What's With the No-Knead Bread Thing?

Just about every sustainability magazine on the planet, much less the food ones seems obsessed with no-knead breads. No-knead is trumpeted by everyone on the planet as the easy, awesome way to make bread, the thing that will convert non-bread makers into converts. Now don't get me wrong - I don't really have a dog in this hunt - I'm certainly not opposed to no-knead, but I don't see it as the miracle that some do.

I've had some utterly delicious no-knead breads. I don't think they are bad - Kate at Living the Frugal Life demonstrated a lovely recipe that I've enjoyed a number of times. I particularly like the crust. I also have come to like this recipe with chocolate chunks instead of olives quite a lot. I just didn't see why we were fetishizing not kneading.

You see, the most amazing part of no-knead bread is the crust, and the crust itself isn't a product of not kneading - it comes from being baked in an enclosed dutch oven which traps the steam inside. You can get exactly the same results with just about any bread recipe by baking it in a pre-heated cast iron or enamel dutch oven.

The other part of the technique that is somewhat different chemically in no-knead is that the wetter doughs of no-knead bread allow for a particular crumb texture with lots of holes. I find I get pretty similar results using a sponge or pre-ferment with sourdough or yeast kneaded doughs, though. If you want a wet dough, using a mixer or no-knead techniques will be necessary, since most of us won't enjoy the sensory experience of kneading really wet doughs by hand.

As for the rest, honestly, I don't find no-knead bread to be any faster than kneaded bread to make - yes, you skip the kneading, but there are more total steps. Nor do I find them on average any tastier than good kneaded bread. What bothers me a little is the implicit statement that kneading is aweful -I don't hate kneading bread, in fact, I rather like it. I t doesn't take long, it isn't hard and I find it satisfying. Now I can certainly imagine that for those with arthritis or other physical difficulties, no-knead bread is a godsend, but I admit, I'm a little mystified generally about why everyone is so passionate about it. You'd think kneading was like splitting locust chunks from the hype "NOW you can actually make bread!" Really? Was the saved 2 minutes and not having to punch some dough what was stopping most people?

I don't really begrudge it - I suspect that no-knead bread has been a great advertisement for making bread. You take something people imagine is hard, and take out the part that people imagine is hard, and poof, people get excited about bread. And many of the breads are very good. I do hope, however, that kneadless breads will lead others to experiment with kneaded breads which can produce different textures and flavors. There are a lot of kinds of bread out there.

I also hope that people who find long-rise breads inconvenient will realize there are kneaded breads out there that can really move the process along - no knead bread is simple in one respect, but if you are out of bread at 4pm and want it for breakfast the next day, other techniques are more useful. If you are baking bread for a crowd, well, I can bake one huge loaf in my biggest cast iron dutch oven (I have the biggest size Lodge makes), but I can bake MORE loaves and MORE total bread in bread pans or on cookie sheets - which is useful for my family of six if I don't want to bake as often (as in the warm weather). Making maximum use of oven space generally won't lead to no-knead techniques for me.

For me the impetus to learn to make decent bread was pretty simple - 4 bucks a loaf for local artisanal bread xs the 10 loaves of bread my family can eat in a week (including four Challot) as toast, sandwiches, snacks, french toast, bread pudding, etc... I don't think we need to spend $40 a week on bread when I can produce the same amount of high quality for about $4 in ingredients.

I have no quarrel with anyone who has found this to be a great way to make bread - it can produce fabulous results. What bothers me a little bit is that it seems to do so by buying into some of the more troubling cultural assumptions - basic cooking is hard, faster is always better, labor saving techniques/devices always result in labor saving, etc... Much as many "labor saving" devices implicitly teach us to assume that the work was too hard before, so does the emphasis on "no-knead" imply that kneading bread was necessarily onerous and should be eliminated.

Add in that no-knead doesn't necessarily save energy for everyone (depending on how you are cooking and how many loaves you might need) or give the best results for every kind of bread you might want to make, and it does bother me a bit.

If no-knead bread really results in people recognizing how good homemade bread is, and encouraging people who can't buy local or afford local artisan bread to make their own, awesome. I just worry that the whole idea that kneading is bad will prevent people from seeing that there are a lot of good ways to make good bread, and that bread ultimately is adaptable - this is one useful adaptation, it just isn't the only one.


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Never could get the no-knead kick either. Some folks act like you are chained to the stove if you make bread the traditional. I timed my usual four loaf recipe. One minute to mix ingredients, 10 minutes to knead or therabouts until I think it is the right texture, a minute to wash out my big bowl...which I can knead the bread in making no extra mess on countertop. Splash of oil,cover with tea towel, let rise. Punch down. Wait a few minutes. Shape into loafs and place in the greased pans which took,maybe 30 secs with some coconut oil. Let rise. Bake...oven doing that job. Lets face it..you just gotta be around to do steps when its time. If it rises too much no law says you can't punch it down and let rise again. It's your bread!!! I've taught many people to make bread and they are all amazed that what they thought was a mystery is really quite simple! My sons bake the bread for the families wkly and won't touch store bread!!!

By Diana Smith (not verified) on 26 Apr 2012 #permalink

No-knead doe seem overblown.

I normally use some advice from Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book, and do a 24-hour recipe with about 1/8 teaspoon pinch of dry yeast mixed into the flour, yeast, barely knead/mix it, and let it rise overnight, punch down in the morning, then decide what do do with it at dinner the next day. That low-maintenance sort of recipe is flexible enough to match our wacky schedules.

Quicker processes might benefit form more kneading, but since fresh-baked bread is so much nicer than boughten bread, you shouldn't worry about under-kneading the dough.

Maybe some people have wimpy hands, and kneading dough is too much for their delicate, unmuscled fingers? If only there was a good, easy-to-digest, high-protein food they could eat to give them strength...

Frankly, I can't tell one from the other when I'm eating -- as the Georgia boy said in the prison mess hall, "I like the food."

I have done it both ways and have simply ended up making the dough, putting it in a big bowl, covered, set it in the cold room overnight, and shape and bake in the morning. I summer this avoids the high-heat afternoons, in winter it helps warm the kitchen at the best time. It's an easier routine for me -- when I was kneading and letting rise, I often wound up baking after dinner -- and we like fresh fresh best, and early in the day.

This is funny, and I agree. People think making bread is to terribly onerous. I don't find it so at all. Now I do have some wrist and elbow problems, so I use a mixer for my kneading now, but I didn't always.

I have also found that the mixer allows me to use a wetter dough which produces better results. The best batch I ever made was one where my dough was halfway made and I forgot I had to be somewhere. I threw it in the fridge and left for hours. I came back to the sponge that ate the fridge. I punched it down, finished the dough and it was a very nice set of loaves!

Amusingly, I'm eating some no-knead bread right now. We generally bake bread a few times a week (I say we, but my husband, who has a more flexible schedule, is the more frequent baker.) We have no fear of kneading and often make kneaded loaves but we also like the crust and texture of the no-knead bread, and the fact it can be thrown together at 10 PM when you're half asleep and largely ignored until you're almost ready for bread. I hadn't thought about trying a standard recipe in a pre-heated dutch oven to get the chewy crust, but it sounds like a worthwhile experiment.

Well, as I read this I have two loaves of kneaded bread in the second rise, about to be punched down and put into two bread pans to rise a bit, then get baked. Like you, I've made no-knead and kneaded breads. I nearly always knead the bread I make. I make about a loaf (a 9x5 bread pan) a week for two adults. Normally I make 2 loaves at a time so I only use the oven once and freeze one of the loaves till we need it. As everyone else mentioned, I understand why a no-knead bread is useful for people who can't knead. But I don't find kneading onerous. Five to 6 minutes of kneading is enough for excellent bread, I've learned. As for the good crust, use Joy of Cooking's technique if you bake in open pans like I do: preheat to 450F, bake 10 minutes; reduce heat to 350F, bake for 30 more minutes. My bread gets raves from everyone who eats it!

It's fairly simple. My wife has weak joints. Good bones, plenty of muscle, but degenerative joint tissue. Has had carpal tunnel surgery. Chronic pain relief, no increase in strength. She likes her Kitchen Aide (TM) very much. It does the kneading.

Yes, @Artor there are people for whom strength is an issue. And a modicum of industrially produced machinery solves the problem. If we couldn't afford the Mixer, or if industrial society evaporated overnight, I would be the one doing the mixing and kneading. Or our daughter when she's a little older. You might try to restrain your sarcasm concerning other people's physical limits. "Do not complain about the coffe, you may be old, weak and bitter yourself someday."

The problem is two-fold: the perception of time required and the commoditization of everything.

The modern consumer economy rests on the notion that everything, most especially time must be used in the most productive (money producing) way possible, that anything that requires manual labor is by its nature less-efficient and less-productive. This is accomplished by repeated use of the question 'Is this the most productive use of your time?'. If one believes the marketing campaigns and economists, the answer as to whether or not kneading dough is productive or efficient is obviously 'NO' - why do it yourself when machines can do it essentially for free (disregarding the capital outlay), or by a minimum wage employee of an industrial bakery.

Of course, one is not encouraged to examine the markup between what it costs the manufacturer to bake a loaf of bread and what you actually pay for it. YOUR time is to valuable for that kind of activity (kneading or analysis). The result is an endless cycle of use-your-time-to-make-more-money-so-you-can-buy-things-that-save-you-time-so-you-can-use-your-time-to-make-more-money...

The last thing a consumer-based economy needs or wants is for individuals to use their time in a way that reduces their obligation to spend more money.

At the risk of rambling, I'll relate a recent conversation I had.

I'm a divorced man, with shared custody of two young children - I pick them up from school and have them for four hours every afternoon and every other weekend. I work full time and then some. I also cook almost exclusively from scratch, garden, can, dehydrate, do woodworking, and fiber crafts, besides all the mundane tasks of life.

I brought a plate of biscuits in to work and shared them with the lady who cleans my office. She was really impressed, and we started talking about cooking, gardening, etc. After I told her about all the stuff I do, she expressed her wish to be able to at least some of the same, and how much better she felt in the past when she did, but she doesn't have the time. I gave her a curious look, and she then explained that they have a lake house and spend every weekend boating, etc.

The only reply I could think of is that I didn't have a lake house and that I didn't think I wanted one.

I like both but in terms of overall efficiency, spending 5 minutes prepping the ingredients and then having dough at the ready when I want it, is pretty convenient. I don't make much bread. I am more likely to use the dough for empanadas or pizza. I would say that the big downside for me is having to keep a large container in the fridge even when I'm down to a relatively small amount of dough. Or, I could move the dough to another container, unnecessarily dirtying a second container.

I do both, but, for me, the main advantage of the no-knead method is that it can be thrown together in 5 minutes before leaving for work, and put in the oven immediately when I get home. Alternately, I've set it to rise before going to bed, and baked immediately upon waking up.

Conventional kneading methods tend to require me to be at home/awake for several hours before baking, which can be problematic.

You say you don't have a dog in this fight, but it certainly comes across as a criticism of no knead bread.

I cook a lot and make things from scratch and am not afraid of things that take more than five minutes to make. But I don't like baking and am not particularly good at it. All my kneaded bread has come out not so great. Started making no knead bread (not very often, I still don't like baking) and it's not very much effort and comes out really tasty.

There is something magical about putting so little effort into something and having it turn out so well- and that's another thing: the no knead bread has turned out a lot better for me than the kneaded loaves I've tried; I felt like a superstar with my first no knead loaf! I do have a plea, though: does anyone have any tips for making whole wheat no knead? THAT I haven't had much success with.

I'm on your 'side' - but I suppose it all depends (as usual) on one's point of view or perspective on bread-making, i.e, is it purely 'production' or is it something one just wants to do?

I tend to be in the latter camp wherein all of the steps, including kneading, are perforce necessary to connect with the 'soul' of the bread and to ensure that the ingredients meld into something made of love, if you will.

I do, however, fully understand the stance of those who view making bread as just production with no sense of the 'essence' of what is being produced.

Just sayin'...

Adrienne, I don't have a dog in the hunt of which is better - I think both can result in good, but different loaves. I do have one whether it is a good thing that rather than saying "here's one of many techniques you can use to make bread" we advertise it as the key to bread making - because it implies that people weren't making bread before because it was such an incredibly onerous task, rather than the perception of labor involved. Long, flexible rises and quick kneads have been around forever - there are lots of ways to make fast bread, slow bread and everything in between.

Artor, as someone else has pointed out, not kneading (or mixers or a manual dough mixer like my mother uses) is a godsend for people with problems with their hands. That said, I agree with you that's not the norm.

Olympia, I don't really have a recipe, but have had good results with no knead whole wheat by adding some vital wheat gluten to compensate for the ways that the bran cuts into the gluten strings. I've also tried adding beer, which really makes a big difference in flavor, and also seems to make for slightly better rising.



After resisting for a long time (why would I want to cut the kneading out? that's the fun part!) I finally made a no-knead loaf after a friend gave me a dutch oven for my birthday. I have to say, for certain times (like when I don't have enough time in one night or afternoon to let bread rise properly and to bake it) the no-knead system works. Which is not to say that I'll use it all the time now, or that I think it's "better". The reason I resisted it for so long is for all the reasons you griped about it. Regular bread isn't difficult! Kneading saves you, at most, a few minutes of time out of the whole process. And it's fun!

I like it for all the reasons you mentioned - good crust, fairly foolproof recipe, and yes, it spares my wrists the kneading process. I love kneading bread and find it very relaxing mentally. I even add a tiny bit of kneading to the "no-knead" recipe, because I think it marginally improves the texture of the crumb. But my wrists aren't up to doing much of it. I have to save my wrists for all the outdoor work, and even there I have to be careful. For all these reasons it's the anchor of my baking repetoire. I agree that NK bread can be a gateway for newbies to baking more varied breads, as you suggested. It was something I mastered early on when learning to bake bread, thus providing a lot of encouragement to keep learning.

Thanks, Sharon! I'll have to try that- regular, white no knead is lovely and effortless, but it really isn't the healthiest for everyday fare.

Not that I'm opposed to kneading- but the sourdough, kneaded bread I tried just wasn't as good as the no knead. And I have to say I love sharing the no knead recipe with others; I feel like I'm passing on some kind of magic trick. Also, there's little doubt in my mind that the less work a recipe is, the more likely it is that people are going to try it, and that's important, too.

Haha! I read this post agreeing with you completely; the whole no-knead thing had me rolling my eyes when it came out, even though I, too, have damaged wrists, and have gone to the dark side and commenced worship of the Great Kitchen Aid, May-It-Last-Forever.
But then I got to thinking, âSay ... weâre out of bread, and I was going to swear and buy some, âcause I wonât get home til 8 tonight, have to leave by 7 tomorrow morning, got an all day class Saturday, and have promised Sunday to the parents ... But hey, look! Hereâs a 2-hour recipe for no-knead bread!â So, ironically, youâve inspired me to make no-knead bread tonight. Of course, first I have to grind the wheat ... I swear, the do-list will. not. die. But oh, well, it beats having to buy a loaf.

What's with Sharon's readers and all the weak wrists?

For those with chronic wrist problems, look to the elbows. I suffered for a decade with "carpal tunnel" before a new physical therapist decided my elbows ("cubital tunnel") were the problem. A new sleeping position and some other changed bio-habits have fixed 80% of my pain.

Oh, and I worship the Bosch. I think I adore it's innate funkiness that the Kitchen Aid will never have even though AFAIK they are functionally the same.

I make both kinds of bread, and prefer the kneaded variety, but for me, the advantage of no knead bread is that you don't have to be around for it, so it fits around my work day much better. It's not that kneading takes much time, it's that rising does, and I'm out of the house for around 10 hours a day and often busy on weekends. So no-knead bread is a way to get a reasonable product without having to be at home. I think that's a lot of the attraction.

I don't understand the dislike of no-knead bread. You point out that in your opinion it's nearly identical to kneaded bread. If so, why would anyone expect for me to stand around kneading bread when I don't need to, if I could be doing something else instead? You enjoy kneading? Good on you. I don't, and I've done *plenty* of it in my time, including as a professional baker, so I don't think the "weak wrist" comments are entirely appropriate. I've also spent time trying to convince myself that I do like to knead, because apparently it's the more virtuous position, and that's just foolish. I don't need to be shamed into kneading bread, of all things.

No, faster isn't always better (and no-knead certainly isn't faster in the long run) and easier isn't always easier. But in all the times I've made both no knead and kneaded bread, yes, no knead seems a heckuva lot easier to me and doesn't require me to actually be around every hour to do something to it, and consistently turns out a product that can kick butt. I've re-read my standard no-knead recipe four times, and I cannot see any way that it has more steps than a standard kneaded loaf. My recipe has five steps, and a pretty much "dump it all in one bowl and mix" method. Of course no knead bread will not fit every situation--no bread recipe does, that's hardly a criticism, and a bit of a red herring, since I doubt anyone who has actually made the stuff would seriously think it. Is it a concession to the "kitchen drudgery" myth? Yeah, maybe it is. And it's a way to show people how to get back into the kitchen in an easy, foolproof way. It makes bread accessible again. You point out that you can get similar results with a preferment or sponge? Wow, talk about intimidating--that'll really get them into the kitchen.

It's fairly rare for me to disagree so completely with you, and fairly funny that it would be over something as trivial as this, but you've inspired a lot of holier-than-thou bread baking attitude here, and I think it got under my skin.

@Kate@thefrugal life: Yep, a touch of kneading (really just folding it over itself about 4-6 times with a spatula) has been shown to improve the texture a bit.

First, Go Robyn.

Second, Sharon, this post confirms what I have long believed: you have a capacity for nurturing that is fairly superhuman. You nurture a farm, a writing career, a large family, some substantial portion of the mantle of your movement, *other* people's large families on a foster drop-in basis, animals, friends, community, peers, and on and on.

And apparently you nurture freaking sourdough starter too.

Look, I'll just lay this out here: bread making is not my calling, and I'm at my nurturing limit with the very normal responsibilities of kids, garden, chickens, pets, writing. If I had to manage a sourdough starter I would kill it. I just don't want to take care of anything else.

No Knead bread pretty much takes care of itself. It doesn't ask for anything from me, and that's exactly how I like it. I mix a bowl at night and them sometime in the next two days I bake the dough. That's exactly the amount of care and nurturing I want to give to bread. I don't even do the last part, where you turn it and let it rise. I just chuck the soggy dough straight from the mixing bowl into a dutch oven and, honestly, it always turns out good enough for us, and better than any kneaded dough I've attempted (we had to do them in culinary school - not my finest rotation).

So I'm going to stand up as well for those us who are no stranger to hard work or from-scratch cooking (and who's wrists are in fine shape) and defend No Knead. My bliss is not baking. The goal is to get bread made without resenting the process, and the No Knead fits the bill perfectly for me.

i'm looking forward to the day Bannock makes a come back in American kitchens.

Erica- Yeah, my thoughts with sourdough were along the lines of, "This is more work than a pet! And it's not even cute!" Which would have been fine, if the product was good enough. But, well, it wasn't. I don't see the need to work harder than you have to for something- no knead lets time do all the work, and that's fine by me. Although I can see where Sharon is coming from- there's this pervasive idea in the U.S., especially, that food isn't something we should have to work that hard for, and this leads to fast food, crappy food, foodlots, etc. Unlike all the previous things, though, no knead bread doesn't have negative repercussions, besides the repercussions of eating too much bread!

I just happen to like the no-knead texture inside and out much better than any bread I've made by kneading, although for pizza and crackers, the kneaded recipes work great. If this is something that will get people to try making their own bread instead of buying it, then I think the popularity and buzz is probably a good thing in the long run.

You see, the most amazing part of no-knead bread is the crust, and the crust itself isn't a product of not kneading - it comes from being baked in an enclosed dutch oven which traps the steam inside.

I usually put a tray of water in the bottom of the oven when I'm baking bread for this reason.

I tried no knead bread and it came out "funny". Where-as i've always made the kneaded kind because i like to play with my food. I may have to give it another go though on the back of your article. I can't really judge for myself with such an imbalance in knowledge.

The time and energy put into my kneading is in indirect proportion to the quality of my day at work. I would miss that aspect.

By Richard Eis (not verified) on 27 Apr 2012 #permalink

Wait! The whole reason I make no-knead bread is for the health benefit of all that good bacteria produced in the soaking process. I use so much less yeast in the process and that appeals to me too.

I like the no-knead 24 hour bread (NY Times recipe) for its rich complex flavors and its texture (I guess the right word is crumb). It also makes really good garlic toast. That said, it is not really "bread" and would be pretty strange for sandwiches or dinner rolls so traditional breads have their place.

I think the no-knead business may be catching on precisely because the outcome is so different from common breads. For people whose bread consists of dough conditioners and HFCS, contact with completely natural bread whose flavors beg one to have a piece (warm from the oven) with simple butter, honey, preserves, etc. is heady stuff. A real crust, making people actually chew and taste the bread is also unfamiliar territory for many.

Like goslings who get imprinted on the poor unsuspecting farmer, people get imprinted with no-knead bread because the outcome of natural ingredients and processes is so astoundingly different than mass produced crap. First impressions are hard to shake (but easy to bake :-).

My bet is that no knead may ultimately turn out to be a gateway loaf as a few brave souls try other recipes and find out that food made with your own hands has no competitors.

I don't understand your comment that "no-knead" bread requires more steps. I use a "no-knead" recipe from the NYTimes.

Mixing ingredients takes all of 5-10 minutes with zero clean up.

Then I let it sit for 24 hours.

the next day, I shape into a loaf and place it into a pre-heated dutch oven.

That takes all of 10 minutes. I clean out the bowl the dough rose in.

45 minutes later it's done.

For someone who has "no horse in this race" you seem to be placing a lot of bets.

Something so far not mentioned in the comments here is that folks who like homemade bread but must limit themselves to gluten-free food can benefit from no-knead bread recipes since gluten-free flours generally do not do so well with kneading.

I don't know. I've made kneaded bread, but lately, I've become a fan of the artisan bread in five people's no-knead bread for a few reasons:

- I can memorize the recipe.
- They focus on long-lasting dough (about two weeks)
- I don't have the counter space to knead bread
- It develops a nice sourdough flavor after a few days

It's not for everyone, but I work 50+ hours a week outside of the house so for me it helps a lot to be able to just pull dough out of the fridge, form the loaf, and get started on the rest of dinner. By the time I'm done prepping ingredients for the rest of dinner, it's time to pre-heat the oven and 1/2 an hour later, I have fresh bread.

But speaking of crust, you can get the same great crust without the dutch oven: Cook on a pizza stone and put a metal pan with about a cup of water below it. Works just as well.

This was an interesting discussion; I enjoyed hearing peopleâs reasons for their preferences. And it made me want to revisit the many creative ways there are to fit breadbaking into a busy life. Itâs easy to get overwhelmed and give in temporarily, which is why my own breadbaking goes in fits and starts. But now there's a loaf rising at home, for baking tonight. At least I hope it's rising.

I don't want to use refrigerator space for the no-knead recipes I've seen. So right now I have regular loaf bread in the oven, which will be followed by bialys and tomorrow morning I'll make English Muffins on the stove top.

I have to go with Robyn & Erica. I've made plenty of both types and no knead is my preferred method for our "everyday" bread, which we go through very quickly. It's not a task I really want to spend lots of time managing, and as they point out, I can easily deal with it whenever I have a few spare moments. I don't bake a single loaf in a dutch oven, though. I make enough dough at one time for 3 loaves and bake them all at once on a baking stone. I just find it extremely convenient that I can make dough anytime I want and it takes about 5 minutes, and then shape and bake it whenever I want which also takes about 5 minutes (plus baking time). I'll put the longer, more tedious labor into other projects, where it matters more to me.

Some flours simply don't take kneading very well. I try to use my local grains, grown close to the artic circle, hand cranked into flour as best I can. The more I kneading, the flatter and heavier the bread gets. But if handled with extreme care, I get lovely high loafs.

All flours are not the same. You also have to know when to stop kneading. Know your flours!

By Birger Bonde (not verified) on 28 Apr 2012 #permalink

Thanks for the comments from the other side. I may have to revisit no knead for some of my non-wheat breads that just don't come out great.

It's rather therapeutic kneading bread.

Nearly as much as beating the tar out of the dough when you're making pizza bases and knocking it back.

I mix my dough (flour, water, yeast & salt) in about 5 minutes which includes getting the ingredients off the shelf. It does a 3 hour rising at room temperature on its own and then gets stuck in the fridge overnight. the next evening I form the loaf which takes about 1 minute start to finish, rise for 1 hour. Then bake in a very hot (230C) oven on a baking stone for 40 minutes, with a cup of hot water added to the bottom at the start to produce a nice amount of steam. I do not use one of those clay covered pots and still get that elastic crumb and crunchy exterior that I have never been able to produce with a kneaded bread. As always mileage varies and the important part is that you are making your own bread and know exactly what's gone into the food you consume :-)

By Eva Elisabeth (not verified) on 30 Apr 2012 #permalink

Interesting responses. I think some of the issue may be that I didn't articulate in my post what exactly no-knead does do differently. That is, long cool rises are certainly *mandatory* for no-knead, but they are hardly unique to no-knead, and indeed, are one of the most adaptable things about bread - reducing yeast by half and extending the rise substantially is something you can do with ALMOST every bread recipe in creation, kneaded or not. So that, and the high texture crust to me at least, and not functions of no-knead. The thing that people seem to like best - that you can make bread before or after work and have it for breakfast and/or dinner is easy to achieve no matter what kind of bread recipe you use. There are a few that don't adapt well to a longer, cooler rise, but they are a significant minority.

As several no-knead fans mention, no-knead is better for a little kneading - and again, how much kneading is kind of variable - so I don't buy the "it is faster" thing - faster than which recipes? There are low knead breads that I can put on much more quickly than a typical no-knead bread, and recipes that take much, much longer. I don't buy the time thing - and I'm not the only one. I've heard Mark Bittman admit that no-knead isn't any faster than most basic bread recipes.

What no-knead does differently is that it is easier to do with wet dough, produces a nice crumb in some ways, is one way to make bread fit your life, but hardly the only one, and as one reader mentions makes better use of some grains and flours (If what you have access to are soft wheats, often no-knead bread will get you significantly better results. Generally speaking, however, if you have access to a hard wheat you'd not use that for bread baking).

To me, much of what no-knead is credited with is stuff that mostly isn't a function of no-knead bread. The main objection I have to it is its implicit statement to others "regular bread is just too hard" - when in fact, most of the characteristics of no-knead bread that most people like aren't a function of not kneading at all.


Erika, I don't nurture sourdough ;-) - what I do is shove it in the back of the fridge/out on the porch and ignore it until I remember I have it, and then if it is still alive I use it, if not, I go and beg another starter from people who forgive me for killing them regularly ;-).

That said, sourdough starter lasts A LONG time sitting the fridge - and I've left it alone for many moons. I'm fairly sure I'd not be allowed to nurture my kids that way ;-).


Sharon @42,

I am just too spread out and confused these days to do much bread making at all, no-knead or otherwise. Thus, this discussion was making me feel way inferior to everybody here until your last comment :-)

By Stephen B. (not verified) on 30 Apr 2012 #permalink

For me, it's not about the act of kneading being too hard, but more about not being able to discern the right texture. I've had many a failed loaf of bread and no one in my life who bakes, so I liked the no-knead method - no special knowledge or experience required to make it. But I actually don't love the crustiness of it, so I stopped making it. Instead, I use a bread machine set on the dough setting, and then take my ready to bake dough out, shape it, and bake it in the oven.

Sharon: "Long, flexible rises and quick kneads have been around forever - there are lots of ways to make fast bread, slow bread and everything in between."

Yup. There's a cultural trend here (about as old as the written word, I think) - to breathlessly announce new discoveries- of things our grandparents knew from birth as second nature.

My 2 bits of dough; I've kned a lotta bread. In college I made bread for 90 people, once a week. There IS an art to kneading; I learned mine from my mother, who learned from her mother; whose bread I've never been able to duplicate. If you attack your dough without any training or guidance, you may indeed have a poor experience, and abandon the whole thing.

And; 5 years ago, I broke my right wrist. Global warming. (No, really.) A wildly atypical ice storm; slipped on the ice at the end of a day spent meticulously not slipping; whack. And it was the same wrist I'd had chronic tendonitis in, 5 years previously. Lots of kneading is indeed problematic for me now; the wrist is prone to re-injury; really can't afford it.

And: I think part of the attraction of no-knead is that it can require less forethought, less precision scheduling. Reduced brain load. I'm for that, these days. :-)

I love the taste and texture of both kneaded bread and no-knead. What I don't love is when either side of an issue as worthy as bread-making methodology is degenerating the character of someone on the other side. I get a bad taste in my mouth to hear no-kneads hinting that kneaders are drudges or snobs, or kneaders hinting that no-kneads are incompetent and lazy. Can't we all just eat bread and high-five, making flour clouds when our palms slap together?

Next thing you know, someone will be telling me that those who prefer Thai Curry over Japanese Curry are fascists. :) If Green Thai Curry is wrong, than I don't want to BE right!!

Thanks for the discussion, and keep up the good work!

By Mishqueen (not verified) on 30 Apr 2012 #permalink

"I've had many a failed loaf of bread and no one in my life who bakes"

Now, please remember that I'm not saying "our" bread here in the UK is better, because it's still generally pretty bad.

But having eaten some bread from the USA before, even proper bread from a bakers, I REALLY don't understand how you can possibly make a bread yourself that fails compared to the loaves you get in the USA.

And though I can understand that not kneading means you can't knead the dough incorrectly, you now have more invested in getting the mix right.

I.e. your chances of "failing" a loaf still depends on your carelessness or inattention. You've just moved where you need to place your attention.

Sorry. I can't help myself today.

Why are no-knead breads bad?

Because I knead the dough.

I loved no knead breads for a while, mainly because for a long time having sticky, bread covered hands seemed to cause my little boy to either start doing something tremendously dangerous or to awake screaming from a nap. It was almost a guarantee that at the messiest moment of bread making there would be something urgent that demanded my attention. Now that he's older we're back to regular kneaded bread. :)

Thank you, Sharon for this article. I have loved good bread since childhood, and found it too time-consuming to make myself. Thanks to your article, I realized that it is possible to make with a minimum of time commitment. I baked my first loaf of no-knead bread this morning: it was easy, tasty, and fun!

By Hugh Maris (not verified) on 02 May 2012 #permalink

My favorite, in white bread years, was refrigerator-rising:

Stir-mix a wet dough in the evening;
pour into small aluminum loaf pans;
cover with plastic wrap;
refrigerate. One rising, overnight.

Wake up; start oven, preheat for 10 min.
Feed cat. Shower.
10 min. later, peel plastic wrap off,
pop bread into the oven for 40 min.

I would agree with you when it comes to the No Kneed Bread the way it is advertised. BUT, this method is the simplest to make a really healthy bred. Well I am talking about a whole grain healthy bred.
1. Gluten can develop
2. Way less yeast is needed
3. The taste is amazing (and yes, I bake it in loaf pans)

I do NOT call it a NO KNEED BRED just a simple-healthy-and-delicious-bread http://www.northernhomegarden.com/2012/03/simple-healthy-and-delicious-…