No Need to Knead: How to Leaven Bread With Yeast

Other options exist to create delicious, cloud-like loaves—no kneading required. Here, we spotlight one of them: yeast.

What's better than warm, fresh, cloud-like, carb-filled comfort food? If you bake bread at home, you might use recipes that require you to knead the dough. Kneading is typically an essential part of bread-baking. It stretches the gluten in the dough, which traps gas bubbles during fermentation.

This dough-expanding process is called leavening, and it gives bread structure and a chewy, elastic texture. But kneading isn't always required to make leavening happen. Here, we explain the other ways to make dough expand and offer a recipe for using one of those methods: yeast.

What Makes Bread Rise Besides Kneading?

There are three other ways to bake bread from scratch without kneading the dough. They're called leavening agents, and they are substances that cause doughs and batters to rise via the release of gas. There are three main types: chemical agents, steam, and biological agents.

Chemical Agents

Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is a chemical agent. It's typically used to leaven cakes, muffins, quick bread, and pancakes. Baking soda is a base that produces a chemical reaction when combined with an acid (such as lemon juice, yogurt, sour cream, or buttermilk). The result is the release of carbon dioxide. And voila, the dough rises.


Steam is used to leaven baked goods like puff pastry. When the water in the dough becomes vaporized, it increases in volume and makes the dough rise. The result is airy, flaky pastry.

Biological Agents

Finally, there's yeast, which is a biological agent. That's the main method for making bread dough rise. Yeast is nothing more than a single-cell organism called Saccharomyces cerevisiae. It's technically a member of the fungi kingdom; over 500 species of yeast exist. Yeast cells are egg-shaped and are only visible with a microscope. Fun fact: it takes 20,000,000,000 yeast cells to equal one gram.

Yeast is the driving force behind bread-baking and fermentation, which is the chemical process involved in everything from beer and wine to pickles, chocolate, and kombucha.

How to Make Bread Dough Rise With Yeast

No-Knead Sandwich Bread
Victor Protasio

In our recipe for no-knead sandwich bread, the yeast is tackling the leavening process without us having to knead the dough. By mixing together our ingredients and letting them sit around at room temperature for a long, long time, the proteins are broken down so much that even the tiniest of mechanical actions can develop gluten.

Yeast needs three things to thrive: food, warmth, and moisture. In the presence of warmth and moisture, yeast converts food—sugar and starch—into carbon dioxide and alcohol through fermentation. It's the carbon dioxide that makes baked goods rise.

During the proofing process, the yeast metabolizes the simple sugars formed from the starch in our flour. It then exudes a liquid that releases carbon dioxide and ethyl alcohol into existing air bubbles in the dough.

The effect: risen bread. Translation? Basically, the yeast is creating so many air bubbles that are moving through the dough that they're able to develop the gluten without us having to knead. Science!

Get the recipe: No-Knead Sandwich Bread

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