Whole Wheat No-Knead Refrigerator Bread

I’ve been known to get very sentimental about the topic of bread. Bread baking is a connection to my grandfather. It is a connection we all have to each other and to our ancestors. It is a foundational skill, if you will. I like bread.

But I also appreciate the fact that making bread can mean being at home for hours on end tending several successive sessions of dough rising. And that is why I have come to love no-knead bread recipes that keep in the refrigerator for days. One batch can give you 4 nights of hot fresh bread over 7 to 10 days. The bread is better than what you can get in the bakery of your local grocery store, and as good as many of the breads that you will buy at an honest to goodness bakery. And, it is easy. There is really nothing at all to it. Even if you decide that bread baking is not for you, I want to encourage you to try this or my other no-knead bread. Everyone should bake bread at least once in their life.

This recipe is adapted from a recipe I found on the Former Chef Blog. She, in turn, adapted it from the book Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I have also seen the recipe on the King Arthur Flour Blog. This works. And this bread makes the best toasting bread I have ever had. It has a very nutty flavor and the edges get crisp and beautiful.

One story about my darling piece of bread in the top photo…you will note that it is actually rather brownish and uninspiring in appearance without the ruby glaze atop it. The jam makes a stellar photo prop, does it not? When you start baking bread, you tend to make friends. People like to talk about hot homemade bread the same way they like to talk about hot homemade pies. This strawberry jam was made by my friend Bill Novak. Comically, we sit at the YMCA pedaling away the calories for general well-being, and apparently so we can each go home and bake truck loads of bread. Bill has figured out how to make jam with his bread making machine. You should probably try to make friends with Bill, too. Another reason to be friends with Bill is that he knows a lot of great, how shall I put this, pointy headed jokes. He recently shared a pie anecdote with me that he saw on a t-shirt or something…it said “Pi, Irrational but well rounded.” It is an apt description of pi, pie, and me. I still laugh at this every time I read it. You aren’t laughing are you? Granted, you have to be a mathematically inclined baker to think that this is hysterical. OK, fine, try this punny Bill joke…”The roundest knight at King Arthur’s Round Table was Sir Cumference.  They say his size is a result of too much pi…” Anything? My side hurts now.

Onward.

You will need to have a big bowl with a cover or a food service bucket to mix and keep the dough. I have bought a white plastic one at the restaurant supply store and I’ve even written the recipe for the crusty white refrigerator bread on the side with a permanent marker.


Whole Wheat No-Knead Refrigerator Bread
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Recipe type: Bread
Author:
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4 loaves
You can make bread at home. This takes only 10 minutes to put together, but you will need to account for rising time and refrigerator time.
Ingredients
  • 1 pound plus 9 ounces whole wheat flour (about 5-1/2 cups)
  • 10 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour (about 2 cups)
  • 1-½ Tablespoons granulated yeast
  • 1 Tablespoon Kosher salt
  • 4 Tablespoons vital wheat gluten
  • 4 cups lukewarm water (about 100 degrees fahrenheit)
Instructions
  1. Put all of the dry ingredients in the large bucket or bowl. Add the water and stir with a strong spoon until all of the water is absorbed into the flour. I usually end up sticking my hands in and turning it over a few times to make sure there aren’t any dry patches in the corners of the bucket. Cover the bucket loosely with the lid or plastic wrap and leave it on the countertop to rise for two hours. Then place the bucket in the refrigerator. You can use the dough over the next fourteen days.
  2. When you are ready to bake the bread, reach into the bucket with floured hands and break off a chunk of the dough (equal to a third or a fourth of the original amount of dough). Form it into a ball and place it on a floured pan or piece of parchment on a pan to rise for about 90 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, preheat the oven (with a baking stone in it, if you have one) to 450 degrees. The dough will not expand much during the rise, but will do so in the hot oven. Cut slits in the top of the bread when the 90 minute rise is complete. With a floured hand, either pick up the dough gently in your hand and quickly place it right side up on the stone, or place the parchment covered baking sheet directly into the oven.
  4. Immediately, use a spray bottle to spray about 3 mists of water into the oven and close the oven door. Two minutes later, quickly spritz some water into the oven again. Continue to bake the bread for an additional 30 minutes. The bread is finished when it reaches an internal temperature of 190 degrees, or when it is hard and makes a hollow sound when you “knock on it.”
  5. Remove the loaf to wire rack to cool for a minimum of 30 minutes before slicing. If you wait longer the texture will improve still. I am rarely able to wait. Plus, I bake bread to the slightly less cooked stage. But that is apparently not “right.” You will learn when bread is finished. Using the thermometer is a great tool in the meantime.

Notes:

Some people will place a small dish of water in the oven with the bread to have the steam effect of the spray bottle. I don’t like sloshy boiling water or broken dishes, so the spray method has been a great thing for me. Both work.

I find that this recipe makes nice little petite loaves. One loaf is perfect for my family at dinner, with a few slices left over for toast in the morning, with lots and lots of butter and honey, or jam…if you have good friends.

There are two things I have purchased for my kitchen lately which I have not regretted in the least. One, I bought a nice big pizza stone. My bread loves it. I’ll get to the pizza soon (amazing). The second is my kitchen scale. If you have a scale you can make buckets and buckets of bread without dirtying a measuring cup. Most electronic scales have the ability to “zero out”. You merely put your container on the scale and push the zero button and it disregards the weight of the container. With a little math and a few pushes of a button, you can merely pour your flours into the bucket and stop when you get to the right number. I love my scale. Love.

And, if you are saying to yourself that you still do not have two whole hours to fuss with bread after work, try the other no knead recipe, which doesn’t take as long on the rise. The wheat simply takes a bit longer. Finally, this time I cut the vents on my bread longways. Most people, including myself, usually do 2 or 3 cuts across the short way. I was just in a longways kind of a mood on picture day.

Enjoy!

Comments

  1. Kelly says

    Kristen, thank you. The bucket is a 6 Quart food service bucket. They sell them at restaurant supply stores and they are so very handy. I now have several for keeping flour and confectioners’ sugar and the like. On the one that I use for bread, I have written the recipe for the regular (white) No Knead Bread on the outside in indelible marker so that I never have to go dig up the recipe. I use it all the time. I hope you like it. I just love these no knead recipes.

  2. Kristen says

    Great recipe! I loved reading about your memories of your grandfather. So sweet. I can’t wait to try it and excited that it will be ready in my fridge when I need it. One question: How big is the bucket you mix and keep the dough in?

  3. Kelly says

    Anne, after the initial rise, ball it up and let it rise again for 90 minutes. I’m so glad you are having success with it. You just can’t beat hot, homemade bread!

  4. Anne says

    Hi Kelly! I love this recipe and my husband and even KIDS eat it up! Nothing like something healthy to get your kids excited for dinner– not so easy all the time. I have a question… if you want to bake some of the dough after the first rise, do you just put it in the oven or do you form a ball and let it rise again for 90min? Thanks and I will be trying your other no-knead recipe soon!

  5. Kelly says

    Peter, great question. I’m going to go the Mark Twain route, “I was gratified to be able to answer (not very) promptly. I said I don’t know.” I don’t know the answer to that. If you have been making bread a long time, it is likely that you know better than I. My novice baker thought is that perhaps you could let it rise for a shorter period of time or in a less warm spot on the pre-baking rise. I found this recipe to be quite dense with each loaf. I suspect that you could try to use a little less of the vital wheat gluten, but you might end up with a more crumbly loaf. I’m not sure. I wish I had a better answer, but one of the reasons that I love these no knead recipes is that even novice bread bakers like myself can have great success. If you figure out the mystery, please do let us all know. I like dense whole wheat bread, too.

  6. Peter says

    I’ve been making bread for a long time and have just started making no-knead bread. It’s great—so much easier! I do have two problems which I’d appreciate advice on. One is that my bread tends to rise too much, even it’s whole wheat. (We prefer quite dense loaves.) I have been able to make a denser loaf by mixing in about one third rye flour, but it seems odd that I can’t make a dense whole wheat loaf. The second problem is that the bread rises too much after the crust has formed, so that the top part is always in danger of pulling away from the rest of the loaf. Advice and tips very welcome.

  7. Miss @ Miss in the Kitchen says

    I love making bread, I have a recipe for 40 minute buns, I make them a lot. I have to admit I have no clue as to what vital wheat gluten is, never heard of it. Also, lucky you to have some of that beautiful jam to go with your bread!

  8. Kelly says

    Sheila, I agree with you. I also love the whole kneading process. But this is a great solution for busy weeknights when you don’t have the time to devote to the whole ritual. But, yes…there is something quite wonderful and calming about kneading bread.

  9. sheila @ Elements says

    Your bread looks beautiful, and I’m sure it’s to die for!! :) I make bread all the time but haven’t tried a no-knead recipe like this. I guess it’s because I love kneading bread. It feel so good! But I like the idea of having dough in the fridge to use over the course of several days. I might have to try this. :)

  10. Kelly says

    Hi sweet Joey. I love this. You made me pull up a papaw Virgil memory today that I haven’t thought of in years. He and Katie area a constant presence in my kitchen. From the pots and pans to the tomatoes in the garden…I have a hard time cooking without memories of them swirling around me. It is beautiful. Love you. Let’s talk soon.

  11. Joey says

    You just made me smile thinking about Grandpa Virgil. This recipe reminds me of the stories of Grandpa Virgil dressed in a Santa suit handing out mini loaves of bread to the children at Christmas. I think you and Papaw Virgil would have been amazing bakery business partners. I can see the sign now…’Meade’s No Knead Bread’. I love you dear Kelly, thanks for the memory and the smile on my face right now!

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