No-knead bread took the baking world by storm when New York baker Jim Lahey introduced his revolutionary recipe in 2006. His no-knead method was hailed as the antidote for anxious home bakers because the technique was so easy—you spend two minutes stirring together flour, yeast, salt and water, then wait 12 to 18 hours for the dough to rise at room temperature. After, you form the dough into a loaf and let it rise a second time before baking it in an enclosed pot. The result is crusty, chewy perfection.
It’s hard to improve a classic, but I started wondering if I could use the Instant Pot as a dough proofer to make no-knead bread faster than the minimum 14 hours required.Instant Pot No-Knead Bread Recipe
Why an Instant Pot is perfect for proofing bread
A dough proofer, used mainly in commercial bakeries, is a warm, humid chamber that encourages yeast to produce carbon dioxide gas and causes gluten to stretch and create air pockets, which is why dough rises. The yogurt setting on the Instant Pot Duo Plus model looked like a promising alternative since yogurt needs a long incubation period at a low temperature to develop. This low consistent heat, plus an enclosed vessel to trap in steam, seemed like a totally legit way to proof my dough.
I started this Instant Pot experiment by using Jim Lahey’s recipe, substituting all-purpose flour for bread flour because that’s what I had on hand. I decided to proof the dough in the Instant Pot for 3.5 hours, then proof it again for a second rise for two hours. (There was no basis to my timing. It was a shot in a dark, but I needed to start somewhere.) I even baked the bread right in the Instant Pot stainless-steel insert, so I didn’t need to handle the dough after the second proof! The result was … underwhelming. The bread came out flat with a gummy texture.
How I perfected Instant Pot bread
Of course the texture was all wrong: the Instant Pot traps moisture, whereas a 12 to 18 hour rise at room temperature would have allowed the moisture to evaporate. After seven more tests, I was finally happy with the results. I modified the original recipe quite a bit for it to work in the Instant Pot. For instance, I increased the yeast to account for the shorter proofing time and I threw in some sugar to help the yeast produce carbon dioxide more quickly. I also reduced the amount of water and increased the flour so the dough would be less hydrated.
Everything I love about no-knead bread is still here: a short ingredient list, no elbow grease and a delicious crust. But now you can make it in a fraction of the time, thanks to the Instant Pot. It takes about six hours to make a loaf. Start preparing it around lunchtime, and you’ll be sitting down with a loaf of artisanal-quality bread for dinner. Read on for the full Instant Pot bread recipe.
Originally published April 2018; Updated April 2019.