Easy Rustic Crusty Bread with Tutorial {No Mixer, No Kneading}

This homemade rustic crusty bread is the most delicious crusty bread that will ever come out of your oven! So simple, it doesn’t need a mixer or kneading!

Loaf of rustic crusty bread on parchment paper.

This is the bread recipe that can change your life. I’m serious. Just scroll down and read through the comments and then you’ll believe me. Here are a couple comments among hundreds of rave reviews:

One of the best bread recipes I have ever made! A real favorite with my family and excellent for sandwiches. Super easy!

I made this recipe for the first time this past weekend and it turned out perfect! It truly was an incredibly easy recipe to follow. 

this is the first bread recipe i’ve ever successfully made! it’s delicious and so easy 🙂 i used active dry yeast, and the working with yeast tutorial was a huge help! great recipe, mel.

This rustic crusty bread recipe is perfect for beginning and expert bread makers alike. It’s like a perfect loaf you’d get right out of a bakery – for a fraction of the cost. Many artisan-type loaves of bread like this take days to make, but this bread recipe only takes a few hours!

Loaf of rustic crusty bread with two slices cut.

And you won’t believe how easy it is. Not only is it no-knead, but you don’t need a stand mixer, electric mixer or any kind of mixer to make it. Just a bowl and a spoon. From start to finish, it is ready to bake in about 2-3 hours. The crust is golden, thin and crunchy, and the crumb is tender and soft.

It doesn’t have the airy holes of a no-knead type bread, the crumb is tighter and slightly more dense, but it is glorious for paninis, garlic bread or just served plain (think: tear off chunks as you go!) with a wide variety of meals. 

The recipe makes between two and four loaves, depending on how big you want to make them. I usually make two bigger loaves out of the batch, and I like to bake up both loaves the same day and pop one in the freezer for easy access next time we get the hankering for delicious, crusty bread.

How to Make Rustic Crusty Bread

In a large bowl, combine the water, yeast and salt. Give it a little mix. And then add in the flour. Make sure to measure the flour with a light hand (or use the weight measure). You can mix with a spoon or spatula; I have been converted to the wonders of this Danish dough hook {aff. link}, but eventually with this dough, I get in there with my hands and mix it up the rest of the way. 

The texture of the dough will be shaggy and much softer and stickier than a traditional kneaded bread dough. Make sure there are no pockets of flour and the dough is well mixed.

Mixing rustic crusty bread dough in glass bowl.

Cover the dough right in the bowl and let it rise until puffy and doubled. 

Side by side of unrisen and risen rustic crusty bread dough.

At this point, to shape into loaves, I grease my hands really well with cooking spray and split the dough into two pieces (you can make four smaller loaves out of the batch, if desired). Take one of the pieces and work it in your hands, turning the edges underneath until it’s a relatively tight, smooth loaf. Regrease your hands if the dough is super sticky. 

Shaping rustic crusty bread dough into a loaf.

Place each loaf in the center of a piece of parchment paper and dust the top lightly with flour. Using a baker’s lame {aff. link}, razor, or really sharp knife, slash the dough 3-4 times on top, about 1/2-inch deep or so.

When I originally posted this recipe, I waited to slash the dough until after it had risen, but this sometimes causes the dough to deflate completely (especially if you don’t have a really sharp razor or knife), so I’ve started doing the slash action before it rises. Haven’t looked back. Works great and you still get the definitive, pretty “decoration” on top of the loaf as it bakes. 

Cover the dough and let it rise until puffy (it won’t necessarily double in size).

Showing how to slash the top of rustic crusty bread loaf with baker's lame.

Carefully slide the parchment with the loaf on top onto a baking/pizza peel {aff. link}. I suppose now is the time to mention that you want to preheat a baking stone {aff. link} in the oven to 450 degrees F and let it preheat at that temp for 20-30 minutes before baking the bread. If you don’t have a baking stone, you can try preheating an overturned aluminum baking sheet (although it may warp and bend out of shape a little at that temp, so be careful).

I highly recommend both a pizza peel and a baking stone for this recipe. Totally worth it for this bread alone.

Loaf of risen rustic crusty bread on parchment paper and wooden pizza peel.

Once the baking stone has preheated long enough, carefully slide the parchment and bread onto the baking stone. Note: I have never had parchment paper catch fire in the oven using this recipe (or homemade pizza), but take care that the parchment doesn’t touch the heating element or sides of the oven. Also, I think the thinner/cheaper the parchment paper, the more chance this could happen. 

You can put a broiler pan on the bottom of the oven and add 1-2 cups hot water OR you can toss a few ice cubes onto the bottom of the oven right after sliding the bread onto the stone and then quickly (but gently) close the oven door. The steam from the water is going to help create that beautiful crust.

How to make rustic crusty bread collage with bread going on baking stone and using ice cubes in the oven.

Bake the bread for about 25 minutes, give or take. It’ll puff even more in the oven. Look at that golden crust! Wowser. 

This rustic crusty bread is my go-to bread to take to new neighbors, friends in need of a pick-me-up or when I am taking dinner into someone, and I make it several times a month just for our family to enjoy. It really is a life changing recipe. 

I hope you’ve been able to see just how easy it is to make! I have no doubt you’ll feel like a total bread making rock start after you make this rustic crusty bread!

Loaf of rustic crusty bread on parchment paper.

Equipment for Rustic Crusty Bread

While this bread doesn’t require a stand mixer, I’ve found the following to be helpful, especially if you want to ensure perfect crusty bread every time! Affiliate links for the products below.

Baker’s lame (for slashing the bread)
-Parchment paper
Pizza paddle/peel
Baking stone
-Best inexpensive, bread knife ever 
-Optional: Danish dough whisk

Easy Rustic Crusty Bread

Yield: 2-4 loaves of bread
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Additional Time: 2 hours 45 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours 20 minutes
Easy Rustic Crusty Bread

Ingredients

  • 3 cups warm water (about 100 degrees)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons instant yeast
  • 1 tablespoon salt (I use coarse, kosher salt)
  • 6 1/2 cups (30 to 32 1/2 ounces) unbleached, all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting dough (see note)

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl mix yeast and salt into 3 cups lukewarm water (about 100 degrees). Stir in flour, mixing until there are no dry patches. Dough will be quite loose. Cover lightly with a kitchen towel but don't seal the bowl airtight. Let the dough rise at room temperature 2 hours (or up to 5 hours).
  2. Bake at this point or refrigerate, covered in an airtight container, for as long as two weeks. When ready to bake, cut off a grapefruit-size piece with serrated knife (I have only ever made two loaves out of the batch of dough so I just divide the dough in half to form my first loaf). Turn the dough in your hands to lightly stretch the surface, creating a rounded top and a lumpy bottom. Put the dough on a piece of parchment paper set on a pizza peel or a rimmed baking sheet turned upside down.
  3. Slashing: you can dust the top of the dough lightly with flour and slash now (before rising) or wait until after the loaf has risen. I've found waiting and slashing the dough after rising can sometimes cause the loaf to collapse, so after making this bread for years, my preferred method is to dust the top of the loaf lightly with flour at this step, before rising, and slash the top with a baker's lame or sharp knife 3-4 times.
  4. Let the dough rest for 40 minutes for room temperature dough; if you have used the dough out of the refrigerator, let it rest for 1 1/2 hours. Repeat with remaining dough or refrigerate it.
  5. Place a broiler pan on the bottom rack of the oven (if you don't have a broiler pan - no worries! Tossing 5-6 ice cubes in the bottom of the oven when you put in the bread works really well, too). Place a baking stone on the middle rack and preheat oven to 450 degrees. Heat the stone at that temperature for 20 minutes before baking.
  6. After the dough has rested and is ready to bake, if you haven't already (see step #3), dust the dough lightly with flour, slash the top with serrated or very sharp knife three times.
  7. Slide the dough (with the parchment paper) onto the baking stone. Pour one cup of hot water into the broiler pan (or toss 5-6 ice cubes in the bottom of the oven) and shut the oven quickly but gently to trap the steam. Bake the bread until well browned, about 24-28 minutes. Cool completely.

Notes

I often use half finely ground white whole wheat flour with good results. The bread is a bit more dense with the whole wheat flour but still delicious.

If you don't have a baking stone, try turning a rimmed baking sheet upside down and heating it in the 450 degree oven for 10 minutes prior to baking. When ready to bake, slide the parchment paper with the dough on it directly onto the overturned baking sheet and bake according to the recipe. You can also stretch the rounded dough into an oval and place in a greased loaf pan. Let it rise for 40 minutes if fresh (add an extra hour if the dough has been refrigerated). Bake in the loaf pan in the 450 degree oven, watching the time carefully - check after 20-22 minutes.


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Recipe Source: adapted from The New York Times via Jeff Hertzberg’s Artisan Bread in Five Minute a Day
Recipe originally published February 2012; updated May 2019 with new pictures, recipe notes, commentary.

A loaf of freshly baked rustic crusty bread, dusted with flour, sitting on a cutting board.

A how-to rustic bread tutorial with pictures and text for step-by-step instructions.