No Knead Refrigerator Bread…You won’t believe how easy this is!

Bread is fun. I like baking bread because it makes me feel like a survivalist. Our modern world is interesting because each of us get to choose one or two things we are good at and market that talent. For instance, when I was practicing law, I could make people sad just by making their phone ring (hence the joy I feel in the kitchen where almost everything I do makes several people happy every day)…that was my skill. I didn’t need to know how to fix my air conditioner because that was someone else’s skill and I could borrow that person and their skill for a fee. But, hundreds of years ago, I suspect that being able to make a simple bread was the difference between eating and starving in every family. Skills weren’t specialized and marketed, and bread was life.

My grandfather, Virgil, was a superintendant of Mead’s Bread bakery in Wichita Falls, Texas. There are those that remember him for baking giant twelve foot loaves of bread in rain gutters. But there are many folks with slightly graying hair in the Falls who have as one of their earlier memories the Christmas display at Mead’s where Santa handed out a warm, perfect, miniature loaf of bread to each child, wrapped in wax paper.

Bread touches us in a special place, a place in our souls that recognizes nurturing and basic happiness (that, my friends is The Meaning of Pie).

Bread has a reputation as being difficult, though. Sure, like everything else, you can make it fussy and difficult if you want to do so. But recently I came across the notion of “no knead” breads. This is a foolproof way for anyone to be a fantastic bread baker. I suspect I will be using this recipe for the rest of my life. There are two such recipes that I love. One was made famous by a baker named Jim Lahey who penned a cookbook about the craft. The following recipe is easier, and makes a minimum of three good loaves. The dough sits in the refrigerator for up to 7 days until you are ready to use it. And it gets better with each passing day. I beg you to try this. It is fun, and easy, and utterly delicious. This is adapted from the King Arthur Flour No Knead Crusty White Bread recipe which was apparently adapted from “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day”by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois.


No Knead Refrigerator Bread...You won't believe how easy this is!
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Recipe type: bread
Author:
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 3 to 4 loaves
This is so quick to come together, but it does require time on the counter and in the refrigerator.
Ingredients
  • 3 cups lukewarm water
  • 6½ cups bread flour (32 ounces)
  • 1 tablespoon salt (use table salt, not kosher)
  • 2 packages (1-1/2 tablespoons) of Fleishman’s or Hodgson Mill Yeast (I have used both)
Instructions
  1. Using the scoop and scrape method (scoop your measure into the flour container and scrape off the excess with the flat side of a knife…weight-wise there is actually a huge difference in the ingredients between this and spooning into a measure…leading to bad results), measure the flour into a 6 quart food safe plastic container (with a tight lid). Do yourself a favor and make sure it fits in your fridge before you start. It really doesn’t matter what kind of container you use.
  2. Add the remaining dry ingredients into the flour and stir them around to combine. Then add the water and stir like crazy with a wooden spoon for about 30 seconds until all of the flour is moistened and a sticky dough has formed.
  3. Leave the container out in a warm place to rise for two hours. It should double in volume, approximately. You can actually skip this step and go straight to the refrigerator, but I don’t recommend it. Once the dough has risen for two hours, put on the lid and put the container in the refrigerator for a minimum of one day, and up to seven days.
  4. When you want to bake a loaf of bread, take out the container and remove as much dough as you want to use, roughly a quarter or a third of the total amount of dough. Put the rest back in the refrigerator for another day. Gently, form the dough into a ball or a slightly elongated log and place it onto a baking sheet that is lined with parchment and sprinkled with a little flour (we aren’t painting the Mona Lisa here…just do it…no need for perfection…just grab it, shape it a little and plop it onto the baking sheet). Allow this to rise for 45 minutes or up to an hour. It will sort of inflate a little and spread. At this point you might think it looks a little odd and unimpressive, but do not fear. Use a very sharp knife to cut three slits in the top, about a half of an inch deep.
  5. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  6. Carefully place a small pie pan, or other smallish pan, of hot water in the bottom rack (for steam) of the oven. Then place the dough in the oven and bake for approximately 25 minutes until it is a deep golden to brown color. Remove the bread from the oven and cool on a rack. If you are unsure of whether it is sufficiently baked, use an instant read thermometer and insert it through the bottom of the loaf. It should register 200 degrees.

Warning:  Do yourself a favor and do not try to remove the water from the oven until you have allowed the oven to cool. I do not want any injuries out there. Or, alternatively, you can spray a few squirts of water into the oven with a spray bottle when you put the bread in and again 2 minutes later.

I have baked this bread often and the loaves turn out in different sizes and colors, but it has always been delicious. If you have never baked bread before, you really won’t believe that you created this great treat. You will actually be proud of yourself.  I was.

Alternative Method UPDATE as of 04/12/13: I have mixed a few methods in baking this bread over the years. Now when I make this bread, I bake it in a dutch oven in the oven. By this I mean, I take an oven safe dutch oven or heavy stockpot (must be oven-safe) and preheat it in the oven as the oven heats. When it is time to bake the bread, I cut the parchment from around the loaf because it is a bit too wet to pull off. I take the dough, still attached to the parchment, and I pull out the dutch oven very carefully, and plop the dough into the pot. Put the pot back in the oven. Spray a water mister right into the pot and oven and then put the pot lid back on. After 20 minutes of baking, I carefully remove the lid and allow the loaf to continue to bake and brown. The total time is usually 25 to 35 minutes depending on the size of the loaf.  For best results, weigh your flour so that you get precisely 32 ounces. It is faster and cleaner to weigh anyway. If you have not yet purchased a kitchen scale I highly recommend it. When I mix this dough, I just set my empty tub on the scale and zero it out. Then I pour flour into the bucket until the scale reads 32 ounces. No scooping or measuring necessary. Fewer dishes, too.

Do you have any strong childhood memories related to bread?  I vividly remember visiting a Mrs. Baird’s factory when I was a small child.  And, there was a big kerfuffle about a certain bread factory’s emissions in the 80’s before they closed it down.  Can you imagine complaining about a neighborhood smelling like hot bread?  What are your bread memories?

Comments

  1. Kelly says

    Shauna, I’m so glad you found PIE. And, I’m particularly glad you found me through this recipe, because I think it is one of the most useful posts on the whole site. I’ve tried it every which way and it always gives me a nice loaf. Grocery store bread can’t hold a candle to it. I have started baking mine like Jim Lahey’s “My bread” recipe where I heat a dutch oven in my oven and then bake the bread in the dutch oven for 25 minutes before removing the lid. This has given me a nice crisp crust which is lovely. I also spritz water into the dutch oven and the whole oven right when I put it in to create a little steam. One of my more recent posts is for Naan bread, and it is also a terrific refrigerator bread recipe which you might enjoy. I hope you visit often.

  2. Shauna says

    Hi,

    I just made a loaf and now I’m researching more ideas. Which brought me to your site. This bread is delicious and so simple. I will probably not buy loaf bread any more; why would I? I didn’t wait for it to rise after I took it out of fridge. Another blogger said she had done it both ways (straight to oven) and it turned out the same. I already have another batch rising and I can’t wait to try folding over cheese. Love your site :)

  3. Avie Meadows says

    Just made this with my 18 month old. Hopefully it turns out great! And by the way – the pickles turned out amazing!

    Thanks again!

    PS: What happens if I used red star yeast instead?

  4. Kelly says

    So glad to have you here, Sandy. Give Sally a big fat hug from the Texans next time you see her!

  5. Sandy Wise says

    I love your website, or is this called a blog. I love to cook and your recipes are easy and new to me My friend Sally E. turned me on to this site.(your cousin?) Anyway, my granddaughter and I are going to make this refrigerator bread and the Texas Tea.The love of good healthy food should be passed on to the young generation.

  6. Kelly says

    I’m so glad you liked it. My family is flat out addicted to this bread. (Thank you again for putting up with us all last week. You are a host beyond compare).

  7. Courtney says

    I am so glad you reminded me about this recipe. There is no reason not to make this bread. It is delicious and super easy. The best part is that I have dough in the fridge for more loaves.

  8. Kelly says

    So sorry. That was very imprecise of me. The measurement is 1-1/2 Tablespoons. I am going to go add that to the body of the recipe. I’m so glad you asked. Hello from Texas!!

  9. Sara says

    Hi there Im in New Zealand and we dont have Fleishman’s or Hodgson Mill Yeast could you please tell me the measurement of yeast I would need to add to make your bread?

  10. Kelly says

    So glad to hear that it worked for you. I use this recipe ALL THE TIME. Thank you for the rye flour idea.

  11. B Kenyon says

    It was easy ! I even replaced one cup of flour with one cup of rye flour and chopped some rosemary to put inside. Delicious !! please try Kelly’s bread recipe..you won’t be sorry.. Barbara

  12. Barbara Kenyon says

    Thank you for printing your recipe for the no knead refrigerator bread. I will make this tomorrow. It looks heavenly and I love a good chewy bread. Bkk. Michigan

  13. betty bowles says

    Loved the stories of Grandpa Virgil’s “gutter” bread and Christmas loaves. Thanks for the memories.

  14. Kelly says

    Not yet. But, let’s try that Linda.

    Also, my sweet high school pal (pal from back in high school) Elizabeth Alexander Cumbie asked yesterday if I had ever put cheese in the batter. Always up for a challenge, and still having a bucket of dough in the fridge, I tried it and it was WONDERFUL! I just took our the dough and sprinkled about a half of a cup of shredded sharp cheddar on it and folded it over on itself 4 or 5 times. Then I let it rise for the 45 minutes to an hour and popped it in the oven.

    It was gorgeous. I took photos that I was going to add to the post and then promptly deleted them on accident. Oops! Next time I’ll add a little more. I want to try the herb version and the wheat version too.

    When I do, Linda, I’ll call you!

  15. Linda Maturey says

    Have you ever tried this with wheat flour? If not, please do and call me when it’s out of the oven and I will take it off of your hands!

  16. Mandy Hagy says

    This was great. I am so proud to see you doing this. It is great as well as helpful.

  17. Kelly says

    You know I love butter. I worry though, that at the 450 temperature, there might be some burning issues, but I don’t know. Good idea though. You could surely make an herb compound butter to go with it though. My mind is spinning at the though of it.

  18. Elisa says

    For the herbs, why not melt butter and add the herbs there. Then, paint the herb/better on the top prior to cooking?

    For the cheese take out two lumps of dough. Put one lump on your sheet. Then, place a slab of cheese in the middle, giving a good space from the sides. Then, cover it with the other lump. See what happens.

    For a glossy crust, paint the top of the bread with water and egg white right before cooking, then about 5 minutes before taking it from the oven.

    We used to make cinnamon rolls and coffee cake on Christmas Eve from a sweetened bread recipe. We’d arrange the rolls to look like a Christmas wreath and take them to neighbors and grandparents so they could have them for Christmas morning. Amy, Mom and I had so much fun doing this. We’d make so many other things, too. Like Hello Dolly cookies, apple pie, cookies, cathedral window candy,fudge. We’d talk and mess around. The house smelled so great.

  19. Kelly says

    I have no idea…but I like the way you are thinking. This is such a low effort, simple recipe that you wouldn’t feel like you wasted time or money by doing multiple variations even if they didn’t work out. The only question I would have, is, how potent would the herbs become over the course of the 6 or 7 days in the fridge. The bread definitely gets “stronger”. If you try it please post your results here. It is a fantastic idea. I’m particularly tempted by the cheese idea. I would probably make sure to stir it into the dry ingredients as it would be very hard to distribute well once the dough was wet…what with the no-kneading and all. Then again, I’ll be making a loaf of it tonight and I might try some cheese and knead it a little before the rise. If I manage to remember I’ll let you know how it turns out.

  20. Elizabeth Alexander Cumbie says

    Would it work to add “flavorings” to the bread? Dill, rosemary, or even cheese? Have you tried any of these?

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