I have been avoiding baking no-knead bread as instructed on New York Times recipe page because I wanted to keep it simple, and I didn’t want to buy extra equipment. From all the blog posts I have read I people say that the no-knead bread tastes better when cooked in covered bakeware, dutch ovens, or covered stoneware. The process also gets a little more complicated transferring the dough into the pre-heated bakeware. A lot of the bakeware that can be used to make no-knead bread the traditional way can be expensive too, $50 and up depending on what you buy.
I decided to try the traditional way of making no-knead bread so I would knew how it compares to just baking it in the pan, am I really missing out on anything. I found a 2.5 quart Covered Oval Casserole stoneware at Walmart for about $30, cheapest I have found (the brand was Paula Deen). I used the recipe just as directed on New York Times no-knead bread recipe, except I added a little more salt. I also let it rise in a well floured glass bowl for the final rise which it dumped right our of into the pre-heated casserole dish, I was surprised that went easy. Other than those changes I followed the recipe instructions. I would much rather clean a glass bowl than a floured cloth any day.
One thing is for sure, no-knead bread is definitely cooler looking when cooked in covered bakeware. It looked much more like bread from a specialty bakery. The bread fit perfectly into the 2.5 quart stoneware but I kind of wish that I had got a 3 quart stoneware to give me some room to play with. Besides looking great, this bread tasted great too and the crust was definitely better, just like all the blog posts had told me. I will definitely be using this method of cooking no-knead bread again in the future.
Most of the covered stoneware out there is round but I really liked how this bread came out in the oval stoneware I got. Not only did it look cooler than a round loaf but the bread was easier to cut with a common length knife. The oval shape made the bread a little longer instead of wide all around. As it was, my knife was barely long enough to cut this oval loaf of bread I made.
It was easier to do than I thought but I don’t think it is the super easy bread that any college kid could feel comfortable making, for them I will still suggest starting with the bread pan and working up to using a covered stoneware. This method also required having the oven on for quite a bit longer than other methods of baking, for some that is a concern but not for me.
If you are looking for covered stoneware to make no-knead bread, you might checkout the Rachael Ray 4 Quart or 2 3/4 Quart Casserole stoneware which is fairly good priced. These covered casserole stonewares should be similar to the Paula Deen brand that I used from Walmart.