The theory of “no-knead” bread

I must admit, I have always favoured kneading dough, but it doesn’t suit everybody...


Getting the work out of the way and letting the dough rest up unattended works for me. But lately I have been experimenting with “no knead” breads and here’s the latest.

We knead the dough to develop the gluten in it, and it’s the gluten that gives our dough the strength and structure it needs to contain all the gas produced by the yeast. That’s why the kneading stage is so important.

But, there is something else that develops gluten too. Time. That’s right! The gluten is developing even further in the dough while it’s resting, and you are doing nothing. Bonus! 

That’s why “no knead” recipes are often long, with lengthy resting periods allowing the time and the moisture to develop the gluten so you don’t have to. However, in the past I have never found that leaving the dough alone with zero work actually does the job as well as kneading would have. And so, I feel we must do something physical along the way.

Folding. Giving the dough a stretch and a fold at intervals during the resting period helps to develop the gluten in a more uniform manner. Therefore creating the all-important structure

So then, if your reason for not kneading is to remove the “faff” you are introducing a new ”faff” which may well be much faffier than kneading in the first place.

That’s up to you. But if you struggle with kneading for whatever reason, then this could be just what you need. 

Here’s what I did to a standard bread dough recipe, to make it “no knead”.

firstly, I made the dough a little wetter, so it would be looser, and therefore easier to stretch and fold during the resting period.

Secondly, I extended the first rest from one hour to two hours.

then, every thirty minutes during the 2 hour resting time I did a stretch and fold. Picking up the dough by the edge with thumb and fingers, stretching it up and out of the bowl and folding it over the top. Then, turning the bowl 90 degrees I did the same. Four sides, four folds. 

That folding and resting stage combined replaced the kneading and resting stage. So after, I shaped the dough as normal. Proved it up, and baked it. 

You can decide for yourself if that’s more, or less of a faff than kneading. But for those of you who struggle with the work then I think you’ll be pretty chuffed with the result... Here is how it came out, beautifully aerated, light and fluffy.


So, after having a play around with “no-knead” techniques I must admit I do feel somewhat converted. The most important part of it is that, yet again, it’s another tactic to be able to fit bread making into your schedule. If I need to make bread and I’ve got time to knead it well I will, but then again sometimes with the kids around it’s a little easier to be able to pop back into the kitchen, fold the dough, and go back to what we were doing.

And there you have it, give it a try and let me know what you prefer.