Need to Knead?

I came across the following quote that challah bakers should find interesting.

Maggie Glezer, author of an excellent book about baking challah, revealed in an interview with Kosher Eye that she no longer kneads bread: “I mix all my ingredients together, make sure the dough is the correct consistency (add more flour or water, whatever the case might be) and put the dough in a container to ferment (rise). I don’t use the food processor or the stand mixer anymore.  I have honestly not noticed any difference in my bread when I stopped kneading the dough.  However, that is because the kneading machines available to home bakers are so awful.  When I have used professional equipment, I notice a big difference. So if our kneading machines don’t really make a difference in the quality of the bread, why bother? There is really nothing to this method; you are just skipping a step.  Any and all recipes can omit this step.  Try it!”

So, wait . . . we don’t have to knead challah . . . . we can just mix it?

Why would that be?

Here is another interesting quote, from baking guru Dan Lepard (in an article for The Guardian, 2007):

Dan Lepard says that kneading doesn’t do all that much for home bakers: “For years we used to say that it was important to knead in order to “develop the gluten”, but we now know this isn’t entirely true. . .  When dough is mixed relatively slowly by hand on a worktop, even by the most accomplished bakers, the changes that occur will be mostly due to the length of time since the water was first added, and the characteristics of and interactions between the ingredients. So you can knead the dough fast, slow, or even not at all, and end up with similar results.”

The purpose of kneading is to help align gluten molecules (glutenin and gliadin), but one of the discoveries of the artisan bread movement is that gluten molecules will unwind and align on their own, if they are provided with enough water and time to hydrate.

This will come as no surprise to many devoted fans of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, which has an excellent recipe for no-knead challah (look here and here for my posts on this recipe).

On the other hand, I have found that the ABin5 challah does not have as elastic a crumb as challah dough that has been worked a bit more, either through traditional kneading, or through the intermittent kneading/ stretch and fold technique advocated by baking guru Dan Lepard (described in the same article linked to above).

Lepard has a technique where he kneads for for a few seconds, rests ten minutes, kneads for a few seconds, rests 10 minutes, kneads for a few seconds, and the bread is done. He also likes to periodically stretch and fold the dough.

He talks about the folding technique in terms of creating larger air holes in the bread, but this technique is also about gluten development. In her book about artisan bread baking, Artisan Bread Across America (2000), Glezer explain that “turning,” or folding the dough upon itself at regularly spaced intervals during fermentation (at least 15 minutes apart) is another trick to minimize kneading. Each “turn” strengthens the dough like long kneading even though it it is just being folded once like an envelope.

Along these lines, Azelia’s Kitchen has an interesting post where she explains that she has found that stretching and folding adds more chewiness and greater springiness to her no-knead bread.

I have successfully made good challah with just the stretch and fold method as the only real working of the dough (my posts are here and here, but here is the inspiration) .

But, Glezer seems to be saying any bread recipe can work without the kneading. She is not talking about adding more liquid, or changing how long the bread rises. She is not advocating intermittent kneading or stretch and folds. Just skip the kneading, she says!

If Glezer is right, it would certainly make it easier to make challah with 5 lbs. of flour . . . .

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8 Responses to “Need to Knead?”

  1. Rivki Locker (Ordinary Blogger) Says:

    But what would I DO with all that found time if I didn’t have to knead challah???

  2. ilanadavita Says:

    If a recipe tells me to knead, I knead but usually cut down the time. Funny also that slept and rye need hardly any kneading and no rising time.

  3. Leora Says:

    I didn’t know I needed to knead my challah (I mostly mix and punch) – someone at one point told me that if you roll the braids a lot, that is equivalent to kneading. That seems to work for me.

  4. Rabbiswife Says:

    I never really knead my challah. I mix it up Thursday night, put it on top of the fridge to rise, and bake it sometime on Friday. ours always turns out wonderful (as long as I don’t burn it!). Al also stopped mixing the flour in in parts, just dump in the full 2 kilos pre-sifted to start with, then add the last bit until the dampness is correct. I can make challah in less than 20 minutes these days.

    • pragmaticattic Says:

      Wow . . . interesting. Thanks for sharing.
      A couple of questions:
      You mix the dough by hand or with a Bosch or Electrolux Magic Mill?
      Do you let the dough rise outside or inside the refrigerator?

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