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A baker in knead

By Lisa Waddle, managing editor

March 2nd, 2009

Whenever people find out I used to work as a baker in an artisan bread bakery, they inevitably ask: Do you make your own bread at home?

Ironically, before working at the bakery I did. You would think that after a year of learning the intricacies of kneading, timing, shaping, and having access to recipes that produced incredible loaves, my home bread baking would be in full gear. But after much experimenting, I realized I was missing one thing: an $800,000 commercial bread oven. No matter how many tricks I tried at home (pizza stone, spraying water in the oven to mimic steam, ice cubes thrown on the oven floor) I found it impossible to recreate the crackly crust I loved so much in artisan breads.

Then, a few years ago, along came Jim Lahey of New York's Sullivan Street Bakery with his recipe for No-Knead Bread. I never had a problem with kneading—I actually like the meditative physicality of it. But his strategy of a very wet dough baked in a lidded Dutch oven was a revelation in the way it mimicked a commercial steam oven.

Of course, my joy was tempered by the fact that I didn’t want to make (or eat) white bread all the time. So I was thrilled to come across Nancy Baggett’s recipe for an 8-grain loaf that uses the no-knead, overnight-rise method. From her just-released book Kneadlessly Simple, the recipe makes a huge, 3-pound loaf packed with flax seed, whole wheat and rice flours, wheat germ, oats, poppyseeds, sesame seeds, and pumpkin seeds. Nutty, chewy, yet not dense, it requires minimal effort for maximum results. Nancy has been posting some recipes from her book on her web site,, where she also has an article explaining her method in detail. Let me know if you give it a try.

posted in: Blogs, Lisa Waddle, bread, cooking now, no-knead, Dutch oven, Nancy Baggett
Comments (17)

LisaWaddle writes: Lena,
Just to clarify, that Pale Ale loaf on Nancy's Web site is not the one I made. This one in the photo is the Crusty Seeded Cracked Wheat Pot Boule in the book.

mystery: If you'd like to try out Nancy's method before buying the book, you could give the Crusty Seeded Pale Ale Pot Boule a try. It's very similar, but the one I made is loaded with more grains and seeds and no beer. Just go to and click on Recipe Archive. Good luck! Posted: 2:29 pm on March 11th

Lena writes: For all those interested in trying out the recipe for this no-knead bread, it is now posted on Nancy Baggett's website under Crusty,Seeded Pale Ale Pot Boule. Just go to the Recipe Archives. Posted: 9:09 am on March 11th

mystery writes: I would like the recipe for the eight grain loaf. Is it available. I am considering ordering the book, but would like to try the loaf before ordering. Posted: 8:07 am on March 11th

xposvx writes: The original no-knead recipe is pretty adaptable, too, beyond just white breads. I've used it over the past few years in numberous variations (not changing proportions of the basic ingredients, but using flavors and combinations)including: adding herbs like rosemary or thyme; flavors like roasted garlic or olives; seeds like sesame and pumpkin; and other flours like whole wheat, oat, semolina in 50/50 combination with white bread flour. It's such an easy bread to make that it encourages experimenting. Posted: 2:14 pm on March 10th

Sue_W writes: Hi Lisa,

Is the recipe for the 8 grain bread available? I looked on Nancy's site and did not see. The bread looks delicious and something I would love to try and make. Posted: 4:57 pm on March 8th

roz writes: Hi Lisa,
Your bread looks delicious and I love all the yummy looking sesame seeds on top! I have one complaint, though. I really wish the recipe was in grams/ounces, rather than cups. I wanted to pass the recipe on to an Irish friend who does not bake yeasted bread and finds it intimidating. I suppose my comment needs to go to Nancy Baggett!

Thanks for your input. Posted: 1:55 pm on March 8th

illbebaking writes: That is a great idea. Maybe you could use a Silpat, too?

Andy Posted: 7:57 pm on March 7th

pnwcook writes: To get around the fliping the dough of the floured teatowel, I use, what Michael Smith on Chef at Home uses on his TV show, a teflon cookie sheet. When the dough has risen a second time you just slide the dough off the cookie sheet into the pot. Also I use a stainless steel dutch oven which works very well. Posted: 5:12 pm on March 7th

sixburnersue writes: Hi Lisa! Wow this looks so good. I had my cast iron pots out this morning thinking about my short ribs story for FC--now I'm thinking I want to bake bread (this bread, right here, right now!) instead. Yum and thanks. Susie Posted: 8:04 am on March 5th

DMickelsen writes: Lisa, what gorgeous bread! Bring some into the office next time! : ) Posted: 1:11 pm on March 3rd

pumkinfolk writes: Ms Lisa - I never, ever thought I could bake bread on my own, but reading your words and seeing that photo has got me rethinking the whole situation. Thank you for sharing your excitement and expertise. Posted: 8:37 pm on March 2nd

breadlady writes: Hi Lisa,

That loaf looks really yummy! I am the author of Kneadlessly Simple, and unless I'm mistaken that is my Crusty Seeded Cracked Wheat Boule? I am glad to see that it came out just the way it does in my kitchen. I, too, sometimes want a change of pace from white breads and sweet breads, though I like those, too. You are right about the boule being huge--I didn't see any point in gathering together the various ingredients and then making a skimpy loaf!

I am so glad you like my book and appreciate your writing about it. I should mention to those who have only made the original Jim Lahey type of no-knead bread that mine are simply turned out directly into the pot so there is no need for a floured countertop or towel at all.

Happy Baking!

Nancy Baggett

Posted: 7:53 pm on March 2nd

philvk writes: Boy Lisa- that's a preeeety looking loaf.
The colors in that crust are so inviting! For Baking bread at home - the dutch oven method that Jim L proposed is the way to go! Posted: 5:12 pm on March 2nd

illbebaking writes: I have actually not been baking bread - the only things I have had time for are muffins, scones and the like. Oh, and the alfajor cookies. Posted: 2:11 pm on March 2nd

LisaWaddle writes: Andy,
How about posting some of your bread baking results? I'd love to see what you've come up with. Posted: 1:43 pm on March 2nd

dineindiva writes: Thanks for the link, I'm going to try the Pale Ale grain bread. Posted: 4:17 pm on February 23rd

illbebaking writes: Hey Lisa,

The no-knead bread recipe is great! A friend pointed me to it a while ago and I have tried it in just about every dutch-oven-like container possible. It never fails. I've got to say, though, I am not crazy about flipping the bread from a floured towel. It is much easier (and less messy) to put a generous layer of flour in a large plastic container or bowl and let the dough rise. When it is ready to go in the oven, I fold the edges of the dough inward and grab the whole things with my hands.

Some time after trying the recipe I picked up a copy of The Story of the Old Cowboy Cook by Ramon Adams and read that the range cooks used to bake bread in dutch ovens buried in red hot coals. It is definitely worth a try, just don't use a ceramic dutch oven for this because the tend to explode. Stick to cast iron.

Andy Posted: 10:03 am on February 23rd

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