From America's Test Kitchen
The no-knead method of bread making first came to our attention in an article on baker Jim Lahey in the New York Times. The article claimed that Lahey’s method produces artisanal-style loaves with minimum effort. Lahey uses two approaches to replace kneading (the mechanical process that forms gluten, which gives bread structure): a very high hydration level (85 percent—meaning that for every 10 ounces of flour, there are 8.5 ounces of water) and a 12-hour autolysis period that allows the flour to hydrate and rest before the dough is kneaded. After the dough is briefly kneaded, it is placed in a preheated Dutch oven to bake; the Dutch oven creates a humid environment that gives the loaf a dramatic open crumb structure and crisp crust.
However, as we baked loaf after loaf, we found two big problems: the dough deflated when carried to the pot, causing misshapen loaves, and it lacked flavor. To give the dough more strength, we lowered the hydration and gave the bread the bare minimum of kneading time (under a minute) to compensate. We also figured out a way to transfer the bread without doing any harm to the shape of the loaf—using a parchment paper sling. To solve the lack of flavor, we needed to introduce two elements that a starter adds to artisan breads: an acidic tang with vinegar and a shot of yeasty flavor with beer.
Makes 1 large round loaf
An enameled cast-iron Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid yields best results, but the recipe also works in a regular cast-iron Dutch oven or heavy stockpot. (See the related information in "High-Heat Baking in a Dutch Oven" for information on converting Dutch oven handles to work safely in a hot oven.) Use a mild-flavored lager, such as Budweiser (mild non-alcoholic lager also works). The bread is best eaten the day it is baked but can be wrapped in aluminum foil and stored in a cool, dry place for up to 2 days.