Whole Wheat and Flax Meal No-Knead Bread

I have the zeal of the converted. Jim Lahey‘s no-knead bread is not only super easy, it is also insanely delicious, since the long and slow ferment deepens the flavor. I have been making this bread for months, and I’m slowly working my way through the other recipes in his book. These days I use a lot of whole wheat flour, but in this loaf I decided to add some flax meal for extra crunch and texture. It was a total success! It is certainly true that whole wheat flour (especially if used exclusively) does not rise as much as white flour, but I don’t mind that one bit. We had some glorious sandwiches and cheese plates with this bread, and then Eric used the leftovers for spring panzanella. Delicious! This bread actually reminds more than anything of the black bread (черный хлеб) I ate in Russia, a staple of every meal. I loved its deep and rich flavor, with an almost molasses-like quality, and that is definitely here in this bread too. And, of course, the flax meal adds a hearty crunch!

I have written in more detail about the no-knead process here, and you can also find step-by-step instructions in this article or in Jim Lahey’s book My Bread (ever so highly recommended!) Here I will just walk through it in pictures (and, of course, provide the recipe at the end of the post)! Above are the dry ingredients: flour, yeast, salt, and flax meal.

After you mix them, you add the water and stir by hand for about 30 seconds, until the dough is thoroughly moistened. (Sometimes you will have to add extra water, a few tablespoons at a time, to get it there). This is what it will look like: a humble blob. Cover it with plastic wrap and let it sit for the next 12-18 hours, while you go on about your day and avoid getting dough under your fingernails with kneading. Added bonus!

After those magical hours, your dough will have risen substantially. This is what it will look like: very porous and fluffy.

This angle gives you an idea of how much it has risen. Please pardon inglorious lighting and focus.

At this point, you’re ready to shape the dough into a ball. I spread out some flax meal on a cutting board, gently nudged the dough onto it with a wooden spoon, and spent 30 seconds shaping it.

Voila! Your cute little ball will look something like this.

Then you sprinkle some flax meal on a tea towel, plop your dough down, and cover it. It can stay there for an hour or two.

Here’s what it will look like after that rise.

Now you place it in your pre-heated Dutch oven, and you’re ready to bake!

And here’s what it looks like fresh out of the oven.

Give it at least half an hour to cool (technically, it’s supposed to cool for an hour, but I am always hungry and impatient!), and then dig in! I love hearing it crackle while it’s cooling, and nothing is better than that first warm slice.

Whole Wheat and Flax Meal No-Knead Bread
Recipe slightly adapted from Jim Lahey’s My Bread

3 c (400 gr) whole wheat flour
1 1/4 tsp (8 gr) salt
1/2 tsp (1 gr) instant or other active dry yeast
1 1/3 c (300 gr) cool water (55-65 degrees F) (You will need to add a bit more water to absorb the flax meal. I added about 1/4 c. Try adding it 2 tablespoons at a time until the dough is thoroughly moistened)
1/3 c flax meal (plus more for dusting)

-In a medium bowl, blend the dry ingredients. Add the water and stir with a wooden spoon for 30 seconds. The dough will be very sticky. Cover the bowl and let rise for 12-18 hours, until it is doubled in size and the top is covered with bubbles.
-When the first rise is complete, generously dust a work surface with flax meal. Use a rubber spatula to turn the dough out onto the work surface in one piece. Using lightly floured hands, turn the sides of the dough up to form a ball, tucking in any loose edges for a clean, round shape.
-Place a cotton or linen tea towel on the work surface and generously dust it with flax meal. Lift the dough gently onto the towel, so the seam is facing down. Dust the top of the bread lightly with flax meal. Fold the ends of the towel over the dough loosely and let it rise for 1-2 hours until doubled in size.
-30 minutes before the end of the second rise, heat the oven to 475 degrees F and place a covered Dutch oven in the center of the rack.
-Using potholders, carefully remove the Dutch oven from the oven and remove the top. Unfold the tea towel and gently but quickly turn the dough into the pot. Remember that it is very hot! Cover the Dutch oven and bake for 30 minutes.
-Remove the lid and continue baking until the bread is a deep chestnut color but not burnt, 15 to 30 minutes more (mine was done in 15). Use a heatproof spatula to carefully life the bread out of the Dutch oven and place it on a rack to cool for 1 hour. Enjoy!

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