I have for you today the world's easiest and best crusty homemade bread recipe. It's no-knead and it's perfect, with a slightly chewy, golden-brown crust and a soft, cloudy crumb with large, artisanal air pockets. As much as I love making all kinds of bread, this is the loaf that always puts the biggest smile of achievement on my face. It's a great recipe for both beginner and seasoned bakers, comes together rapidly, and needs just three ingredients--flour, salt and yeast. You can bake it up free form or in a loaf pan. Eat it plain, slathered with vegan butter, toast it and dunk it in soup, or slice it and stuff it with your favorite fillings for a delicious sandwich.
If you love making bread, or want to take a dabble at it, here's the recipe to make next: it's the world's best -- and easiest -- crusty homemade bread, and I do not say that lightly.
Of the hundreds of breads I've baked over the years, including many, many sourdough breads, this is one of my top favorites to make. It is not a shortcut recipe and needs two rises, but the proofing time passes so swiftly and so effortlessly, you might feel like you cheated. 🙂
Both the crust and the crumb are divine: the crust has a slightly chewy texture and the crumb is soft and airy with large pockets, thanks to the high level of moisture in the bread.
Best of all, you don't need to spend more than a couple of minutes putting the dough together and there's no extensive kneading involved. Even so, this looks and tastes like an artisan bread: one you could've spent hours making.
Why you will love this easy, crusty homemade bread
- It is super easy. This recipe is so straightforward and so simple that if you were to follow it accurately you will get good results. There is no kneading involved and a minimal amount of shaping. The bread releases easily from the pan and slices beautifully.
- It is delicious. This bread has a light, perfect flavor. It is seriously going to be one of the best breads you ever made, or ate.
- Everyone will love it. You can be assured that everyone you feed this bread to will ask for more. But you might not want to share. 😉
- You can bake it in a loaf pan, dutch oven or free form. I like baking this bread in a loaf pan because this is a loose dough and I like the bread to have a good height so I can use it for sandwiches. But feel free to shape it in a boule and bake on a baking sheet--the dough will spread out and flatten a bit. If you want a more rounded boule, bake the bread in a dutch oven (the crust will be chewier in a dutch oven).
- Unbleached all purpose flour. This is the best flour for this bread. You can use bread flour, however.
- Active dry yeast. For leavening. Make sure the yeast is still alive by blooming it first in warm water (or rather, lukewarm). If it froths and bubbles in a few minutes it is. Otherwise it's time to buy new yeast.
- Water. Try and use distilled or filtered water for breads, to ensure there are no chemicals interfering with the rise.
- A tiny bit of vegetable oil or cooking spray to coat the bowl and loaf pan.
How to make this artisanal, crusty homemade bread
- Bloom 2 teaspoon active dry yeast by mixing it with 1 ½ cups lukewarm water. Add 3 ¼ cups all purpose flour and 1 teaspoon salt.
2. Mix until a loose dough forms. Carefully place in an oiled bowl and coat with a little more oil or cooking spray. It should more than double in an hour.
3. Shape the bread into an oval if baking in loaf pan or in a round if baking in dutch oven.
4. In about 45 minutes it should dome over the loaf pan (it might not dome if you are using a dutch oven with deep sides, but it will rise). About 15 minutes before you bake the bread preheat oven to 450 degrees. Score the bread with a sharp knife. Place a glass or metal oven-safe pan filled with hot water on lower rack. Bake bread on middle rack for 30 minutes. Cool thoroughly before eating.
Can I make this bread with instant yeast or rapid rise yeast?
Yes. Use 1.5 teaspoon of instant yeast. You can skip the step for blooming the yeast and add it directly to the flour along with the water.
What size loaf pan did you use?
The loaf pan I used this time is one of the squatter ones I own--it's 10 inches by 5 inches. Had I used a more standard size bread pan --about 81/2 by 41/2 inches, I'd have gotten an even taller loaf.
Do I need a stand mixer for this bread?
Not at all. You can mix the dough in a stand mixer if you prefer to, using the dough hook, but it's not necessary. Just use a large bowl and a wooden spoon or your hands!
What pan can I use other than a loaf pan?
You don't need any special pans for this bread. I prefer a loaf pan because it gives a high loaf with perfectly shaped slices for sandwiches. But you can bake this bread freeform on a baking sheet. After the first rise shape the bread dough it into a boule or an oval loaf, place on the baking sheet and bake after it has risen. If you want a higher, more rounded boule use a dutch oven for the second rise and to bake the bread.
You can even bake the bread in a small cast iron skillet.
Do I need a special blade to score the bread?
No. Professionals and baking enthusiasts use a tool called a lame, a wand with a very sharp blade attached, to score the bread. You don't need it. A small, light, serrated knife, like a steak knife, does a fine job and that's what I use. Use a light, swift touch when scoring the loaf -- the dough should cut through quite easily. Don't use a heavy knife as the weight of the blade might cause the risen loaf to deflate. And don't use a blunt knife because any pressure you apply will also make your risen dough fall flat. Scoring the dough gives the gases formed as the oven heat hits the dough a vent to escape and gives your bread a lovely, artisanal look.
Storage and freezing instructions
As there are no preservatives in this homemade bread I recommend eating it within 3-4 days of baking. Keep it in the refrigerator during this time. For longer storage you can freeze the bread in a freezer safe bag, sliced or whole. Thaw before eating.
Can I make this bread with whole wheat flour?
This is a white bread recipe, and you will get the best results with all purpose flour. But you can substitute a cup of the white flour with whole wheat flour. You will get a decent loaf although it will be a bit more dense than if you were to use APF alone.
Use a clean shower cap instead of a napkin to cover the loaf pan as the dough rises. This keeps the dough from drying while minimizing any chances of it getting stuck to the napkin.
The Easiest Homemade Crusty Bread (no-knead recipe)
- Loaf pan, dutch oven or baking sheet
- Small oven-safe pan
- 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1½ cups lukewarm water
- 3¼ cups unbleached all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt (use less if that's your preference)
- Oil or cooking spray for coating bowl and loaf pan
- Cornmeal for dusting loaf pan
- Prepare a loaf pan or a dutch oven by spraying some cooking spray or coating with oil. Dust with cornmeal for easy release.
- Mix the yeast and lukewarm water and set aside to activate the yeast, about five minutes. The yeast should start frothing and bubbling to indicate it's alive.
- Add the flour and salt and mix until a loose dough forms. You won't be able to shape it at this time.
- Oil a bowl or coat it with cooking spray and place the dough in it. Coat the top with a little more oil or cooking spray to keep the dough from drying.
- Set aside in a warm spot in your kitchen to rise for an hour. After an hour the dough should have more than doubled.
- Turn the dough out and using your hands shape it into a rectangle or oval loaf. If using a dutch oven you should shape it into a round.
- Gently place the loaf into the loaf pan or dutch oven. Dust some flour on top, cover with a clean shower cap or with a kitchen towel°, and return it to the warm spot. to let the dough rise Let it proof or rise for another 45 minutes. If you are using a loaf pan the dough should easily form a nice dome during this time.
- About 15 minutes before the dough has finished rising, preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Just before you put the bread in the oven place a small glass or other oven-safe pan filled with hot water on a lower rack of the oven.
- Score the bread jbefore placing it on the middle rack in oven. I like to make a single score down the center, but you can also make three diagonal scores.
- Bake the bread for 30 minutes. Remove to a rack and cool for an hour, then remove from pan and continue cooling on rack.
- Slice and eat.
- To make this bread with instant yeast, reduce the amount of yeast to 1.5 teaspoons. You can skip the step for blooming the yeast and add it directly to the flour along with the water.
- The loaf pan I used this time is one of the squatter ones I own--it's 10 inches by 5 inches. Had I used a more standard size loaf pan --about 81/2 by 41/2 inches, I'd have gotten an even taller loaf.
- You can also bake this bread freeform on a baking sheet. After the first rise shape the bread dough it into a boule or an oval loaf, place on the baking sheet and bake after it has risen. Because the dough is so loose the loaf will flatten a bit but the bread will taste great. If you want a higher, more rounded boule use a dutch oven for the second rise and to bake the bread. You can even bake the bread in a small cast iron skillet.
- If you don't have a bread scoring blade, use a small, light, serrated knife, like a steak knife, t0 sc0re the bread. Scoring the bread helps gases escape during baking, giving your loaf a better rise and also an artisan bread look. Use a light, swift touch when scoring -- the dough should cut through quite easily. Don't use a heavy knife as the weight of the blade might cause the risen loaf to deflate. And don't use a blunt knife because any pressure you apply will also make your risen dough fall flat.
- This is a white bread recipe, and you will get the best results with all purpose flour. But you can substitute a cup of the white flour with whole wheat flour. You will get a decent loaf although it will be a bit more dense than if you were to use APF alone.