Cast-Iron Pot Bread

I awoke this morning to a beautiful fall sunrise streaming through my bedroom window. It was the first day in a while that I didn’t actually have to leave the house unless I wanted to, which meant it was the perfect day to make homemade bread.

In the past, given that I didn’t have a lot of time to spend on making bread, I depended on my bread machine to do the work for me. It was great because it required little time or energy, but still provided a homemade product. Unfortunately, it was never fantastic and I was getting tired of always making it in my bread machine. There is something very fulfilling about participating in the bread-making process: the waiting, the rising, the change from something simple to something wonderful. I was excited that I now had more time to dedicate, so I thought would be the perfect opportunity to try a new recipe that I had clipped out of the newspaper several months ago.

After making a warm pot of French-press coffee, I found the recipe in my horribly disorganized recipe book and set it up in the “prep area” in my kitchen - a counter space with a window that overlooks the woods; perfect for kneading, mixing, rolling, and all other sorts of delicious activities. I realized I hadn’t baked anything in my kitchen yet, and suddenly became very giddy. I put on my apron, turned on some music, and got to work.

The recipe is really basic: flour, yeast, salt, water, and a little oil. After mixing the first four ingredients, I covered the bowl in a clean dish towel and placed it in the oven (a warm, non-drafty place where I won’t bump it), where it has to rest for four hours. I spent the next four hours organizing my calendar, reading some new magazines, and taking a walk in the woods. I acknowledged that bread making, while seemingly time consuming, really gives us a chance to rest, relax, and appreciate the process by which food is created.

When the four-hour timer went off, I pulled the dough out of the oven, breathing in the yeasty smell that had taken over my oven. I then folded it a few times on an oiled cookie sheet and let it rest again. After the requisite resting time completed, I placed the dough in a heated cast-iron pot (which I find to be the coolest part of this recipe) and put it in the oven to bake. A friend came over and we enjoyed hot cider and fall cooking magazines on the couch, the house filled with the toasty warm smell of freshly baked bread.

Pulling it out of the oven, I was presented with a perfectly round, golden loaf. I let it rest just a few minutes before slicing off a piece for myself and my friend, taking in a deep breath of the steam released on the first slice. The first warm bite of a crusty outside and a soft, slightly salty inside took my breath away. That was when the chevre came out of the fridge and we went at the loaf, spreading thick layers of the soft cheese on the warm bread. Sharing the bread with a good friend and appreciating that the time when the bread is the freshest, I could not help but feel overjoyed at what I had made; that something made with a few simple ingredients became something so wonderful.

Speedy No-Knead Bread
(Makes 1 loaf)

2 cups bread flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
2 ½ tsp (1 packet) of instant yeast
1 ½ tsp salt
Oil as needed

Combine flours, yeast, and salt in a large bowl. Add 1 ½ cups of warm water and stir until blended (dough will be shaggy). Cover bowl with a clean dish towel. Let the dough rest about 4 hours at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees (a non-heated oven is perfect for this).

After the four hours is up, lightly oil a work surface and place dough on it. Fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with the dish towel and let it rest 30 minutes more.

At least 30 minutes before the dough is done resting, heat the oven to 450 degrees. Put a heavy covered pot - cast-iron, enamel, Pyrex, or ceramic - in the oven as it heats (I used a 2 ½ quart Le Creuset, which fit the dough perfectly). When the dough is ready, carefully remove the pot from the oven. Slide your hand under the dough and place it in the pot, seam side up. Shake the pan a few times if the dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes.

Cover with the lid and bake for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for 15-30 minutes more, until the loaf is golden brown. Cool on a rack.

Adapted from Mark Bittman’s (New York Times) adaptation of Jim Lahey’s recipe (Sullivan Street Bakery, New York), San Jose Mercury News


  1. Isn't it amazing how great homemade food can become a magical experience?! This recipe sounds fantastic!