The “shaggy” dough that forms when you first combine the ingredients.  Photo by Betsy Mayo

At this point, the dough has been roughly shaped – with minimal manipulation – and placed on parchment paper. Photo by Betsy Mayo

The bread, which is baked in a preheated Dutch oven, has finished baking. Photo by Betsy Mayo











This bread was the very first thing my daughter baked on her own without my help. It’s the bread my dad makes weekly. It’s the perfect accompaniment to a winter stew. I was raised in a rural area, so in classic “Maine” style, most of my cooking is from scratch. I avoid processed foods and I can, dehydrate, and freeze things in season to last the year if possible. The last frontier for me was baking yeast leavened breads — they always seemed just out of reach. I finally found a way through that barrier in part because of COVID-19.

There isn’t a soul around who doesn’t remember the first days of the COVID-19 pandemic. One day, things were chugging along seamlessly and the next day there were a whole lot of people sitting at home, wondering what the world they were going to eat for the next two weeks while we tried to “flatten the curve.”

I was no exception: suddenly working from home, keeping my daughter engaged with her new homeschool schedule, and figuring out what the heck to eat when we weren’t supposed to leave the house.


Luckily because of the 24-hour news cycle, I had preemptively stocked the deep freezer, fridge and pantry with a variety of staple foods in anticipation of being asked to self-quarantine. Meats, rice, flour, dried beans, frozen veggies and long-lasting fruits and vegetables filled my pantry and larder.

The first thing we ran out of was baked goods. Bread, tortillas, English muffins. All gone in a flash!

Insert this bread. It’s easy, taking no more than five minutes to mix up, and quite possibly the most fool-proof bread I’ve ever made. It’s crusty, fluffy but dense enough to stand up to being dipped in soups and stews, friendly to toasting, amenable to a grilled sandwich and generally delicious. In the midst of a crisis, even my picky eater was thrilled. This bread quickly became the expectation rather than a treat. I was making several loaves a week.

As the pandemic eased, and the grocery store seemed less like a trap from a horror movie, we kept making bread. Endless variations are possible with this recipe. My dad likes to add seeds and nuts. Some people make it from part or all whole wheat flour. Some like to add a little honey to help the yeast bloom. It’s easy to turn into cinnamon-raisin. Some bakers even grind their own wheat berries to make fresh flour. As you get comfortable, you’ll find your own specific as the bread finds its way into your rotation of staple recipes.

No-Knead Crusty Boule

2 cups warm (100 degrees F) water
2 teaspoons dry yeast
4 cups bread flour
2 teaspoons salt


In a measuring cup, combine the water and yeast. Allow to bloom (it should make the water cloudy and produce a foam on top). Mix the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. When the yeast/water is foamy, mix it into the dry ingredients to form a shaggy dough. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm spot.

When the dough has doubled in size (an hour or more depending on room temperature), place a large Dutch oven on the middle rack of the oven and preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Once the oven has preheated, quickly shape your risen dough into a ball, place on parchment paper, and gently place in the Dutch oven. Cover the casserole with a lid. Bake the bread covered for 25 minutes, then remove the cover and continue to bake the bread until it’s golden and hollow-sounding when you tap it, another 15-20 minutes.

Remove to wire rack and cool before slicing. Store in an air-tight container.

L to R, Kerry LePage, Harper Mayo-LePage and Betsy Mayo on a recent vacation. Photo courtesy of Betsy Mayo


I’m a born and bred Mainer living in Gray. My wife of 23 years, Kerry LePage, and I have an 12-year old daughter (in fact, it’s her birthday today!). We are both nurses. She is the director of surgical services at MidCoast hospital, and I work for a company called Yankee Alliance doing value analysis work, which means giving clinical support to the healthcare supply chain. I was a nurse (operating room and cardiac critical care) for years before I left for this industry.

I generally cook for family and friends and rely heavily on basic cooking knowledge of how to build flavors to keep everyone happy. I like to eat and serve what is in season and fresh and spend a lot of the summer and early fall canning, freezing and otherwise preserving the food that is grown by people around me including my family and me. I have a small raised bed garden. Last year, we started shiitake mushrooms, but sadly they were a bust. We’ll try again this summer. My wife usually keeps bees, but we had colony loss last year so our lawn was about 500,000 residents smaller. Unfortunately still no bees — life is pretty busy, and we just can’t keep up with it!

I grew up in York county where my family had a market garden, raised sheep, pigs, and chickens, and I had horses. Predictably, my dad was also a lobster fisherman. He did take a hiatus to teach high school, but returned to the water with my brother and me on the stern baiting traps when we moved to Peaks Island in the late 1990s.

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