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How does no knead bread work?

 

How does no-knead bread work? Usually dough needs to be kneaded to get the right texture, but this article explains how it's possible to skip the hard work and let time take care of it.

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How does no knead bread work?

With no knead doughs, you can swap out the hard work of kneading for time.

When making bread doughs, kneading is usually essential to create the strands of gluten that give bread its chewy texture and airiness – so how can you skip this step?

The answer lies in the extended resting time. Allowing the dough to proof or rest for longer than usual gives the gluten time to form naturally. This slow fermentation process also creates a pleasant depth of flavour and moist tender crumb.

Here's how no knead bread works

To develop the gluten in flour, two things are needed: water and agitation. This is why all no-knead doughs are sticky and hard to handle, it’s the high water content. 

On contact with water, the flour begins to form gluten by itself, though at a much slower rate than if you were to knead it.

As the dough proves, the yeast ferments, producing gas (among other things). This creates subtle movement as the dough bubbles and rises, providing the agitation you would usually get from kneading. Like magic, the strands of gluten align, forming the network that gives bread its chew and catches the gases that make it rise.

How long does it take for no-knead dough to prove?

The time it takes for the dough to prove depends on the temperature. Generally, the dough has finished proving when it has doubled in size. The warmer it is, the faster it will prove and vice versa. 

To get technical, yeast proves between 0.5°C and 54°C. The process accelerates between 25-28°C, and the dough will double in size in about an hour. 

For consistent results every time, let the dough prove in the fridge overnight where it’s held at about 4°C. There, it will take about 12 hours to double in size.

How long can you let no-knead bread rise?

What happens if your dough has proved but you're not ready to bake yet? If your dough is rising on the counter, once it has doubled in size cover it in plastic wrap and move it to the fridge for up to 24 hours. If your dough is proving in the fridge, you can keep it in the fridge for up to 24 hours after it has doubled in size, although be careful that you don't allow the dough to prove for too long.

What happens if I prove the dough too long?

The yeast will continue to ferment and consume the starches and there won’t be anything left. It can also produce excess alcohol, making the dough bitter and giving the bread an unpleasant brewery-like flavour.

No-knead focaccia recipe

Now you know the science, it's time to get cooking. This no-knead breakfast focaccia is filled with bacon, eggs and cheese for one of the best breakfasts you've ever eaten. Click for the recipe for this Breakfast Focaccia.