Sep 9, 2013

Overnight White Bread

Overnight White Bread

At first glance, this Overnight White Bread bears a resemblance to the typical no knead bread... except it is anything but. For example, baking this bread involves some "stretch and folds" that help this bread develop structure and a thick crunchy crust. It's a revelation. You can feel the dough develop that tension that helps the dough hold together and bake into such a tall and lovely loaf. I also think there is some magic involved.

Overnight White Bread

Check out this "crumb." Isn't it gorgeous? The flavor is amazing. I think my only disappointment was that I did not achieve that Forkish break apart irregular gash on top of the bread like I did with the Pure Levain Country Blonde

To make this bread, you mix the dough after dinner, and then bake the bread the next morning. You need to stay awake for about two or three hours for the "stretch and fold" action, but after that, the dough develops at room temperature as you sleep. 

The next day you shape the loaves and let them rise in your bannetons or towel lined bowls while your oven and Dutch ovens preheat. I like to make two loaves and freeze one of them for the middle of the week. 

This last week we went on vacation with good friends to Cambria, CA, and I brought along a couple of these loaves. They were perfect every morning with breakfast, and we even barbecued slices for hamburger buns one night for dinner. They were perfect. 

This is my fourth Ken Forkish bread from Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast.  You need to get this book for the fabulous illustrations on how to do each of the techniques for these breads. 

Tools I used to make this bread:
  1. 12 quart Cambro bucket (a large bowl would work)
  2. Kitchen scale
  3. Two 9 inch bannetons 
  4. Two Lodge combo cooker Dutch ovens
  5. Plastic dough scraper
  6. Metal bench scraper
  7. Bowl of water
  8. My hands (take your rings off unless you want them caked with sticky dough)

Overnight White Bread Recipe


1000 g unbleached all purpose flour
780 g filtered water at 90 to 95 degrees F
22 g salt (not iodized)
1/4 tsp instant yeast


  1. Mix the flour and water in the Cambro bucket, cover, and let it sit for about 30 minutes. 
  2. Sprinkle the salt and yeast over the top and fold the dough over from all "sides."
  3. Using your wet hands, pinch the dough a few times to mix all of the ingredients, then refold the dough and pinch again. Fold the dough one more time, cover, and let sit for 30 minutes.
  4. Do 3 more "stretch and folds," every 30 minutes, cover, and go to bed.
  5. The next morning, the dough should have nearly tripled in size.
  6. Generously flour 2 proofing baskets. I used a mix of all purpose and brown rice flour. You can also use a mixing bowl lined with a lint free kitchen towel that has been sprayed with oil and heavily floured. 
  7. With a wet dough scraper or wet hands, loosen the dough from the sides of the bucket and gently turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Cut the dough into two even pieces. 
  8. Shape the dough into boules, creating a taut skin over the top. Place the shaped dough into each basket, seam side down. 
  9. Spray the top of the dough with spray oil, and cover with plastic wrap. 
  10. Allow the loaves to rise about 75 minutes, until they are puffy. How to know if the loaves are ready? Here is Ken Forkish, the author, demonstrating the "finger dent test."
  11. About 45 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 475 degrees F with two empty covered Dutch ovens placed on the middle rack. 
  12. When you are ready to bake, cut parchment into two 9 inch by 15+ inch pieces. 
  13. Remove the Dutch ovens from the oven and remove the tops. One loaf at a time, place the parchment over the dough and place a plate over it. Flip the dough over, remove the basket, and lift and place the loaf in the Dutch oven by using the parchment as a sling (leave the paper under the dough). Cover the Dutch oven and place it in the hot oven. Repeat with the second loaf. 
  14. Bake covered for 30 minutes, and then remove the Dutch ovens from the hot oven, uncover, and place the loaves on a baking sheet. Be careful not to burn yourself! Place the baking sheet into the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes more, until the interior of the bread reaches 205 to 210 degrees F and the bread is a deep brown. My loaves were ready sooner, so check early. 
  15. Cool completely on a wire rack. 
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  1. Beautiful bread Karen! And oooh boy, do I wish I had a Dutch oven!!

    1. The Lodge ones aren't expensive.... I think you "need" one Yvonne. =)

    2. Ideal size is around 3.5 to 4 quarts. This makes the breads taller and not as wide. There are low cost enameled cast iron pans and they are often on sale. Look for Bella or Martha Stewart on sale at Macy's. There are many other Chinese imports as well, selling for a fraction of the price of Le Creuset, and of comparable quality. Just look for good workmanship (well enameled, for instance.)

  2. Can you do this without a dutch-oven? All I have is heavy metal bread pans.

    1. You can do a baking stone with a stainless steel bowl placed over the loaves if you like. Otherwise, you will need to create a steam oven.

  3. Hi Karen, just wanted you to know I made a smaller version of this bread last night, and it turned out really well. I really liked the long proofing time, as it meant I had dough ready to shape and bake after work, much quicker than doing left to proof in the fridge. The result was chewy-crusty, and quite flavoursome. Thanks for a great recipe, will definitely use this again.

    1. I'm so excited to hear that! Thank you so much for letting me know!

  4. Please excuse me for commenting on this so late.

    Forkish's book really is one of the best, isn't it? I can't get over how much better our bread is since I started following his advice to a.) actually measure the temperature of the water and dough and b.) knead in the bowl.

    Overnight White Bread has become our every day bread. Except (of course) it can't really be called "white" bread because I invariably add at least a little whole wheat and some sort of seeds or grains (wheat berries, teff, rolled oats, and/or ground flaxseed)

    One of the things I haven't yet mastered are the natural gashes that Forkish achieves. I still have a lot ot learn about shaping, I think....

    1. No excuses necessary Elizabeth! It is one of the best books. It makes it so easy to understand the process. I have had some success with the gashes, but some of my breads have gone rogue! Thanks so much for visiting. It is an honor.

    2. Ken does not instruct you to make any gashes. When I do this recipe, I divide the dough, do a quick fold (pull in all four corners and fold over the top of the bread) while minimizing the amount of flour that gets in the middle, and then turn the ball over (seams at the bottom) and tighten the ball by rotating and slightly folding under. The cracked top happens all by itself in the rising process. Also please note that there are substantial differences in some of the processes here from Ken's original recipe. For instance, he simply removes the top from the Dutch ovens after 30 minutes, and allows the top to brown. DON'T open the Dutch oven before 30 minutes - - you will let out substantial moisture. Not necessary to finish the loaves on an open pan. Also note that Instant Yeast is not the same as Fleishmann's and similar dry activated yeast. One brand is SAF - - instant yeast is great. Requires 1/3 less than standard yeast, and does not have to be pre-activated - - just throw it in a recipe just like salt or sugar. One final thing: I have two circular bannetons. I do not line them with towels; instead i just work flour into the grooves, put the bread in, and sprinkle flour around the edge of the bread which will rise and come into contact with the banneton. No "spray oil" on the top. Also, I use a plastic trash can liner, the size for a small office trashcan, to enclose the banneton completely - - no "wrap in plastic wrap". The bag can be pulled up so there's plenty of room for the bread to rise without touching it. Last thing: I suppose using a parchment sling to put the loaves into the (extremely hot) Dutch ovens is clever, but I simply take off my oven mitts, pick up the loaf from the bottom, and carefully drop it into the pot. Just don't get spaced out and pick up the top of the Dutch oven without putting your oven mitts back on!

    3. Hi! I would like to make this bread. You really use all purpose flour? Would Gold Medal Unbleached All purpose flour work? Thank you so much!

    4. I use King Arthur Flour, which has a slightly higher protein level, but I think Gold Medal unbleached would work, or you could use bread flour just to be safe. It would still work just fine.

  5. Hey there Karen. Im new to baking and have made this recipe twice now. Both resulting in a beautiful crust but a gummy crumb. Any ideas why this may be happening? Undercooking maybe? I read that over proofing could be a culprit but not sure if thats the case here. Thanks!

    1. Do you have an instant read thermometer? First, I would make sure the interior reaches 210 degrees F. Second, try waiting at least two hours before slicing. Other than that, I can't think of anything else....


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