If the thought of baking from scratch intimidates you, you aren’t alone.
I’ve loved cooking for as long as I can remember. But baking is something I've always been a bit leery of. Sure, I’ve been baking banana muffins and zucchini bread for years, but those don’t require yeast, they don’t require kneading, they don’t require time to rise. They’re what I would call “simple.” Plus, I always thought in order to be a baking guru I needed one of those fancy stand mixers.
Well, it turns out I was wrong. Believe it or not, this yeast bread recipe might be one of the easiest recipes I've ever made. All you need is a Dutch oven and four ingredients — yes, four ingredients (flour, salt, yeast, and water). And better yet? No stand mixer or kneading required! You’re going to wish you started baking yeast bread long before now.
I promise you if I can do it, so can you.
Baking is a science so before you get started, read on for answers to all your bread-related questions.
What type of flour should I use? Because of its higher protein content, bread flour is going to give you a lighter, chewier texture — similar to bread you’d get from the bakery. If all you have on hand is all-purpose flour, don’t worry, the end result will still be delicious, but the texture won’t be quite the same.
If you own a food scale, you’re going to want to use it to weigh out your flour. If you don’t have one, don’t panic. But make sure not to scoop directly into the container; this will result in packed flour, giving you more flour than your recipe calls for. Instead, use a spoon to scoop the flour into your dry measuring cup.
Can I use any type of yeast? This can be confusing. Active, instant, rapid, etc. They all sound the same! Instant yeast is often labeled “rapid-rise” or “fast-acting.” This type can be added directly to dry ingredients. Active dry yeast typically requires activation - meaning it needs to be dissolved in warm water to activate the yeast before adding it to dry ingredients. That being said, instant and active dry yeast can be used interchangeably.
Do I have to use salt? Trust me when I say you don’t want to skip the salt. Flour lacks flavor. Without the salt, your bread is going to be rather bland. Salt also helps to control yeast activity.
Note: One teaspoon of salt is not equivalent across the board. This recipe calls for table salt. If you’re using kosher or sea salt, use a little more since their granules are more coarse.
Does the temperature of the water really matter? It does. If the water isn’t warm enough, the yeast will have a hard time working efficiently, and the dough will take longer to rise (if it rises at all). On the other hand, water that is too hot can kill the yeast and result in a dough that won’t rise.
Don’t I have to knead the dough? What’s kneading? Just kidding. Since we’re letting the dough sit to rise, there’s no kneading for this recipe! You can let those arms rest.
How long do I have to let the dough rise? How do I know if it’s done? This is a loaded question. The time it takes for dough to rise can vary quite a bit. Dough can rise in as little as 1-2 hours, but many recipes recommend letting it rise for at least 6 hours and up to 18 hours.
One factor that largely plays into the rise time is the amount of yeast used. This recipe calls for 2 ¼ tsp - so it’s going to rise much quicker than a recipe that calls for ½ tsp. A recipe that only uses ½ tsp is going to be one you want to let rise overnight or all day. Just know the longer you let it rise, the more flavor you’ll reap.
Once your dough has doubled in size, you’re good to go!
Can I make this dough ahead of time? Absolutely. Once the dough has doubled in size, place it in the fridge for up to three days, allowing for more flavor to develop. Before baking, let the dough come to room temperature.
What’s the purpose of using a Dutch oven? The small enclosed area creates a steamy, humid environment that allows the yeast to expand quicker, giving the loaf of bread more volume.
Can this be made without a Dutch oven? You bet! With the parchment paper, place your dough on a sheet pan. To achieve a humid environment, place a baking dish with hot water in the oven. Bake for 40 minutes or until golden brown.
Now that you know the facts, you can rest assured your first experience baking yeast bread will be a win. Enjoy what free time you have now because once you wow your friends and family with this recipe, you’ll be making it all the time.
No-Knead Yeast Bread
3 cups (450g) bread flour + more for work surface
1 package (2.25 tsp) instant dry yeast
1½ tsp table salt
1½ cups warm water (between 120°F - 130°F)
Wash hands with soap and water.
Mix dry ingredients (including yeast) in a large bowl and then add water. Mix until no flour remains. Dough will be wet and sticky - not kneadable, but not runny.
Cover bowl with cling wrap or plate. Leave on counter for 2-3 hours until it doubles in volume. The dough should be wobbly with a bubbly surface.
Preheat oven to 450°F and place Dutch oven into oven about 30 minutes before baking.
Gently transfer the dough onto a well-floured surface. Sprinkle the top with flour.
Using your hands or a rubber spatula, fold the sides inwards 3-4 times to form a round-ish shape.
Transfer dough onto a large piece of parchment paper so the dough is smooth side up.
Place parchment paper with dough into hot Dutch oven. Place lid.
Bake for 30 minutes. Remove lid and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes or until golden brown on top.
Transfer bread to a cooling rack and allow to cool before slicing.