this bread with regular whole wheat flour and left it overnight to bake for a late weekend breakfast. The loaf was very heavy and I thought it would be another hockey puck, but this was the most delicious bread I ever baked. Not that I baked a lot, but I was getting ready to throw in a towel on bread making altogether. This success really inspired me. Thank you for sharing!
I love, love, love this recipe! I refuse to buy bread anymore. I’ve also had great success using this recipe as a base for rosemary-garlic bread and cinnamon-raisin bread (and I’m thinking about other variations I can try).
For the cinnamon-raisin bread I added about 1 1/2 tbs cinnamon, 1/4 cup sugar (but I used vanilla soy milk, which added to the sweetness, so you might do more), and about 1/2 c raisins.
For the rosemary-garlic bread I used an entire clove of garlic and the leaves of three-4 sprigs of rosemary, chopped.
For both recipes I just added the additions in at the same time as everything else.
I just followed this recipe yesterday and successfully baked my first loaf of bread ever! I could NOT believe how easy it was. Consider my fear of bread-baking successfully quashed. I pulled together the dough in the early afternoon, and then spent all day cleaning the house… I even ran into lab for a few hours in the evening (I’m a biologist) and then when I finally finished all my business, came back and baked the loaf right before going to bed around midnight. The recipe was so easy and delicious, and will likely remain my go-to for years to come! Thank you, Deb!
Dont forget More Home Cooking, Colwin’s second collection of Gourmet columns. And her fiction. Her premature death was a great loss to gastronomy and literature.
I’ve made this a bunch of times now (with another one rising as we speak) and have always used Red Fife wheat flour which results in a rich, nutty tasting bread. I do find I need to take it out of the oven sooner rather than later, or it burns. This time I’ve included (besides wheat germ) some sesame seeds and flax meal for good measure. I didn’t adjust with extra moisture so hope it turns out ok.
How lovely to read everyone’s comments on Laurie Colwin. She was the best!
Thank you so much for this truly no-fail bread recipe! I made a loaf today to go with your Beef, Leek & Barley Soup (also delicious by the way!). I had left it to rise while I went out. Things went awry and I didn’t get back until 10:30 tonight so the second rise was rushed, no time to proof or preheat and I didn’t have the patience left to form it into a pretty baguette. I even forgot to brush the loaf with water until it had already been in the oven for 10 minutes. No worries though. It’s not quite as pretty as yours, but if it’s even half as good as it smells it’ll be delicious!
So late to see this post but it made amazing bread! Jim Lahey’s no knead was super pretty but sooo bland. Not really a sandwich bread, but this was perfect. I accidently grabbed graham flour instead of wheat to mix with my AP, and used ground flax instead of germ, and added some honey to my water/milk mixture. Only did an hour for the first and second rises. Still yummy. I am excited to try overnight rise and doubling or tripling the recipe and baking the loaves in a 9×13 like someone somewhere mentioned they do with bread, and freeze the extra loaves. This seems like it will be my go to weekly bread recipe, exactly what I wanted. I can’t even say how relieved I am to find a normal, fool proof bread recipe. I’ve tried (and ruined) a bunch of other bread recipes. My baguette was done super quick before the directions even said to turn down the oven, so glad I took the advice and checked early. Thank you for the awesome recipe and great advice!!
This recipe is amazing! I accidentally put my bread in too close to the broiler, but caught it after 20 minutes. Luckily, it turns out baking it for 20 minutes under the broiler turns it into a beautiful loaf with a crunchy, golden-brown crust and chewy inside.
Wow you really cannot mess this up. I left the dough in the fridge for the day while I went to the city and ran errands and it (to my eyes) didn’t rise at all. So I let it come to room temperature, kneaded it again, and let it sit for another hour, then rolled it out and made it into the baguette. I was sure I’ll get a terrible brick from the oven. But the bread is delicious. Wonderful flavor, wonderful texture.
I just found this post, and reading about using wheat or corn germ renewed my interest and fascination with corn germ. I’ve only ever heard mention of corn germ one other time in my life. The germ is my favorite part of the corn when I’m eating it from the cob, so there was a big search for this product for several years, after which time I ceased the hunt. So reading your mention of it makes me wonder if it’s actually possible to buy corn germ. Where can I buy this stuff?
Stuck in the house today with vertigo. Wanted to make this but figured I’d get too dizzy kneading. So dragged out the Cuisinart, trying to keep my head level, put in all the dry ingredients, substituting corn meal for the germs (none in the cabinet). Then added the wet, using honey instead of sugar. Came together magnificently and now on the counter rising til tomorrow. Incidentally I hate cleaning the Cuisinart after making a bread dough but learned to fill 1/3 with hot water band a small squirt of dishwasher detergent and let it run. Then fresh water for a rinse. A snap! Can’t wait to see how it turns out! Thank you!
This bread has changed my life. I’ve been able to make a slightly fluffier, multigrain version of it by adding a little honey, more milk, and using oats and flax in the “freebie 3/4 cup.” I love textured bread, so like other posters, I also added a scoop of sesame seeds. The final ingredient list is: 1.5 cups wheat, 1.5 cups white flour, 1/2 cup ground rolled oats, 1/4 cup ground flax, 1 Tbs black sesame seeds, 1 tsp salt, 1.5 cups milk, 3/8 tsp yeast, 2 Tbs honey.
Was wondering if anyone had experience with flavoring this bread- adding herbs, veggies or cheese?
Ygirl — I haven’t, but think it will work perfectly well.
It’s been a few months since I last posted about this recipe, but I just wanted to thank you again for posting it. This bread was my gateway into baking, a great way to experiment with the rising process and different mix-ins, all while being sure that the result would still be delicious. I just made my own sourdough starter and am experimenting with new breads, and I don’t think that would have happened without this approachable loaf.
Update: I used my sourdough starter to make this bread with my substitutions, and it’s amazing! I substituted one cup of starter for about 1/2 cup flour and 1 cup of water, and the result was tangy and toothsome.
So I made this using 1.5 c white flour, 1.5 c whole wheat, and .75 rye and something went wrong somewhere. No matter how much I kneaded, it never really came together and was just super sticky. I let it rise over night using 1/4 tsp yeast, and then again during the work day. It rose normally, just never lost the stickyness. The loaf itself ended up being very dense and not very tasty. I have made bread successfully in the past, but never with Rye flour so maybe that is where I went wrong?
I find Jim Lahey’s No Knead Bread amazing. Easy and very satisfying.
If I don’t have wheat germ can I leave it out?
For this small amount, yes.
I love making bread ! Incredible bread formula – Looks delicious.
I love making bread !https://homodec.wordpress.com/! Incredible bread formula – Looks delicious.
I made this yesterday – so very easy and delicious. Because I made it on a day I was actually home a lot I kept hovering over it, which might have led to not letting it rise long enough? Not sure, still delicious though and it did get a good rise in the oven. I will start doing this overnight, less hovering possible. For the whole wheat / course ground I used all whole wheat stone ground, that’s the only type of whole wheat I can get here. A neighbour’s mother (in her nineties!!) grows her own wheat and will stone grind if I ask for it! (This is in Palestine.. she wears the traditional Bethlehemite dress with embroidery and a white veil – she’s an orthodox Christian but all women used to wear veils here in the past. She’s an amazingly resilient and strong woman, baking bread with her wheat somehow makes it taste even better!)
What an incredible story! With this bread, definitely ignoring it more can help; it can withstand several hours of neglect. Whole wheat, especially, can benefit from longer rest times. Hope that helps for next time.
You had me at Laurie Colwin, seriously. I live in a place that doesn’t have any markets with ‘good bread.’ (My town doesn’t have anything as great as your walkable markets, not asking for sympathy, just stating a fact). One thing I’ve never tried in my bag of cooking tricks, is baking bread (w/o a bread machine). I’m thinking about it; done pizza many times (w/ and w/o success; that’s when I was younger). After I met you, my pizza success rate 👍, both grill and oven.
I know you’re now writing for Bon Appetit (yay!) and you were already too busy to read all your emails. However, I hope you read this one. I am almost 70 years old and have always wanted to bake bread but was afraid to start. You broke through my fear, and got me to buy Laurie Colwin’s Home Cooking book, and kept me going back for 7 trials until I finally got a bread I like to make that is all whole grain. Some trials were better than others, but today I have a WINNER!!!! I am borderline diabetic and try not to eat white flour. It’s hard to find yummy whole grain bread that doesn’t have white flour in it.
Here’s what I did:
1/2 t. yeast with 1 1/2 cups water and milk
1 c. white whole wheat flour
1 c. spelt
1/3 c. buckwheat flour
1 t. salt
1/2 c. mixed wheat germ, flaxseed, chopped walnuts – toasted
I needed more flour while it was kneading but this was a good place to start.
I kneaded 7 minutes each for the first and second rise. (By the way, when you and Laurie said “knead well” I didn’t even know what that meant.)
The first rise was from 4 -10 pm; second was overnight until 10 am (I’m retired).
I punched it down in the morning, formed a boule, and let it sit almost 2 more hours while I was out.
Your timing was the same as mine – 450 for 30 mins, then 425 for 5 mins more.
My first attempts stuck to the baking stone; on parchment paper, no more sticking.
I’m delighted and thankful. This is practically life-changing!
PS – I made your almond cake for my daughter’s wedding and my other daughter decorated it, and the Zuni chicken is roasting in the oven as I write this.
Kathy, you are my hero.
Made this when I ran out of bread during quarantine. It’s great! I used instant yeast because it was all I had and it was fine. Used half white and half whole wheat flour. Added some ground flax. First rise was all day, second rise was overnight. I am not sure if it was the instant yeast or the flour but it seemed to need a lot of time to rise. Only baked 30 minutes. Easy! My husband is very happy. Will bake another loaf soon.
I have horrible luck with bread. How long is “knead the bread well?” Thank you!!
Until smooth and elastic, can take a few minutes, usually 5 is plenty.
This recipe always makes a delicious loaf for me but my crust keeps cracking in the oven. The loaf is still a great texture but is there a way to stop this from happening, just for aesthetic reasons?
Cracking is a natural process in bread — it expands after the crust begins to set. You can control the crack by making a very light slit in the bread dough top where you’d like it to go before you put it in the oven, no more than .25″ deep.
I made this several years ago when I was not too experienced with bread baking. I made my dough too dry, and the bread was okay, but not great. This time, informed by several years of bread baking experience, I tried again. I weighed the flours (using KAF volume-to-weight conversion chart), and used white, white whole wheat, and buckwheat. I used Deb’s suggestion of bran because I had it on hand. The result was a wetter dough than what was called for (exactly what I wanted). It rose a lot on the first two rises, and I did the final one in a couche to support the wet dough. It is SO GOOD. The crust is phenomenal and the crumb is somehow fairly dense and very light. Going into my regular rotation!
Will this bake nicely in a loaf pan–or is there a better whole wheat bread recipe for that (for non-crumbly bread) ?
If I substitute with BREAD flour is there any adjustment I would need to make?
No, it should be just fine now.
I love your site; the chocolate pudding is my favorite recipe. Came today looking for a roasted beet recipe, but couldn’t find one.
Sorry, I do not care for beets.
I’m putting a plea here for some minimum rising time estimates. The instructions to just come back to it when you can sounded great – I had this idea of spending the day doing other things while also happily knowing bread was happening at the same time – but my kitchen is quite cold (historic house in DC in Jan) so I ended with existential questions such as – how long would Deb spend at a pickle festival? Is it the same as me scooting to Trader Joes, then the library, then getting the laundry in? – while staring at dough that appeared to be so slow going my dream of having fresh bread with dinner (which also is going to want an oven) would have to be moved to the following week – which wasn’t the plan! But now I’m 6 hours in and this lump of dough has most of my flour in it, so this is turning out to be stressful. I love and use so many of your recipes and to a one they have been great! which is why I dove into this one – but current status is agggggghhh…
This is tomorrow morning’s project. It looks like it will be delicious.
Oh, god, now I’m missing Laurie Colwin all over again.