No Knead, Make my House Smell Amazing Bread

It’s easy to lose yourself while trying to sell a house.

It’s not just being bereft of three quarters of your earthly possessions while it’s on the market (a process I’ve learned is dubbed ‘decluttering’- which translates as a tall blonde stylist walking through your flat and pointing at every second thing and saying ‘this, this, this, this’. Everything that is pointed at has to be removed). When she pointed at the liquor cabinet I choked back a sob- and elected to squirrel away one bottle of gin. We lost half the dining chairs. When it came to the espresso machine, The Hungry One refused to budge.

It’s not about finding yourself rudderless and confused about your style. ‘You need new cushions. Burnt orange would work on the couch. More art. And get rid of any photos of you’. You’ll soon find yourself tearing around a home decorating centre at 9.15 am desperately trying to find a ‘throw’  for the foot of your bed to make the room ‘pop’. How anything in twilight mauve can ‘pop’ I’m not sure.

It’s not about finding something to do for the 45 minutes once or twice a week when queues of strangers traipse through your flat- some looking to buy, some just because this is what they do on a Saturday.

And it’s not because suddenly you find yourself constantly mired in the most noxious of Sydney-centric conversations. If we’re not talking about the weather, the traffic on South Dowling Street, then denizens of this town are talking real estate. More specifically, how insane it has got in this sparkling city-by-the-sea in the past few years.

In the month of selling our flat I found myself scrubbing at imaginary spots on the wall and spending a small fortune on fresh flowers (one large white arrangement for the dining table- preferably hydrangeas and bouvardia, two smaller posies for the bathrooms and a distracting bunch in a jug for the nursery/storage room/study. As the stylist frankly  said ‘well, you can always try and put a lipstick on a pig’).

I found myself googling tactics to entice prospective buyers; music- yes or no? We decided in the end on no. Books out on the coffee table? A heart warming mix of aspirational and comforting, that also conveniently tied in with the colour scheme; Quay, Ad Hoc at Home and Ottolenghi’s Plenty. Air conditioning- yay or nay ? (It depended on the ambient temperature of the day). And as for smells, I cracked. There were no tagines or curries made in the days prior, just sweet Italian-based bakes and salads. And as for the allure, that scent of homeliness my slow-carb creed wasn’t going to cut it. Nobody wants to hand over a large deposit cheque based on the scent of simmering chickpeas. So for the last two weeks, every Friday night I made the famed Sullivan Bakery ‘no knead artisan bread’. And on Saturday morning at 11 am exactly, the boule went into the oven.

I like to think it was the gentle wafting smell of caramelising yeast and burnished crust that helped clinch the deal. The loaves, once baked, were secreted inside a kitchen cupboard. They were discovered by a few groups investigating the storage capabilities. I like to think the one minute of kneading and hours of aspirational blooming was what nudged the flat to be sold after a 14 minute auction last Saturday (a little above the reserve, for those who are interested in those sorts of details).

I may be living a slow carb life, but everything in moderation. So if there’s going to be a bit of bread in my days, I prefer it to be some good stuff. And this is one expression of it. The lack of kneading is a little bit of genius. (There are versions of this of ‘one minute bread in a thermomix, but really, it’s so easy to do with a spoon that there’s no reason at all to get the craggies of dough stuck in a machine). As for the end result, there’s an excellent contrast of crust to dough and the slow activation time of the yeast leaves a nice smattering of air holes. It’s perfect to throw together on a Friday afternoon, leave to prove overnight and turn it once when you make your first coffee at 7 am. At 9 am, heat the oven, with your cast iron dutch oven inside. At 9.30, throw the loaf in. And at 10.15, sit down to brunch, with a warm slice topped with ricotta and jam, or avocado and tomato.

Or you can do what I did and take the bread and a bottle of champagne down to your sister’s place. Eat fingers of it with south coast oysters and the later, with figs, fresh from her garden and goat curd.

It was there, in her kitchen, safe in the knowledge that the flat had sold that I finally exhaled- and found myself once again.

No Knead Bread

Makes 1 loaf

Adapted from the Sullivan Street Bakery’s No Knead Bread Recipe, first published in the New York Times


1 x cast iron, dutch oven with a lid. Baking paper


3 cups of bread flour/plain flour
1/4 tsp of instant yeast
1.5 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups of warm water

A sprinkling of additional flour

(Optional, add some dried herbs, pieces of olive or a smattering of dried fruit)

Here’s how we roll

1) Fourteen hours before you plan on baking the bread (i.e. the night before) combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl with a wooden spoon until you have a raggedy mass. Don’t worry about mixing it too much, just enough to combine. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and let sit in a room temperature place for 12-20 hours.

2) After the dough has rested it will be a bubbly, sticky mass.  Remove any rings then turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Turn the dough a couple of times in your hands until it forms a gentle ball, tucking in the bottom, like a fitted bed sheet.

3) Line a bowl with baking paper and plop the dough on top of it. Cover it with a tea towel and leave to rest for two hours.

4) After the dough has rested for an hour and a half, pre heat the oven, with your cast iron pot and lid inside it to 225 C/450F.

5) Your dough should be almost double what it was before. Take the lid off the pot and slip the parchment paper and the dough into the pot. Sprinkle the top of the dough with a little extra flour. Replace the lid and bake for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for another 20 minutes until the crust is golden.

6) The bread should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Eat warm, or allow to cool and eat it any which way you want.

  1. Ah, I love this bread Tori. Also an excellent after-school job for the seven year old, into the over (without even your fancy second rise!) first thing, and ready for fresh bread before school.

    It’s the best.

    Congrats on the flat.

    Busy times!

  2. That sounds like a really unsettling experience, stylists and all. Glad it was for the best, congratulations! No-knead bread is the only kind I have really ventured to make so far but we like it so much I do not feel compelled to make any other. And yes, that smell…

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