The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Why no-knead bread?

fminparis's picture

Why no-knead bread?

I really don't understand the tremendous interest in no-knead bread, as if kneading was such a terrible process to go through.  Using a food processor or stand mixer, total kneading time is from 1-5 minutes with the machine doing the work (food processor - 1 minute, mixer - 5 minutes).  With no-knead you have to decide the night before whether you'll want bread for dinner the next day.  I use my Cuisinart and can walk into the kitchen at 2:00 PM and take the bread out of the oven at 6:00 PM. Of that time there are two windows, 1 hour and 1 1/2 hours when I can do other things while the bread rises.

I find the results identical, use the same hydration. I do use more yeast, about 2 tsp.

simplebaker's picture

I know it's very simple to knead with a mixer (I used to) or a processor.  However, I have MS, and have baked for years.  As the fatigue advances in the disease every action takes a toll.  I have only just discovered no-knead baking, and it helps a great deal in ensuring I have enough energy to put dinner on the table.  I would love to get my hands back into a lovely pile of dough again!

I'm not trying to shoot back angrily at you, but just let you know there is a good reason for the no-knead method.  It's not a matter of laziness, but preservation.

Just found this site, and look forward to perusing it thoroughly!

footsore's picture

Hi, simplebaker,

Welcome to TFL!  I haven't been here long either.  It's nice to find someone else with (possibly) some of the same problems!  I have MS, too. 

I may not be as affected as you are at this point, but hand and arm strength and fine control are a problem, and there's nothing smooth or gentle about my motions, but it still works out fine most of the time.  I mix by hand for a minute or two, just long enough to get the ingredients wet.  Then I let the dough autolyze for 30 minutes, then stretch and fold the dough if I can do it without tearing the dough.  If not, I just let it ferment on its own, and it still works out all right.

It sounds like you have a lot more experience than I do baking.  For me, getting dough (and flour) onto and off of the counter is about the hardest part, so I sometimes use a smooth platter instead of the counter for forming loaves, or I may have to just dump the dough as it is onto a pan lined with parchment. 

I look forward to hearing what you have to share!




Janknitz's picture

it's the TIMING.  No-knead breads give ME absolute control over the timing that works well with my full-time job and family obligations.

I love that I can mix up a batch of dough quickly, and then whenever I want bread I pull off a hunk and bake it.  It still takes some time and planning--there is a final counter fermentation and preheating the oven, but I can have a beautiful freshly baked loaf in under an hour any time I want.  For a very little investment of time I can have fresh bread during the week without a lot of pre-planning. 

One of my favorite tricks is to pull some dough out first thing in the morning.  It does its final fermentation while I shower and get kids off to school, I bake it while I eat breakfast, and I have  a fresh, hot loaf of bread to wrap in a towel and take to work for lunch.  The freshly baked bread perfumes my office all morning, and colleagues seem to stop by to drool.  Yes, I can put time and effort into kneading dough at night to bake in the morning with a retardation in the fridge, but it will take a lot more work and planning.  With NKB, this might be a dough I made a few days ago and I can be spontaneous.  "Hmm, I think I'll make rolls for dinner when I get home from work."   Or a pizza. 

On the weekends when I have more time I bake more traditional loaves and, while it's true that the hands-on time is still very little, I have to work around the dough's schedule rather than it working around mine.  I often use retardation to have a little more control, but that also prolongs the waiting times for rising and shaping.  Many, many hours have to go into traditional breads.

I love kneading and handling dough, but I also love having tasty bread when I want it without having to buy it at the store. 

OK, posts complaining about NKB come up frequently, and they always seem to go the same way.  The next thing you or someone else will do is   to complain about the amount of yeast and lack of flavor in NKB.  You can use as little yeast (and salt) as you wish (understanding that it will take longer for the initial bulk fermentation), the dough IS retarded and will develop flavor.   Some recipes are more successful than others, of course.   

If you don't want to do NKB then don't, but that doesn't give you license to disparage people who do.  We are not "knead-a-phobics", we are busy people who want to have good fresh bread and a life, too.   Just because we make NKB's doesn't mean we can't or won't make traditional breads as well. 

budagl's picture

I do both methods.  And have saved recipes for both.  It is all a matter of what is the outcome!  I do a no-knead Ciabatta that works out very well and I also do a knead-type sourdough.  It all depends on the recipe.

Bakersman's picture

Hi Janknitz,

I have made no knead bread with great success too, I am new to baking bread +/- a year or so, when you said you can have fresh bread most anytime you want, you caught my attention. With the NK, how long can you hold the mix on the counter if that is what you do? Because it sounds like it is at room temp? I would think it would take longer to come to rm temp. than it would to take a shower, get the kids moving, and have breakfast?  I would like to learn what you do if you don't mind.  Hope you and your family had a wonderful Christmas.


Janknitz's picture

Take a look at the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day website.  Here's a link to the master recipe 

Their method allows you to make enough dough for 4 loaves and hold it in the refrigerator (not the counter) for up to 2 weeks (depending on the ingredients).  When you're ready to bake, take out a chunk, shape it, and let it sit on the counter 30 to 90 minutes (depending on the dough) then bake.  

A lot of people here complain that these breads use too much yeast and are too "fast" to develop flavor.  But you can reduce the amount of yeast (allowing the dough to rise on the counter for a longer period to compensate) and the dough does get more flavor as it ages.  

This is very wet dough, tricky to handle until you get the hang of it, and absolutely no kneading is required.  I do one stretch and fold when doing the final shaping, in order to make the dough easier to handle and to get a good "gluten cloak"--but that's not absolutely necessary.  

When steam is required, I bake "en cloche"--covering the dough rather than using other steam methods.  If you are skilled with Lahey's Dutch oven method, this bread bakes beautifully in a DO.  (I preheat the lid but NOT the pot and it works just fine)

I use Peter Reinhart's ABED and Lahey's My Bread recipes, too, but I find that ABin5 gives me the most variety and versatility when making no knead bread.  

Have fun ;o)

varda's picture

A year ago my sister sent me the New York Times write-up of the Jim Lahey method.   That got me started on making bread.   I had tried baking bread a few years ago but gave up because I was never satisfied with the results.   The books I read had you add a lot of yeast, beat the hell out of the dough in a mixer for 10  minutes, let it rise for an hour or two, punch it down, and then again for a short time before baking.   The results were just not that great for me anyhow.   No knead on the contrary uses very little yeast, no beating the dough up, long ferment times, and with very little by way of handling the dough comes out with a pretty good taste and texture.  Even better, no need to worry about shaping or scoring or steaming, which can be daunting for a new baker.   After a few months of no knead though, I wanted other things.   Shapes, sizes, and so forth.   And I was tired of burning myself or degassing the dough when I dropped it into a preheated pot.   So I've mostly moved away from the Jim Lahey methodology.    Nevertheless I think it taught me a lot that's stayed with me as I've moved on to other methods.    One thing, I know many bakers on this site say otherwise, but I never bother to autolyse.    After starting with a method where you just throw everything in at once, I just don't believe that it makes that much of a difference.   I guess I'd have to run a double blind test to tell for sure.

Janknitz's picture

People who start their breadbaking life with NKB's learn some valuable lessons that carry over into more traditional methods. 

1.  It's bread, not rocket science. 

2.  People who can do NKB's know how to handle high hyrdation doughs and won't be as tempted as other beginners to add too much flour so that they can "handle" the more traditional doughs (It took me a long time to unlearn that because I learned traditional kneading methods first).

3.  The benefit of high hydration and long fermentation. 

4.  Real bread does not taste like Wonderbread, and in most cases the desired results are not to get a loaf like Wonderbread. 

5.  Cool and cold temperatures do not hurt the yeast and long fermentations develop flavor.

So, what could be bad about all that????

Arch Bernard's picture
Arch Bernard

Could it be that some people don't have $300 to blow on a food processor or a stand mixer?  We can't all be rich, and we don't all do enough baking to justify buying another kitchen appliance.  Without our Cuisinart doing all of the work, some of us have to knead with our hands and while I'd love to make and eat bread in the same day, I'm afraid the no-knead method just makes more sense.

K.C.'s picture

Be careful with your assumptions. I purchased my Cuisnart and KA stand mixer over 20 years ago and still use them today. The return on the investment with either is hard to beat. 

I make bread and knead it by hand when I have time to enjoy the process. I make no knead bread when time doesn't allow for a hands on method. Both have their rewards and both can produce wonderful results.



ehymes's picture

"I find the results identical, use the same hydration."   And sometimes, I feel lazy and it works better with my schedule.

The key is finding the results identical. :)

flournwater's picture

1.  Not everyone has a Cuisinart or other machine to help prepare the dough.

2. "With no-knead you have to decide the night before whether you'll want bread for dinner the next day."  My family wants bread with their dinner every day.

3.  A lot of novice bread bakers find a greater level of success if they start with this simplel yet effective method for making home-made bread.


Janknitz's picture

2. "With no-knead you have to decide the night before whether you'll want bread for dinner the next day."  My family wants bread with their dinner every day.

AB in 5 doughs can be ready to bake in as little as 2 1/2 hours.  I can decide one morning that I want a certain bread for lunch or dinner, whip up a batch, and after a 2 hour bulk fermentation the dough is ready to shape, do a final fermentation, and bake.  The dough is easier to work with and the flavor is more developed if the dough is refrigerated overnight, but it's not absolutely necessary.  

And you'd have to plan ahead no matter what if you work and your family wants fresh bread every day.  For a traditional bread, I'd probably make the dough a day ahead anyway and retard in the fridge until I could get home to do the final fermentation and baking.  

flournwater's picture

That's not my quote Jankitz  -  it's based on the OPs initial commentary.

CopperAnnette's picture

I do sourdough NKB just about every day.  I take a warm loaf to work in the morning to share with my hungry coworkers, and leave one at home for my hungry adult kids. 

I start the dough at about 7-8pm.  A stretch-and-fold or three, and off to bed.  When I wake up at the crack of 5am, I tear off two pieces of parchment and lay them in the two dutch ovens I use.  I shape the loaves and plop them in.  After 1-3 hours (depending on the morning), I put both dutch ovens in my cold oven, set it to 475 degrees and 45 minutes, and get ready for work.  When the timer buzzes, I remove the lids and set it for another 15 minutes.  After that, I remove the just-about-perfect loaves and off I go. 

IF for some reason I can't bake that morning, the dough goes into the fridge until I'm ready. 

There is nothing simpler. THAT'S why I do NKB. 

fminparis's picture

My goodness, some of you are real enthusiasts, maybe fanatical about no-knead bread.  It’s funny – when I see a recipe that calls for starting the day before or 2 days before, I pass on it.  A chacun a son gout.  But all I was saying is that with my Cuisinart, which I would bet the vast majority of people who cook or bake have, I don’t have to do anything in advance.  If, at 1:00, my wife says friends are coming for dinner at 6:00, I can have fresh bread baked, cooled, and ready for slicing.  Everything I do is the same as in the n-k recipe except more yeast and 1 minute in the Cuisinart instead of 18 hours or whatever time you use.

 Obviously if you don’t have a machine you have to knead another way, and if you enjoy hand kneading that’s great. Actually, hand kneading is really the way to go if you want to fully experience the bread making process but difficult with the very wet doughs.

 I’ve been baking bread for 20 years.  There were high hydration breads at least that long; they were called “bread that you poured.”

 I wish I could eat bread every day but weight gain precludes that.  As it is, I have trouble showing off my firm abs because of the fat covering them.


Janknitz's picture

but every time this subject comes up, people seem to use it as an opportunity to disparage not just KNB's, but anyone who would even think of trying them.  I find this very annoying--it's bread, not religion, and using this time-shifting technique doesn't mean that I'm not as good a baker as others. 

"I don't have to do anything in advance.  If, at 1:00, my wife says friends are coming for dinner at 6:00, I can have fresh bread baked, cooled, and ready for slicing." 

Neither do I.  I almost always have a bucket of dough in the fridge, and I can start as late as 3 p.m. and have freshly baked, cooled bread on the table by 6. 

I can use the same dough to make pitas for a lunch sandwich the next day in under an hour.  And pizza that night. 

To me, that's very spontaneous--very little planning ahead.  It's all a matter of perspective. 

MandyMakesBread's picture

I'd never baked bread before trying this and had absolutely "no clue" as to how to knead bread.  The idea of it scared the heck out of me to be honest.  I started reading a bit on bread sites here and there and got even more timid about trying my hand at baking bread. Talk of hydration levels, autolysize (not sure what that is or how to spell it), percentages, and all kinds of scientific stuff just had me clueless.  Then while browsing around bread recipes on Youtube I came across the NY Times no knead video.  It was like a new world had been opened up to me.  I gave it a try and my first loaf was wonderful.  So was my 2nd, 3rd, etc.  I've not had a bad loaf.  

Now on the contrary I have had terrible loaves of french bread and other breads where kneading is involved.  Not sure where I screw things up but over a few months I've gotten better at kneading.  I own no dough mixers or machines so it's all my two hands doing the work.  

I remember seeing my grandmother kneading dough for long periods of time and I have fond memories of her standing there and the wonderful smells coming out of the oven and kitchen, but she was a master of course because she had her mother teach her how to bake for her 5 kids on the farm.  

So anyway I like both methods (knead and no-knead) and I see a place for both.  

I know that once my daughter goes off to school and I go back to my career that I won't have time to knead bread as much.  So I'm thankful for finding this wonderful method because not only did it get me started at baking bread, but it also will be there for me when I only have a few minutes here and there to be working with it.  In my opinion people with busy schedules would love the no-knead method because it is so easy.  All you need is time to tick by while you are free to do other things.  


yozzause's picture

In the old days when bakers mixed their dough in a trough it was some where between the two methods and you can be sure that if the baker was a bit weary the  dough didnt get quite as much omph put into the process. It was only with mechanisation that the mix was able to be a bit more thourough and consistent too.

There is a fair amount of difference amongst bakers when the dough is considered mixed and this will vary with the length of bulk fermentation that is going to be employed. The main thing is to use a method that suits you and gives a satisfactory result. We are all after something that we can eat share and enjoy with friends.

regards YOZZA

booch221's picture

I prefer no knead bread. I don't want to have to clean a KitchenAid or food procesor. I can make no nead using one bowl for mixing, proofing and storing. I don't even dirty the counter.

Sure it taks a little advanced planning, but that long, slow ferment overnight gives it a better flavor than the bread you bake in one afternoon.

honeymustard's picture

For the record, I find both methods very valid. I have never tried NKB myself - I really enjoy kneading, probably too much - but I just had a question for those who make NKB frequently, if not, every time.

Do any of you dislike kneading, and that's the reason you avoid it? I would just be really interested to know, because I know kneading can be difficult for those with conditions that don't allow it, or for those who need to save time and have some ready in the fridge waiting. But there must be those out there who do NKB because they simply don't enjoy the kneading process, and I was interested in hearing the reasons why (coming from someone who likes it so much, the notion fascinates me!).

booch221's picture

I like NKB because it's less work and less hands-on time, and IMHO, better flavor (due to the long fermentation time). I don't have any condition that would preclude kneading--I just don't want to bother doing it.

NKB bread takes time, but not your time!

rolls's picture

i love love kneading! really do, love getting my hands in the dough, especially if you use richard bertinets method of the french fold, love it!! but i find myself mostly using no knead, otherwise i don't think i'd be baking any bread or buns at all.

i know technically it doesn't take too long to hand knead or in a machine, but maybe its in my head? even if im dead tired, i can quickly mix up some dough, jus with a bowl and fork,quick and no mess.  even if i don't know what im going to make with it, at least its ready and had its bulk fermentation already. im addicted to sweet buns, cinnamon buns sticky buns butterscotch mmmmm don't get me started, lol.

lately i've jus been mixing up 6 1/2 cups of flour, with a spoon of salt, a small handful of sugar, about 2tsp of yeast, about a cup of milk powder, a drizzle of oil (if i remember) and three cups of water, and usually a little bit more as bread flour needs it. and thats it! i jus leave it till im ready to be used for sweet or savoury breads.

I also love to make epi loaves to serve with soups and stews, yum. its nice knowing that i can still make all this with three young ones at home :D

simplebaker's picture

Long time since I first posted on this thread, and it's been interesting to read all the posts.

As I stated in my first post I have MS (thanks, footsore for joining in!).  I have what is known as diurnal fatigue; at about 2-3 in the afternoons (when I start preparing a meal - we eat early in the evening) I am so wiped out I often can't hold a kitchen utensil in my left hand.  I have to concentrate, and am careful when lifting anything with that hand.  I limp around the kitchen, but I do get a decent meal together.  If I had to knead dough for the evening's bread, I might not make it through!  

I know this is difficult to understand for someone without this problem.  It is REAL, believe me.  Add to this that I am a painter (stay-at-home work!), standing a lot of day and using my hands.  

In all, kneading is a lovely process to me.  However, necessity causes me to use the NKB method.  I regularly share my breads with others, some of them conisseurs of bread.  I haven't had a SINGLE person ask if it was NKB.  Instead, many have asked for the recipe.  I share it joyfully.

In the end, it doesn't matter if you do or don't knead.  Your choice or need.  Whether it's time, physical need, or little ones, NKB is a wonderful "invention."  I dare some of the folk who belittle the method to take a blindfold test.  If you can tell the difference, I will be surprised!


fminparis's picture

<<I know this is difficult to understand for someone without this problem.>>


Absolutely not, and anyone who can't understand, well, they're not worth worrying about. I certainly didn't mean people with some handicap when I initiated this thread.  I've tried KNB, it's fine, but it's just one method of baking bread out of many, and I just couldn't understand the fanaticism over the process.

simplebaker's picture



You're right; it is just ONE method, and please be assured I didn't take your  thread initiation as an insult!  

Could it be the idea of something "new" in baking?  This is human nature, isn't it?  We are always attracted to something that is not routine.

What would be interesting to me is to know how many have tried KNB and continued it.  How many have tried it and use it along with regular method?  How many have tried it and abandoned it altogether?

michinson's picture

My only response is "because we can."  I was just now -- really, just five minutes ago -- telling my fella about this site and how wonderful it was because it's about bread for everyone, for every style of baker.  We have bakers who use bread machines (which I hate) to hand-made wood-fired ovens in their back yards (which is way beyond me).

Bread loves us all though.  I've done a no-knead bread and thought "Meh, not for me."  I don't mind kneading.  The KitchenAid is great, but too fiddly.  I'd rather do it all hands-on, no worries about a bit of labor, but please, spare me the chemistry lesson .  That's just me. I've been working on a particular  bread for several months and I'm just now getting the results I've been looking for.  That's not for everyone either.  But my "failures" get eaten up as quickly as the successes. .  

Anyway, my view is "Why ask why?"  The point is, for me, that none of us is eating Wonder Bread and having a fine time figuring what level of baking is for us.  No matter the style, it's all good bread.

booch221's picture

Right. It really doesn't matter if you knead or not. Just as long as your making good bread, and getting the results you want

My latest no knead effort. It takes 30 hours, but it's worth it.