No Need to Knead in Bread Baking School

Six thousand years of evolution, and the technique for baking bread remains untouched: mix, knead, rise. But the age-old culinary art of transforming flour and yeast is about to go through a major transformation as some bread baking schools have removed kneading from the equation.

Time is On Your Side

The basics of bread baking just got even more basic. Your culinary training in the art of baking bread requires no additional equipment, and you won't need to roll up your sleeves. The secret ingredient? Time.

Braking Bread: The Slow Rise

Manhattan bread baker Jim Lahey explains the hallmarks of the new technique.

  • Less Yeast. By fermenting the dough very slowly, you reduce the need for yeast. A quarter teaspoon will do the trick. (Traditional culinary baking schools suggest a teaspoon.)
  • More Water. A very wet dough creates the ideal environment for fermentation. Lahey recommends a 42 percent water to flour ratio, well beyond what the conventional bread baking school recommends for a crisp crust and large crumb.
  • Quick Mix, Slow Rise. And no knead... the dough is too sticky anyway. Instead, Lahey mixes the dough in under a minute, then lets it rise for eighteen hours. After a 30-second shaping, the dough rests for another couple of hours.

Nearly a full day later, the delicately fermented loaf is finally ready for its sojourn in the oven.

The Culinary Art of Patience

So, how does it work? Bread baker Harold McGee offers the technical explanation: "The long, slow rise does over hours what kneading does in minutes: it brings the gluten molecules into side-by-side alignment... to produce a strong, elastic network."

Still, there's nothing new under the sun when it comes to bread baking. The 'new' school of no kneading returns us to the culinary arts of millennia past. The Egyptians used a hoe to mix their high-water dough. In today's culinary baking schools, you won't need to get your hands floury either.