My Mother’s Peasant Bread: The Best Easiest Bread You Will Ever Make

peasant bread

When I tell you that, if forced, I had to pick one and only one recipe to share with you that this — my mother’s peasant bread — would be it, I am serious. I would almost in fact be OK ending the blog after this very post, retiring altogether from the wonderful world of food blogging, resting assured that you all had this knowledge at hand. This bread might just change your life.

The reason I say this is simple. I whole-heartedly believe that if you know how to make bread you can throw one hell of a dinner party. And the reason for this is because people go insane over homemade bread. Not once have I served this bread to company without being asked, “Did you really make this?” And questioned: “You mean with a bread machine?” But always praised: “Is there anything more special than homemade bread?”

And upon tasting homemade bread, people act as if you’re some sort of culinary magician. I would even go so far as to say that with homemade bread on the table along with a few nice cheeses and a really good salad, the main course almost becomes superfluous. If you nail it, fantastic. If you don’t, you have more than enough treats to keep people happy all night long.

So what, you probably are wondering, makes this bread so special when there are so many wonderful bread recipes out there? Again, the answer is simple. For one, it’s a no-knead bread. I know, I know. There are two wildly popular no-knead bread recipes out there. But this is a no-knead bread that can be started at 4:00pm and turned out onto the dinner table at 7:00pm. It bakes in well-buttered pyrex bowls — there is no pre-heating of the baking vessels in this recipe — and it emerges golden and crisp without any steam pans or water spritzes. It is not artisan bread, and it’s not trying to be. It is peasant bread, spongy and moist with a most-delectable buttery crust.

Genuinely, I would be proud to serve this bread at a dinner party attended by Jim Leahy, Mark Bittman, Peter Reinhart, Chad Robertson, Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. It is a bread I hope you will all give a go, too, and then proudly serve at your next dinner party to guests who might ask where you’ve stashed away your bread machine. And when this happens, I hope you will all just smile and say, “Don’t be silly. This is just a simple peasant bread. Easy as pie. I’ll show you how to make it some day.”

peasant bread

A foolproof way to make sure your yeast is active is to sprinkle it over lukewarm water in a small bowl with a little sugar (detailed instructions below). After about 10 minutes, the yeast mixture will appear foamy as it does here:
flour and yeast

unmixed dough

Just-mixed dough, ready to rise:
just-mixed dough

Dough after first rise:
dough, risen

Dough, punched down:
dough, punched down
Dividing the dough in half:
dividing the dough

As I noted above, this is a very wet dough and must be baked in an oven-proof bowl. I am partial to the Pyrex 1L 322 size, but any similarly sized oven-proof bowl will work.
pyrex

Buttering and filling the bowls:
bread bowls

Dough after second rise, ready for the oven:
dough, ready for oven

This is the yeast I buy in bulk. I store it in the freezer, and it lasts forever.
red star yeast

peasant bread

peasant bread

My Mother’s Peasant Bread: The Best Easiest Bread You Will Ever Make

My Mother’s Peasant Bread: The Best Easiest Bread You Will Ever Make

Notes:

The bowls: The vintage Pyrex #441 bowl is my favorite bowl to bake the peasant bread in — the perfectly round shape of the bowl creates a beautiful round loaf. It belongs to a set of four nesting bowls (also called Cinderella bowls, specifically the Pyrex #441, #442, #443, #444), which I have purchased from Ebay. I absolutely love the set in general, but I love most of all that I can bake the whole batch of peasant bread in the second largest bowl (#443) and half of the batch in the smallest bowl (#441). The set runs anywhere from $35 to $50 or higher depending on the pattern of the Pyrex. More pictures of the bowls can be found on this post.

Another cheaper, very good option is the Pyrex 322.

The bread: This is a sticky, no-knead dough, so, while the original recipe doesn't call for one, some sort of baking vessel, such as pyrex bowls (about 1-L or 1.5 L or 1-qt or 1.5 qt) or ramekins for mini loaves is required to bake this bread. You can use a bowl that is about 2 qt or 2 L in size to bake off the whole batch of dough (versus splitting the dough in half) but do not use this size for baking half of the dough — it is too big. Several commenters have had trouble with the second rise, and this seems to be caused by the shape of the bowl they are letting the dough rise in the second time around. Two hours for the second rise is too long. If you don't have a 1- or 1.5-qt bowl, bake 3/4 of the dough in a loaf pan and bake the rest off in muffin tins or a popover pan — I recently made 6 mini loaves in a popover pan. The second rise should take no more than 30 minutes.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups (510 g | 1 lb. 2 oz) all-purpose flour* (do not use bleached all-purpose)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 cups lukewarm water**
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons sugar (I use 2, my mom uses 3 — difference is negligible)
  • 2 teaspoons active-dry yeast***
  • room temperature butter, about 2 tablespoons

    * My mother always uses 1 cup graham flour and 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour. Also, you can use as many as 3 cups of whole wheat flour, but the texture changes considerably. I suggest trying with all all-purpose or bread flour to start and once you get the hang of it, start trying various combinations of whole wheat flour and/or other flours. Also, measure scant cups of flour if you are not measuring by weight: scoop flour into the measuring cup using a separate spoon or measuring cup; level off with a knife. The flour should be below the rim of the measuring cup.

    ** To make foolproof lukewarm water that will not kill the yeast (water that's too hot can kill yeast), boil some water — I use my teapot. Then, mix 1 1/2 cups cold water with 1/2 cup boiling water. This ratio of hot to cold water will be the perfect temperature for the yeast.

    ***I buy Red Star yeast in bulk (2lbs.) from Amazon. I store it in my freezer, and it lasts forever. If you are using the packets of yeast (the kind that come in the 3-fold packets), just go ahead and use a whole packet — I think it's 2.25 teaspoons. I have made the bread with active dry and rapid rise and instant yeast, and all varieties work. If you are interested in buying yeast in bulk, here you go: Red Star Baking Yeast Also, if you buy instant yeast, there is no need to do the proofing step — you can add the yeast directly to the flour — but the proofing step does just give you the assurance that your yeast is active. I love SAF instant yeast, which can be purchased from King Arthur flour as well as Amazon.

Instructions

  1. Mixing the dough:
    • If you are using active-dry yeast: In a small mixing bowl, dissolve the sugar into the water. Sprinkle the yeast over top. There is no need to stir it up. Let it stand for about 10 to 15 minutes or until the mixture is foamy and/or bubbling just a bit — this step will ensure that the yeast is active. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. When the yeast-water-sugar mixture is foamy, stir it up, and add it to the flour bowl. Mix until the flour is absorbed.

    • If you are using instant yeast: In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, sugar, and instant yeast. Add the water. Mix until the flour is absorbed.
  2. Cover bowl with a tea towel or plastic wrap and set aside in a warm spot to rise for at least an hour. (If you have the time to let it rise for 1.5 to 2 hours, do so — this will help the second rise go more quickly.) This is how to create a slightly warm spot for your bread to rise in: Turn the oven on at any temperature (350ºF or so) for one minute, then turn it off. Note: Do not allow the oven to get up to 300ºF, for example, and then heat at that setting for 1 minute — this will be too hot. Just let the oven preheat for a total of 1 minute — it likely won't get above 300ºF. The goal is to just create a slightly warm environment for the bread. My mother always covers the dough with a tea towel that she has run under hot water and rung out so it's just damp.
  3. Preheat the oven to 425ºF. Grease two oven-safe bowls (such as the pyrex bowls I mentioned above) with about a tablespoon of butter each. (My mother might use even more — more butter not only adds flavor but also prevents sticking). Using two forks, punch down your dough, scraping it from the sides of the bowl, which it will be clinging to. As you scrape it down try to turn the dough up onto itself if that makes sense. You want to loosen the dough entirely from the sides of the bowl, and you want to make sure you've punched it down. Take your two forks and divide the dough into two equal portions — eye the center of the mass of dough, and starting from the center and working out, pull the dough apart with the two forks. Then scoop up each half and place into your prepared bowls. This part can be a little messy — the dough is very wet and will slip all over the place. Using small forks or forks with short tines makes this easier — my small salad forks work best; my dinner forks make it harder. It's best to scoop it up fast and plop it in the bowl in one fell swoop. Let the dough rise for about 20 to 30 minutes on the countertop near the oven (or near a warm spot) or until it has risen to just below or above (depending on what size bowl you are using) the top of the bowls. (Note: I do not do the warm-oven trick for the second rise. I simply set my bowls on top of my oven, so that they are in a warm spot. Twenty minutes in this spot usually is enough for my loaves.)
  4. Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375º and make for 15 to 17 minutes longer. Remove from the oven and turn the loaves onto cooling racks. If you've greased the bowls well, the loaves should fall right out onto the cooling racks. If the loaves look a little pale and soft when you've turned them out onto your cooling racks, place the loaves into the oven (outside of their bowls) and let them bake for about 5 minutes longer. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes before cutting.

Notes

Variations:

#1. Cornmeal. Substitute 1 cup of the flour with 1 cup of cornmeal. Proceed with the recipe as directed.

#2. Faux focaccia. Instead of spreading butter in two Pyrex bowls in preparation for baking, butter one 9x9-inch glass baking dish and one Pyrex bowl or just butter one large 9x13-inch Pyrex baking dish. If using two vessels, divide the dough in half and place each half in prepared baking pan. If using only one large baking dish, place all of the dough in the dish. Drizzle dough with 1 tablespoon of olive oil (if using the small square pan) and 2 tablespoons of olive oil (if using the large one). Using your fingers, gently spread the dough out so that it fits the shape of the pan. Use your fingers to create dimples in the surface of the dough. Sprinkle surface with chopped rosemary and sea salt. Let rise for 20 to 30 minutes. Bake for 15 minutes at 425ºF and 17 minutes (or longer) at 375ºF. Remove from pan and let cool on cooling rack.

#3. Thyme Dinner Rolls

#4 Gluten-free

http://www.alexandracooks.com/2012/11/07/my-mothers-peasant-bread-the-best-easiest-bread-you-will-ever-make/

This bread is irresistible when it’s freshly baked, but it also makes wonderful toast on subsequent mornings as well as the best grilled cheeses.
loaf_new2

cutbread

Peasant Bread Video Tutorial:

Blooming Active Dry Yeast: Here I’m using Red Star Active Dry Yeast. I order it in bulk from Amazon and store it in an airtight container in the freezer.

Mixing the Dough Using Active Dry Yeast:

Mixing the Dough Using Instant Yeast: Here I’ve used SAF Instant Yeast, which I also order in bulk and store in the fridge in an airtight container. When you use instant yeast (SAF or other brands), you can mix it in directly with the flour. Also, pardon the chaos of the children here — no need to watch this video if you’re using active-dry yeast and already watched the first video in this series. Skip to the next one if this is the case.

After 60 – 90 minutes of rising, Punching Down the Dough Using Two Forks; Buttering the Pyrex 322 Bowls; Dividing the Dough in Half for the Second Rise:

Placing Bread in the Oven:

Checking Halfway: Here I open the oven to show you how the bread is doing but it’s really best to just keep the oven door closed. After 15 minutes in the oven, turn the heat down to 375ºF and bake for another 17 minutes.

Removing the bread from the oven and turning it out onto cooling racks:

Slicing the Peasant Bread:

2057 Comments

  1. Alexandra,
    Your recipe is a good one! Thanks for sharing…baking dish size makes all the difference…a 1 quart dish bakes the bread perfectly. It is nice having a bread recipe that requires no kneading, as my counterspace is very limited…

    Reply
  2. My first home made bread tonight, using your recipe. I made one as foccocia and one regular. Delicious!!! Can’t wait to make this for friends. I could have let it rise a bit more but it was great anyway. Thanks so much for this recipe.

    Reply
    • Definitely! Cutting the dough in half would be fine, and might even make for two sort of wimpy loaves actually. I suggest using 3/4 of the dough for one loaf pan, and then baking off the rest in muffing tins. Good luck!

      Reply
  3. You forgot to put what temp you initially are to put the bread in the oven at, it just says bake for 15 minutes and then turn the oven down to 375. But what are we turning it down from?

    Reply
    • I don’t suggest using all whole wheat pastry flour to start. I think the loaf will be very dense and heavy. Try using half whole wheat flour to start and half white. Also, I worry there might not be enough gluten in the whole wheat pastry flour — how does it typically perform in bread?

      Reply
  4. I come from a long-line family of bakers, and make my own bread most of the time. I was curious to try your recipe and made it last night to accompany my dinner. I was pleasantly surprised at just how easy it really and truly was to make. Although I did not need the videos, I watched them anyway, and was extremely impressed with your devotion and passion to creating a site that made this recipe so easy and welcoming to those who do not bake much. I especially enjoyed seeing your “little helpers”. I really hope that everybody who discovers this site, will try this bread. It really is just as easy as portrayed and taste amazing. I wanted the traditional loaf, so made the entire recipe in a loaf pan and it came out delicious, for anybody who chooses to bake it in a loaf pan instead of the round Pyrex bowls.
    The only drawback that I had, was that I find kneading bread very therapeutic, guess that comes from my baker’s background, haha. I discovered this after making the bread that I actually missed that. However, stating that, I still will continue to make this recipe, especially when I want fresh homemade bread quickly and without the extra work, when I am pressed for time or very tired. Thank you so very much for all your hard work in putting this together, and sharing your family recipe. You really and truly made this fool proof! My daughter and I thoroughly enjoyed the bread, and will be looking forward to trying the other ways to make this bread/rolls. Blessings to you and yours!

    Reply
    • Lori, Thank you so much for all of your kind words — that means so much. This definitely is a recipe dear to my heart, and I only wish everyone who attempted it had success with it. Great to know that you fit the whole batch in a loaf pan — I need to try that. What size loaf pan do you have?

      And yes, why is kneading bread so therapeutic? There definitely is a time and a place for kneaded bread, but in a pinch, it’s nice to know there is another option. So glad your daughter approved, too. Thank you for writing in!

      Reply
  5. Looks like a great recipe! I’m trying it today, my only concern is I only have one 1.5qt bowl! Thinking I’ll try baking it as one whole loaf in my 2.5qt bowl…?

    Reply
    • So sorry for the delay here — You can use the 2.5 qt bowl for the whole batch. Or you can bake 2/3 of the dough in the 1.5 qt bowl and make mini loaves using muffin tins or ramekins. Hope it turned out well!

      Reply
  6. I just had to come and comment right away after making and devouring this bread. It was the most amazing bread I’ve ever tasted and or made. It came out perfect! It had that buttery crunch on the outside and the most amazing light,fluffy,chewy texture on the inside. My husband and kids loved it too. Thank you so much for sharing the recipe!

    Reply
  7. I made the bread tonight and I am so happy it came out perfert! I followed your instructions and watched your videos while I was making the bread. I wish I could send you a pic of the 2 loaves I made. Thank you Alexandra for sharing this great recipe. I saw it on Facebook and thought I would give it a try. I can’t wait to make my next batch. Again, thank you Alexandra!
    Darlene

    Reply
  8. Thank You! This is the best bread I have made. Follow everything you said and it was wonderful. Now I am using different pans and adding different Italian herbs to see what comes out of the oven ok or not ok… I try to make all our own bread and this winter this recipe is going to be The One and Only …thank you again!!!

    Reply
  9. I just finished making this. This bread is amazing; I had to force myself to stop eating it! My husband let me know that we no longer need to buy bread from Publix, he liked it so much. Thank you for this delicious recipe! :)

    Reply
  10. Oh, WOW! That is delicious! I’ve done home-made sweet-breads before, but never had the courage to try “real” bread from scratch! Super easy, even with 2 little kids underfoot, and yummy!!

    Reply
  11. I have made this and it is amazing!! My husband couldn’t get enough of it! And it was my very first time making bread. What would the result be if I substituted Bread Flour for AP??

    Reply
  12. Alexandra, many thanks to you and your Mom for this wonderful bread recipe! It is delicious and my whole family loves it. I’ve made it three times now and am still tweaking the bowl size I use to make it come out looking like yours. So far, I’ve had the best results using a 2 qt bowl for the whole recipe. It didn’t rise quite as high as I was hoping for, but it’s gone so I say no more. Today I used a 1.5 qt bowl (in the oven as we speak), but it rose up and over the side of the bowl. I opened the door & quickly slid a cookie sheet under the rack- no harm done. Top looks a little sunken on one side, but it smells wonderful & I expect it will taste that way! I am determined get a perfect loaf like yours, so will keep trying. Thanks again for sharing this fantastic bread recipe.

    Reply
  13. I have never successfully made a yeast bread; until this wonderful recipe! The first time I made this bread, we were on vacation with 2 other families. Both loaves were gone in about 15 minutes. It was requested everyday. By Tuesday, I was making double batches. Thank you for sharing this treasure, and the wonderful tutorials!

    Reply
  14. This was a great receipt. It turned out great. I do like my knead bread a little better but it may because I use honey instead of sugar. I am going to try to adapt honey to this receipe and see how it work. I also going to try to adapt my. tomato herb recipe to this in too. I love the softness and feel of this bread. Also I used $2.50 glass bowls I bought at a discount store and they woked great had nice browning all the way around. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  15. So I baked anthor batch today. Substituting 3 teaspoons of honey for the white sugar. Now I like it better than my knead bread. The honey is what I was missing a just a fuller flavor to me. Awsome easy recipe. Thanks again. Now to try adapting my tomato herb recipe for this recipe.

    Reply
  16. Hi,

    Ive made this bread a many times always turns out great. Dumb question! Could I let this rise longer then the 2 hours for first rise? Thanks so much for posting it!

    K

    Reply
  17. Best bread ever.. Third time making recipe..2 batches today both totally different flour… First batch I used spelt (3 cups) and millet (1 cup) flour and the second I used 1 cup of each whole wheat, spelt, millet, and buckwheat. In both batches I added dried minced onions (1 1/2 tsp) and sprinkled some after buttering bowls…. Recipe is so forgiving…. Bread is perfect. A little heavier but just as good as when using all white flour
    Thank you for sharing your recipe

    Reply
  18. THANK YOU so very much for this recipe! I threw it together yesterday for the first time! Posted pics on FB for friends and family. My husband practically ate the entire loaf in one sitting! It turned out so good and was so EASY!!! I usually make home made yeast bread loaves. My husband said he preferred this Peasant bread because of the texture. It is perfect for us! AMAZING and so delicious! Thank you again! I am now making it AGAIN!!!

    Reply
    • I’m so happy it turned out well for you! and that the husband approved! It’s funny, because I try all of these recipes for artisan bread, etc, and whenever we go back to the peasant bread, we are both so happy. THere is something so simple and so good about it. Glad you think so too!

      Reply
  19. Breads in the oven rising as I type. I used a 2.5 qt bowl. Hope it turns out OK. I was wondering if you knew the right size of a loaf pan. I make sandwiches for my Hubby and thought fresh bread twice a week would be great. Thanks for sharing and the videos. Great job.

    Reply
    • The 2.5 qt bowl should work out just fine — how did it turn out? Sometimes I have to bake it longer if I use the larger bowl, about 5 minutes or so. One commenter successfully baked the whole batch of bread in a loaf pan, but it must have been a larger size. I have standard (8.5 x 4.5 inches) loaf pans, and I can get about 3/4 of the dough in one of those. I’ve been meaning to order a larger size. One commenter doubles the recipe and bakes it in 3 loaf pans. Hope that offers some guidance!

      Reply
  20. I baked in a 2 qt Anchor oven safe glass mixing bowl, the one with the spout, and this turned out amazing. My 2 yr old has been INHALING it :). The Anchor bowl is a nice option when letting bread rise in general; the measurements help eyeball when dough has doubled. This is dinner party worthy for sure.

    Reply
  21. I tried this recipe tonight, and made one loaf in a larger size loaf pan. No sure what the exact measurements on the pan are. It worked great and rose up high above the pan. My two year old didn’t want anything else for dinner! I’ll be putting this bread in regular rotation.

    Reply
  22. I have self rising flour. Not sure if it is bleached or not. Threw the bag away. What will the effects be from using self rising as opposed to all purpose and bleached vs. unbleached? Thanks.

    Reply
  23. I just wanted to let you know that this makes the best pizza dough ever! And I mean ever! I was in a pinch for a quick pizza crust and since I love this bread so much I thought, “What the heck, why not, I’ll give it a try.” Oh, my GOSH – beyond delicious! I got 3 medium size pizzas out of this recipe. I sure hope you’ll try this as pizza dough, it’s fab! (I never use that many exclaimation points, but it’s really that good)

    Reply
  24. I have made this recipe many times but can’t get the rise you do at the end. I had to add water to the flour mixture in the past because it was too dry – thought maybe having to add water was doing something to the temps and the yeast. Today I put more water in (from the initial measurements)and I didn’t have to add any when mixing. Still no big rise at the end. I then thought I was punching down too much before separating into the small bowls so I made sure to do it just like your video shows but still no poofy rise. What could I be doing wrong? I let the small bowls sit for 20 min and the dough gets to, or above, the bowl level, as well. Help!?

    Reply
  25. Sounds and looks great. One question, you mention “Also, measure scant cups of flour if you are not measuring by weight…” so I wonder, can you provide the weights? I have a scale and would love to use it rather than the measuring cups.

    Thanks.

    Elizabeth

    Reply
  26. Hi – stumbled upon this recipe when I googled easy bread recipe – so glad I did! This was so simple and so delicious – my family of four decided it’s going to be our Sunday supper treat… can’t imagine why in the world I’d buy bread from the store! Going to experiment with flour combos… Not a dessert person but definitely a breadie – and will forego sweets for more slices of this! THANKS for sharing your mom’s recipe!

    Reply
  27. Thank you for your recipe. I have been baking bread for over ten years and in my current location I do not have a great space to knead bread dough. The No-Knead Bread was wonderful. I actually used half rye flour and half all purpose and it worked great. I made it in the 9 x 13 pan and I can’t wait to have it with my vegetarian chili for lunch (may have to have a piece of bread before that!)

    Reply

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