HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


No-Knead Bread vs Traditional (Kneaded) -- How are they Different?

For a long time now I've wanted to do my own bread baking, but, after buying a couple of books (The Bread Baker's Apprentice among them) and even a used Zojirushi bread machine, I still haven't plunged into the process. Truth is, the more I read, the more intimidated I become. It seems there are too many decisions to be made -- what yeast to use, what flour to use, whether or not to use the bread machine, and maybe on top of the list of decisions -- to knead or not to knead.

Now that fall is here, I'm thinking of baking bread once again. Another recent post (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/654413) offered some links to YouTube videos demonstrating the no-knead method of bread making. After watching a couple of the videos, I found myself puzzled again. Those loaves of no-knead bread looked really good. And it looks like they're relatively easy to make. So what am I missing here? Or, should I ask, what are those loaves of bread missing? If the bread dough doesn't need kneading, why does anyone need to knead?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I'm not exactly sure how the no-knead method works its magic, but it does. My husband wanted to start making fresh bread daily, and I was hesitant. He told me that he read an article in the NY times that gave a 5 minute, no knead bread recipe. I was skeptical. He made the first batch and I've been a believer ever since. It tastes awesome and is incredibly cheap. Give it a try.

    5 Replies
    1. re: nolafoodie87

      not sure how it works either but Ive been making the no knead ever since the times story was published and it is beyond delicious. It is so so so easy....you really should give it a try

      1. re: nolafoodie87

        That recipe (in the link above) is fairly different from the ones I've been looking at. First of all, it calls for a relatively short (2-5 hours) rising time, whereas the other recipes all give the dough 12-18 hours. Second, it calls for baking the bread on a pre-heated baking stone whereas the other recipes bake it in a covered bowl of some sort. I had been guessing that the moisture in the dough turned to steam, which, when retained in the covered bowl, caused those nice "holes" in the finished bread. The moisture would disappear if the bread was baked on a stone, wouldn't it?

        1. re: CindyJ

          I think the reason you don't need to knead the no-knead breads is that gluten strands (which give bread its structure) form naturally over time as the dough sits for a long period, rather than through the kneading process.

          I think when you bake the bread in a covered dish, there is steam. But then you finish it uncovered, which makes the crust nice and crisp.

          Here's what the baking.911 site says about how the steam works:

          "Applying steam to the dough during baking keeps the outer dough layer flexible and moist. This helps achieve the greatest amount of oven spring and loaf volume. Once the outside layer of the dough sets, gases in the loaf can no longer expand to increase the loaf size. Steaming the dough as it bakes also gelatinizes starch on the outside layer, producing a bread with a crisp crust and a brown crust color in varying degrees; . . . . However, in contrast, during the last stages of baking, a dry oven is required when the crust is browning; after the steam is removed, the gelatinized layer dries out forming a thick crunchy crust.."

          Another way to get the crisp crust -- at least on the bottom -- is to use a baking stone.

          1. re: CindyJ

            I should clarify that when I said NYTimes recipe I meant the Bittman/Lahey bread not the 5 minute bread.

            I think they also did a story on the 5-minute bread later.

            1. re: CindyJ

              I've never had a problem with a lack of moisture, because the dough is so wet when it starts. Also, the water in the pan does turn to steam and it makes the bread have a moist body, while the stone makes for a super crusty crust.

          2. The no-knead bread in Cook's Illustrated Jan/Feb 2008 issue is the best tasting of any I have made. I bought "Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a Day" and it is good, but the cook's
            recipe makes a better tasting one. Uses a little beer and a little vinegar to bump up the flavor and is really worth it. I've made about 50 loaves from various recipes and my family likes this over all the others. Also, some say you can keep the dough in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. I didn't find that very successful. Perhaps my storage method was not the best....I covered it in a 6-quart dish fitted with a non air-tight cover, as called for in the recipe, but the dough was an "off" color and not fresh smelling after about 9 days. In the future I'll use if all in one week, just to be on the safe side. All that being said, definitely try the bread. Use whatever yeast you find at your market....use whatever flour you get your mitts on, just use unbleached. Enjoy the process and the results. Be fearless! It'll be great...you'll see!!!

            7 Replies
            1. re: amazinc

              I really like the taste and texture of the Bittman/Lahey bread from the NYTimes. Great taste and texture.

              I also like the 5-minute a day bread but not quite as much. I do like making it though because it's great to have the dough in the fridge and be able to take a little blob out and bake it when you need it.

              One of the 5-minute bread authors has said that the dough will change in the second week -- it gets a little sourdoughy I think and does not rise as much. She has recommended using it for flatbreads after that amount of storage. But she has also said you can freeze the dough if you don't want it to get to that stage -- say after a week -- and then thaw and bake it. The freezing will arrest that process.

              Also, I learned that you can keep the 5-minute bread pretty tightly covered, at least if you're using a container that's not glass. I used a plastic food storage pail type thing with a cover that twists on. If I left the cover ajar, the dough got crusty on top. Putting the cover on more securely resolved that. And I checked with the author at a class she taught and learned that that was right.

              When it comes to these breads, I agree -- be fearless, it'll be great.

              1. re: karykat

                I've been baking with the 5-minute book for a few months now, and I really enjoy the results.

                My one discovery is that wetter = better. I add ~25% more water than their base recipe calls for. I've found that this allows for fluffier loaves on the bread I bake right away, and keeps things nice and moist as I pull off loaves during the next couple weeks. If you want to carefully shape loaves the wetter dough can hinder this effort, but the taste / consistency payoff is worth it for me.

                I also was disappointed when I tried to keep the dough in an unsealed container, so like karykat I just started using a sealed plastic containe, and that works wonderfully. The dough does turn more sourdough'ish during the 2nd week of its life, but I I enjoy this.

                I definitely recommend doing some kind of steaming when you put your loaf in the oven. I just have a cast iron pan that sits on the rack below my baking stone. Right after I place the loaf on the rack, I pour a cup or so of water into the pan (careful, the steam can scald) and quickly shut the oven door.

              2. re: amazinc


                I have been making no knead for a while from the Bittman video and it is good, but lacks complex flavor, so I have been turn off to it lately. I was thinking that I could add a little bit of starter or something to jazz it up. I like the beer idea.

                So is the cook's illustrated recipe basically the same with a little beer or vinegar thrown in?


                1. re: chefbrian1

                  Here's link to the CI recipe.

                  It does require a small of amount of kneading, but I like the flavor of it much better than the no-knead recipe. I didn't have a cast iron dutch oven and didn't feel like buying one at the time, so I just used a heavy stainless steel stockpot.and it actually worked out fine. The only thing that is kind of a pain is the beer. We don't drink it in my house so I end up buying one beer and only using a portion of it. According to this article it's just for flavor, so I'm wondering if I could just freeze the leftover beer next time around. And I think the step of rising it in a parchment-lined skillet makes transferring it to the baking pot much easier than maneuvering it with a towel.

                  1. re: gmm

                    gmm, buy beer with a replaceable screw cap -- Budweiser comes that way -- and just screw the cap back on and stick it into the fridge. This isn't the normal screw bottlecap -- it's a screw top like you'd find on a liter of pop.

                    1. re: valereee

                      i bought a can of beer to make the bread, and poured the rest into an empty soda bottle with a screw cap. It was flat by the time I used it again, weeks later, but seemed to work almost as well.

                  2. re: chefbrian1

                    I also thought the lahey's no knead bread could use more flavour. After a couple tests, I now use a version of Michael Ruhlman's recipe (http://ruhlman.com/2011/02/no-knead-b...), as it gives much fuller flavour and better crumb texture. I forego the 2nd rise of 30min, going directly from first rise to folded dough in cloth, don't notice any difference.

                2. I'm curious -- what have you been using for your "oven-within-the-oven"? My smaller LC Dutch oven is oval -- not a good shape. And my round one is way too big. One of the videos said a Pyrex bowl would work with a Pyrex pie plate for a cover, but said that it should be new, meaning you shouldn't use it for that purpose more than one time because it might get weak from the high heat.

                  And what kind of flour have you been using?

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: CindyJ

                    I was using a pyrex casserole pan which worked great but someone brought up here that it might be dangerous. I wrote to the company and they agreed (you should never heat pyrex empty, and the hot pyrex and cold dough is a bad combination). I would try the oval dutch oven. It would be fine. I bought a Lodge cast iron dutch oven from Costco which is the perfect size for this. You could also use terracotta pots and cover it.

                    I used unbleached ap flour but have also used half white whole wheat, a little more water and it's been good.

                  2. Actually, kneading isn't all that necessary. Provided you have the time to allow the bread dough to autolyze. If you mix the primary ingredients thoroughly and allow the mixture to rest for a lengthy period the flour slowly absorbs water and thus the dough requires little or no kneading. In my own experience, it works better with slack doughs than the heavier varieties but it does work just the same.
                    Even when using the autolyze method, I knead the dough to some extent prior to it's final rise so that I can feel its temperature and texture to make certain it has developed to the level I intend to use for a particular style of bread before actually proofing the mix.
                    There are also a number of different methods for "kneading", including the old fashioned style or fold and push, the periodic fold with waiting periods between each folding sequence (used frequently with slack dough mixtures like Ciabatta, Focaccia, etc.) the "slam" and fold and the stretch and fold. There are probably more than that but that's all that comes to mind at the moment.

                    1. You don't need to knead, as the no-knead bread proves. As others have said, what you need is the time to allow the yeast to do its work. To me the main differences are the taste--which is vastly improved by the long first rise--and the texture, which is more chewy and has bigger holes than kneaded bread.

                      Cindy, I'd say if you want to try, just choose a recipe that you like the look of and try it. It takes a bit of patience to get used to making bread, but once you start to get the feel for it, it's not hard. The biggest lesson I've learned is that it's really forgiving, but it's more important to watch the dough than to watch the clock. You learn by look and feel when it's risen and ready to go into the oven.

                      Meanwhile, I had great success the other day with sourdough no-knead. A couple weeks ago I found an old container of sourdough starter in the back of the fridge. I made it years ago from the recipe in the Moro cookbook. I started feeding it to bring it back to life, and it worked. I did the no-knead recipe: 3 cups of flour, about 1.5 cups of water, and about a tablespoon of salt (sourdough sometimes needs more salt than other bread). Added about 1/2 cup of sourdough starter. Left it overnight and about 12 hours later did the fold, and then shaped into a ball and did the second rise. Preheated the oven to about 250C with the LC pot, baked the bread 1/2 hour covered, 1/2 hour uncovered. The loaf was beautiful! it rose really high and had the lovely crackly crust. Not terribly sour, I suppose because I skipped the sponge stage that you normally do with sourdough. But it tasted delicious.

                      1. If you have an oven-safe non-stick 2-3 qt pot with a lid, the easiest bread for a novice baker is Jacques Pepin's no-knead bread in a pot: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/589286

                        There are SO many methods that turn out good bread and yet people are afraid of yeast - though most of the time it doesn't even matter what kind of yeast you use! Until a few years ago I was yeast-phobic too. The CI Almost-No-Knead bread was my first attempt with yeast, and it turned otu spectacularly well. It is superior to the one-pot Pepin bread, but the latter is a lot simpler, and also quite good. What you need to realize is that the bread-making process is VERY forgiving. You don't need to understand the science - just plunge ahead and do it. It will be fine. And if worse came to worse and you got something too dry or too chewy or too raw, you'd be out what, a couple of bucks' worth of ingredients? I've become very nonchalant in my breadbaking and it's all gone just fine. The water here is very hard and doesn't taste good, so I do use spring water for breadmaking. It may not be necessary, but since bread has so few components I choose to use a better water.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: greygarious

                          You echo my own "nonchalant" attitude toward bread making. I've stopped fussing and just plow ahead with my bread making endeavors, especially if I get an inspiration. I've used all sorts of liquid, cider, veggie water, water in which apples were cooked, potato water, starter, you never know what I might use, and each change offers a subtle result. I still prefer the NKB to serve with pastas, etc. Kneaded/yeasted bread is still my favorite; don't always want "Holey, Crusty" products so I haven't abandoned my trusty Kitchen Aid mixer with the dough hook. Guess my message to others is be brave and yes, don't worry about wasting a couple of bucks worth of ingredients as you said, there's too much fun to be had. Happy Cooking as I echo Jacques Pepin's program closing remark.

                          1. re: greygarious

                            It's not the cost of the ingredients that kept me from baking...it's the disappointment after disappointment after disappointment. I couldn't get BREAD MACHINE bread to rise. Seriously, my loaves would be shorter and denser than anyone else's. (Perhaps the machine knew that I consider bread machine bread almost not worth eating.) I kept thinking I'd get better, but I never could put my finger on what I was doing wrong. Was my yeast old? Had I bloomed it incorrectly? Had I kneaded too long...or not long enough? Was my kneading method inferior? Was my room too cool? My oven too hot? Wrong type of flour? After numerous inferior loaves, I just gave up. I figured some of us are cooks and some are bakers, and I couldn't bake. We have great artisan bakers here, so it was better just to buy good bread than keep making bad bread. Why bang my head against a wall? But with this NKB, I'm suddenly the best breadmaker I know.

                          2. I think the differences come down to 2 things: 1) a wetter dough than you could easily handle conventionally and 2) a long enough time for the gluten network to develop and for the preferment stage of any good European-style bread & the conventional fermenting stage to happen automatically one after the other.

                            The other breakthrough of Lahey bread is baking it in an incendiary enclosed container. This, plus the wetter dough, create the incomparable crust. BUT you can use this portion of his technique with any conventional kneaded dough with similar spectacular results.

                            1. "If the bread dough doesn't need kneading, why does anyone need to knead?" The answer to that lies in the chemistry and mechanics of dough. Wheat dough depends on a network of the molecules of the protein gluten to trap the carbon dioxide excreted by yeast. Gluten itself is formed from two proteins found in wheat: gliaden and glutenin, which hitch up at bonding sites and form disuphide bonds. When flour is wetted out, two sets of enzymes in the flour go to work to bring about chemical changes. One set, the amylase enzymes, help to convert broken starch chains into the sugars that feed the yeast that make the carbon dioxide. The second set, the protease enzymes, help to crack the proteins in the flour so they can be reassembled at bonding sites. The addition of salt to the dough, which is a protease inhibitor, helps to control the reactions that the protease help get going. (Enzymes are catalysts--they don't actually take part in the reaction.) If you make a dough and give it enough time, these reactions will cause a web of gluten to form. But the mechanical action of kneading brings the bonding sites into proximity with greater frequency than would occur in a static dough mass. So kneading shortens the time needed to form a gluten web that can trap enough gas to support a rising loaf. Also, it typically forms a finer network of bonds, do that the bread crumb--all things being equal--has smaller alveoli or holes in it than a dough that is not kneaded. Kneading also aligns the gluten strands; and, since kneaded dough is usually turned or folded, the strands of gluten can cross one another in different layers and form a better network. Kneading also evens out temperature and moisture variations that may exist in a dough. Folding the dough accomplishes some of these same things. So a person might knead dough to save time or produce a bread with a crumb that cannot be obtained by letting time take care of everything. Generally speaking, no-knead breads are made from wetter dough than some kneaded breads, since the reactions take place faster in a wet dough. And high moisture content also influences the quality of the resulting crumb and crust. I read someplace, but have been unable to recover the reference, that almost any bread can be prepared in a no-knead fashion by adding vitamin c to it. This may be so. But I would be leery of leaving out at room temperature for an extended period any dough that contains dairy products. Fortunately, yeasted breads can rise slowly in a refrigerator. Which all adds up to the realization that there is more than one way to make good bread and that breads will differ in flavor and texture depending on how they are made.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Father Kitchen

                                Raw dairy would make room-temp long development of the dough safer/tastier. I get my milk raw, and it sours instead of putrefying like pasteurized milk does. I have friends who leave each newly opened bottle of raw milk on the counter for the few days it takes to consume it, as they welcome the probiotic development over time. I keep mine cold, thanks <g>, but that's more because I like my milk unlumpy than for safety or even taste concerns -- soured raw milk is actually pretty good in a yogurty kind of way.

                              2. I was you about a year ago. I started w/ the no knead recipe from the Times and now make both that and more conventional, sandwich-style loaves. Others have covered the science, but my short version is that the no knead bread creates a denser (I may still be having rising issues), more elastic loaf w/ a hearty crust while a sandwich style loaf is much lighter w/ a crumb texture. I love both and pretty much alternate making them. After only a few tries at each type, I also found myself far more comfortable experimenting and making substitutions than I would have anticipated, since you really do start to get the feel of the process.

                                As for resources, I found the Breadmaker's Apprentice daunting, too, although its description of the window method for telling when dough was sufficiently kneaded was good. A good starter recipe for a sandwich loaf can be found in the Best Recipe--they start w/ a basic white but also explain how to sub in oatmeal, whole wheat, and other options.

                                Good luck and just give it a try. Even my worst loaves tasted amazing when they first came out of the oven!

                                1. I bake mostly traditional breads, although I use the "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes" book as well. I find my most valuable tool for making either type is my KitchenAid stand mixer, using the dough hook attachment. It takes the hard work out of kneaded breads. It makes dealing with the large quantities of dough that the Five Minute recipes can produce much easier. These mixers seem expensive but, unlike a bread machine, can do all sorts of other kitchen tasks for me. Bread machines have probably improved since they first came on the market but I never liked the texture of the bread they made and the way they limit what recipes you can use.

                                  As other posters have said, just jump in and try. Commercial yeasts are very reliable these days; the nationally known brands of flour are very consistent. I've been baking bread for more than 20 years and I can't really remember an inedible loaf, just some that I didn't like as much as others.

                                  1. People knead to speed up the process. If you knead, you can have bread in a few hours. I'm imagine kneading was a revolutionary development a couple thousand years ago.

                                    1. The no-knead bread that I've made recently are lumpy. The moisture isn't evenly distributed so I'm disappointed with the baked bread.

                                      1. I've been making kneaded bread. It really easy and is less salty than no-knead bread. The kneading only takes a few minutes. With a single rise in the baking pan you can have fresh baked bread in less than 2 hours. Besides, in the cold winter months, I like using the oven.
                                        I just make pecan craisin bread and it was delicious!

                                        1. I do them both ways. One advantage of no-knead bread is that someone with a tiny kitchen and limited time can turn out a really flavorful loaf unfailingly. The flavor of no-knead breads is usually superior because the prolonged rising time allows for the full exploitation of enzymes' ability to fraction starches and produce sugars. Proteins benefit, too. On the other hand, kneaded breads benefit from the folding and stretching of the gluten and generally have a tighter crumb structure, which might be important if you are going to use the bread for a sandwich, for example. Various common additives to bread may also result in smaller alveoli or gas bubbles. So don't think in terms of either/or but a continuum. Also, even with no-knead breads, folding the dough a couple of times during the long rising can significantly improve crumb structure. Finally, most no-knead breads are made with wetter dough, as this fosters activity at the bond sites on the gluten. And a wetter dough usually results in a more open crumb and a different crust than you get with a firmer dough. One final thought, many no-knead breads are baked in closed containers for the first half to the bake. This creates the kind of atmosphere that can make a spectacular difference for any bread. In conclusion: any way that making a bread works for you will produce something very good. So I tailor my baking method according to the time I have available. Sometimes nothing beats getting my hands in the dough. But more often, I let the dough do it by itself. No sweat.

                                          1. Relax, making kneaded yeast bread really isn't that hard, though "The Bread Baker's Apprentice" may make it seem so. I'd recommend a more straightforward and helpful guide: "Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads." It's not really complete, but for the home baker, it tells you what you need to know, and the recipes I've made have turned out very well. Once you've got the hang of it you can move on to other sources, in books and online, as I have.

                                            Yeast: doesn't matter which kind you use as long as you use it right. For a long time I used dry yeast in the little packages, and the bread came out fine. Now I use instant yeast, measuring out the equivalent of a dry yeast package, and the bread comes out fine. I recommend the instant yeast because it's easier; just mix it with the dry ingredients before adding the liquid.

                                            flour: all-purpose unbleached white is fine, and most recipes I've seen are based on it. Recently I got some bread flour (King Arthur's), and it works well too, but to my eyes and tongue the difference isn't huge. I also have some whole wheat flour and corn meal around because the kinds of bread I like to make sometimes call for them, but mostly I use the unbleached white flour.

                                            Kneading is what gets the yeast really working for you and dispersed throughout the dough, and the dough itself elastic and stretchy. I have a KitchenAid stand mixer that does most of the work for me with its dough hook, but I've kneaded by hand as well, with no particular technique, and the bread has come out fine. It just takes some time and some muscle; the mixer takes about the same time but no muscle. If you have a food processor (I don't), that works too; Clayton's recipes include instructions for all three approaches.

                                            I've never made no-knead bread. I don't see the knead. (Sorry!) And I've never used a bread machine - I'm my own bread machine, with a little help from my mixer. As far as I'm concerned, the old ways have worked fine for centuries, even millennia, and they still work fine.