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I recently saw a recipe for no-knead bread. The process was the same except that instead of kneading, you just let the bread sit for 12 hours. The bread maker claimed that no-knead bread tastes better than kneaded bread.

Is kneading just a time saver and we would be better off letting it rise naturally over a long period of time, or is kneading better?

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    Can you give us some quantifiable measures of "better"? What outcome are you looking for in bread? – Catija May 11 '17 at 19:45
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    Might be more productive to just ask what the general differences are between two methods, presumably the no-knead method you describe, and the common knead and shorter rise method. – Cascabel May 11 '17 at 19:52
  • Would it be helpful to mention bread in the title? Or is the word kneading already obvious enough? – user110084 May 11 '17 at 20:15
  • Sorry, but I'm going to put this on hold - I agreed with Catija's concerns before, and now the answers seem to be demonstrating that those concerns were justified. They're potentially helpful, but they don't seem to be really focused on answering any particular question. I would be quite happy to reopen this if edited, though. – Cascabel May 12 '17 at 0:08
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In order for dough to bake into nice bread, you must develop a gluten structure that can trap the gas the yeast release as they feed on the flour. You can do this in several ways:

  • Mechanical action (kneading)
  • Natural fermentation through yeast

There risks to overdoing it in both cases. If you overknead, see Are there any negative effects to kneading bread dough longer?

If you overferment (overproof) the dough, the yeast will break down the gluten structure completely and you will have a saggy/gloopy mess that can't contain the escaping gas. See this post.

Many doughs can't develop a good gluten structure without at least some mechanical action, so we typically use a combination. Allowing a natural fermentation (particularly with wild yeast or starter) allows for a more flavorful, easier to digest bread as well.

  • I thought yeast does not have proteases to break down gluten, only amylases to convert starch to simple sugars. The problem I had with overproofing was that the yeast had nothing left in them to support a second proof. – user110084 May 11 '17 at 20:45
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The difference in taste would not be attributed to kneading or not kneading, it would be because of the additional time that allows for more flavor development from the flour. You could slow proof a kneaded loaf of bread to achieve the same results. As far as gluten development you can read the answer to this Question.

  • Why is the high hydration ratio necessary in your view? From experimenting, normal hydration did not work well for no-kneading. I can see how slow proofing a kneaded dough would work. – user110084 May 11 '17 at 20:49
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No-knead bread works and can be very flavourful. Instead of relying on kneading to work the gluten, you rely on self-organising by increasing the hydration ratio to around 65-70%, you have a very gloopy dough. It takes time. So, there is a real risk of over-fermenting unless you let it rise at unusually low temperature. I have tried leaving a covered dough outdoors overnight (<10C) which worked well, and also in a warm room which ended up not so well (off-flavours and dense bread). This is well worth a read NY Times article

update:

I forgot to mention low dosage of yeast

Main differences: 65-70% hydration ratio, low yeast, ferment in a cool place.

There is a bakery in Lincolnshire in northern england that uses 24 hour fermentation

  • Yes, that is the article that got me started on the question. Lahey seemed to think that the 12-hour no-knead bread tasted better than the kneaded bread. – Drisheen Colcannon May 12 '17 at 3:28
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I have found 4 factors that are most important to a good bread -

  1. water to flour ratio (hydration)
  2. temperature at which you rest it
  3. kneading of the bread
  4. how long do you rest it

The recipe you are talking about says no kneading, it is definitely possible to get good bread without kneading but then the other 3 factors become really important.

You have a risk of gloopy dough will might lead to over fermentation and under cooked bread. 12hrs should be a good enough time but you have to make sure you dont use too much water and also make sure the place where you rest the bread is cold enough otherwise you will get dense and funky tasting bread.

Hope this helps! Cheers

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