The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

If no-knead is so good, why bother with anything else?

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medex's picture
medex

If no-knead is so good, why bother with anything else?

I had a bread machine I had to return because it was defective twice.  I then thought it a good idea to get a mixer, which I haven't gotten yet, but I still may.  Anyway, people keep raving about no-knead bread and how it's the end all be all of bread.  If this is true then what's the point of kneading in general?  it is certainly a lot of work.

Is it better to just forget the mixer and buy a dutch oven?

mrfrost's picture
mrfrost

If you have ever tried/tasted "true no knead" recipes, you probably know they are not the "end all be all of bread". Extended stretching/folding not being counted here as a "no knead".


I imagine that's why there is a lot of bothering with everything else.


Not a condemnation of the "simple" no kneads, because I don't think anyone would really mean "end all", even if they said it. They can be simple and convenient to make.


ps: You don't really even need a dutch oven to make the no kneads. Almost any oven safe, covered cooking vessel will do. I believe even most of the AB5 recipes don't even call for covered baking.

K.C.'s picture
K.C.

Simply put, some of us actually enjoy kneading bread. 


And then there are seemingly limitless recipes and methods to explore.


Buy the dutch oven and make some no knead bread. You can't go wrong there. But then you'll have to decide for yourself if it satisfies your curiosity and palette. 

Bread Breaddington's picture
Bread Breaddington

All the fuss is because people like easy things. Obvious, eh? So they get enthusiastic about it.


And there seems to be a perception lodged into the general consciousness that kneading is the most terrible exhausting work ever conceived. Which is even sillier considering how common electric mixers are now.

Zeb's picture
Zeb

No knead doesn't really work for breads which have a high butter or other enrichments added as you have to add those later in the process, so breads like brioche or panettone need kneading as far as I can see. Has anyone come across no-knead brioche? 


Kneading dough can be hard if you have arthritis, have made a very stiff dough with high gluten, like bagel dough say,  or if you have made more than 3lbs of dough.


The answer is to select dough recipes you find pleasurable to work with if you find kneading arduous and not make too much at one time.  There is also Dan Lepard's small or light knead method which works very well for many bread recipes, he recommends strech and fold also.


Lots of room for everyone to do what they want I reckon :)

Kitchen Barbarian's picture
Kitchen Barbarian

Hmmm, so now I'm lazy?  LOL!


I have a shoulder injury on the left, and a bad elbow on the right.  IF I stand for too long (eg more than about 5 minutes) I have back pain.


Even before I was injured, I HATED kneading.  Kneading is not magical.  It's just work.  For those who enjoy it, more power to them.  But those who do NOT enjoy it are not lazy or stupid.


That said, all breads are not equal.  But no knead recipes sure beat not baking at all, and at least some of the NK loaves I've turned out far surpassed any kneaded bread I've ever had.


 

ssor's picture
ssor

there is no wrong way to make bread only different ways to make bread. Bagels and croussants are both bread but utilize very different techniques. I think that people who purchase store bought bread tend to have priorities such that they are willing to settle for less quality in exchange for not taking time to make bread.

Kitchen Barbarian's picture
Kitchen Barbarian

I contend that baking a NK recipe is not "settling for less" at all.  And I haven't bought a loaf of bread in about a year now.  Before that I didn't have the time, but with NK I'll be able to continue to bake even should I become strapped for time again - and without having to "settle for less". 


Not all NK recipes are the same anymore than all kneaded recipes (for the same type of bread) are the same, so painting the whole class of NK vs K as somehow inferior is just wrong.

Dave323's picture
Dave323


in my shoulders (two rotator cuff surgeries), my hands, (arthritis plus several surgeries) and my back. So, yes I am as lazy as you are. :)


I make very few breads without using a mixer, but I do make no-knead sweet doughs now and then, and they work just fine. But, even with all the challenges, I still enjoy … (yes, enjoy!) kneading dough, even if just a bit at the end, even when using a mixer. There’s just something so tactilely satisfying about handling a smooth, silky dough that I enjoy. And the smell as I bend over my bread board, pushing, prodding and poking, is absolutely intoxicating. 


Different strokes for  different folks … and doughs.


 


 


 

Mukoseev's picture
Mukoseev

I like the no-knead breads simply because I can have fresh bread every day. Actual working time including mixing and shaping is maybe 15 minutes and the resting and baking time fit nicely into my work schedule.  Granted there is a slight trade off in texture and flavor but it's well worth it. When I want to bake a more flavorful and more complex bread I can do that on the week end when I have more time.


Fresh, home-made bread everyday.  What could be better than that?  The worst no-knead bread is better than anything you'll find on the grocery shelf.

wayne on FLUKE's picture
wayne on FLUKE

You might want to look at Peter Reinhart's ABED for an alternative to no-knead that fits a very similar schedule. Short mix, folds, and overnight (or more than 1) in the fridge.


wayne

Nickisafoodie's picture
Nickisafoodie

Buy the Tartine Bread Book. You will not regret it even though a tad pricey (quality costs!) 


No knead, no mixer but a few stretch and folds and the use of a Dutch oven.  You will take your breads to heights not before seen for most home bakers.  The limitations of a home oven are solved by the use of a dutch oven and Chad's methods.  Superb results, the book is worth the investment. 


There are other ways to get great results as you see from the many posts on this site but a worthy of purchase /read IMHO

margieluvschaz's picture
margieluvschaz

I would get both.  It's fun to experiment with different recipes & techniques.  I use my stand mixer for a lot of different recipes & you don't need very much equipment to make the no knead recipes.


Margie

Chuck's picture
Chuck

If you're making the currently popular "Artisan-style" bread -or anything else with higher hydration (i.e. wetter/slacker doughs)- you don't need to do traditional kneading and you don't need a mixer either. The combination of an "autolyse" step and the "stretch and fold" technique can pretty much do the whole job. You don't need to go with a "no-knead" recipe to largely eliminate kneading.


If you learned bread-baking a decade ago, most likely everything you thought you knew has been superceded. For example the idea that the only ways to avoid kneading are either to use a "no-knead" recipe or to use a mixer is simply nonsense once you start considering slacker doughs.

Russ's picture
Russ

Nothing about autolyse or stretch & fold is limited to higher hydration doughs. Thsoe techniques work just as well on doughs with a typical hydration level. They might also work on low hydration doughs, but I don't tend to make those, so can't say from experience.


Russ

Chuck's picture
Chuck

What I meant to say (but garbled) was that "autolyse" and "rest" and "stretch-and-fold" are all you need with higher hydration doughs.


I agree (and never meant to imply otherwise:-) these same techniques also apply to lower hydration ...but I'm not ready to make a categorical statement they're all you need. (In other words I just plain don't know whether or not they're all you need for lower hydration doughs too.)


 


(This is fairly similar to the difference in formal logic between "necessary" and "sufficient". But it's right at the edge of my abilities to express that clearly in short and simple non-mathematical prose. Thanks for making it plain I needed to try again to be clearer.)

Russ's picture
Russ

Hi Chuck,


Actually, I understood it just as you meant it to be read. I was trying to say that what you're doing with slack doughs works well with less slack doughs. I make plenty of breads at about 67% hydration (using atta flour, which is a very thirsty flour) where the closest thing I do to kneading is at the beginning, to get the last of the flour incorporated.


I actually don't do formal stretch & fold until just before shaping (well, about 15 minutes before shapng, since I let it rest a bit after the S&F), before that I do simple turn, toss & stretch in the rising bowl two or three times during fermentation.


I have read someone (on here maybe, I can't remember for sure) that certain flours don't handle this treatment well, I think bread flour was the one singled out as being easier to deal with using an initial kneading period rather than a delayed S&F or similar treatment. I rarely use bread flour, so can't say anything about that from experience myself.


I tried once to make a video of the process I use to demonstrate it for a friend, but I ran into my inabilty to handle video editing software and gave it up. One of these days I'm going to give that another try. If I do, I'll definitely post a link here at TFL.


Russ

flournwater's picture
flournwater

'No knead" is simply one method for producing one type of bread.   It's easy, takes very little time (except for the wait period between initial mixing and baking) and it produces a pretty fair loaf of bread.  I use it a lot, as others do, for my daily bread.  But "no knead" isn't a Ciabatta, or a Brioche, or a Pain de Champagne, or a Pullman, Panteonne or Artos, etc.  There's no reason why someone interested in making bread couldn't simply learn the no knead technique and stick with it.  I guess it depends on whether you're bread making interests are based simply on the need to provide starch for family meals or the excitement of making a variety of bread flavors and textures and finding satisfaction in the possibilities of wonderfully special outcomes.

Janknitz's picture
Janknitz

Some no knead breads are as good (or better!) than their kneaded counterparts, others are not as good.  And sometimes it just depends on time, equipment, etc.  I have a recipe for a no knead rye bread that is very good (AB in 5) but it is not AS good as another rye bread that I make which is really an all day affair with preferments, kneading, two bulk fermentations, etc.  When I have time, I make the latter, when I don't have the time I make the no knead which is satisfying and tasty, but not quite on par with the other rye. 



No knead doesn't really work for breads which have a high butter or other enrichments added as you have to add those later in the process, so breads like brioche or panettone need kneading as far as I can see. Has anyone come across no-knead brioche? 



I beg to differ about that! ABin5 has a brioche dough that's excellent and there is NO kneading required.  I decrease the number of eggs by one to make the dough a little easier to handle, and it's really good!  I make a killer mushroom strudel wrapped in the ABin5 brioche dough for special occasions.  And the AB in 5 website has an entire post on making Panettone with their method--haven't tried it, but people who did raved about it. 


ABin5 has a challah dough as well.    The challah dough is still a little on the soft and sticky side and it's hard to braid it nicely, so I choose a kneaded dough for my challahs.    So there's another example of when I might want a kneaded dough over a no knead, but I love the freedom to pick and choose.  You don't have to commit to a particular method for each and every bread you make--that's the beauty of having options. 

SallyBR's picture
SallyBR

Call me a bead snob, but if you put the best "no-knead" bread next to a bread made with folding or minimal kneading to help build its structure, I will know the difference.   No-knead can be very good, but the moment you give some love to the dough it pays back with amazing texture and flavor, that simply is not there in a full no-knead / dump the ingredients and walk away- production. 


 


WHat I like about the  no-knead-revolution is that it made folks less afraid of making bread at home.

Russ's picture
Russ

Not trying to defend No Knead breads (I have no horse in this race), but are you aware that the no knead technique includes a stretch & fold?

tomcatsgirl's picture
tomcatsgirl

I love the long process of buliding my SD and mixing/keading my dough and the over night proofing ect lol To me that is as rewarding as the final taste and look of my bread.

BeekeeperJ's picture
BeekeeperJ

Agree! The hands on process and the feel of the dough as it goes from shaggy mess to a smooth ball is one that keeps me on my quest for perfect home made breads.  I think the convienience is the only thing the no knead breads have going for them. They taste decent to me in texture and flavor but will never match a well handled mixed stretched and folded bread.

ssor's picture
ssor

bread that don't get any kneading and they fit into a taste and purpose niche. I also make muffins and biscuits. Having fresh bread everyday is not difficult and it need not be labor intensive. As has been pointed out here one recipe doesn't provide the taste and texture range of bread.


No knead bread is the box wine of bread making. It can be pretty good but it is never great.

joyfulbaker's picture
joyfulbaker

Just a quick note about a great alternative to the great big, heavy Dutch oven I've been using to get that ultra-high rise and "grigne" from the slash(es).  Somewhere on this blog, a contributor wrote about fashioning a "cover" out of aluminum foil that he plopped over the loaf on the baking stone.  Well, I used HEAVY aluminum foil, placed it over a roasting pan to shape it and then covered the loaf I was baking (a sourdough semolina bread a la Hamelman).  After the oven and stone were preheated (500 F.), I spritzed the oven--carefully, towel over the window--a couple of times with my high-powered garden sprayer filled with fresh water.  Then I loaded the loaf (parchment on rimless baking sheet as peel), spritzed it once, then a second time after two minutes.  Then I placed my preshaped aluminum shield over the loaf (it sat quite evenly on the stone, as per prior practice), baked it at 460 F for 30 minutes, then removed the shield (loaf was starting to brown nicely), lowered heat to 450 and baked it for about 12 minutes longer.  It rose beautifully, cuts well defined, and it was among the best ever!  Sorry I don't have the photo, but I gave one loaf away and then, second time around, tore into it without camera nearby.  Now I'll use my cast iron D.O. for my 24-hour stew (AKA cholent, a tasty dish with an Eastern European, Jewish pedigree).


Joyful

Janknitz's picture
Janknitz

I often don't spritz the dough at all, but if I do, I do before putting it into the oven, so there's no danger to my window or electronics. 


BTW, you can just put the roasting pan over the bread instead of having to make one out of foil.  Or inexpensive aluminum roasting pans from the dollar store work just as well.

joyfulbaker's picture
joyfulbaker

@Janknitz,


I appreciate your simplification of this method.  Sounds like you have this down pat, just so long as you get good results without any spraying.  If I'm baking a loaf with seeds on the outside, as I often do, then I've already added moisture before final proofing by either spraying or painting the loaf with water before dipping it into the seeds.  I suppose that should do it.

ssor's picture
ssor

A pumpkin flavored bread from "Artisan Bread in five Minutes a Day" It is as close to No Knead as i have seen. It is high hydration (70%) so it needs some handling to control it. This recipe is baked in loaf pans. At this stage it had had a first turn and is beginning to feel like bread dough. After the initial mix it was like a stiff muffin batter.