The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

to Knead or not to Knead-That is the question

doughyboy's picture

to Knead or not to Knead-That is the question

I have been baking naturally leavened bread from my own culture for about 6 years. Just recently I jumped onto the No Knead bandwagon mostly with instant success. Why does it work? Does the dough or gluten bond in the same way as kneaded dough because of its long 12 to 18 hour proofing time? Can anyone share their experience and understanding of the process comparing the final product of each loaf utilizing the same or similar hydration and dry ingredients?

wally's picture

There are lots of folks on TFL who can give you really detailed, technical explanations for why no-knead doughs work, but the basic concept is that with sufficiently hydrated doughs (say, those whose hydration runs from 60-some percent and up), the addition of water to flour is adequate to begin the process of gluten formation. 

This is why you'll see many recipes here that call for an autolyse after the flour and water are mixed into a shaggy mass - which is simply a rest period of anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour that allows gluten strands to develop before other ingredients are added.  It's also why stretching and folding has largely replaced kneading with these doughs.  It's simply not necessary to knead and knead to get good bread.

That said, with lower hydration doughs - say in the 50-some percent hydrations - it's still necessary to knead simply to thoroughly incorporate all the ingredients.

The long proofing times have not so much to do with gluten development as they do with the development of good flavor and coloration in the baked loaves.


reddragon's picture

To second Larry, I never do 12-18 hour proofing, mainly because I don't like my bread too sour, and it doesn't seem to affect the rising at all.

I too have become a No-Kneader, and every time I bake, I marvel at how well it turns out. I know there are people who enjoy the very act of kneading. Not me.


Chuck's picture

The "no-knead" procedures work especially well for Artisan-style bread, i.e. a loose crumb with some quite large holes, and doughs with higher hydration. If you want to make a sandwich loaf with a very tight crumb, or if you have a recipe that calls for significantly less liquid, "no-knead" procedures probably won't work so well.