This tender buttermilk bread requires no kneading at all—just a cast-iron Dutch oven. One of the main benefits of baking with cast iron is that it gives bread a crisp and golden crust. For the best caramelization and oven spring (the initial burst of rising that occurs in the first few minutes of baking), preheat the pan in the oven so it is hot when you add the batter or dough. If you aren’t sure whether the bread is done baking, use a thermometer to check the internal temperature.


  • 3 cups bread flour, plus more for work surface and sprinkling
  • 2 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon active dry yeast (from 1 [¼-oz.] envelope)
  • ½ cup whole buttermilk
  • Fine yellow cornmeal, for sprinkling


  1. Stir together flour, salt, and yeast in a large bowl. Add 1 cup water and buttermilk. Using your hand as a claw, stir together until no dry bits of flour remain and all clumps are broken up. Do not knead. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap; let stand at room temperature until it’s very bubbly and the consistency resembles pancake batter, at least 12 hours or up to 18 hours.
  2. Turn out dough on a well-floured work surface. (It will be very loose.) Incorporating as little flour from the surface into the dough as possible, shape it into a taut ball by folding edges toward the middle and repeating until it begins to develop structure and hold its shape, 12 to 16 times. Turn the dough seam side down on a clean (not floured) work surface. Heavily sprinkle top with flour. Using a dough scraper, pull the dough across the work surface, rotating it as you drag it, developing tension and forming a taut ball. Coat generously in flour.
  3. Line an 8-inch proofing basket or bowl with a linen or cotton towel (not terry cloth). Dust the towel generously with flour; sprinkle with cornmeal. Using a dough scraper, lift and carefully invert the dough ball into a prepared bowl so the smooth, rounded side faces down and the seam faces up. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel. Let stand at room temperature until doubled in size, 1 to 2 hours. Preheat oven to 500°F with rack in lower third position. Meanwhile, place a cast-iron Dutch oven (5 quart or larger) with lid in the oven to preheat for about 20 minutes.
  4. Remove the hot Dutch oven from the oven. Carefully invert the dough ball into the Dutch oven. Working quickly using a thin, sharp knife, make 3 (about 4-inch-long, ¼-inch-deep) cuts across the top of the loaf. Cover bread with a Dutch oven lid; return to oven. Reduce oven temperature to 450°F. Bake, covered until the loaf has increased in volume and turned a shiny, pale light brown, about 25 minutes. Remove lid. Continue baking until the loaf is golden brown and a thermometer inserted in the center registers 205°F, 12 to 18 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; cool for 1 hour.

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