My failing no knead bread- why??

So I have used the No Knead Bread recipe two, three times. I heard people sang praises of this recipe and how good it is. But each time my bread turned out to be more a hard biscuit than fluffy bread. The crust was thick, and hard, and the interior was somewhat dry and dense. The whole bread couldn’t be more than 2" tall.

Why do you think that may be? The yeast? (I bought some instant yeast, that i eventually froze) The folding technique?

I used Central Milling flour, bought from Costco.

I mixed the flour, yeast, and salt in a big salad bowl, then added water and let the dough rise.

For a while I thought I didn’t wait long enough for the fermentation, but the results were the same after I waited longer.

The yeast seemed to be working- as the dough grew much bigger in size after the waiting, before I folded it a few times as instructed.

I used a cast iron cocotte, real hot when I threw the dough in. No its not as suave as how Jim Lahey did it, but nonetheless the dough got in. (Though when the dough got in, it was back to the pre-fermentation size since I folded it a few times)

My oven temperature was very close to what they need in the recipe.

I followed instructions precisely (I think), and still got the same result. I love to have good bread but this is seriously dampening my baking spirit.

Please help!

I’m happy to try to help. But you should know that my starting assumption is that something very basic is not being observed in your execution, because this bread is very simple but demands certain little things.

Numbers come to my mind: was your rise time less than 14 hours or so; are you using “bread flour” (the protein level should be 12-14 percent); are you uncertain of your oven temperature; are you securely covering your bread with a lid for the first half of cooking, which is absolutely necessary for this technique?

If you are following all those guidelines, the only remaining issue would seem to be yeast. Perhaps some new instant yeast is warranted. (Do not use active dry yeast.) I recommend SAF yeast.

Good luck! This isn’t rocket science, but there are a few basics that need to be scrupulously observed.


It sinks and never rises again.

Do have a look at the fine-tuning by Bittman here. Surely something goes wrong somewhere. Can you recount the steps in your memory to pinpoint where it could have gone wrong?

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I didn’t read other people’s responses, but mine is a hard crust bread. I don’t think it is meant to be a soft roll.

That seems a little lower though.

Dry and dense insides? It sounds like you’re over cooking it— I used to make this a lot, using the equivalent amount of active dry yeast (can’t remember the ratio) but otherwise following the recipe verbatim, and found that the inside crumb was always wetter than a professional loaf, but the crust was great. You should remove the loaf from the oven when it reads 210 degrees. It needs to cool down for a long time, otherwise the insides will seem very underdone.

I struggled with the height too. The best solution was to bunch up the parchment’s corners so it formed a teardrop, for a bit, but the dough would inevitably spread out to the width of the Dutch oven. I’ve not revisited the recipe in a while, but this recent Bittman Lahey may help with forming the dough:


Another thing come to mine… since these days are cold… it is possible the “Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.” was done at 60oF or lower?

I don’t remember what season it was when I made this bread. The last one I think was summer. So the room could be 70F. But other season in California, the temperature could drop to below 70F.

So, let it rise longer if that’s the case?

By hard crust, I meant that the crust was 1/4" thick that could possibly damage teeth.

I wasn’t expecting sandwich bread, of course.

I see. Nah, if you are in California, then you are fine. I don’t know. I do agree with BadaBing. It is likely a problem from a simple but important step. To me, it sounds like a problem of yeast fermentation. Either the quantity or quality of the yeast. Or the fermentation time and temperature.

Instant yeast? It is fine. Freezing leftover, that is fine too.

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SAF instant yeast was what I used. But let me eliminate other variables first.

A test to apply in no-knead dough: after the rise in the bowl, lightly wet your hand with some water and then pull some dough from the side of the bowl. You should see strings of dough adhering to the bowl, stretching at least an inch or two. If that doesn’t happen, then your dough lack gluten development.

Also, another factor: you MUST preheat the cooking vessel for 30+ minutes, and then it must be tightly covered for the first half of baking. This preheating is the toughest part of no-knead baking: you knead oven mitts and some boldness to get a dough into a very hot pot.

There are further tricks involving parchment paper for rising and more. But do try your process of elimination.


Did you rise the dough a second time after you folded it before you put it in the oven?

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^^^^ This is one of the question in my mind- which is that if I collapse all the CO2 pockets by folding, whether it changes the density of the bread.

I didn’t. Should I? and if i should, how long?

Yes, you need to give it at least an hour after the folding/shaping step. More might be better in a cold room.

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Yes - like Bio says. It needs that second rise to form enough air bubbles for the dough to rise when baked. Let it rise a second time until it’s doubled in size. Then through it in the hot pot & bake it. You’ll like the result.

You might try a winemaker’s trick: rehydrating your yeast in the water, rather than mixing it in the dry mix.

Salt has a negative effect on the yeast propagation, especially if your yeast isn’t fresh. Try making a completely unsalted loaf to compare.

I think you have a likely answer to the problem. Not sure what recipe you’re using, but you do need somewhere between 1.5-3 hours of rising after you take the no-knead dough from the bowl and shape it into a form (I always do round).

What recipe are you using?

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I don’t care what recipe I’m using - I always proof my yeast.

Same. Now that I re-read the NY Times recipe and realized that it asks to just combined the dried yeast with other ingredients. I am sure that I have dissolved the dried yeast and to make sure it is active. So I must have alter that part of the recipe.

Wait- I re-read the recipe. I believe I followed the recipe and let the dough rise again since the recipe calls for that step. When I throw the dough into the pot, it is about the size of Lahey’s dough in the video. Hmmph.