Pain facile – easy and satisfying bread

YouTube isn’t usually where I go for cooking inspiration. But I was dipping a toe, getting hypnotised by Japanese cheesecake videos and, suddenly, saw the title for this bread recipe: Pain facile: homemade 3 MIN NO-KNEAD bread (Dutch-oven Baked) video. I clicked and a love story followed.

Pain facile - all you need is flour, water and time.

Pain facile – all you need is flour, water and time. (This is my rye loaf.)

Here’s the video that has made me a happy baker again:

Pain facile means easy bread and this really is. Yannick Lescure is the man in the video. He’s charming, straight-forward and speaks French – hurrah for close captions. I took notes while watching and waited for the first opportunity to try it out. (I also learnt that the French for tea spoon is cuillère à café. Oh, the joys of language.) The thing that makes this recipe so fab is that although there’s no kneading, and there’s minimal interaction, the outcome is a really satisfying bread with chewy crust and good texture.

Tomato and Mozza open sandwich. I'm very good to myself.

Tomato and Mozza open sandwich. I’m very good to myself.

Don’t let the 3 minutes in the title suck you in too far: the magic in this loaf is time. Basically, you mix the ingredients together in a thrice, leave them overnight, do minimal shaping and stick the loaf in the oven for 45 minutes, et, as they say, voilà! There’s one piece of special equipment needed: an oven-proof, lidded dish. I use a cast-iron pot but have glass oven pots that would work just as well. I think a clay pot would work too. On his channel, Yannick has a recipe that uses a standard baking sheet so you can still make pani facile if you haven’t got a big pot.

Pain facile from risen dough, to shaped boulle, and finished loaf. Look at the crust on that!

Pain facile from risen dough, to shaped boulle, and finished loaf. Look at the crust on that!

I’m on holiday this week and wanted to do some baking. I’ve killed all my sour dough starters (they, like my kombucha SCOBY and my novel, needed more attention than I was capable of giving October through March last winter). I like bread with texture and flavour. This recipe delivers both. I’ve made it twice already, once following the video exactly, once with a tweak of rye, and am looking forward to making it again, maybe with seeds, maybe with other grain types. Since I work from home, this is a loaf that I can set the night before, cook in the morning and have fully cooled for lunch. Bliss.

Pain facile - easy and satisfying bread
Preparation time
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Easy to make, satisfying to eat, this bread is heaven. If you want to switch up the recipe, swap out 1 cup of white flour for 1 cup of rye, or wholemeal or spelt. A low-gluten flour will give a lower rise but the deeper flavour is worth it, in my opinion. Remember that there is no kneading in this recipe: once the dough has risen, handle it gently to keep the air in. This freezes well and is dense and moist and dense - it's a 4-5 minute toasting job. It's so good toasted!
Recipe type: Bread
Cuisine: French
Serves: 1 loaf
  • 3 cups strong flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
  • 0.25 teaspoon fast acting yeast
  • 1.5 cups water
  1. Put the dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix.
  2. Add the water and stir together (I use the handle of a wooden spoon, like Yannick). Note: you're just combining the ingredients, and it doesn't take very long. The dough is fairly loose and you're not going to knead it.
  3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a towel and leave for 8 to 12 hours.
  4. Pre-heat the oven, and in it a large oven-proof pot with lid, to 200C.
  5. Liberally coat the work surface with flour.
  6. With a spatula, turn out the dough. Don't flatten it or beat it down: you want to keep the air bubbles. Just loosen the sides with the spatula and tip it out on the flour.
  7. Now, gently grab one side, stretch it out and fold it over itself. Repeat on the other side.
  8. Shape the dough into a round by gently pushing the sides in and under to form a tight, round load.
  9. Take the hot pot out of the oven.
  10. Carefully lift the loaf into the pot.
  11. Put the lid on and put in the oven for 30 minutes. (This might take some adjustment: in my oven, it needs 5-10 minutes more.)
  12. Take the lid off and leave for another 15 minutes to colour the crust.
  13. Let the loaf rest for 2 hours before cutting.


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About Caroline von Schmalensee

Cooking, eating and drinking is fun as well as necessary. I do food for fun and I write for a living. Good food makes the world a more delicious and satisfying place. Good writing, meanwhile, can make the world a less confusing place.

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