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The Legendary No-Knead Bread is Perfect for Kids

In praise of a crusty, modern-day icon that teaches glorious simplicity and patience.

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I have a friend who always has fresh, home-baked bread on the table. Always! The secret? A recipe that has achieved iconhood. This recipe has transcended its original home in recyclable newsprint to join such all-timers as Julia’s boeuf Bourguignon and James Beard’s butter-and-onion sandwich in Recipe Valhalla, with the added bonus that people actually make this one.

I refer to the New York Times’ No-Knead Bread, adapted from the Sullivan Street Bakery. This recipe’s legacy is sufficiently profound as to send writers groping for words like “insurrection” and “cult.” For our purposes, as our Kitchen Academy box “I Loaf You brings subscribers a bundle of great bread recipes and lessons, the No-Knead has us thinking about the role bread can play in our kitchens, and in our culinary relationships with our kids.

The No-Knead points to a style of cooking that’s brilliantly simple and accessible. While of course more elaborate and exacting recipes are fun, at the end of the day, it’s this kind of replicable, no-fuss staple that keeps kitchens and tables running. For kids making their first forays into baking, a four-ingredient project demonstrates that this stuff doesn’t need to be complicated or intimidating. The specific steps provide ample opportunities to help. From measuring three cups of flour to crafting a shaggy ball of dough, the hands-on processes lend themselves to engagement across age groups.

But the waiting might be the best part. (Or the worst/best, if you want to think of it that way.) The No-Knead has one real trick to it, and that’s planning the work-back schedule. You have to let that dough rise for many hours, all day or overnight. Then you make your move to the oven at the right moment. All of which means this recipe’s one true tax on many kids will be its demands on their patience. Set-it-and-forget-it can work pretty well for junior attention spans—but you can’t quite forget this one.

Together, you can sketch out how the widely spaced steps required fit into your day, or your weekend—and how they’ll culminate in a triumphant big reveal at the dinner table. In this overly complicated age, simple things—like delivering a big, tawny, crusty boule—sometimes get the biggest response. The No-Knead lets kids bask in that glow.

Little Sous offers an immersive, themed cooking kit for kids. Our monthly lessons will turn your kitchen into a place where family connects and kids become creative, confident cooks. Check out our subscription options!

No-Knead Bread—With Tips for Kids!

Adapted from The New York Times and the Sullivan Street Bakery—with tips from Little Sous.

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Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
  • ¼ teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons salt
  • Cornmeal

Steps:

  1. Step 1

    Combine flour, yeast, and salt in a large bowl. Add 1⅝ cups water and stir until blended. Cover bowl with plastic wrap.

    Sous Tip:

    As you get this process started, talk your junior assistants through the phases that will make it all happen. After you have your shaggy dough ball under wraps, it needs to rest for 12 to 18 hours, at room temperature. Here’s your opportunity to talk about what yeast does and how it works, the role of live cultures in food, and how a good plan can make longer-term projects fun. If you’re a Google Home or Alexa household, consider having the kids instruct that friendly AI to set a long timer. (But not if it’s going to wake everyone up.)

  2. Step 2

    When the dough’s surface is dotted with bubbles, place it on a lightly floured work surface. Sprinkle with a small amount of flour, then fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let rest 15 minutes.

    Sous Tip:

    Now it’s evening (if you started bright and early) or the next day (more realistically). See what your kids think of this process so far. Does it remind them of nurturing a pet? Have they ever grown salt crystals or done another science-y overnight project? Here’s where you can reinforce the yeasty processes at work inside your dough ball.

  3. Step 3

    Use a little flour on your fingers and work surface, and quickly work the dough into a ball. Generously dust with cornmeal—the Times version calls for coating a cotton kitchen towel in the stuff, placing the dough ball on it, seam-side down, and dusting with more. Cover with another towel and let rise for 2 more hours.

    Sous Tip:

    Patience and planning, my young apprentice! The next key move actually comes before that 2-hour wait is up. About 90 minutes after you dust and cover the loaf, it’s time to preheat the oven to 450°F and put your heavy 6- to 8-quart pot in to sit as the oven heats. This is another great task for kids to help plan and execute. Set the timer, turn the knob!

  4. Step 4

    This is an adult step, for sure: Carefully take the heated pot out of the oven, and slide the dough ball into it, seam side up. Cover with the pot lid, return to the oven, bake for 30 minutes covered and 15-30 minutes uncovered until your loaf is nicely browned. Remove from oven and pot and cool.

    Sous Tip:

    Butter? Jam? Jelly? Prosciutto? Olive oil? What are we eating this thing with?