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Saturday, January 9, 2021

Making Budget Foods and Recipes More User-Friendly: No-Knead, 2-Hour Bread

Pane veloce veloce -- Quick, Quick Bread -- a fast & easy no-knead bread

I realize that many of you, friends, who read here regularly are veterans at frugal cooking. You've been making rice and beans, bean soup, or yeast breads for decades. Maybe you learned how to prepare these budget-friendly foods from your mom or dad. Or maybe you are self-taught and have been at this for such a long time that you really don't need people like me to tell you how to knead dough or soak beans.

However, some of us have different backgrounds and circumstances.

Recently, a friend of mine made a wise observation. She noted that a lot of folks weren't raised learning basic frugal cooking skills. Instead, in their family homes of origin, a lot of foods that they consumed were what we'd recognize as convenience foods, such as boxed meal helpers. There's nothing at all wrong with that scenario. However, they now find themselves (through no fault of their own) on a very limited budget, unemployed or forced into early retirement due to this pandemic. Here's the problem: good people -- people who have always paid their bills on time, taken care of themselves financially, worked hard at their jobs -- are now out of work. Unemployment really doesn't pay all that well. Yes, there have been some limited bonus payments. Yet, there are people who are struggling financially right now and are looking for help so that they can help themselves.

Basic frugal foods made easy

For the next few Saturdays or possibly Sundays, I'll be sharing how to prepare some of the quintessential frugal foods, in easy and manageable versions for any cooking skill level.  For the next several weeks, my weekend blogging will cater to those of us who may need a bit of encouragement to try cooking techniques and recipes that are less familiar to us. 

I'll share some of the best, easiest and most frugal recipes, applicable tips, and cooking techniques, here, one recipe at a time. One of the coolest things about learning information or a new skill is that once you've learned it, you own that information to use over and over again. So, let's begin!

Mmmm, bread hot out of the oven

Could anything say "frugal cooking" better than baking your own yeast-raised bread? If you can buy yeast at a reasonable cost, this loaf is very frugal. 

The brand of yeast that I use is SAF-instant Yeast. Red Star also makes an instant yeast. You can also use active dry yeast -- just adjust the amount as indicated in the recipe. I wouldn't try yeasts that are labeled "rapid rise" or "quick rise". Those yeasts are a different strain of yeast, designed for other applications in bread-baking.

Pane veloce veloce (or Quick, Quick Bread)

When most of us think of making homemade bread, thoughts of rolled-up shirt sleeves and beads of sweat forming on our foreheads as we knead dough on a dusty countertop fill our imaginations. If that's not enough to put one off from attempting homemade bread for the first time, the time involved in the mixing, kneading, and rising of loaves is an enthusiasm-killer for many. What if I told you that there's a yeast bread that you can make in about 2 hours, start to finish, without any kneading whatsoever?

There's a reason this recipe is called Quick, Quick Bread. As yeast breads go, this is the Speedy Gonzales of the bread world. You can literally start this bread around 4 in the afternoon and have fresh bread for the dinner table before 6:30, with minimal hands-on time required.

In addition to being fast to make, it produces a tender, airy, and tasty loaf of Italian bread. Unlike a soda-leavened bread (which is also a fast way to make homemade bread), this Italian bread remains fresh for a few days. The recipe itself is Italian. I've adapted one ingredient to make this more accessible for most of us. The original recipe calls for brewer's yeast, which although we know it as the yeast for brewing beer, it is also used in some yeast bread recipes. I use instant yeast in its place. If the type of yeast you can find in your store is active dry yeast, that will work, too. Just use the appropriate measurement.

Never baked bread before? You can do this! You can make delicious and soft bread! Let's do this!

Pane veloce veloce

1½ cups lukewarm water, divided (lukewarm for activating yeast is between 105 and 115 degrees F - best results: use a thermometer)
1 teaspoon honey
1¼ teaspoons instant yeast (or 1¾ teaspoons active dry yeast)
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
additional water as needed to make a sticky dough
additional flour for the top of dough and the parchment paper, about 1 tablespoon.

Ensure your warm water is between 105 and 115 degrees F.

In a small bowl, pour ¼ cup of the warm water, the yeast, and the honey. Stir to combine. If using active dry yeast, allow to stand for 5-10 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl, dump the 4 cups of flour. Make a well in the center of the mound of flour.

Pour the softened yeast and honey water into the well in the flour. Pour the remaining 1¼ cups of lukewarm water over the yeast water. 

Stir the liquids and flour together. Add extra water as needed to make a soft and slightly sticky dough (anywhere from 2 to 5 tablespoons of extra water). 

Sprinkle the salt over the top of the dough (I've dumped it in the center so you could see it -- you should sprinkle it evenly across the top) and mix it in thoroughly.

Sprinkle the top of the soft dough with ½ tablespoon of flour. 

Cover the bowl. (I use a large dinner plate to cover my mixing bowl.) Allow to rise for 1½ hours. You're doing great!

Meanwhile, place a large sheet of parchment paper on a large baking sheet. Flour the paper well with the last half-tablespoon of flour.

After the rise time, the dough will look something like this. The soft mass has spread across the bowl from one side to the other, and you can see that it is puffed somewhat from the yeast action.

Preheat the oven to 445 degrees F (non-convection).

Without disturbing the dough too much, gently go all around the edges of the dough up against the mixing bowl with a rubber spatula, lifting the dough a bit as you go. Next, carefully transfer the dough in one large mound, close to the center of the floured parchment paper on the baking sheet (keeping the floured side of the bread dough up), if you can. If it doesn't land in the center (like mine didn't), no biggie. You'll just have to move all 3 sections of dough in a minute. Try not to disturb the gas bubbles in the dough too much.

With a long, serrated knife (like a bread knife) score the dough into 3 long loaves. Dip the knife into flour between scorings. The loaves will not be perfect-looking. But that's part of the charm of this rustic Italian bread.

Using the floured knife, cut the loaves apart and gently lift and move dough portions to space the 3 loaves equally apart on the parchment paper.

Are your loaves a bit wonky in shape like mine? It won't matter. I promise! After the bread is baked, slice up the wonkiest-looking loaf and place the slices on a plate with a ramekin of butter. Somehow, once the wonky-looking bread is sliced up, it isn't as obvious as when it's still in loaf form.

Bake at 445 degrees F for 20 to 25 minutes until browned on top, and the tops of the loaves sound hollow when tapped with your fingernail.

How'd we do?

What I like about this bread recipe:
  • minimal equipment is needed -- a baking sheet, parchment paper, large mixing bowl, small bowl, a mixing spoon, rubber spatula, a cooking thermometer, and a long knife. If you don't have parchment, you can also try aluminum foil that is very well-floured or a floured Silpat liner. (If using an off-brand of silicone liner, make sure it's rated for higher than 445 degrees F.)
  • as bread recipes go, this is very inexpensive -- no fats, only a teaspoon of sweetening, and salt is cheap. This is basically a flour, yeast, and water bread.
  • it's easy, there's no kneading
  • hands-on time is about 15 minutes
  • the bread has decent keeping qualities for homemade bread 
  • it's fast. I can literally begin a batch at 4 PM and have fresh bread on the table at dinner time. Or, I can begin a batch after breakfast and have fresh bread for lunch. Or, I can begin a batch as I'm preparing dinner, and I'll have my bread baked and all wrapped up before I go to bed.
  • it's tasty! My family members love it with butter. I like the bread just as it is. I also have a secret indulgence -- a thin slice of this bread, a thin square of dark chocolate, and a small cup of strong coffee. I place the square of chocolate onto the slice and eat it like an open-face sandwich. Lacking chocolate squares, a dozen semi-sweet chocolate chips also suffice. This may sound crazy, but it's like the French manner of placing a piece of chocolate in a baguette. I eat my bread and chocolate "sandwich" as a sweet breakfast, snack, or dessert after dinner.

If you've never baked bread before because you thought it would be too finicky, hard, time-consuming, challenging or you'd fail, think again. Pane veloce veloce is a bread for all skill levels. You've got this!


  1. Thanks for this great recipe. I am off of work this weekend and it is cold, so prefect way to great the house and make something delicious! Lisa

    1. Hi Lisa,
      I sure hope you enjoy this bread as much as we do. And it does warm the kitchen on a cold day!
      Enjoy your weekend, Lisa!

  2. Heat the house...I have sausages for fingers and auto correct tends to want to mess w me! �� lisa

    1. Oh, I think the smell of bread baking definitely is a way to "great the house"!!!! :)

    2. Lisa, that's me trying to text on that tiny phone keypad! So hard to get the right buttons/letters.

  3. Good timing on this post! I just took a loaf of no knead bread out of the oven. I started the dough last night, let it sit overnight and baked it this morning. We were out of bread and I had family asking if there was any bread for breakfast.


    1. Hi Alice,
      I'm glad you were able to produce some delicious, fresh bread for your family with so little work! Lucky family members to have you!
      Have a great weekend, Alice!

  4. Lili, I love it that you are doing this! And the recipe sounds delicious. I feel like there are so many things to learn when it comes to cooking which may seem "old hat" to many. You are a natural teacher and I am looking forward to your posts.

    1. Hi Kris,
      Thank you for saying that. I agree, there are still a lot of things that I need to learn, too!

      Enjoy your weekend, Kris!

  5. I'm looking forward to your weekend posts, also, Lili. We all have different skills and it's good to be reminded about ones that we may have forgotten and to learn new ones. I have made bread a few times doing the intensive kneading, but not a quick bread like you describe. That's mostly because I have had a bread machine for 30 years now that will produce a decent loaf. However, there is something appealing about taking a loaf out of the oven as opposed to a bread maker. Thanks for the detailed instructions.

    1. Hi Live and Learn,
      There's no way to quantify what makes pulling a loaf of bread from the oven seem slightly more special than out of the bread maker. All I can think is it's nostalgia in all of us.
      We had a bread maker for a while (got second hand from a neighbor). It was a huge help for keeping us in bread when all of my kids were here. I think I wore that thing out. It only lasted a couple of years (it was used to begin with). I'm glad you have a good machine for yourselves.

      Have a great weekend, Live and Learn!

  6. I love the no-knead bread recipe out there but you need to remember to start it the day before. The next night we are having soup for dinner this will be made. Thanks Lili.

    1. Hi Cheryl,
      I hope you enjoy the bread as much as we do!

  7. More more thing, good idea to have simple but good recipes to help those who don't know who to ask. I taught myself plus cooking shows when I was 12. My mom worked and that was the way I helped her, I'm 62 now so a lot of practice.

    1. Thank you.
      Good for you for teaching yourself! I'm sure your mother really appreciated how you were able to lessen her load, Cheryl.
      Have a good evening!

  8. I think this is a great idea! I really began learning to cook when I went off to college and have continued to learn since then (a LONG time ago!)I'm not a great bread maker, though have done a bit more of it during the pandemic. I do the other things you mentioned-beans and rice and bean soup, but not a lot of bread making. At first I was afraid of yeast breads (after killing yeast in a loaf way back when), but have gotten over that "fear" now :) and have made a few recipes. I'll have to try this one. I would love to become more proficient and efficient with bread making. Thanks for always sharing your many talents with me and others!

    1. Hi Lynn,
      My first bread-baking experience was a disaster. I was in college and thought I'd learn to bake bread. How hard can it be, after all? And of course, being young, how closely did I really need to follow instructions, I thought. I baked a burnt, solid brick of whole wheat. It was many years before I tried again. But this recipe, here, really is an easy one and one I know you could do, too!

      Wishing you a great beginning to your week, Lynn!


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