Around this time of year, the incredible number of cheese platters and charcuterie boards (and other snack varieties) we tend to go through is substantial. What this often means is that 1. We’re getting to indulge in more cheese (yay) and 2. We’re often left with containers full of delicious bits and pieces. Rather than let that leftover cheese or ham or whatever it may be go to waste, pop it into a loaf of bread. It’s easy, it uses up your leftovers well, and it’s tasty as hell.
Enter no-knead bread:
If you’re a baking fiend, you’ve likely seen a recipe or 10 for some iteration of three-ingredient, no-knead bread. These recipes are popular for good reason. Not only are these loaves extremely impressive for the amount of work they demand, but they are also excellent vehicles for any odds and ends you wish to rid your fridge of, from a handful of cheese to lonely fruits and vegetables.
You can do this with any no-knead recipe you like, and I usually use this very simple one from Girl Versus Dough, though at the advice of baking wiz, A.A. Newton, I decrease the temp and lengthen the bake time, to make sure we don’t have any sog in the middle.
So let’s get to it. Here’s your no-knead leftovers loaf recipe:
What you’ll need:
- 3 cups of plain flour, plus more for kneading
- 2 teaspoons of salt
- 1 teaspoon dry active yeast
- 3/4-1 cup of whatever you want to mix in, keeping the volume on the lower side if your add-ins are particularly wet or greasy
- 1 1/2 cups of warm water (it should feel pleasantly warm on your skin, not hot)
Pretty much anything can be tossed into this dough, but there are a few loose rules that should be observed when doing so:
- If you’re going to be using any good and greasy leftovers (such as my pepperoni pictured above), you’re going to want to render that stuff and drain the crispy bits thoroughly on some paper towels.
- Cook any fruits or vegetables down a bit to develop flavour and drive out excess moisture. Apples are particularly nice when sautéed in a little butter with a sprinkling of salt, and all alliums should obviously be caramelised.
- If you want to incorporate some cured, non-meat items, such as olives or pickled peppers, give ’em a quick dice with your knife and a pat-down with some paper towels.
- Keep the sizes of your bits to 0.5-1cm, and shred or crumble your cheese; this bread is a marvellous structure made of gluten, and heavy pieces can cause it to sag in spots.
From upper left, moving clockwise: We got some pepperoni and pepperoncini, some cheddar and sautéed apple, and some caramelised onion and tarragon. Photo: Claire Lower
Once you have your mix-ins prepped and at the ready, dump the first three ingredients in a bowl, and combine them with a fork or wire whisk. Gradually add your tasty bits, breaking up any moist clumps so that everything gets well-coated with flour.
Photo: Claire Lower
Add the water, and stir it all up with a wooden spoon until you have a nice, shaggy dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, place it in a warmish area of your house, and let it rise overnight until it’s flat on top with visible bubbles. Pre-heat the oven to 204C and, once it reaches temp, place a Dutch oven or other cast iron pot with a lid in the oven. Coat the top of your dough with some flour, and turn it out onto a piece of parchment. Flour your hands and shape the dough into a ball, placing it seam side down on the paper.
Cover your future loaf with a piece of plastic wrap, and let it rest for half an hour. Once it’s had a nap, remove the Dutch oven from the oven and place the whole situation, parchment and all, in the bowl. Put the lid back on, and pop it in the oven for an hour. After 60 minutes have elapsed, remove the lid and let it bake for another 15.
Let the loaf cool for a bit, and dig in, either ripping it into glorious chunks or gently sawing it into slices. You barely need butter for bread this flavorful, but you should probably slather some on anyway. All bread deserves a bit of butter, too.
And while we’re on the topic of leftovers, be sure to check out our piece on food safety when using leftover foods in new dishes.
This article has been updated since its original publication.