Mark Bittman’s No-Work Bread

by Shumaila

A mother is a person who seeing there

are only four pieces of pie for five people,

promptly announces

she never did care for pie.

~Tenneva Jordan

I read this quote a few days back and found it so true. It sums up every mother so well! And especially mine!

Happy Mother’s Day mom! I hope you know how much you mean to me.

Love you and sorry for all the trouble I keep giving you!

 You will always be the best human being for me.

Hope one day I can sacrifice my piece of pie for you. Till then, here’s a whole bread for you!

I recently downloaded Mark Bittman’s iPhone app, How to Cook Everything. And, the first recipe that caught my eye was Jim Lahey’s No- Work Bread.  Quoting Bittman, who used to write the food column The Minimalist for the New York Times, the introduction for this bread goes as follows:

This innovation- the word “recipe” does not do the technique justice- came from Jim Lahey, owner of Sullivan Street Bakery in NYC. Jim has created a way for home cooks (and not even ones who are serious bakers) to nearly duplicate an artisan bakery loaf, with a crackling crust, open-holed crumb, light texture, and fantastic flavor. All without kneading, fancy ingredients, or special equipments.

Bittman’s description is bang on target. The beauty of this bread- it needs no kneading- you just mix everything together- sit it out in the refrigerator or outside if the temperatures are cool- take it out the next day, shape into a ball and let it bake! And you have a crusty, heavenly smelling bread. A wet dough, along with slow fermentation is the secret to its yeasty flavor and open crumb.

You do need to plan ahead for this bread. It is a 24- hour long process, but you would be in the kitchen for only 15 minutes working on it.

The method involves the bread to be baked in a covered pot in the oven. One could use a dutch oven but I do not own one. I used a crock pot. The crockpot website says that if the pot/crock is detachable you can use it in the oven. Instead of the lid I used aluminium foil. It worked for me but you should try it at your own risk!

True to myself, I goofed up while transferring the dough to the crock pot. But, you guys be careful and keep the seam up, to get a beautiful crack on the top of the bread. So that you can brag about how professional you have become at bread making!

I have made the basic version, which makes a fantastic bread, but of course, you can  be more adventurous with the  formula and use whole-wheat and other flours and different seeds to make it to your liking.



  • 4 cups all-purpose or bread flour, plus flour for dusting
  • 1/2 tsp scant instant yeast
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups water at 70 F
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (optional)
  • cornmeal/semolina/wheat bran, as needed


  1. Combine the flour, yeast, and salt in a large bowl. Add the water and stir until blended. The dough will be sticky and that’s how it should be(add a little more water if it seems dry). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, or transfer the dough to another greased bowl, and turn the dough to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap.
  2. Let rest for about 18 hours at about 70 F. (You can put it in the refrigerator overnight and about 5-6 hours before you want to bake it.)
  3. Lightly flour a work surface, remove the dough and fold once or twice; it will be soft, but once sprinkled with flour, not terribly sticky. Cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let rest for about 15 minutes.
  4. Using just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking, gently and quickly shape the dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton (not terry cloth) towel with cornmeal. You can use silpat like I did. Put the dough seam down on the towel and dust with more flour or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel (or plastic wrap) and let risefor about 2 hours.
  5. When it’s ready, the dough will be more than doubled in size and won’t spring back readily when poked with your finger.
  6. At least half hour before the dough is ready, heat the oven to 450 F. Put a 3-to-4 quart covered pot (with the cover)- it may be cast-iron, enamel, pyrex, or ceramic- in the oven as it heats.
  7. When the dough is ready, carefully remove the pot from the oven and turn the dough over into the pot, seam side up. (It’s messy, and it probably won’t fall in artfully, but it will straighten out as it bakes.)
  8. Cover with the lid and bake for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for another 20-30 minutes, until the loaf is beautifully browned. (If you feel the bread is scorching, lower the temperature.)
  9. Let the bread cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing.