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THE CONFIDENT COOK

Recipe: Forget sourdough. Here is a basic, no-knead, crusty whole-wheat loaf baked in a Dutch oven.

No-Knead Whole-Wheat Bread Baked in a Pot
No-Knead Whole-Wheat Bread Baked in a PotSally Pasley Vargas for The Boston Globe

Makes 1 large round

If you weren’t swept up in the sourdough phenomenon of the pandemic, you can relax now. As fun as this rabbit hole was for avid bakers, for novices who want an easy whole-wheat loaf, it’s time to get back to basics. This popular no-knead method, from New York baker and author Jim Lahey of the Sullivan Street Bakery, has been around in numerous iterations for years. You need a cast-iron or enameled cast-iron pot to bake the bread in; the covered casserole acts as a mini oven. Once the lid is clapped on, the steam from the sticky dough produces a crusty artisan-style loaf with a soft chewy inside. Two things about the timing to keep in mind before you proceed: The dough rests overnight at room temperature (or up to 18 hours) and it needs another couple of hours to double in size before being transferred to the hot casserole. While the dough is a cinch to make, there are a few pointers that will help you succeed. Starting is easy enough. You simply mix the flour, salt, yeast, and water in a bowl and set it aside to rise. One good way is to stir the dough together at suppertime and forget about it until the next morning. While bread flour has a high protein content that gives the finished loaf the best structure, you can use all-purpose flour and bake a delicious loaf. Instant dried yeast can be mixed directly into flour, but if you can’t find it, substitute active dry yeast in the same quantity, softened in a tablespoon of water for five minutes. The long, overnight rise is convenient and also gives the bread time to develop a nutty, wheaty flavor. One of the problems I’ve encountered with this bread is getting it into the pot -- which you heat empty for 30 minutes -- without a mishap. I’ve solved this by letting the dough rise on a square piece of parchment and then lifting the paper, with the round on it, by the edges and setting it into the pot. You score the top with a razor blade or serrated knife to give it room to expand without bursting at the seams. To keep the bread in a round shape, crease the folds of the parchment by pressing them into the sides of the pot. Near the end of baking, remove the lid and return the bread to the oven for 10 minutes. Then pull out a golden loaf you can be proud of.

cups bread flour or all-purpose flour
cups whole-wheat flour
teaspoons fine sea salt
½teaspoon instant yeast (or use 1/2 teaspoon active dry years dissolved in 1 tablespoon warm water)
1cups cool room temperature water
whole-wheat flour (for sprinkling)

1. Have on hand a round cast-iron casserole or an enameled cast-iron casserole (Dutch oven) with a 5-quart capacity, the pot lid, a single-edged razor blade or serrated knife, and a long, thin metal spatula. Line a baking sheet with a 12-inch square of parchment.

2. In a mixing bowl with a wooden spoon, stir together the bread or all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, salt, and instant or dissolved yeast. Stir in the water and mix until well blended. The dough will be soft and sticky.

3. Leaving the dough in the bowl, form it into a loose ball. Cover with plastic wrap. Leave at room temperature for at least 12 hours or for up to 18 hours. The dough should double in size and look puffy with a few air bubbles.

4. Generously flour a work surface. Turn the dough out in one piece. Pat it with fingers dipped into flour to flatten it slightly into a square shape (don't worry if it's lopsided).

5. Wet your hand. Pick up one side of the dough and stretch it over the on top of the dough to the middle. Turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat until you have stretched all four corners of the dough. Cover lightly with a clean kitchen towel and let it rest for 15 minutes. Repeat, stretching all four corners of the dough over itself again. This will help the bread hold its shape better when it bakes. Shape it into a round, seams down, and let rest for 10 minutes.

6. Cup your hands on either side of the dough and drag and rotate it over the work surface towards you a few times to create tension on the outside of the dough. Continue dragging and rotating until the outside of the dough is smooth and you have created a round boule (ball).

7. Place the dough with the seams down on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle lightly with flour. Cover lightly with a clean kitchen towel or a large upside-down bowl. Leave to rise for 1 to 2 hours, or until the dough has doubled in size. To test if it's ready, press your finger gently into the dough and if the dough holds the impression it can be baked. If it springs back, give it another 10 to 15 minutes more rising time.

8. After the dough has risen for 1 hour, adjust a rack to the lower third of the oven. Set the oven at 450 degrees. Place the casserole, covered with the lid, on the oven rack. Heat it for 30 minutes, or until the bread is ready to be baked.

9. Using oven mitts, remove the pot from the oven. Lift off the lid. With the razor or knife, make a long, 1/4-inch-deep slash across the center of the top of the bread. Make a second slash in the opposite direction to form a cross.

10. Pick up the parchment paper and carefully set the bread, still on the paper, in the pot. Use a metal spatula to press and crease the folds of parchment against the sides of the pot. Cover with the lid.

11. Bake the bread for 30 minutes. Carefully remove the lid and continue baking for 10 minutes more, or until the crust is golden brown. The internal temperature of the bread should be about 205 degrees when you poke a hole in the bottom with an instant read thermometer. (Total baking time is 40 minutes.)

12. Use a large spatula or the corners of the parchment to lift the bread out of the pot. Remove the parchment and set the bread on a wire rack to cool completely before slicing.

Sally Pasley Vargas

Makes 1 large round

If you weren’t swept up in the sourdough phenomenon of the pandemic, you can relax now. As fun as this rabbit hole was for avid bakers, for novices who want an easy whole-wheat loaf, it’s time to get back to basics. This popular no-knead method, from New York baker and author Jim Lahey of the Sullivan Street Bakery, has been around in numerous iterations for years. You need a cast-iron or enameled cast-iron pot to bake the bread in; the covered casserole acts as a mini oven. Once the lid is clapped on, the steam from the sticky dough produces a crusty artisan-style loaf with a soft chewy inside. Two things about the timing to keep in mind before you proceed: The dough rests overnight at room temperature (or up to 18 hours) and it needs another couple of hours to double in size before being transferred to the hot casserole. While the dough is a cinch to make, there are a few pointers that will help you succeed. Starting is easy enough. You simply mix the flour, salt, yeast, and water in a bowl and set it aside to rise. One good way is to stir the dough together at suppertime and forget about it until the next morning. While bread flour has a high protein content that gives the finished loaf the best structure, you can use all-purpose flour and bake a delicious loaf. Instant dried yeast can be mixed directly into flour, but if you can’t find it, substitute active dry yeast in the same quantity, softened in a tablespoon of water for five minutes. The long, overnight rise is convenient and also gives the bread time to develop a nutty, wheaty flavor. One of the problems I’ve encountered with this bread is getting it into the pot -- which you heat empty for 30 minutes -- without a mishap. I’ve solved this by letting the dough rise on a square piece of parchment and then lifting the paper, with the round on it, by the edges and setting it into the pot. You score the top with a razor blade or serrated knife to give it room to expand without bursting at the seams. To keep the bread in a round shape, crease the folds of the parchment by pressing them into the sides of the pot. Near the end of baking, remove the lid and return the bread to the oven for 10 minutes. Then pull out a golden loaf you can be proud of.

cups bread flour or all-purpose flour
cups whole-wheat flour
teaspoons fine sea salt
½teaspoon instant yeast (or use 1/2 teaspoon active dry years dissolved in 1 tablespoon warm water)
1cups cool room temperature water
whole-wheat flour (for sprinkling)

1. Have on hand a round cast-iron casserole or an enameled cast-iron casserole (Dutch oven) with a 5-quart capacity, the pot lid, a single-edged razor blade or serrated knife, and a long, thin metal spatula. Line a baking sheet with a 12-inch square of parchment.

2. In a mixing bowl with a wooden spoon, stir together the bread or all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, salt, and instant or dissolved yeast. Stir in the water and mix until well blended. The dough will be soft and sticky.

3. Leaving the dough in the bowl, form it into a loose ball. Cover with plastic wrap. Leave at room temperature for at least 12 hours or for up to 18 hours. The dough should double in size and look puffy with a few air bubbles.

4. Generously flour a work surface. Turn the dough out in one piece. Pat it with fingers dipped into flour to flatten it slightly into a square shape (don't worry if it's lopsided).

5. Wet your hand. Pick up one side of the dough and stretch it over the on top of the dough to the middle. Turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat until you have stretched all four corners of the dough. Cover lightly with a clean kitchen towel and let it rest for 15 minutes. Repeat, stretching all four corners of the dough over itself again. This will help the bread hold its shape better when it bakes. Shape it into a round, seams down, and let rest for 10 minutes.

6. Cup your hands on either side of the dough and drag and rotate it over the work surface towards you a few times to create tension on the outside of the dough. Continue dragging and rotating until the outside of the dough is smooth and you have created a round boule (ball).

7. Place the dough with the seams down on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle lightly with flour. Cover lightly with a clean kitchen towel or a large upside-down bowl. Leave to rise for 1 to 2 hours, or until the dough has doubled in size. To test if it's ready, press your finger gently into the dough and if the dough holds the impression it can be baked. If it springs back, give it another 10 to 15 minutes more rising time.

8. After the dough has risen for 1 hour, adjust a rack to the lower third of the oven. Set the oven at 450 degrees. Place the casserole, covered with the lid, on the oven rack. Heat it for 30 minutes, or until the bread is ready to be baked.

9. Using oven mitts, remove the pot from the oven. Lift off the lid. With the razor or knife, make a long, 1/4-inch-deep slash across the center of the top of the bread. Make a second slash in the opposite direction to form a cross.

10. Pick up the parchment paper and carefully set the bread, still on the paper, in the pot. Use a metal spatula to press and crease the folds of parchment against the sides of the pot. Cover with the lid.

11. Bake the bread for 30 minutes. Carefully remove the lid and continue baking for 10 minutes more, or until the crust is golden brown. The internal temperature of the bread should be about 205 degrees when you poke a hole in the bottom with an instant read thermometer. (Total baking time is 40 minutes.)

12. Use a large spatula or the corners of the parchment to lift the bread out of the pot. Remove the parchment and set the bread on a wire rack to cool completely before slicing.Sally Pasley Vargas