Yes, you read correctly! No knead bread! You probably did a lot of kneading this month if you were following the easy bread baking calendar. So today, we’ll be making the simplest bread ever! All you have to do is quickly mix four ingredients together and wait for the dough to work its magic! Intrigued? Skeptical? Well, let’s try this bread out together, shall we?
To make this bread, you will only need four ingredients: flour, water, yeast and salt. The dough does not contain any fat (oil, butter) and no sugar. It is considered a lean dough. The leanest types of dough generally have a hard crust. Pizza is another example of a lean dough. Some lean doughs do contain fat or sugar, but in small amounts. Rich doughs, on the other hand, contain a larger amount of fat, sugar and sometimes eggs1, such as cinnamon rolls.
No Knead Bread Dough
You might be wondering how on earth you will manage to make bread without kneading it. Let’s briefly talk about this, before making the bread. When water is added to flour, two proteins present in flour (glutenin and gliadin) will form bonds, leading to gluten formation.
What does kneading do?
Before we discuss how it’s even possible not to knead the dough, let’s see what kneading actually does. If you have ever kneaded dough, or seen someone do it, you might have noticed two movements: the dough is first stretched, then folded over. Whether you are doing it using a mixer fitted with a hook, or by hand, when you start working the dough, two things will happen2:
- The gluten chains, which are formed when water comes into contact with the flour, will start to get stretched. Note: If you overmix the dough, the gluten chains will eventually break. Think of a rubber band that you pulled too much, it will eventually snap.
- When you are folding the dough, the chains will start to overlap and align.
The gluten will become more organized and stronger. The resulting gluten network will trap in the gas formed by the yeast and the dough will start to rise.
How does the no knead method work?
After quickly combining all the ingredients together, the dough is left to rest for several hours. During this time, two main events will take place:
- Better hydration: The flour will absorb the water. And more water available to the flour proteins (glutenin and gliadin) means more gluten formation.
- Protein degradation: An enzyme (protease) in flour will start to break down protein bonds. The shorter protein chains can untangle and align more easily than longer ones.
As the yeast releases carbon dioxide, the dough will slowly start to rise and move, mimicking the effects of kneading. Proteins (which are now shorter), will find themselves closer to other proteins and will start to cross-link.
When making no knead bread dough, a large amount of water is added. The amount of water is usually at least 70% the weight of flour (so 70 g of water for every 100 g of flour). In this recipe, we’ll be making a 74% hydration dough. If you decide to use bread flour instead of all-purpose flour, you will probably need more water. This is because bread flour, which has a higher protein content than all-purpose flour, absorbs more water.
Controlling The Baguette Shape
No knead bread dough is very wet. As a result, when you shape it into a thin log to make a baguette, it will have a tendency to flatten a little after the second rise. This is perfectly normal. If, however, you’d like to have more control over the shape of your baguettes, you have a few options:
- Use a baguette pan. You simply pour the dough into the cavity and it will keep its shape whilst rising.
- Reshape the dough just before baking: You can slightly reshape the baguette after the second rise, just before putting it into the oven. You’ll have to flour your hands well and briefly work with the dough so you don’t deflate it.
- Use a kitchen towel to make a mold: Place a kitchen towel on a flat surface and roll it from both sides, leaving a gap in the middle (see pictures below). Slightly flour the towel then place your shaped baguette in the cavity and cover loosely. The shape of the dough will stay more or less the same as it is rising (pictured on the right). When it’s time to bake the bread, carefully roll the baguette out of the towel and onto the baking sheet.
Making No Knead Bread
Okay, let’s make some bread!
Prepare the dough
- In a large bowl, stir together the yeast, flour and salt using a wooden spoon.
- Add the water and mix again, just until combined. Make sure to mix in the flour which is at the bottom of the bowl.
The dough will look very dry at one point but keep stirring and it will get wet. If after a few minutes, it is still very dry, add just a little bit of water and stir again. Depending on the flour you use, you might need slightly more water.
- Using the wooden spoon, try to move all the dough away from the sides of the bowl and push it towards the center.
Texture of the no knead bread dough: This dough is wet and very sticky. You can’t shape it into a ball.
Let the dough rise
- Cover the dough (I just use cling film) and let it rise for 2-3 hours, depending on how hot it is in your house. I usually leave it for about 2 1/2 hours.
It’s ready when: The dough will double in volume and will have a lot of bubbles on the surface.
Pictured above: the dough after about an hour (left), 2 hours (middle) and 2 1/2 hours (right).
You can proceed to the next step right away. But for optimal flavor, refrigerate the dough for at least 12 hours before baking it.
Shaping no knead bread
- Lightly flour a non-stick baking sheet and set it aside.
- Transfer the dough to a floured work surface. I actually transferred the dough straight onto my baking sheet so I wouldn’t dirty two areas! But if you are worried about scratching the baking sheet, pour the dough on the work surface first to divide it, then transfer it to the baking sheet.
The dough will be very stretchy and will form long sticky strands when touched.
- Using a dough cutter (or a knife, spatula), divide the dough in two. Just eyeball it, as it will be quite hard for you to move it around to weigh it.
- Lightly flour the dough and your hands. Place the dough on the baking sheet and shape into a baguette by gently patting it on the sides to form a log.
Try to handle the dough as little as possible so you don’t deflate it.
- Lightly flour the surface of the dough again and cover loosely. Let the dough rise for 45 minutes.
Baking No Knead Bread
- Place the oven rack in the middle and preheat the oven to 240°C (464°F), conventional setting.
- Scoring the bread: If you have a very sharp knife or a bread lame, slightly dip it in water and slash the bread in a few places. For the pictures, I tried doing it with a knife initially (baguette on the right). But it wouldn’t cut properly and I was worried I would deflate the dough. So I used kitchen scissors instead which worked really well without sticking to the dough. Don’t worry too much about this step if you don’t have the right tools, just do your best. To be honest, I always skipped this step in the past. You might get more random cracks here and there but it will still taste amazing!
- If desired, sprinkle some sesame seeds or flax seeds.
- Optional: For a crispier crust, just before baking the bread, place a shallow metal or cast iron baking pan on the bottom shelf of the oven. Fill it with 1 cup of boiling water.
- Bake the bread (on the middle rack) for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown and a digital thermometer inserted in the middle registers about 93-99°C (200-210°F).
- Let the bread cool down on a wire rack, before slicing and serving.
And that’s it! This bread is seriously so easy to make and so good! I can’t wait for you to try it out!
In case you missed it, head over to the easy bread calendar to see what else we will be learning this month.
More Bread Recipes
You Might Also Like These Easy Recipes
1Gisslen, W. (2005). Professional Baking (4th ed.). Wiley.
2Suas, M. (2008). Advanced Bread and Pastry: A Professional Approach (1st ed.). Delmar Cengage Learning.