This is the easiest bread recipe. With only 4 ingredients (water, flour, yeast, salt) and no-kneading you can have fresh bread out of your own oven! If you are scared of using yeast, this bread will get your feet wet!
4 Ingredient No-Knead Bread Overview
- Skill Level: Beginner
I have been told by many of my readers that they are intimidated by working with yeast. But yeast bread is one of those things in baking that can range from being incredibly simple to being very complicated.
No-knead bread is the easiest yeast bread you can bake. It will get your feet wet and make working with yeast feel less intimidating. And you only need 4 ingredients to make it: water, flour, salt, and yeast.
Ingredients in No-Knead Bread
Basic no-knead bread only calls for 4 ingredients: water, flour, salt, and yeast. That’s it! But you can also add in spices, herbs, and other add-ins like cheese, nuts, or seeds if you like to further flavor your bread!
Yeast- The yeast for no-knead bread can be either active dry yeast or rapid rise (also known as instant or quick rise yeast). No matter which kind of yeast you choose, you can put it right into the dry ingredients without proofing it. Active dry yeast will need a little longer rising time than rapid rise yeast.
The yeast is your leavening and what will make your bread dough rise. It is also what will flavor your bread.
Water- Water wakes up and activates the yeast. Dry yeast is in a dormant state and needs moisture to wake up and being feeding.
The water is what can kill your yeast. You want to use very warm but not hot water. Somewhere around 110-130 F is great. If you have a thermometer definitely check the temperature. If you do not, error on the side of your water being lukewarm.
Flour- Flour is the yeast’s food. Yeast feeds on sugar and will break down the starch in the flour to eat and create carbon dioxide gas and alcohol.
The flour in this recipe can be either unbleached all-purpose flour or bread flour. You do not want to use bleached flour as it will not develop a strong enough gluten structure. Bread flour will develop the strongest gluten structure and will allow the bread to rise higher and develop more chewiness. You can also substitute in some wheat flour for the white flour in this recipe (see recipe notes for details).
Salt- Salt not only flavors the bread, but also slows down the yeast a bit. Dough without salt will rise much faster resulting in larger air pockets and an uneven crumb to the bread.
Kosher salt or fine sea salt is preferable because it has a bit of a course grain to it, but if you only have table salt you can use it. Just cut the amount of salt in the recipe in half.
That’s it. Yeast, water, flour, and salt! If you buy yeast in bulk like me, you probably always have all of these ingredients on hand. It is really nice to be able to whip up a loaf of bread on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
And if you don’t want to sit around waiting for it to rise, store the dough in the fridge over night or even for a few days. It will slowly rise and will be ready for you when you want to make some bread!
This is a very rustic free form bread recipe. You can form it into two loafs or one big circle. You can also bake it straight on a baking sheet, in a cast iron skillet, or the best option is in a preheated dutch oven.
How to Make No-Knead Bread
Step 1: Mix together your Dry Ingredients
In a large mixing bowl, mix together the flour, salt, and yeast. If you want to add any spices, herbs, or other mix-ins, you can also add those in at this point.
Step 2: Add the Warm Liquid
Warm your water to about 120-130 F (49-54 F). If you do not have a kitchen thermometer, this will feel very warm but not hot to the touch. Error on the side of a little cooler if you are unsure so you do not risk killing the yeast.
Next, add the warm water into the bowl and stir until all of the dry ingredients are saturated. It will look like there is not enough liquid at first, but as you stir, the mixture will come together into a shaggy and sticky dough. As soon as all of the flour is mixed in, you can stop stirring.
Step 3: Let the Dough Rest & Rise
Place a kitchen towel or a piece of plastic wrap over the bowl and let it sit in a warm spot in your kitchen to rise. If your kitchen is very cold, sometimes inside the microwave or inside an off oven with the oven light on is a bit warmer.
This step of the process is called “bulk ferment.” What will happen during this time is the yeast will begin feeding on the starches in the flour and will create carbon dioxide gas and alcohol.
Let the dough ferment until it is about double in size. If you used active dry yeast, this process will take about 1 hour. If you used rapid rise yeast it will take about 30 minutes.
Step 4: Shape the Dough
Dust the top of the risen dough as well as your hands with flour. Gently pull the dough away from the sides of the bowl and gather it all up in your hands, gently pulling down on the sides to roughly form a ball.
Now you can transfer it to your either a piece of parchment paper or directly into the skillet if you will be choosing that baking option.
Options for Baking No-Knead Bread
You have 3 options for baking your no-knead bread. You can place it on parchment paper and bake it on a baking sheet. You can bake it in a cast iron skillet. Or you can bake it in a preheated dutch oven (or an oven proof pot with a tight fitting lid).
Baking the bread in a dutch oven (or lidded pot) is the best way to get a nice rise on your loaf as well as a crispy outer crust. This is by far the preferred method if you have this potion available to you. However, baking the bread on a sheet pan or in a skillet does still result in a beautiful loaf.
Step 5: Proof your Bread
Cover the shaped dough with a piece of plastic wrap and then let it rise a second time. This is called proofing and will build up more gasses in the dough and also improve the flavor.
Proof the dough for about 1 hour if you used quick rise yeast and about 90 minutes if you used active dry yeast.
Step 6: Preheat your Oven
Preheat your oven to 450 F (232 C) for about an hour while your bread if proofing. Even though your oven may indicate that it is up to temperature much quicker, the full hour will insure that every part of your oven is truly hot.
If you will be using your dutch oven to bake your bread, put that in the oven to preheat as well.
Step 7: Bake the Loaf
Once the dough is finished proofing, carefully remove the plastic wrap and dust the top of the loaf lightly with flour. If desired, you can use a sharp knife to score the loaf as well. This is optional and the loaf will naturally open in a rustic way if you do not score the loaf.
If you are using the dutch oven, use oven mitts to remove it from the oven and transfer the whole loaf on the parchment paper into the pot and put the lid on top. If you are using a skillet or a baking sheet, you can go right into the oven.
Slicing and Storing your Fresh Bread
Once your bread reaches a golden brown crust, remove it from the oven and place it on cooling rack to cool before slicing. Wait at least 1 hour, and preferable 12 hours before slicing. Waiting until the loaf is completely cooled will give you the best texture and flavor for your loaf. It will also prevent it from staling as quickly.
Once your loaf is sliced, keep it out at room temperature on a cutting board, cut side down for up to 2 days. After that, I suggest slicing it and putting the slices in the freezer. Toast to refresh.
- 3 3/4 cup (450 gr) flour (unbleached all-purpose or bread flour, see note for using whole wheat)
- 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 package (2 1/4 tsp, 7 gr) active dry or quick rise yeast
- 1 1/2 cups (340 gr) warm water (about 120-130 F)
- In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt, and dry yeast until well combined. (If you are measuring with cups instead of by weight, make sure you lightly spoon the flour into your measuring cups without packing it down at all and then level it off. This will insure you won't end up with too much flour in your dough.)
- Add the warm water into the mixing bowl and stir until all of the ingredients come together into a thick dough that is shaggy and sticky. There should be no pockets of dry flour left, but it will be quite lumpy.
- Cover the bowl with a towel or loose plastic wrap and let it sit in a warm spot in the kitchen to rise until double in size. This will take about 45 minutes if you used quick rise yeast and 75 minutes if you used active dry yeast.
- Generously sprinkle flour over top of risen dough and cover hands with flour. Gently pull the dough away from the sides of the bowl and gather it all up in your hands. Start pulling down on all of the sides of the dough to form into a smooth ball (you can watch the video tutorial in the post to see a demonstration of this). Transfer to dough onto a piece of parchment paper if you will be baking it in a dutch oven or alternatively you can place it right into a greased cast iron skillet or a parchment lined baking sheet.
- Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it proof (rise again) for about 1 hour if you used quick rise yeast and 90 minutes if you used active dry yeast. The dough should double in size again.
- Meanwhile, preheat your oven for about an hour while the dough is proofing. This will insure that the oven will be completely hot when the bread goes in. If you are using a dutch oven, preheat to 450 F (232 C) and also place that in the oven to preheat. If you are baking on a sheetpan or in a cast iron skillet, preheat to 375 F (190 C).
- Once the dough is finished proofing, carefully remove the plastic wrap and lightly dust the top with a little more flour. IF desired, score the top of the loaf a few times with a sharp knife. This is optional and the loaf will naturally open up in a rustic way if you do not score it. If you will be baking the loaf in the preheated dutch oven, carefully remove it from the oven with oven mitts and place the loaf on the parchment paper into the pot. Place the lid back on top.
- If baking in the dutch oven, bake at 450 F (232 C) for 30 minutes with the lid on and then an additional 10-20 minutes with the lid off until deep golden brown. If you bake on a baking sheet or in a skillet, bake at 375 F (190 C) for 45 minutes - 1 hour until deep golden brown.
- Transfer the loaf onto a cooling rack and let cool for at the very least 1 hour before slicing.
- If bread is left over, place sliced side down on a cutting board and leave and room temperature for up to 2 days. After that, slice the loaf and store it in a ziplock bag in the freezer. Toast to refresh.
- Substituting Whole Wheat Flour: For the best texture, substitute only up to 1/2 the amount of flour with whole wheat flour. For every 1 cup you substitute you should substract 2 tbsp whole wheat flour. My preferred ratio of using wheat flour in this recipe is 2 1/2 cups white flour and 1 cup + 2 TBSP whole wheat flour.