Here’s a bread, Crusty Bread Easy Overnight, done in its simplest form. Sometimes you’ll see it called Le Creuset Bread, Pot Bread, Artisan Bread, Overnight Bread or No Knead Bread. They are all names for this super easy, quick to mix, no-knead bread that slowly rises overnight and gets popped in the oven the next day.
Crusty Bread, Easy Overnight is kind of a miracle, one of the most basic breads you could ever make with only four ingredients, but you’d never guess it from the taste which is divine and the texture, which is amazing. There’s that crust for one, and then the holey, kind of chewy dense bread itself.
About Crusty Bread Easy Overnight:
I just gotta mention that crust a little more. I mean that’s why I call this bread crusty! You all know or maybe you were one of those kids that took the crust of the bread? Not this bread. I think it’s the best part. I’ve had people ask for more bread, only to see them pick off the crust and eat it, leaving the bread on the plate!
And ya know you’re ALWAYS supposed to wait for bread to cool, right? We have never had the willpower. We’re cutting it up and digging in as soon as we can safely do so. If I want to serve this for dinner, I have to make two because it never lasts. And there’s no sense in hiding it because
I’m part of the problem the smell of freshly made bread wafting through your kitchen is a dead giveaway!
I love that this bread is rustic and each loaf seems to have its own personality – it’s so fun to open that pot and see what you’ve got! Sometimes I get a gorgeous perfect round and I have a few hints, below, that help ensure that. Sometimes it’s a little more freeform. Notice in the photos I show a variety of loaves I’ve baked so you can see for yourself. You can also see all the loaves everyone shared on Pinterest. Thanks all so much for sharing & helping to make this post a success! And thank you everyone for your comments – they help me fine-tune these instructions!
Why I Like Making This Bread So Much:
This is one of my favorite kinds of recipes, low effort, and high payoff. Flour, Salt, Yeast, Water, the recipe couldn’t be easier or more “hands-off.”
It literally takes 5 minutes to mix and then has an admittedly long overnight wait time for the yeast to work its magic. When you’re ready to bake, take 2 minutes to shape the bread on floured parchment and let it rise as the Dutch oven preheats, then give the dough a couple of slashes. Pick up the parchment, dough and all, place it in the hot Dutch oven, toss in 2 tablespoons of water and add the lid. Bake 30 minutes then remove the lid and bake another 10 to 15.
I’m a food blogger. I made my first bread around age 12. And I fell in love with the magic and the taste. Over the years, I’ve made more complex, perfect and/or showy bread. I’ve gone through stages when I’ve fermented my own wild yeast for sourdough, fooled around with bigas, French ferments, misting, cooking stones & bricks, blah blah blah, but I don’t really do that any longer – too much babysitting, too much attention and too much time!
This Crusty Bread, I make all the time because it’s delish AND it’s SO do-able.
Just Go For This Bread:
This is a bread that doesn’t need to be and shouldn’t be “over thought.” Whether you’ve never made any bread or are an experienced baker it’s simplicity is refreshing, it’s fun and it’s so low effort! Running pennies to make with so little effort (though admittedly there is that long rise) it’s the kind of recipe you can just plunge into and go for!
If you’ve never made bread before, I get that bit of anxiety that can come about when thinking about using yeast. Put your fears aside because there’s really no going wrong. You might want to make it as is the first time, but I’m betting you’re going to be using it as a jumping-off point and turning out loaves with all kinds of add-ins and your own special touches before you know it.
If you should run into any issues, comment below and we’ll run through what happened and come up with a fix…because it’s likely you’re going to have more yeast and flour to use! In the meantime, Happy Baking & Happy Bread Breaking!
Q & A and the Whys Behind the Recipe:
I have updated this section on 4/2020. First of all, for those prone to overthink, and I’m one of them, here’s more information and a little hand-holding because sometimes it’s nice to know why. 🙂 Don’t think for a minute that all the information below means this bread is fussy because it’s not!
It’s actually super simple, but these hints will keep you from going astray and a few will give you a slight edge in getting a beautiful, rounded bread.
If you’re bold, just skip all this and just mix it up and go for it!! I did and have had 10 years of wonderful bread!!!
- Flour Type: I call for unbleached flour because that’s the standard. Bleached flour is fine, too. I have seen people make this bread with all kinds of flour and combinations and it always seems to be a success, but I personally don’t know anyone who has used gluten-free flour. Using flours other than white can make a heavier, denser bread, and some bakers, when using different flours, like to add Vital Wheat Gluten. It will make bread made with heavier and/or whole grains fluffier. The rule of thumb is 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons of gluten to 3 cups whole wheat flour but do check your package.
- Flour Amount: This easy recipe is measured by volume, not weight. Measure by stirring flour to lighten, then scoop lightly with measuring cup. Do not compact flour at the final sweep. If necessary, tilt the bag or canister and let the flour flow over the top of the cup then level off. Measuring this way will give a cup of flour slightly heavier than the spooning method, probably around 4 3/4 ounces, more or less. It is more important that the dough be a shaggy mass than to adhere to a particular measurement but the dough is very forgiving and there is a range of moisture to flour that works well.
- Salt: Salt serves two purposes. It flavors the bread and slightly retards the yeast and helps to give a predictable rise. Vary the salt and you vary the recipe. Plain old table salt is used in mine, but if you use another, check this conversion chart from Morton’s or consult the label or brand of salt you are using.
- Yeast: My preferred is Instant yeast. I’ve also used Rapid Rise and Bread Machine yeast and even Active Dry yeast. The dough is so wet it the active dry yeast doesn’t seem to need to be “proofed” (Mixed ahead of time with proper temperature water) but you could if you wish.
- Water: Plain tap water is fine for this bread. A purist may want to use distilled but I never have. The temperature should be neither hot or cold but hold your wrist under the stream of water and the water should feel barely warm. Technically you’re looking for a temperature of about 105 to 110 degrees F. Sometimes warmer water is used to speed the rising of instant yeast to compensate for the room temperature flour but in this case, a long, slow rise is wanted. I have never once checked with a thermometer.
- The Bowl: It’s best to use a bowl that is not too wide and shallow if you have a choice, although any bowl will work. A bowl just a little larger than your ball is ideal.
- Covering the Dough: After the dough is mixed, cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a tight lid. The dough will always rise better if it does not become dry at the top or form a crust. Do not use a towel.
- Overnight Rising Temperature: Yeast works best at temperatures between 70°F and 80°F and an ideal proofing temperature is closer to 78 degrees F. If your house is cool, place the bowl somewhere warmer, like the top of a fridge or in a warm (but turned off!) oven. If you put the dough on any kind of heater to rise, insulate the bottom of the bowl with a few fluffy towels. If your house is very warm, the dough may rise more quickly than expected.
- Overnight Rising Time: Part of the reason the recipe takes a long overnight rise is that it uses very little yeast to start with. The yeast multiplies slowly and that helps the flavor develop without multiple risings like some breads. It also makes this bread incredibly cheap to make!
- Can it Rise for Too Long: Yes it can. If the level of dough begins to drop in the bowl or collapse, it may be that you left it too long. If you catch it before the yeast is played out and add a little sugar (I would guess a 1/2 a teaspoon) you might be able to encourage any remaining yeast to multiply. If the dough is just a wet pool, add in more flour. You could also add 1 1/2 cups more water and turn it into a sourdough starter. There are other things to do with failed dough, although all the years I’ve made this, mine has never failed.
A Few Tips & Tricks When Ready To Bake:
Over the years I’ve come up with some little tricks to the basic recipe to get just a little bit better results. Here’s how to get the bread into the Dutch oven and finish it.
- Use Parchment: While the bread can be made without parchment, and I’ve done it plenty of times without, parchment allows for the best rise because the dough can be gently transferred right on top of the parchment and you won’t be risking any deflation like you might if you just pick up the dough ball and drop it in. The parchment also makes it incredibly easy to safely add the bread to the screaming hot pot and to remove it when finished. Use enough so the parchment reaches above the dough so it can be used as “handles.”
- About the Parchment: Some better parchments are thick and heavy and don’t conform well to the Dutch oven as you place it with the bread on it into the Dutch oven. That can cause a little deformity in your bread. Before you start the recipe, you can try putting the parchment in the cold Dutch oven and press it down and kind of shape it. Then take it out and form your dough on it.
- Transfer Dough to Parchment: Be very gentle and nudge with a spatula, trying not to deflate the dough as you move the dough out of the bowl it has risen in. Save the plastic wrap to cover the dough later.
- Shaping the Dough: A slight shaping will help the loaf be rounder. Sprinkle three to four tablespoons on the parchment (use less if the dough seems dry, a little more if it seems wet) and a little on top of the bread and on your hands. Cup the dough by using your hands. Put your hands on either side of the dough ball as if you are going to pick it up, pinkies and the edge of your palm down, but instead of picking it up, push in at the bottom of the dough, where the dough meets the parchment, slightly turning as you go. That turning makes the dough a bit tauter (it will still be very soft) and helps it keep a nice round shape with an interesting crust. In only a few turns your dough will turn into a ball. It might relax a bit on its own. Don’t worry about it. And don’t go overboard on the turning or you’ll have a weird spiral on the bottom.
- Amount of Flour to Add: If your dough is very wet and sticky when you turn it out, be more generous with the flour you add. Trust that the dough will tell you how much flour it needs; don’t stir or force flour in. It will pick up the right amount as you work with it, pushing and turning it.
- The Dough Texture: Even when your dough forms a ball, it will be very soft and still a little on the wet/moist side, not springy like a standard bread dough (if you’ve made regular dough before) and that is why you get a great oven spring (more on that later) and hopefully lots of holes in your finished bread. At the same time, although the ball might slump a little, it shouldn’t be so soft it just collapses!
- Remove Excess Flour and Cover: Once shaped, you should be able to shake off any excess flour. If you can lift the dough a little, shake any that’s under it then reshape the dough if needed. It’s not absolutely necessary to remove excess flour but it helps keep the bottom on the dough from becoming too tough. Cover lightly with plastic wrap so the dough can release any gasses and can expand.
- Rising After Shaping: If your kitchen is on the colder side you will need to let your dough sit on the counter more than the preheat time of the Dutch oven. To speed things up put your parchment on a sheet pan or plate and place it on top of your oven as it preheats, being careful to not create a hazard with the parchment and don’t place the bread on an area of the stovetop that is too hot. Know your stove and keep the dough well away from the warming burners and/or the back of the stove where there is usually more heat. Know and monitor the situation on your stovetop if you are letting your dough rise there.
- Doubling: Many recipes call for allowing the dough to double before baking. This has great “oven spring” and literally springs up in the first few minutes of cooking so a full rise isn’t necessary but do let it rise enough. Test it by giving a discrete and gentle little poke on the side. The dent should slowly spring back about halfway when ready. If it quickly springs all the back, let it rise a little more. If it stays completely, it’s really risen a little too much. Get it in the oven immediately! When the dough is placed on my stovetop as the oven preheats it is usually ready in about 25 to 30 minutes.
- Setting Oven Rack: Preset your rack. You’ll want the highest rack that allows you to easily reach in and get the lid and the Dutch oven. Make sure you have a little extra room – the preheat requires the lid to be slightly ajar and an accident could happen if the clearance is difficult. You don’t want to be too close to the bottom of the oven, though.
- Preheating the Dutch Oven: The pot really needs about 10 minutes after it reaches 450 degrees F. It can stay in a little longer if needed, but try to time it so the Dutch oven is hot as the dough is ready. My gas oven takes 10 minutes to get to 450 degrees F. Electric ovens will cycle up and down in heat so you may want to go for the whole 30 minutes.
- Slash the Dough: Giving the dough a couple of slashes on top helps the rise. Don’t go too deep or you’ll get free form ears like the pic towards the top of the page. It was still delish, though. Shoot for a 1/4 of an inch with a very sharp knife or razor blade. It sometimes takes a time or two of baking bread to get a real feel for slashing.
- Work Quickly & Safely: Once the screaming hot Dutch oven is ready, make sure to have two clear burners, the safest place to put the Dutch oven and lid. Quickly but gently place in the parchment (you can give the Dutch oven a shake if the dough is lopsided and it might straighten out) and quickly toss in the pre-measured water and lid again.
- Toss Water on the Dough: The dough is wet and this is not entirely necessary, but a little extra water helps with that spring and helps form the gorgeous crust. Aim to toss so a bit (measure the 2 tablespoons) hits the bread and some goes down the side (not the parchment) for steam. Do that really quickly in one shot and immediately add the lid. Getting that lid on right away after the water is tossed on is more important than anything else. Don’t overthink, toss it in and lid immediately.
- Bake: Bake the first 30 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned, with the lid on, then remove the lid and allow to finish browning. Err on the side of darker. Remove immediately from the pot and parchment when done. Check for doneness by taking a peek at the bottom and giving the bread a thump. It should sound hollow. Allow to cool on a rack. If possible.
- Cut: Use a serrated knife if possible. The crust can be prone to being tough on the bottom. Not cooking too close to the bottom and getting rid of that excess flour helps that from happening but you may have to turn the bread and power through that bottom crust.
- Store: If stored in plastic, the crust will soften. Professionals use special materials but a tightly closed paper bag will help it keep overnight at least. This is at it’s best the first day and makes great toast after!
Special Equipment for Making your Crusty Bread Easy Overnight:
You are going to need An enameled cast-iron Dutch oven, regular cast-iron Dutch oven or any pot/pan with a lid that will withstand this very high oven temperature for the amount of time. If you improvise, let me know what works for you!
- If you know the make of your Dutch oven, check the manufacturer’s site (if you no longer have the booklet) to see if your pot will be okay. Most are and I’ve used several brands.
- If the problem is the plastic knob, remove it and cover the hole with a bit of dough to seal it. Don’t push it in where it could get caught in the threads, just press the dough lightly on top. Just don’t forget to screw the knob back on after everything is washed; it would be a shame to misplace it!
- An old-fashioned speckled casserole does work but gives just a bit of a strange bottom due to the indentations and the loaf usually is a little more free form than round.
- I haven’t tried this, but if your baking stone will take the temperature and length of time (and it should) it could be used with a stainless steel bowl as a lid – in this case, don’t toss the water on, but do mist, then pop the bowl over. Be very careful lifting up the bowl when removing it. A thin spatula you can slip under the bowl to lift it and a pair of tongs to grab it with will help.
- Flour/Water Mess: Cold water does a much better job of dealing with any sticky floury, doughy mess. The easiest way to clean up your dough mess from the bowl (the parchment does save a lot of the mess) is to soak for a few minutes in cold water, then wipe it with a dishcloth and only then use hot soapy water. If dough is on your counter, scrape it off first, then swipe the rest with a dry dishcloth. Wet your dishcloth with cold water and wipe up the mess, soaking it if it needs it. Rinse the dishcloth in cold water, then turn the faucet on to hot and finish the job.
- The Dutch Oven: Fair warning, you might want to be aware that this recipe at its high temp can wreak a little havoc on your enameled Dutch oven. Barkeeper’s Friend is going to be your friend. Make sure your Dutch oven is perfectly clean before starting – any smudgy residue, for instance from the last time you used it, will darken and burn on in the high temps.
Saving Money on Crusty Bread Easy Overnight:
Talk about cheap! When I first posted this recipe in April of 2012, my Crusty Bread Easy Overnight, ran about 25 cents. I’m guessing now, using yeast from a jar, about 30 to 35 cents. A loaf of “Artisan Bread” at my store ran $4.99 in 2012, and I can’t even tell you how much a loaf runs for now. I never have to buy that anymore and haven’t looked at store-bought since the fateful day I came across this little recipe! That store bread, by the way? Not nearly as good, it was a pale anemic, dismal thing compared to this, and it only weighed a pound – if it were 1 1/2 pounds like this bread, it would have cost $7.49.
Shop well for your baking items; I used to really stock up during holiday sales, like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter but now I find great prices at Aldi. I never bring anything made of or containing flour into my home without freezing for 3 days or refrigerating for 30 to avoid “peskies.” The yeast I buy in jars and keep in the freezer. It will be fine for decades!
Consider Crusty Bread as a Gift: This bread is great for a hostess gift or a gift for a friend, but beyond that, consider giving a young person his/her first enameled cast iron Dutch oven (something I didn’t even have until later in life) filled with a container of the premade dough, some butter in a butter saver or butter dish or a good olive oil in a pretty, reusable cruet, a small bag of flour & a container of yeast. And of course, a copy of this blog page! Walk them through the first baking, if possible.Print
This simple, overnight Crusty Bread has a few little tricks to make it the best you’ve ever had, let alone made!
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: 45 minutes
- Total Time: varies
- Yield: one 1 1/2 pound loaf 1x
- 3 cups unbleached all purpose flour + a little additional for shaping loaf
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon yeast (see note)
- 1 1/2 cups water
- When ready to bake, have ready in a small container, about 2 tablespoons of water, already measured out; this is in addition to the water for the dough.)
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, measure out flour, salt, and yeast. Use a fork or whisk to mix together. Add water (see notes) and mix (a spoonula works great) until a shaggy mixture forms. Cover bowl with a lid or plastic wrap and set aside on the counter for 12 – 18 hours. Overnight works great and the timing is not particular.
Adjust oven rack to the highest level that will accommodate your Dutch oven and allow you to easily get it in and out of the oven.
When ready to cook, turn dough out, very carefully, without deflating the dough (nudge it with a spatula, gently, if it sticks) on a heavily floured piece of parchment paper that’s a little larger than the bottom of the Dutch oven. You’ll want the parchment to go slightly up the sides for easy removal of the bread.
Flour hands and place a sprinkle of flour on top of the dougg. Gently cupping at either side of the bread, keeping pinkies and sides of palm down, form a little, loose “ball” of dough by pressing in at the bottom of the dough as you turn it bit by bit. If the dough sticks, add a bit more flour. Cover with plastic (the same one you used to cover during the rise is fine).
Carefully place parchment on a sheet pan or plate and set in a warm place (perhaps the front, not the back, which is too warm, of the stove) to rise. Dough does not need to double but should rise to the point that it does not readily spring back when gently poked. Place three slashes about 1/4 inch deep across the top of the dough if desired.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 450 degrees F, with the Dutch oven inside, lid ajar, for 20 to 30 minutes, keeping in mind ovens vary in the time it takes to preheat. You’re shooting for about 10 minutes after it gets to 450 degrees F. Electric stoves cycle, so go the full 30 if using one.
Working quickly to retain as much heat as possible, remove hot Dutch oven from the oven and gently drop in the dough, parchment and all. Toss in the water, most right over the dough, but let a little go down side to the bottom of the Dutch oven for steam and immediately place the lid back on.
Return immediately to the oven and bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the lid and bake an additional 10 to 15 minutes until the top is golden brown (a few dark places are just fine.) Place on cooling rack.
- Just about any yeast, it seems, works in this recipe. My preferred is instant yeast. I’ve also used Rapid Rise and Bread Machine yeast and even Active Dry yeast. The dough is so wet it the active dry yeast doesn’t seem to need to be “proofed” which means mixed with water before using.
- If you’d like, you may make three slashes across the dough with a very sharp knife before adding it to the Dutch oven.
- If the humidity is very low, which may happen, usually in winter, the amount of water may need to be slightly increased a tablespoon at a time until a shaggy dough is formed. You’ll know because your dough will be a tight ball rather than a shaggy one.