On this blog, friends have asked me surprisingly several times, “I’ve heard about “No-Knead Bread”, is that for real?”!
I too was surprised being posted such a question because making bread doesn’t require “kneading”; I mean you don’t need to knead the dough for it to expand, but mixing the ingredients does require some kneading.
Anyone with bread making experience is familiar with the expanding or finishing phase of bread making process; the dough is kneaded till its surface is shinny, smooth, and elastic. A “windowpane” test is used to determine whether the dough has been properly kneaded. It entails pulling off a piece of dough and stretching it; it should not tear and be translucent.
Kneading the dough to this extensible state without a mixer is very time consuming and messy. This is why people ingrained in their head that bread making is a hard and difficult job.
But bread is the main staple for a long-long time. In the ancient time, flour grinding, bread making, and baking techniques are very crude. Just having the bread good enough to eat is already an accomplishment. Who cares about kneading the dough to the right consistency?
Therefore, all breads in the ancient time are “No Knead” breads; naturally fermented stale dough mixes with flour and water, bake it, and you have “No Knead” bread. Some bread is even made without fermented stale dough; Pita bread is such type of bread.
After centuries of bread making development, there are thousands of varieties of bread today. Among these different varieties of breads, majority of them do not need to be kneaded to the “extensible” stage. However, in Taiwan, the most popular are the extensive kneaded bread including toast and traditional sweet bread. No wonder people always have the impression of “making bread requires extensively kneaded dough”. (I usually name the bread which requires to be kneaded thoroughly to be “long gluten strand bread”, the no-knead bread to be “short gluten strand bread”)
Then, what’s difference of these two kinds of the bread? Is the more extensively kneaded dough produce softer bread, tastier bread?
None of them! For all kinds of bread, more water added produces softer bread, and less water added produces harder bread. Adding sugar, oil, eggs, milk makes the bread sweet and fragrant. Without additional ingredients produces plain flavor bread.
The main purpose of kneading bread is to make the dough to develop the gluten strand into a strong strand network which can contain the carbon dioxide bubbles during the fermentation process making the dough rise and elastic. So, to have puffy and elastic bread, like toast bread, requires thoroughly kneaded dough.
Just mixing the ingredient, “No-Knead”, produces bread that has different texture but still can be very tasty. Many of my students, after tasting bread made following the below recipe, said “I’ll just use this recipe. My kids will love this bread. This bread is easy to make and can be done without mixer.”
No knead super soft bread dough one batch
1 tablespoon fast rising yeast
900g bread flour
1 ½ teaspoons salt
60g milk powder
180g butter (melted)
1) In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients following the order. Use rolling pin to stir until the dough is soft and well blended.
2) Cover the bowl, let rise in refrigerator for 2 hour to one day. The bread tastes less sweet if the fermentation process is longer.
In the cold weather, use warm water instead of cold water, and no refrigeration is needed, or let dough rise at warm temperature before moving it to the refrigerator. If you don’t have milk powder, substitute 510g of water and milk powder with milk. If you prefer moisture taste, add 50g of water and reduce 1 egg or 50g of butter.
This dough is very wet and sticky; using the rolling pin to stir the bread dough is easier than mixing by hands. I usually place the bowl on my knees, hold with one hand, and stir with rolling pin using the other hand, just take few minutes to mix all the ingredients.
Coffee walnut twisted roll – 10 rolls
One batch of no knead super soft bread dough
1-2 teaspoons instant coffee
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons boiling water
120g of chopped walnuts
Egg water (egg + water, beaten)
Flour, for dusting
1) Divide the dough to 10 portions, about 190g per portion. The dough is very soft, refrigerating it before shaping makes it easier to handle, but you might still need some flour for dusting.
2) Shape each portion to a ball, roll out on floured board, in a rectangular shape.
3) Dissolve instant coffee and sugar in boiling water, brush on the flat dough. Spread with chopped walnuts.
4) Roll-up the bread dough.
5) Cut the roll in half along the long side, leave one side attached.
6) Twist the roll. When twisting the roll, make the cutting line visible on the top.
7) Place the roll on the baking pan, brush with egg water.
8) Let rise in warm and humid place for 50min. When poked with a finger, fully fermented dough will retain the impression for at least 5 minutes and won’t spring back.
9) Preheat the oven to 175℃ ( 347 ℉), place the roll into the hot oven on the middle rack, bake for 15-18 min.
10)Remove the roll from oven. In a small mixing bowl, stir together powder sugar and water to make frosting of spreading consistency, drizzle over warm rolls.
Christmas fruit bread - makes 6 breads
One batch of no knead super soft bread dough
450g of candied fruit and/or dried fruit and nuts
8g ground spice
Grated lemon zest, use 1 lemon
1) In a small mixing bowl, soak the chopped candied fruit in rum, covering the dish, for overnight.
2) Chop the nuts. Mix candied fruit, nuts, ground spice and lemon zest to the dough.
3) Divide the dough to 6 portions, about 400g per portion.
4) Roll each portion to ball shape.
5) Pat the dough, press down the middle and right edge of the dough, fold the right edge to the left.
6) Place the dough on the baking sheet, let rise in a warm and humid place (38℃ or 100℉, 85% humidity), about 1 hr.
7) Preheat oven to 175℃ ( 347 ℉), place the dough into the hot oven on the middle rack, bake for 20-25 min.
8) Brush liberally with melted butter and set aside to cool, sprinkle with the powdered sugar.
This is the famous Stollen bread. The shape of this bread was a symbolic shape of the baby Jesus in swaddling clothes. There are many different recipes of Stollen bread, not all Stollen bread is “No-Kead” bread.
Candied/dried fruit can be from black or white raisins, red and green dried cherries, plums, or candied orange peel. Nuts can be almond, walnut or chestnut.
Ground spice can be ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg. If you don’t like spices, you can add less or not at all.
Without the kneading process, this dough does not have the gluten strand to contain the CO2 bubble from fermentation. With enough fermenting time, the bread can be soft, but does not hold the shape. Another solution is to bake in the mold; for example, the cinnamon roll is made by slicing the rolled dough and then place in deep baking pan to bake.
The following picture shows the big coffee walnut roll, using 500g dough and bake in 1-pound loaf pan, the rising and baking time is about the same as milk toast.
By slicing the bread, you’ll notice the texture is different than the regular toast bread, there are more “holes” inside the bread, like the bread made from cake flour, because the bread dough didn’t kneaded long enough to develop the gluten strand.