Overnight White Bread



1000g white flour

780g water (32ºC to 35ºC)

22g fine sea salt

0.8g instant dried yeast


This is a great-tasting, crusty white bread with nice big holes. It makes me want to slice a couple of pieces, top them with fresh slices of in-season, ripe tomatoes, cover with good olive oil, and live, for the moment, in happy contentment. For those who have made bread using Jim Lahey’s no-knead method, you’ll find the timing of this recipe familiar. This is, however, a distinctly different recipe; it calls for water that’s about 30°F (17°C) warmer and uses one-third the amount of yeast. This recipe also includes an autolyse period and calls for giving the dough a couple of folds after the mix. The result is two breads with different tastes and textures, and this is a great way to demonstrate that two seemingly similar recipes produce two different breads.

This dough rises overnight, and the extended bulk fermentation gives it more time to develop complexity in its flavors than the two Saturday Breads (see The Saturday White Bread and The Saturday 775% Whole Wheat Bread). The baked loaves should have a nice open interior and a crisp crust—assuming you bake the loaves well beyond the blond stage. This bread has many uses and won’t last long.


1. Autolyse
Combine the 1,000 grams of flour with the 780 grams of 90°F to 95°F (32°C to 35°C) water in a 12-quart round tub or similar container. Mix by hand just until incorporated. Cover and let rest for 20 to 30 minutes.

2. Mix
Sprinkle the 22 grams of salt and the 0.8 gram (a scant ¼ teaspoon) of yeast evenly over the top of the dough. Mix by hand, wetting your working hand before mixing so the dough doesn’t stick to you. (It’s fine to rewet your hand three or four times while you mix.) Reach underneath the dough and grab about one-quarter of it. Gently stretch this section of dough and fold it over the top to the other side of the dough. Repeat three more times with the remaining dough, until the salt and yeast are fully enclosed.

Use the pincer method to fully integrate the ingredients. Using your thumb and forefinger, make five or six pincer cuts across the entire mass of dough. Then fold the dough over itself a few times. Repeat, alternately cutting and folding until all of the ingredients are fully integrated and the dough has some tension in it. Let the dough rest for a few minutes, then fold for another 30 seconds or until the dough tightens up. The target dough temperature at the end of the mix is 77°F to 78°F (25°C to 26°C). Cover the tub and let the dough rise.

3. Fold
This dough needs two or three folds (see Step 3: Fold the Dough for instructions). Three would be best for maximum gas retention and volume in the finished loaf, but if you only have time to do two folds it will be fine. It’s easiest to apply the folds during the first 1½ hours after mixing the dough. After doing the last fold, cover the dough and let it continue to rise overnight at room temperature.
When the dough is 2½ to 3 times its original volume, 12 to 14 hours after mixing, it’s ready to be divided.

4. Divide
Moderately flour a work surface about 2 feet wide. Flour your hands and sprinkle a bit of flour around the edges of the tub. Tip the tub slightly and gently work your floured free hand beneath the dough to loosen it from the bottom of the tub. Gently ease the dough out onto the work surface without pulling or tearing it.
With floured hands, pick up the dough and ease it back down onto the work surface in a somewhat even shape. Dust the area in the middle, where you’ll cut the dough, with a bit of flour. Cut the dough into 2 equal-size pieces with a dough knife or plastic dough scraper.

5. Shape
Dust 2 proofing baskets with flour. Shape each piece of dough into a medium-tight ball following these instructions. Place each seam side down in its proofing basket.
6. Proof Lightly flour the tops of the loaves. Set them side by side and cover with a kitchen towel, or place each basket in a nonperforated plastic bag.
Plan on baking the loaves about 1¼ hours after they are shaped, assuming a room temp­erature of about 70°F (21°C). If your kitchen is warmer, they will be optimally proofed in about 1 hour. Use the finger-dent test to determine when they are perfectly proofed and ready to bake, being sure to check the loaves after 1 hour. With this bread, 15 minutes can make a difference between being perfectly proofed and collapsing a bit.

7. Preheat
At least 45 minutes prior to baking, put a rack in the middle of the oven and put 2 Dutch ovens on the rack with their lids on. Preheat the oven to 475°F (245°C).
If you only have 1 Dutch oven, put the second loaf into the refrigerator about 20 minutes before baking the first loaf and bake the loaves sequentially, giving the Dutch oven a 5-minute reheat after removing the first loaf.

8. Bake
For the next step, please be careful not to let your hands, fingers, or forearms touch the extremely hot Dutch oven.
Invert the proofed loaf onto a lightly floured countertop, keeping in mind that the top of the loaf will be the side that was facing down while it was rising—the seam side. Use oven mitts to remove the preheated Dutch oven from the oven. Remove the lid. Carefully place the loaf in the hot Dutch oven seam side up. Use mitts to replace the lid, then put the Dutch oven in the oven. Maintain the temperature at 475°F (245°C).
Bake for 30 minutes, then carefully remove the lid and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until at least medium dark brown all around the loaf. Check after 15 minutes of baking uncovered in case your oven runs hot.
Remove the Dutch oven and carefully tilt it to turn the loaf out. Let cool on a rack or set the loaf on its side so air can circulate around it. Let the loaf rest for at least 20 minutes before slicing.


It’s possible to adjust the timing of the Overnight White Bread recipe so it will work for somebody with a day job during the workweek. Follow the recipe for Overnight White Bread through step 3. Then, in the morning before going to work, take 5 to 10 minutes to divide and shape loaves from the dough you mixed the evening before. Put the proofing baskets in plastic bags and let the loaves proof slowly in the refrigerator while you are at work.
When you get home from work, remove the loaves from the refrigerator and let them sit out on the counter to finish proofing while you preheat the Dutch ovens. If you get home at 6 p.m., you will have fresh baked bread by 7:30 p.m. Note that in this variation, the bulk fermentation time is 12 to 14 hours, and the proof time is about 10 hours (depending on when you get home from work).