With just four ingredients and minimal hands on work time, this small batch crusty bread is the perfect low effort personal sized bread making project. It fits in just about any size Dutch oven, too!
Just like my popular mini focaccia, mini ciabatta, and mini baguette recipes, this small batch bread recipe uses just 120 grams (1 cup) of flour. It's perfect for when you want a loaf of classic crusty bread, but don't want to use up a large amount of flour to make it.
This mini loaf has become a successful favorite of The Practical Kitchen readers of all ages, particularly those who are new to bread making or find it intimidating. Thanks to everyone who has chimed in in the comments with adaptations for using different flours, flavors, etc.!
It's small size is ideal for one or two people to share, ideal if you live alone and are baking only for yourself, or for you and just one other person. It's also great if you just don't want to use up all your baking ingredients.
It bakes up about the size of a large grapefruit and is perfect for slathering with homemade butter, dipping in my best 5-minute olive oil bread dip, or toasting and topping with deli egg salad or deli tuna salad.
- About This Recipe
- A Wet and Sticky No Knead Dough
- Ingredient Notes
- How to Make No Knead Bread
- A Long Rise Time
- Shaping No-Knead Bread
- How to Shape an Oval No-Knead Bread
- Scoring and Baking
- Baking in a Dutch Oven
- A Note on Temperature and Dough Rising
- Equipment Notes
- Practical Tips & Recipe Notes
- Storage Notes
- BONUS: Weight to Volume (Cups) Conversion + Instructions
- Recipe FAQ - Flour types, gluten free, etc.
- TL;DR — Recipe Summary
- 📖 Recipe
- 💬 Comments
About This Recipe
This small batch crusty bread recipe is a mini version of my full sized no-knead dutch oven bread recipe with a few small tweaks. I've written lots more about the science of no-knead breads and crusty breads in that blog post so head over there if you want a lot more detail!
The biggest difference between this small batch crusty bread recipe and the full size recipe is the hydration of the dough. My base recipe is an 80% hydration dough.
For the small batch recipe, I pushed the hydration as high as I could — 83% — while keeping the dough easy to shape and work with.
A 3% increase (a mere 4 grams of water!) might not seem like much, but it did make a significant difference in the size of the final loaf.
The higher the hydration, the bigger and airier the crumb (the inside of the loaf) will be. Since this is already a very small loaf, that extra bit of water helps increase the size of the overall loaf.
Pushing the hydration any higher, however, results in a dough that's very sticky and much harder to shape. And I wanted to keep this as beginner friendly as possible.
This recipe also has slightly higher ratio of yeast to flour than my base no-knead bread recipe.
Where the full size recipe has 2 grams of yeast, this recipe has just 1 gram. If I shrunk the amount of yeast proportionally, you'd be trying to measure a fraction of a gram, and I didn't think you'd want that.
Even with proportionally more yeast, this no-knead dough still needs a long rise time. But its small size means it can be ready to bake much sooner (as soon as 8 hours after mixing) than the full size version.
The extra yeast also contributes to the overall size of the loaf, so having a little extra to give this mini crusty bread a boost certainly doesn't hurt.
A Wet and Sticky No Knead Dough
Like most no knead doughs, this small batch crusty bread has a very wet and sticky dough. It is not meant to be kneaded or handled at all during the initial rise.
The wetter a dough is, the more frustrating (read: stickier) it can be to handle. You'll want to have plenty of flour on your counter when you shape it.
At 83% hydration, this dough is relatively easy to handle once you dust the dough and your hands with flour. But if you're not used to working with wet and sticky doughs, it may still be a bit of a challenge the first time you try it, especially if you're new to bread making.
Don't beat yourself up if handling the dough doesn't come naturally to you — it will become easier with practice. Just remember: this is not meant to be a tightly controlled dough, so even if it's a little lumpy or imperfect or messy, that's absolutely okay.
This small batch crusty bread is meant to have a rough, cracked open crust. It will always be a little bit unpredictable to shape and bake.
As long as it tastes great, that's what really matters.
You only need four ingredients to make this small batch crusty bread! See recipe card (at the end of the post) for quantities.
- All-Purpose Flour - I use King Arthur Baking Company's all purpose flour which has a higher protein content (closer to bread flour) than other brands of flour. If you're using a grocery store brand of flour, you may get better results using their bread flour.
- Salt - Salt doesn't just add flavor to your dough, it helps control the yeast activity. I use the chef-standard Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt which has larger, irregular crystals that dissolve quickly compared to other brands and styles of salt. Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt is is also half as salty as other brands of salt by volume, so make sure you're measuring salt by weight! If you're using a different type or brand of salt and measuring by volume, cut the amount of salt in half.
- Instant Yeast - Sometimes called "rapid rise," "bread machine," or "quick rise" yeast. Active dry yeast will also work, but you may experience a slightly slower rise. Store your yeast in the fridge or freezer to be sure it stays good! If you're not sure your yeast is good, add a pinch to a tablespoon of warm water. If it bubbles or foams after a few minutes, it's good!
- Cool Water - Cool or lukewarm to the touch. You don't want warm or hot water for this recipe.
How to Make No Knead Bread
Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. That's it. Your small batch crusty bread is basically done.
Of course, there are a few things you can do to get the best possible outcome. Mix your dry ingredients together first: Flour, salt, and yeast. This disperses the yeast and salt throughout the flour for more even mixing.
Your last step is to add the water. Mix everything together until you have a sticky, messy, lumpy dough.
It won't look smooth at all. You're just looking for all the flour to be hydrated and all the water to be incorporated.
This is a 83% hydration dough. It's supposed to be a shaggy, messy, lumpy dough. It will be sticky to the touch and impossible to knead (because it doesn't need kneading).
Cover the bowl and let it rise at room temperature for 12-20 hours.
A Long Rise Time
No-knead bread relies on time to develop a gluten network — the structure that gives bread its shape and texture. The gluten network traps the gas produced by the yeast, creating air bubbles in the dough.
You don't need to do any kneading to develop that strength and structure in the dough.
While you can let this dough rise for as long as 18 or even 20 hours before shaping it, or shape it as soon as 8 hours into the rise time, its small size means it's often at its peak and ready to be shaped around the 12 hour mark.
When the dough is ready to be shaped it will be nice and bubbly with a flat top that stretches across the mouth of the bowl.
This is a very slow rising bread dough, so don't stress too much about getting to it right at 12 hours. If you're a couple hours early or a couple hours late, it will be fine.
For a longer cold rise: Put this no-knead dough in the fridge immediately after mixing or after the first overnight rise. I've left it for as long as 5 days in the fridge before baking and it works just fine. As a bonus, gluten tightens up in the cold, meaning refrigerated dough is slightly easier to shape.
For a same day bake: Increase the yeast to 3 grams and follow the mixing and folding instructions from my small batch baguette recipe. Then come back here for the shaping and baking instructions. You'll have a small loaf of crusty bread in just about 3 hours!
Shaping No-Knead Bread
When your dough is ready to shape, dust the top of it in the bowl, then turn it out onto a well floured counter.
It's a sticky dough, and the flour will prevent it from sticking to the counter. Dust the top very lightly with flour too — just enough so your hands don't stick to it.
Loosely stretch the dough out flat. Dust any excess flour off the top of the dough.
Fold all the edges in, pressing down gently but firmly to pinch them to each other.
The dough may stick to your hands slightly, but that's okay.
Dust the surface of the dough or your hands lightly with flour if needed to prevent sticking. Use a light touch as you do the shaping.
When all the edges have been tucked in, flip the dough over. You'll have a nice smooth top.
Cup your hands around the dough and gently lift and rotate it in short, quick movements to create surface tension on the top as you tuck the dough underneath.
Transfer the dough onto a crumpled and flattened piece of parchment paper and cover it for its final rise while the Dutch oven finishes preheating.
Crumbling the parchment paper softens it so that it fits neatly into the round space of a Dutch oven without digging into your dough.
Here's how to do it right: Crumple the paper up, unfurl it. Crumple it, then unfurl it again. Now it's ready for your dough.
Dust the top of the no-knead dough with flour, then cover it with a clean kitchen towel while you preheat the Dutch oven for 30 minutes.
How to Shape an Oval No-Knead Bread
If you want a hoagie or sub-shaped small crusty bread, you can absolutely do that instead.
Stretch the dough into a loose square shape. Fold the top two corners in to make a point, then loosely roll the pointed end toward your body. Apply very little pressure - you don't want to create too much tension here.
Keep rolling until the seam is against the counter and the smooth side is facing up. Gently tuck the ends under. Proceed with the rest of the recipe as written!
You can also use the shaping and baking instructions from my mini baguette recipe to make a baguette shaped loaf!
Scoring and Baking
Scoring bread isn't just decorative; it creates a vent through which steam can escape. Without scoring, your bread will crack and tear open in the oven unpredictably and might even blow out at the bottom.
To help encourage the bread to form an "ear" (the dramatic, crisp flap of bread that runs the length of the scoring mark) hold the blade at a 45° angle when you make the slash.
Immediately before baking, take a sharp knife or lame and slash the top of the loaf.
You can even cut designs into your loaf. But you do need at least one big, deep slash.
Carefully lift the dough in the parchment paper sling and transfer it into the preheated Dutch oven.
Try to push the paper so it's hanging over the edges of the pot. Be careful not to burn yourself!
Baking in a Dutch Oven
The confined space of a pre-heated Dutch oven traps the steam released by the dough as it bakes, creating a nice moist environment which results in a super crunchy crust.
Cover this dough in the Dutch oven and place it inside your oven. Bake it covered for 20 minutes, then uncovered for 10-15 minutes.
When you first take the lid off, your small batch crusty bread will look quite pale. That's normal. The final 10 minute uncovered bake time is when the top will take on that gorgeous brown color.
You're looking for an internal temperature of at least 200°F for doneness.
Carefully remove the baked loaf from the Dutch oven to a cooling rack. If you listen closely you'll be able to hear the crust cracking as the inside of the loaf contracts as it begins to cool!
Let the small batch crusty bread cool completely before slicing it. If you slice it before it has cooled, the steam still trapped in the bread will turn the starches to mush.
A Note on Temperature and Dough Rising
Temperature is one of the main factors in determining how quickly or slowly your dough rises (proofs). This includes the temperature of ingredients in your dough, as well as the ambient temperature of the room where you are leaving your dough to rise.
Depending on how cool or warm your water was, and how cool or warm your kitchen is, your dough may rise faster or slower.
- Warmer temperatures increase yeast activity. (But temperatures over 110F can kill it!)
- Cooler temperatures slow yeast activity. This is why we use cold water when making this recipe. We want a long rise time. (For a longer, slower proof, put the dough in the fridge — it will be fine for up to 5 days!.)
In baking, "room temperature" is generally somewhere around 70-75°F.
Just because the dough isn't ready right at the times given in the recipe doesn't mean it's not working — there might be other temperature factors affecting how quickly or slowly it gets there!
You don't need to use all of the same equipment I use to make this bread, but here are the tools I used and recommend:
- Kitchen Scale - You'll need a kitchen scale to measure the ingredients for this bread recipe. The ingredient quantities are so small that if you're off by a little bit it can make a big difference in how your bread turns out. You'll get the best results from pretty much any baking recipe if you measure ingredients by weight.
- Cast Iron Dutch Oven - I use my small 3 quart Buydeem Dutch oven (disclosure: it was gifted to me by the brand; use code TPK20 for 20% off Buydeem Dutch ovens!) when making this small batch bread. A 2 quart cast iron Dutch oven will also work well. While you can use a larger 4+ quart Dutch oven, a smaller space helps trap steam on the surface of the dough, giving the bread a better crust.
- Parchment Paper - I've been using these pre-cut parchment sheets lately and can usually get 2-3 uses out of them! Tear one in half and it's the perfect size for this small batch bread.
- Dough Whisk - The sturdy wire coil of a dough whisk is designed for mixing wet and sticky doughs — the wire cuts through any sneaky clumps of flour easily! There's a reason a dough whisk is one of my favorite whisks.
- Lame - A lame (prounounced "lahm") is a sharp razor blade with a handle used for scoring bread dough. Use the corner of the blade at an angle for slashing. A sharp knife will also work. I used my Wire Monkey UFO-style lame (disclosure: it was gifted to me by the brand) for these photos.
- Bowl Scraper - A plastic bowl scraper makes removing the dough from your mixing bowl easy.
- Bench Scraper - A metal bench scraper provides broad support when lifting and flipping the dough. You can also use it to help create tension while shaping.
- Flour Duster - I always keep flour in a flour duster handy so I can easily dust my counter and bread with flour without it being clumpy or uneven.
Practical Tips & Recipe Notes
- Use lightly floured hands when shaping the dough. Too much flour will prevent the dough from sticking to itself as you fold, which will make it harder to shape. So don't go overboard.
- If floured hands don't seem to be working for you, try using lightly damp or lightly oiled hands when handling and shaping the dough instead.
- Be gentle and use very light pressure during the shaping steps to leave as much air inside the dough as possible.
- This is a great base recipe for adding lots of fun spices, herbs, cheese, seeds, and more. Just remember if you add anything wet like peppers, raw onions, olives, etc. it will add moisture to the dough. And if you add too many dry ingredients, it also can affect the dough's hydration. I recommend adding no more than 24 grams of additional flavorings/ingredients/mixins to this dough. That's about 20% by baker's percentage (20% of the total weight of the flour).
This no knead bread is best eaten with in the first 2-3 days after baking. You can store it at room temperature for 4-6 days. Storing it in an airtight container like a large resealable bag works well, though the crust will soften due to trapped moisture.
A cloth bag, brown paper bag, or a bread box with a controlled air vent will help the bread retain moisture while preserving the crunchy crust.
Do not refrigerate bread; the fridge temperature will make it go stale even faster.
To freeze this no knead bread, slice it first. Store it in an airtight plastic bag in the freezer with as much air pressed out of the bag as possible. Reheat from frozen in a toaster.
BONUS: Weight to Volume (Cups) Conversion + Instructions
I tested and developed this recipe using weight measurements for accuracy. I can't promise how it will turn out if you measure with volume measurements (cups, teaspoons) because not all measuring cups are the same and depending on how you scoop the flour you can end up with a lot more or less than you actually need!
There is no set standard for what "1 cup" of flour weighs — I use 120 grams, but other people (and online conversion calculators) use 130 grams, or even as much as 150 grams which can make a big difference in how a recipe turns out!
I am making a rare exception since I've described this recipe as using "1 cup" of flour and providing them for you here. **Please read this carefully!!**
- To properly scoop flour in cups: Stir and fluff the flour in your container well so there's plenty of air in it. Use a spoon to gently spoon the flour into the one cup measure, then sweep any excess off the top. The cup should feel pretty light and the flour should not be tightly packed into it. Think of it more like a ⅞ths cup.
- To properly measure water: Use a liquid measuring cup. Place it on a flat surface, fill with water just until the water reaches the correct marker when you look at it at eye level.
- To properly measure with measuring spoons: Scoop dry ingredients flat, do not use heaping scoops. Olive oil should not overflow the rim of the measuring spoon.
Here are the small batch bread recipe volume measurements (use at your own risk):
- 1 scant cup all purpose flour, well aerated and properly scooped (see above)
- ¼ cup + 3 Tablespoons water
- 1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt (use ½ teaspoon of any other brand or type of salt)
- ⅓ teaspoon instant yeast
If you measure with cups and the recipe did not turn out right, that is likely why the recipe did not turn out right. Try again!
Recipe FAQ - Flour types, gluten free, etc.
First of all, if you scroll up just a bit, you'll see that I did provide volume measurements as well as detailed instructions for how to measure them as accurately as possible. But while I have you here, I really do recommend using a kitchen scale. It is more accurate than cup measurements and will give you the right ratio of water, yeast, salt, and flour so that your bread dough behaves the way you want it to. I tested and developed this recipe using weight measurements. If I were to convert it to cups, I would be using Google — just like you would. And since there's no set standard for what "1 cup" of flour weighs, different online converters use different amounts, which means I wouldn't be able to promise you'd get the same delicious results!
I tested this on a sheet pan in a 450°F oven with an ice cube on the pan to create steam and it does work, but the crust isn't quite as nice and I find the open space of the oven results in more bread blowouts on the bottom even when properly scored. The confined space of the Dutch oven will give you the best results. The Kitchn has a good blog post with alternatives to Dutch ovens, but I haven't personally tested them and can't speak to how they would change the bake time for this recipe.
Yes! Because of the long rise time on this dough, you don't even need to make any adjustments to the quantity. You can use active dry yeast just like the instant yeast, mixed right into the dry ingredients without blooming it in water first. The only reason to bloom it in water is if you're not sure if your yeast is good.
I haven't tried it, but I don't see why not! You may want to drop the hydration of the dough down to 80% (96 grams) or even 75% (90 grams) water for a tighter crumb to help contain the soup.
Certain brands of 1-for-1 gluten free flour do work for bread recipes, but I'm not sure which ones they are and haven't tested any here. If you do use a 1-for-1 gluten free flour and are successful, please leave a comment sharing which brand you used!
Whole wheat flour and almond flour won't support the gluten formation necessary to make this type of bread. Whole wheat flour contains the bran, which cuts through the gluten strands, making it hard to build strength into this dough. Almond flour is simply ground almonds, it doesn't have anything in it that will help it develop gluten or give this dough structure.
TL;DR — Recipe Summary
- Mix the flour, salt, and yeast. Add the water and mix into a sticky dough.
- Cover and rise for 12-18 hours at room temperature.
- Turn the dough onto a well floured surface. Dust lightly with flour.
- Tuck the edges of the dough up to form a ball. Flip so the seam side is down. Transfer to a crumpled and flattened sheet of parchment paper.
- Dust the top with flour, cover and rest 30 minutes while the Dutch oven preheats at 450°F.
- Score the top of the dough. Then place the dough in the Dutch oven.
- Bake for 20 minutes covered, then 10-15 minutes uncovered.
- Let cool completely before slicing.
Small Batch Crusty Bread
- Mix the flour, salt, and yeast together in a mixing bowl.
- Pour the water into the middle of the dry ingredients and mix until well combined. It will be shaggy and messy. That's okay. Cover the bowl and set it aside at room temp to rest for 12-20 hours (or in the fridge for up to 5 days). You're looking for the dough to double or triple in size with a flat, bubbly top.
- During the final hour of the rise time, preheat oven to 450°F. When the oven reaches temperature, place a Dutch oven inside, covered, and let preheat for 30 minutes at 450°F. Crumple a piece of parchment paper into a ball. Flatten it out, then crumple and flatten it out again.
- While Dutch oven preheats, generously flour a clean countertop. Release the dough from the sides of the bowl and onto the counter. Dust the top lightly with flour, just enough so your hands don't stick.
- Gently stretch the dough into a loose square. Dust any excess flour off the top. Fold the corners of the dough up and across itself to pull it into a round shape with the edges pinched together on top. Flip the loaf over so the seam side is underneath. Cup your hands around it and lightly lift and rotate the ball of dough against the counter, tucking the dough underneath itself as you go to create surface tension on top.
- Use the bench scraper to lift the ball of dough onto the flattened piece of crumpled parchment paper. Dust the surface of the dough lightly with flour, cover it with a clean dish towel, and let it sit until the Dutch oven finishes preheating.
- Carefully remove the Dutch oven from the oven. Take the lid off and set it aside. Score the top of the loaf to create a vent for steam to escape. Gather the corners of the parchment paper together, pick the dough up and place it inside the Dutch oven. Put the lid back on the Dutch oven.
- Bake with the lid on for 20 minutes (don't peek!), then remove the lid and bake another 10 minutes until deeply golden brown on top.
- Transfer the fully baked loaf to a cooling rack and let cool completely before slicing.
- Gluten firms up in the fridge; if you find the sticky dough is too hard to handle at room temperature, you can pop it in the fridge for up to 5 days prior to baking. It will be much easier to shape while it's cold. Let it rest at room temperature for 1 hour after shaping and before baking.
- To freeze: Slice the baked bread, then place in an airtight bag in the freezer with as much air pressed out as possible. Reheat from frozen in a toaster for 2-3 minutes.
- Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt is half as salty as other brands of salt by volume, so make sure you're measuring salt by weight! If you're using a different type or brand of salt and measuring by volume, cut the amount of salt in half.