foolproof old-Vienna no-knead bread recipe
JOIN me for this ridiculously easy Viennese version of the wildly famous no-knead bread. Indeed, Vienna is not immune to the bread hype of the last decade. The revival and reinvention of the bread scene has done a lot of good in Vienna, and it has its local stars, big investors and even millionaires. Most famous of all is Josef Weghaupt, who trucks bread every day to his Viennese shops from his remote Austrian production facility.
While it can be hard to get good bread in Vienna, it’s not impossible. Sure, there’s still no Parisian Eric Kayser branch, but I’ll share the short list of outstanding bakeries that produce right in the heart of the city, like Felzl, Kornradl or Gragger & Cie with his wood-fired oven. Or Grimm, located next to the Judenplatz since 1536. There’s even a kosher bakery on the list.
But why search for the perfect bakery when, as Jim Lahey, the owner of renowned Sullivan Street Bakery in New York, put it, “A twelve-year-old can produce better bread than most bakeries…” Yes, you’re about to learn how to make hearty Viennese bread with no kneading, and in only a couple of hours at that! No need for special ingredients, equipment or techniques. Best of all, there’s no overnight wait with this version of no-knead bread.
Food journalist Mark Bittman is responsible for bringing this now incredibly popular technique to the attention of the world. His 2006 article on no-knead bread is one of the most successful recipes ever to have been published by the New York Times. Just appreciate that for a second. No-knead bread revolutionized how we thought about bread-baking.
Bittman’s original recipe basically relied on time (14 to 20 hours) and a Dutch oven with a lid to hold in steam from the wet dough. Two years later, the follow-up “No-Knead Bread: Not Making Itself Yet, but a Lot Quicker” had it down to a mere four hours of rising with further improved taste and real crispness to its crust too. A couple drops of vinegar are the secret!
I vividly remember the moment when, together with my wife, in the middle of Tel-Aviv’s suburban bread dessert, we took our first batch of Vienna-style no-knead bread out of the oven. The crust shattered delicately as we cut the first slice. I never had better bread in my life! The fact that you made it with your own hands certainly contributes to that fabulous feeling.
When we moved to Vienna, I was reminded of an old Viennese ad that asked, “What does the Viennese miss the most while away?” And the answer was Hochquellwasser and Ankerbrot. Hochquellwasser, Viennese mountain spring water, is Vienna’s incredibly good regular tap water. Imagine Evian out of the tap!
The other thing Viennese are supposed to miss, Ankerbrot, is bread from a very popular Viennese industrial bakery called Anker. It was founded in 1891 by Fritz and Heinrich Mendl, Aryanized in 1938, restituted after the war to the founders’ families and then sold in 1969. But the company’s shops still exist all around the city.
Once there were 700 bakeries in Vienna. Today there are only 25 left in all Austria.1 There are multiple reasons for this dwindling number of local artisanal bakeries. First of all, homeowners and businesses don’t want the noise and pests bakeries can attract. Today’s youth want easier jobs. Supermarkets are selling tastier and tastier breads, even some quite good rustic loaves. Lastly, most bakers have failed to differentiate their products from mass-produced bread.
There’s much more to Viennese bread than the famous Kaiser roll. The daily bread used to be what the world calls “Jewish rye”, as well as a version mixed with wheat flour, called Mischbrot locally. These spongy and sometimes boring breads had their heydays in the 1970s and 1980s with the rise of industrial, mass production bakeries. Nowadays they’re eclipsed by country-style loaves with a lot more texture and flavor variety, like this no-knead bread itself.
The spice profile of the Viennese Jewish rye is dominated by caraway seeds – Kimmel in Yiddish, Kümmel in German. But Hausbrot, Vienna’s traditional homey bread, also has anise, fennel and coriander seeds. Hausbrot bread is often sold as a round rustic loaf with the marketing prefix “Altwiener,” or “old Vienna.” My no-knead bread is based on the same spice profile.
In fact, my contemporary Hausbrot is almost identical to a thick crusted classic sourdough bread. The good Viennese bakeries (see my list below) use sourdough for their crusty loaves of old-Vienna-style homey bread, Altwiener Hausbrot. Making sourdough at home is not difficult at all, but needs patience and quite a bit of time. My no-knead bread looks just like a traditional sourdough bread and tastes very much like it, but is so much easier and quicker to make. Only a sourdough bread from one of the very best bakeries will beat that, guaranteed!
I use spelt flour with great success for this no-knead bread recipe, but, unbelievably, you could use almost any flour you want for this recipe. Spelt flour has a very nice, slightly sweet and nutty flavor and for some people it is easier on the stomach. High quality organic spelt flour is readily available here in Vienna, even in supermarkets. Contrary to most info available, I substitute 1:1 with regular flour in many recipes with picture perfect results, including this no-knead bread. See for yourself.
Right before the recipe for this old-Vienna no-knead bread, here are the Viennese masters of bread:
Vienna’s Very Best Bakeries
- PAREMI — Probably Vienna’s best Bakery is a French newcomer located in the city’s oldest street related to the profession: Bäckerstraße 10 (1010 Wien).
- FELZL – The pioneer of Austria’s new, hip bakers.
Branches: Helferstorferstrasse 2 (1010 Wien) | Lerchenfelderstraße 99-101 (1070 Wien) | Kaiserstraße 51 (1070 Wien) | Pilgramgasse 24 (1050 Wien)
Bread automat (365 days 8pm-6am): Schottenfeldgasse 88 (1070 Wien)
- GRAGGER & CIE – Spiegelgasse 23 (1010 Wien, with wood-fired oven).
Branches: Vorgartenmarkt Stall 14-15 (1020 Wien, with wood-fired oven) and Siebensterngasse 25 (1070 Wien)
- VOLLKORNBÄCKEREI KORNRADL – Whole grain bakery: Lerchenfelderstraße 13 (1070 Wien)
Other good bread, not made in Vienna, but sold/baked in Vienna:
- JOSEPH BROT – The star of Vienna’s bread scene. Tasty but expensive bread, its production facility is located in the Waldviertel region.
Branches: Naglergasse 9 (1010 Wien) | Landstraßer Hauptstraße 4 (1030 Wien) | Obkirchergasse 37-39 (1190 Wien)
- MARTIN AUER – Pproduced in the Steiermark region.
Branch in Vienna: Plankengasse 1 (1010 Wien)
- VOLLKORNBÄCKEREI WALDHERR – A whole grain bakery. Made in the Burgenland region.
Branch in Vienna: Marc-Aurel-Straße 4 (1010 Wien)
- GRADWOHL – Also from the Burgenland region.
Branches in Vienna: Fleischmarkt 20 (1010 Wien) | Naglergasse 3 (1010 Wien) | Naschmarkt 239 (1040 Wien) | Josefstädter Straße 60 (1080 Wien) | Zieglergasse 1 (1070 Wien) | Döblinger Hauptstraße 46 (1190 Wien) | Lainzer Strasse 3-5 (1130 Wien)
Very interesting and worth a detour:
- JOSEF SCHROTT – Founded in 1885, they focus on nothing but the bread in these not-so-stylish shops (definitely not for the hipster crowd) by Vienna’s guild master: Mariahilfer Straße 159 (1150 Wien).
Branches: Meiselmarkt Stall J7 (1150 Wien) | Anschützgasse 40 (1150 Wien) | Webgasse 44 (1060 Wien)
- GRIMM – Open since 1536 in the same spot: Kurrentgasse 10 (1010 Wien). Their excellent organic sourdough bread Altwiener Hausbrot is also sold at Denn’s Biomarkt
- OHEL MOSHE – Kosher bakery and pastry shop. Get your authentic Viennese old-school Jewish-rye for your daily deli cravings here: Lilienbrunngasse 18 (1020 Wien)
- SAHARA – A tucked away little Persian bakery and pastry shop for the lavash addict and his sweet tooth: Sachsenplatz 7 (1200 Wien)
- TRABZON EKMEK FIRINI – A famous Turkish bakery and pastry shop at the Brunnenmarkt: Brunnengasse 65 (1160 Wien)
- STRÖCK – Chain. Though of industrial size, its traditional, rustic and organic products maintain a high level of innovation and sustainability. Branches all over town.
RECIPE for Speedy Viennese Whole Grain No-Knead Bread
spice mixture (adapt to your taste)
2½ tsp of caraway seeds
2 tsp of fennel seeds
1 tsp of anise seeds
1 tsp of coriander seeds
A pinch more of all of them to sprinkle
840g (29.63 ounces/1.85 pound) flour (wheat or spelt, white, whole grain or mix – unbelievably it only depends on your taste, really!)
600ml (2 1/2 cups) water, very warm (not hot) – 122°F (50°C)
15g (0.5 oz, approx. 3 tsp) iodine-free table salt
1/2 tsp red vinegar (5-6% acidity)
1/2 to 1 tsp instant yeast (1/2 tsp if using white flour only – 1 tsp for whole-grain only)
- Pound the spices in a mortar (in a pinch a blender or a clean electric coffee grinder, though those are not recommended).
- Mix flour, yeast and salt in a bowl large enough to add the water. Stir until combined. Cover with a towel and let the dough proof for 4 hours in a warm place without any draft.
- Preheat the oven to 480°F (250°C) or more if you can (I usually set it to 535°F, 285°C). In the oven, place a 6-8 quart (5,5-7,5l) heavy pot with a lid (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic, but even a regular stainless steel pot with a lid will do in a pinch).
- Sprinkle some flour on a work surface and some spices on top of that, to prevent the dough from sticking. Lay the dough on it and fold it over on itself 2 to 4 times. Sprinkle some more of the spice mixture. Cover and let it rise for one hour more.
- Carefully take the preheated pot out of the oven. Quickly drop in the sticky dough in one go, right into the blazing hot pot, seam side up. Don’t worry if you didn’t get the dough right in the center – it will straighten out by itself.
- Tightly cover the pot and bake for 40 minutes at 480°F (250°C). Then uncover and bake for 10 minutes longer, until nicely browned and reaching an internal temperature of at least 200°F (95°C). If you go by internal temperature, you can’t fail!
- Let it cool completely on a rack before cutting with a very good, sharp, serrated bread-knife. Why do you need a very good bread-knife, you may ask. Well, you don’t want to lose most of the wonderful crust you just worked so hard to bake. Sawing with a bad bread-knife would inevitably break away most of the best parts of the crust. And you risk cutting yourself. One of the best bread-knives money can buy is the one I use, the very reasonably priced Tojiro Bread Slicer 270mm F-687. Unlike the celebrated Mercer Culinary Millennia 10 Inch bread knife, its blade is not flexible. Therefore it easily cuts through thick crust of loaves of bread like this rustic no-knead bread, which the Mercer can’t handle well.
Serve Viennese-style, buttered topped with chives or sardines. Open-face sandwiches with a variety of schmears are another common Viennese usage for this type of bread.
By the way, in Vienna, as elsewhere, it is customary for grannies and their grandchildren to feed ducks with stale bread. But don’t do that, ’cause it kills the fish…! (And on Rosh Hashanah you feed the crumbs to the fish in the Donaukanal for Tashlikh. Though only crumbs, and only a few).
How to Bake Everything: Simple Recipes for the Best Baking by Mark Bittman
Der Duft von frischem Brot – Österreichs beste Bäcker verraten ihre Rezepte by Barbara van Melle (ISBN-13: 978-3850339421)
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- This is my source for these figures: https://kurier.at/genuss/die-12-besten-baecker-des-landes/153.513.894