If I were to make a list of my top 10 favorite scents, freshly baked bread would have to be at the top. It would likely also top my list of favorite foods to eat, too.
There’s just something so undeniably perfect about the toasted, yeasty, rich aroma and fluffy, life-giving flavor of homemade bread.
Other smells on my top 10 list? Freshly cut grass, rosemary, chocolate chip cookies, and the orange-scented hand cleaner my grandpa used to use in his garage to clean up after working on engines all day.
But let’s not spend any more time listing my favorite scents; we have bread to bake.
This bread is -as the name suggests- hearty, crusty, fluffy, packed with oatmeal and whole wheat flour, and made without needing to do any kneading or complicated techniques. All it really takes is some wait time.
The ingredients get dumped into a bowl, stirred together, left to rise on the counter for an hour, then chilled in the fridge until you’re ready to bake your loaf (at least overnight, but up to 5 days), allowed to rise again for about an hour, then baked until golden and aromatic.
In terms of hands-on time, we’re talking 10 minutes, max. Including rising, resting overnight, and baking, you’re looking at a 12-hour commitment. But, rest assured, I’m not here to set you up for bread-baking failure. It truly is one of the most simple, no-stress recipes for bread out there.
And, while the promise of a loaf of bread in 1 hour may sound alluring to some, I actually prefer the long rest time of this recipe because my life is always busy and it gives me a little bit more flexibility. The long rest time also helps break down the enzymes in the flour and makes the loaf a bit more easily digestible, which is just an added bonus of this already killer bread recipe.
If you know you have an hour today to mix it up and let it rise, you can then just leave the dough in the fridge all week until you find another few hours to let it rise again and bake. You’re not tied down to this loaf of bread, even if you realize you need to run out to the store, get to work on another project, etc. It will wait for you until you’re ready; it’s cool like that.
Likewise, if you were dying for a loaf of crusty no-knead bread and happen to be an early riser, you technically could stir together the dough at, say, 5am, and be eating bread by dinnertime. I’m personally more into the laid-back, multi-day approach to this recipe, but I’m not going to show up at your house at 4:45am to stop you, should you be in the market to do some early morning bread work.
I’ve been baking versions of this no-knead bread pretty much nonstop since Jim Lahey popularized it back in 2006 (though I’ve tweaked the ratios and methods over time), and have, inadvertently, made lots of mistakes. In case you find yourself forgetting to add ingredients, or falling asleep without putting the dough in the fridge, I’ve got you covered.
What to do if…
I forgot to add the salt:
If you realize it BEFORE biting into a loaf of boring, unsalted bread, just stir the salt into the dough at any point in the process. You may need to get your hands in there and do some kneading to get the salt to really stick into the dough (I know, I know, it’s a no-knead recipe, but listen: you made a mistake and now you have to pay in the form of kneading). Proceed as usual.
If you’re left with unsalted, baked bread…add a generous pinch of salt to EVERY SLICE before eating it, and commit yourself to never making this mistake again. Or, cube up the bread and turn it into croutons (toss with oil, salt + pepper and bake for 15+ minutes at 375, stirring once or twice), where no one will ever realize it wasn’t salted to begin with.
I fell asleep on the couch and didn’t put the dough into the fridge overnight:
Eh. It’s fine. Just stir the dough back into a ball-shape and stick it in the fridge now. Proceed as usual.
I left the dough in the back of my fridge for over a week:
Check it out. Does it look grey and have a weird layer of brown-ish liquid at the top? Throw it out. Does it look generally fine and not smell too vinegary? Bake it!
I ran out of all-purpose/ white-whole wheat flour/ oats:
Sub any amount of the whole wheat or all-purpose for more of one or the other. Know that using only whole wheat will yield a more dense, wheat-forward tasting bread. Sub the oats for another rolled grain, thinly sliced nuts or seeds, or just leave them out and add an extra half cup of flour.
I only have active dry yeast, not instant:
Use it. You’ll be fine.
The dough barely rises before going in the oven:
Has it been in a warm spot like near your heater, in a warm (turned off!) oven, on top of your stove, etc? Just go ahead and bake it. It’ll keep rising in the oven.
Has it been in a sort of drafty and cold spot? Let it keep rising until it looks like it’s at least 50% bigger than when you started. Remain calm: all roads lead to bread.
The dough is a sticky mess and I can barely form it into a ball before the final rise/bake:
Dump it onto a floured surface, pour more flour on top, and let the flour help you form it into a ball. Don’t worry if it’s a little squishy.
I’m feeling creative and want to add other flavors like cinnamon, nuts, dried fruit, herbs, garlic, olives, etc:
Go for it! Add them in when you originally mix the dough and proceed with the recipe as written.
I don’t have a dutch oven:
Buy one! This recipe can also be baked in a cast-iron skillet, a random oval, round, or rectangular oven-proof dish that’s somewhere around 9-inches long, or even on a cookie sheet (though it may flatten out a bit). You can even cut it into 16-ish little balls and make rolls like I did here. The dutch oven helps trap in the heat and gives you an extra crusty exterior, though, as I’ve said before: all roads lead to bread. Even without a dutch oven, your bread will still be mighty tasty.
I’m afraid of baking bread:
Deep breath: IT. WILL. BE. OKAY. Humans have been baking bread in various forms for over 5,000 years. Without a recipe!! If they could do it, YOU CAN DO IT. Bread-baking is woven into the fabric of your DNA (okay, maybe not exactly, but you feel me…) and even if you’ve never successfully made anything with yeast before, this recipe is going to yield a loaf of something beautiful. Trust me. I believe in you.
If you make this recipe, let me know how it turns out! Leave a comment below, or take a picture of your bread and share it with me on Instagram! If you find yourself with issues other than the potential ones I’ve listed above, don’t be afraid to ask questions.
And don’t forget to check out my pantry staples page to stock up on ingredients for this recipe!
- 1 1/2 cups warm tap water
- 2 Tablespoons maple syrup, honey, or sugar
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon instant dry yeast
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
- 1 cup oats
- 1/2 Tablespoon sea salt
- 1. Put all ingredients into a large bowl and stir with a wooden spoon until combined. The dough will be sticky, but that's fine. As long as all the flour has been absorbed, you're good.
- 2. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and let sit at room temperature for 1-2 hours, or until about doubled in size.
- 3. Once risen, stir the dough to roughly form a ball, cover, and refrigerate overnight (at least 8 hours, and up to 5 days).
- 4. When ready to bake, remove the dough from the fridge and use your hands to form it into a ball (I find this is easiest when I wet my hands first). Cut a 10-inch or larger square of parchment paper and sprinkle a small handful of oats in the center, then place the ball of dough on top of the oats. Add another few pinches of oats on top, and cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 1-2 hours (or until about 50% larger than it's original size).
- 5. When dough is nearly done rising, turn your oven on to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. If you have a large dutch oven or cast iron skillet, put it into the oven to get hot while the oven preheats. If you don't have either of those, you can use a large oval or round oven-safe dish, or even a cookie sheet, which doesn't need to be preheated.
- 6. When oven is hot and dough is risen, remove the hot dutch oven from the oven, open the lid, and lift the dough up with the parchment paper to drop it inside. Put the cover back on and bake for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake another 10 minutes, or until loaf is golden and crusty. If baking in a pan without a lid, just bake the loaf for a full 40 minutes.
- 7. Remove bread from the oven and wait as long as you possibly can before cutting into it (ideally until its just barely warm, or even until it's fully cold (though, I rarely make it that long before cutting myself a slice). Store leftover bread in an airtight container at room temperature for 3-4 days, or slice and store in the freezer for several months.