The Fresh Loaf

A Community of 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.

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. 

NCG's picture

Hi there!

I'm new to baking bread (have a lievito madre and baked sone breads with it, but find it difficult to schedule..). Could you please tell me you're recipe for this no-knead-bread? Would be awesome to have some fresh breads not only the weekends bit the whole week..  :)

Would really appreciate it! <3

Greetings from Switzerland (don't get to upset woth my English, hopefully it will improve along with my baking techniques... :D) !

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????

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.

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

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.