The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

no-knead bread re-visited

christopher's picture

no-knead bread re-visited

J. Kenji Lopez-Alt has an article in the NY Times revisiting no-knead bread. While I didn't learn anything new about techniques, there is a nice history of the famous Bittman article.

However, this made me think of a perennial question: why aren't "no knead" recipes more popular? The name is a little misleading, because many "no knead" recipes do use some stretch-and-folds. However, the use of long room temperature fermentation (instead of pre-ferments) is relatively rare. Reinhart doesn't use it in his books, for example, though he does sometimes use cold fermentation. I can think of a few possibilities:

  • a long time at room temp won't work for perishable ingredients (milk, butter, etc.)
  • a longer time window to be checking the dough for readiness
  • in a commercial bakery, it means more space taken up by dough that's fermenting

But those points aside, is there any difference in texture or flavor between a no knead bread with a few stretch-and-folds and a more traditional pre-ferment approach? I haven't done scientific side-by-side comparisons, but my impression is there isn't much difference in flavor (if anything, I often find preferments bland in comparison), though I sometimes wonder about texture. I would love for a more rigorous test.

I'm also curious about application of no-knead to new areas (baguettes, multi-grain breads, etc.) I do like the simplicity of no knead breads and how they can fit nicely into a work schedule. (Yes, I know there are other ways of doing that with the fridge.)

G. Marie's picture
G. Marie

No Knead does get kneaded. It uses time instead of manual kneading. You can be totally hands on and make a loaf fast, totally hands off and take longer time, and in the middle where you do a little of both to find a balance that works for you. Temperature is just another factor you can manipulate.

To bullet point 1 - Enriched breads are handled different then lean ones. A poolish/bigga/ect may be used but a longer ferment on the final dough is generally not necessary.

2 - In most bakeries they have the timing down to a T to keep their production flowing. If there are changes due to weather (ect) they already know what to adjust. 

3 - Wonder bread, about any store bought bread, do not. Have you watched the youtube videos of bread production? They are impressive and yet totally depressing at the same time. So efficient and yet hands never touch the loaves. Never mind what they have to put in the bread to make it possible so quickly and keep "fresh" for so long. With that said I still buy store bread. 

Now your local bakery should be a different story. There are many that do cold ferment. Bread Bakers Guild of America's website ( has a list of member bakeries. I can't vouch for all of them but if you are looking for good bread that is where I'd start. 

Sugarowl's picture

I like the no-knead by Jim Lahey because it fits my schedule and I can feel the bread changing more dramatically, I'm still getting a feel for the dough. I also have to proof in the fridge because otherwise things double in 1.5 hours in the winter. It's 92F today. I don't know about bagels, can you do bagels with such a slack dough? I use a 104% hydration. I usually just do a regular sandwich loaf or rolls with it.

semolina_man's picture

I would look towards the French and German bakers to see which Michelin-starred chefs are using no-knead.  None are, that I am aware of.