From No-knead to Sourdough: A Simpler Approach to Handmade Bread

From No-knead to Sourdough: A Simpler Approach to Handmade Bread

by Victoria Redhed Miller

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Create delicious, healthy breads in your own kitchen – no experience required

Is there any food that evokes pleasant memories and warm feelings more than bread? It's the most basic of foods, yet many of us are intimidated by the prospect of making our own. "Artisan" bread, craft bakeries, and wood-fired pizza are gaining popularity — imagine creating these fabulous breads at home.

With From No-Knead to Sourdough, author Victoria Redhed Miller blends her own journey toward self-reliance with her fascination for traditional homesteading skills and love of good food. From making simple yeast breads, to learning how to bake a wide variety of sourdough-based breads, the author's curiosity and fearlessness come together to share with readers a simpler approach to the pleasures of bread-baking.

Topics include:

  • Fitting bread-baking into your schedule
  • Low- and no-gluten baking, including GF sourdough breads
  • Using a wood-fired oven
  • Recipes for every comfort zone, from flatbread to sourdough
  • "Sexy science talk" sidebars for those interested in the science of baking.

From No-Knead to Sourdough will inspire the beginner and the accomplished baker alike to find their own comfort zone and move on to new skills when they are ready. Pizza and bagels, flatbreads and loaf breads, even gluten-free breads — you become the artisan when you make your own bread.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781771422710
Publisher: New Society Publishers
Publication date: 06/26/2018
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 691,290
File size: 24 MB
Note: This product may take a few minutes to download.
Age Range: 16 - 18 Years

About the Author

Victoria Redhed Miller is a writer, photographer, and homesteader. She speaks and writes extensively on topics including home distilling, bread baking, poultry keeping, and more. Victoria lives on a 40-acre off-grid farm in Washington State, and is also the author of Pure Poultry and the award-winning Craft Distilling .

Victoria Redhed Miller is a writer, photographer, and homesteader. She speaks and writes extensively on topics including home distilling, bread baking, poultry keeping, and more. Victoria lives on a 40-acre off-grid farm in Washington State, and is also the author of Pure Poultry and the award-winning Craft Distilling.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 8

Comfort Zone 1: No-knead breads

Okay! You're new to baking bread. You've read “How to use this book.” You want to jump right into baking bread without cluttering up your brain with a lot of details about grains and dough development and the perfect way to feed a starter. Probably you've seen articles or read a book about no-knead bread (see Resources), and this seems like a good place to start. That's cool. Let's do it!

First, be assured that you can – and will – make wonderful bread without having to understand all the scintillating scientific minutiae about yeast and all that. However, I do think it's helpful to cover a little bit of background information. It's kind of like driving a car: You can do it without being trained as a mechanic, but knowing a few basics like why your car needs a battery and fuel tends to help.

Like any other yeast bread, simple no-knead bread requires 4 ingredients: Flour, water, salt and yeast. No sugar. No milk. No eggs. Just flour (in this case, wheat flour), water, salt and yeast. We'll get into sourdough later, when you're ready to move to another comfort zone, but for now we're using commercial yeast (see Chapter 4 for recommendations).

Quick review: Yeast is a tiny living organism that eats sugar and produces alcohol and carbon dioxide in a process called fermentation. It's what makes bread dough rise, before and during baking. Wheat flour contains proteins that form gluten when water comes in contact with the grain (see Sexy Science Talk on page __ for a more detailed description of this process). Gluten – from the Greek word for glue – is a stretchy protein that enables wheat dough to keep its structural integrity while rising; without this gluten, the dough is soft, not stretchy, and it doesn't rise much.

What does all this have to do with kneading? Well, the reason for kneading bread dough is to “exercise” the gluten, in order to fully develop its elasticity and strength. To a point, kneading bread dough does result in improved texture in the finished bread. So why does this no-knead technique work at all, much less reward you with gorgeous, delicious, beautifully risen loaves? It works because as we've already discovered, once you add water to that flour, the gluten begins to form its magical network of stretchy cells. So you'll find, with your very first batch, that even without the additional exercise that kneading gives those little gluten molecules, enough gluten forms during the mixing process to allow the bread dough to rise and bake beautifully without collapsing on itself.


You may be wondering at this point why anyone would bother ever kneading their bread dough, if this no-knead technique allows sufficient gluten development to make good bread. I suspect – and certainly hope – that once you go through the no-knead process a few times, you will be thoroughly bitten by the baking bug and decide to move to Comfort Zone 2 (chapter 10) and try hand-kneading your dough. Invite a few friends over, mix up a couple batches of no-knead bread, then spend just a few minutes kneading one batch. Observe, and make notes if you wish, what differences you see as the dough rises, how it feels in your hands when you shape it, how it bakes, and what the finished bread is like. You may decide that no-knead bread is just fine for you, and that's entirely up to you. Or, you may choose to knead some breads and not others. Either way, you will be making wonderful bread!

Let's get started on a basic no-knead wheat bread. This is a simple sandwich bread with 30% whole wheat flour. Try this basic recipe first, then if you want to, try one of the variations that follow.


  • 3-5 minutes to measure ingredients and mix dough
  • 20 minutes for autolyze phase (see Sexy Science Talk, below)
  • 1-2 hours to ferment the dough
  • 1 hour to proof dough
  • 35-45 minutes to bake

Equipment you'll definitely need:

  • Large mixing bowl (stainless steel, glass, Pyrex, or ceramic)
  • Wooden spoon for mixing

Stuff that's not absolutely necessary but recommended (see Chapter 4)

  • Kitchen scale
  • 2-quart dough-rising bucket
  • 8” round proofing basket
  • Serrated bread knife or single-edge razor blade for slashing dough
  • Baking stone

Ingredients Metric US Baker's percentage

Unchlorinated water, lukewarm 350g 70

Unbleached bread flour 350g 70

Whole wheat flour, preferably stone-ground 150g 30

SAF or other instant yeast 1 tsp

Sea salt 10g 2

Mixing and fermenting

Measure the water and yeast into the mixing bowl, stirring to dissolve the yeast. Add the flours and salt, and stir the dough with the wooden spoon for a minute or two. See how that dough is already starting to feel a little bit stretchy? Keep stirring. It should be starting to come together in a solid but soft mass. Yay! The gluten is forming!

Now let the dough rest for about 20 minutes; leave the spoon in the dough. You can cover it with plastic wrap if you want to, but it's not necessary. After it's rested (maybe you did too?), stir it again briefly. Can you feel the difference? You can stir it at a leisurely pace now for another couple of minutes if you want to – aha, I tricked you into kneading it a little! – or you can just cover the bowl with plastic wrap and go throw horseshoes out back for a while while it ferments. (If you have a dough-rising bucket, use the spoon to scrape the dough out of the bowl and into the dough bucket. Put the lid on and you're done for now.)

TIP: I highly recommend fermenting your dough at a fairly cool temperature; 65-68ºF (____ ºC) is ideal. Slowing down the fermentation just a bit is easier on your schedule; also, the longer it ferments, the more flavor develops. The dough-rising bucket makes it so simple to know when the fermentation is nearing completion: A batch like this, made with 500 grams total of flour, will pretty much fill up that bucket when it doubles in volume.

[Photo of dough in bucket]

Sexy Science Talk: What the heck is “autolyze”?

The autolyze process gives both you and your dough a nice little break. If you are hand-kneading your bread dough, this rest of 20 minutes or so actually makes kneading easier because it allows for the development of gluten before you start kneading. Even with no-knead bread like this, the autolyze rest greatly improves the texture of your bread.

Shaping and proofing

So your dough is fermented. You know it's fermented because it's doubled in size, and has a lovely yeasty, slightly tangy aroma. Now what? Shape, proof and bake, that's what. In the spirit of this comfort zone, let's keep the shaping part as simple as possible.

Did you notice that I haven't yet told you to punch down your dough? That's because I don't want you to punch down your dough! You've just spent at least a couple hours of your day mixing and fermenting the stuff, and it's twice the volume compared to what you started with. Remember all those hungry little yeast cells that have been gobbling up the carbohydrates in the flour; the dough has risen because of all the carbon dioxide bubbles produced during this fermentation process. If you “punch” that dough, guess what happens to all those bubbles? That's right, they BURST. Trust me, you don't want that to happen.

Okay, here's what you want to do. First toss a generous amount of bread flour on a good-sized cutting board (or a clean countertop, if you prefer). Take the lid or plastic wrap off your bread dough and tip the bucket or bowl up so the dough starts sliding out onto the board, using your free hand to help. Some of the bubbles with break as you do this, it's inevitable and you are not to worry about it.

TIP : I like to wear nitrile gloves for the shaping process, I find the dough doesn't stick to the gloves anywhere near as much as it sticks to my hands. The less you manhandle the dough at this point, the better.

At this point you will be handling the dough gently and not for very long – keeping in mind all the tiny bubbles. The dough will be quite soft. In fact, you may be wondering how on earth that wet mass of dough will ever form something that looks like a loaf of bread. Bear with me here; you can do this, I promise. Toss a little bread flour over the top of the dough. Now slide one hand under the far edge of the dough, lift up your hand an inch or two and bring that hand toward you, pulling very gently to slightly stretch the dough. You're folding part of the dough mass over the rest of it; does that make sense?

[Photos showing steps of shaping process]

Now repeat that series of steps a couple more times, picking up and folding over a different part of the dough mass. With just a few rounds of this, you should find the dough is coming together in a much more smooth-looking ball. I should mention that no matter how many times I make a particular recipe, it seems like there is something slightly different about the result every time. I've never figured out why, and gave up long ago trying to understand it. The point is, don't expect it to look perfect. It never does. You will get better at this, these motions with the hands will feel more natural, you'll get used to how the dough feels as you shape it. Just don't stress right now about that dough ball looking exactly like the one in the photos, okay?

If you have a banneton or proofing basket, dust the inside with flour and gently lift the dough ball and put it in the basket. No proofing basket? It's perfectly fine to line a mixing bowl with a clean dish towel; linen is ideal for this. (Before I bought some proofing baskets, I “borrowed” some of David's nice linen napkins for this, and it worked great.) Be sure to dust the dish towel with flour before putting the dough in there. You can also put it in a greased loaf pan if you prefer. Cover the container with plastic wrap.

[Photo of bannetons]

So now comes the “proofing” stage. I will cut to the chase here and say that you do NOT need a proofing cabinet, or any other special apparatus or gizmo for this process. Right now, there is plenty of time, and time = flavor. You need some time to preheat your oven anyway, so just set aside the bread pan or proofing basket; like fermentation, a relatively cool temperature is your friend here. It's okay if it's warmer than 70ºF (__ºC), just be aware that you will need to watch the dough so it doesn't rise too much before you put it in the oven.

TIP: I have often thought that this is the trickiest part of baking bread: Judging when the dough is ready to put in the oven. It has helped me to consistently make the same size batch of dough; over time (and a lot of trial-and-error) I've gotten used to how much the dough rises in the proofing basket before it is baked. It is better to err on the side of under- rather than over- proofing!


For free-form loaves, I highly recommend using a baking stone, a good thick one. In my kitchen, which is quite consistently less than 70ºF, I like to turn on the oven, then shape the dough. I've found that the hour that it takes to thoroughly heat up that baking stone is the per ect amount of time to proof that dough. Be aware that the dough will not double this time; it may get to about 1-1/2 times its original volume, but it won't double. You don't WANT it to double. You want enough of those yeast cells to still have the energy to keep raising that dough once it's in the oven.

I like to bake this bread at 475ºF. If your bread is in a loaf pan, and assuming your oven thermostat is accurate, it will take 40-45 minutes to bake. Free-form loaves baked directly on the baking stone might be a few minutes less. You will have to make a few test runs to see what works best with your oven, but most 500-gram loaves should bake nicely within, say, 35-50 minutes at this temperature.

TIP: We'll talk later about adding steam to the baking process. For now, just concentrate on getting comfortable with the basic shaping, proofing and baking processes.

I have a wooden pizza peel that I use for getting my bread in and out of the oven (see photo). It may not be traditional, but I much prefer putting a piece of parchment paper on the peel first. It makes it so much easier to slide the bread off the peel and onto the baking stone! (If you don't have a peel, you can use a rimless baking sheet.) Take your proofing basket or bowl (plastic wrap off), and quickly tip the bowl over to turn the dough onto the peel. If you want to slash it, now is the time. I like a serrated bread knife for this; quickly and confidently make 2 or 3 slash marks on your loaf. 1/4”-1/2” is the depth to aim for. It's important to get the dough in the oven promptly, so don't spend a lot of time on slashing.

Using a jerking motion with the peel, slide the dough, on the parchment paper, onto your baking stone and quickly shut the oven door. Set your timer for 35 minutes and take a break. Resist the temptation to open the oven door until the timer goes off.

Check the bread after 35 minutes. It will have risen nicely and should be at least starting to brown. You will probably want to bake it a few more minutes; if you slashed the dough, the edges of the slash marks will be getting darker now, and may even look almost black. That's a good time to take it out of the oven. Use your peel again for this, helping the bread onto the peel with tongs or a wooden spoon if needed. Put your beautiful loaf onto a cooling rack, stand back and admire it. Please let it cool for at least 45 minutes, preferably an hour, before you cut into it. (I force myself to do dishes and clean up the kitchen at this point; if that doesn't take enough time, there's always a New York Times crossword somewhere.)

I know it seems like there was a lot of detail here for just one simple loaf of bread. I can tell you from my own experience that it won't be long before this will all seem like second nature. You have made a loaf of bread with your own hands! If you never thought of yourself as a bread baker before today, well, now you ARE a bread baker. Enjoy this moment. Be proud of yourself.

[Photo of bread dough on pizza peel]

[Photo of dough being slashed]

[Photo of finished bread on cooling rack]

Variations on basic no-knead bread

Long-fermented no-knead bread

This method gives you the advantages of long-fermented sourdough bread, with the convenience of no-knead yeast bread. This also allows you a lot more flexibility in fitting bread-making into your schedule; once you've mixed up your dough, you simply set it aside for 8-12 hours or even more, before shaping and proofing it.

It's quite simple: Just decrease the amount of yeast to ¼ teaspoon. The smaller amount of yeast results in a slower rise, which allows for more flavor development. Plus you can just mix it up in the morning, go off for your day's work, and finish it in the evening. Or mix it at night and bake it first thing in the morning. And remember, if you want to slow the process down even more, you can simply pop the dough bucket into the fridge at any point after the dough is mixed. Take it out 2-3 hours ahead of when you want to shape and proof it, to allow it to come back to room temperature. Then proceed as usual with shaping.

(additional variations coming)

Table of Contents

Foreword, by J. Lauryl Jennings
Introduction: Pure Bread

Part One: Finding Your Comfort Zone
1. Handmade Bread: It's No Wonder
2. Getting in the Zone: How to Use This Book
3. Flour, Salt, Yeast, Water
4. Understanding Gluten
5. From Mixing Bowl to Bread Machine: Use What Works for You
6. How to Make Dough: The Gentle Craft of Fermentation
7. Shaping, Proofing, and Baking Bread

Part Two: Yeast Breads
8. Comfort Zone 1: No-knead Breads
9. Bagels and Other Specialty Yeast Breads
10. Comfort Zone 2: Kneaded Breads
11. Unusual Yeast Breads

Part Three: Breads Made with Pre-ferments
12. Comfort Zone 3: Sponge, Poolish, Biga
13. Pizza

Part Four: Sourdough and Other Breads Made with a Storage Leaven
14. Levain, Desem, Barm: Introducing Sourdough Starters
15. Comfort Zone 4: Making Your First Sourdough Starter
16. Making Long-fermented Sourdough Bread
17. Comfort Zone 5: Sourdough and Yeasted Rye Breads

Part Five: Low- and No-gluten Breads
18. Comfort Zone 6: Low- and No-gluten Breads
19. Gluten-free Yeast Breads
20. Gluten-free Sourdough Starters and Breads

Part Six: The Wood-fired Oven
21. The Homestead Hearth: Why and How I Built My Wood-fired Oven
22. Heating and Using Your Wood-fired Oven
23. Skillet Breads
24. Naan and Pita: Two Favorite Flatbreads
25. Go to Your Kitchen and Play!

Appendix A: Converting Weights and Measures
Appendix B: Recommended Books and Other Resources
Recipe Index
About the Author
About New Society Publishers

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Victoria writes with a fine blend of passion and common sense, with informative asides like "Sexy Science Talk." There are few things more soul-satisfying than the taste of homemade sourdough, and even fewer things as healthful to keep your mind and body tuned and balanced. Victoria's detailed but uncluttered recipes make that argument, delectably."
— Stephen Yafa, author, Grain of Truth: Why Eating Wheat Can Improve Your Health

"Victoria Miller cleverly combines science, history, and personal touches to make homemade bread accessible for everyone, no matter his or her level of experience. I've made my own bread for years, and I find this book helpful, friendly, and inspiring. Miller's experiences homesteading and scratch cooking combine with bread-making instruction to bring a connectivity between baking and living off of the land that is refreshing and holistic."
— Meredith Leigh, author, The Ethical Meat Handbook and Pure Charcuterie

"I think baking is a lot like gardening: it's as old as the hills, but we're still experimenting and still learning. That's a good thing, especially given our interest in learning to create handmade bread. And as usual, reading Victoria's writing is a pleasure in and of itself."
— George and Jolie Will, home bread bakers

"Victoria Miller brings the art and science of breadmaking to life in her newest book that is surely destined to be a family favorite. Her no-nonsense style cuts through the controversy of gluten vs gluten-free, and along with gluten-free options provides a balanced approach to this hot topic. If you are seeking a new hobby that the whole family will love, look no further than From No Knead to Sourdough ."
— Hannah Crum, co-author, The Big Book of Kombucha

"Eclectic homesteader Victoria Redhed Miller takes us on a journey that's part science, part art and part passion, infused with a lot of history and can-do! From No-Knead to Sourdough is a fresh approach to bringing the joys of bread making into virtually any kitchen setting and has plenty to feed both experienced bakers and neophytes."
— Hank Will, Editorial Director, Ogden Publications

" From No-Knead to Sourdough is destined to have a permanent place among my favorite cookbooks! Enough craft for my inner artist, enough science for my inner nerd, this book cuts through the mystery of bread baking with easy-to-follow recipes and instructions that will get you into your groove in no time. I no longer fear bagels, and sourdough is next on my list!"
— Callene Rapp, co-author, Raising Rabbits for Meat , and owner, The Rare Hare Barn, LLC

"Kneaded into the spirit of this profoundly useful book is a deeper message reminding us that bread is a spiritual staple in human society. Victoria Redhed Miller brings the delicious and wholesome essence of homemade bread back into our lives in a straightforward and practical way. At the same time she enriches our spirit with a new awareness of good bread's elevating presence in our lives, like the aroma of a new loaf wafting from the oven. Thank you, Victoria!"
— Bryan Welch, former publisher, Mother Earth News , Mother Earth Living and Utne Reader ; and author, Beautiful & Abundant: Building the World We Want

"If you're like me, and bread baking and working with dough is out of your comfort zone, this book will take you step-by-step through the learning curve, and your home kitchen will transform into your dream bakery. From No-Knead to Sourdough is so much more than another bread baking book; this one comes complete with a supportive friend in the kitchen! Victoria methodically makes bread baking so simple and accessible that you too will share her enthusiasm and expertise. I have to run. I have another loaf needing to come out of the oven."
— Lisa Kivirist, author, Soil Sisters: A Toolkit for Women Farmers and Homemade for Sale

"Victoria Redhed Miller's clear instructions and the well-organized structure of this book allow for experienced bakers to jump right to recipes, and provide beginners with thorough (but not overwhelming) descriptions of processes. What I particularly like is how she brings bread baking down to the real world. Informative, useful, and entertaining. What more could you want in a book?"
— Jereme Zimmerman, author of Brew Beer Like a Yeti and Make Mead Like a Viking

" From No-Knead to Sourdough is an essential volume for anyone aspiring to a regenerative lifestyle and to live more healthfully and self-sufficiently. Victoria guides readers of all experience levels through the joys and intricacies of bread-making by offering a graceful balance of easy to follow steps and deeper science."
— Oliver Goshey, Abundant Edge

"If you follow the guidelines in this book, I guarantee you too will produce appealing, tasty, nutritious breads, all in the comfort of your own kitchen and within your COMFORT ZONE! Victoria has done the research and the testing for you, ready for you to learn and master the art of handmade bread making."
— Colleen Lamb, M.Ed., owner, Dungeness River Lamb Farm and Lamb Farm Kitchen

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