Kneading is the process of developing dough into a smooth, elastic ball. It can be an intimidating task, particularly for those who are new to baking. However, once you learn the basic techniques, it becomes a simple and satisfying process that results in delicious, freshly baked bread. Kneading dough is an essential step in bread-making, as it helps develop the gluten strands that give bread its structure and texture. While it is possible to use a breadmaker or stand mixer, it is remarkable to do it by hand. Not only does it give you a greater connection to the baking process, but it also allows you to feel the dough and make adjustments as needed. In this guide, we will take you through the steps of kneading bread dough by hand and provide tips for achieving perfect results every time.
If you don’t have a bread machine, you can knead by hand or in a stand mixer.
Knead the dough until smooth and soft
When you mix flour with liquid, it creates a substance called gluten. If the gluten is well-developed, it helps the dough expand when it rises. Kneading the dough properly also makes the bread have a better texture. Knead the dough for 8 to 10 minutes until it feels smooth, stretchy, and slightly sticky.
How to knead bread dough by hand
- Prep your work surface. Add a little flour to your kneading area, so the dough does not stick.
- Scrape your dough out of the bowl onto the work surface. Add a little flour on top. Your dough should be slightly sticky to work with.
- Knead the dough with authority. Press down on the dough with the heels of your hands. Then grab the back end and fold over towards your body. And press into the dough again with the heels of your hands.
- Give the dough a quarter turn and repeat step three. Add flour to the dough if the dough is sticky.
- Press and turn your dough several times, adding flour as needed. Repeat until the dough is smooth and elastic.
What happens if the dough is not kneaded enough?
The dough will lack strength if you don’t knead it enough by hand or in your mixer. This means that the dough might fall back onto itself and collapse because of the gases produced by the yeast escape. This will make your baked bread look flat and dense. Make sure you knead your dough enough to ensure it has the strength needed to rise and become fluffy.
How do you know if the dough is smooth or elastic?
Some bakers use the “windowpane test” to check whether the dough is kneaded well. This means you stretch the dough thin enough to see through it. If the dough is kneaded well, it will be see-through like a veil, stretchy, bouncy, and elastic.
- If it quickly springs back when gently pressed, it’s been kneaded enough and is ready to rise.
- It needs more kneading if it doesn’t bounce back or tears when pulled.
If the dough has not been kneaded enough, it won’t easily form into a ball shape. It won’t come together as gluten molecules have not developed yet, and the dough flops and tears. It has yet to come together and requires more kneading.
How do you know if the dough is overworked?
A well-kneaded dough will be stretchy, elastic, and bounce back when poked. If the dough feels very dense and tough when you knead it against the counter, that is a sign that it is starting to become over-kneaded. It won’t be easy to flatten the dough out and fold it over itself in a typical kneading pattern.
An overworked dough can happen when using a stand mixer. The dough will feel “tight” and tough, as the gluten molecules have become damaged, meaning it will not stretch, only break when you try to pull or roll it.
The over-kneaded dough cannot be fixed and will result in a rock-hard loaf, so be careful to avoid this mistake.
Tips for kneading whole wheat bread dough by hand
Whole wheat bread needs more kneading than regular bread to make it smoother. This is because wheat bran makes it harder for the bread to rise. You should ensure the dough is smooth and stretchy when kneading it. When it comes to rising, watch how the dough grows rather than measuring time.
A trick to baking whole wheat bread is to add Vital Wheat Gluten. This ingredient will help the bread rise better and combat the heaviness often found in whole wheat bread. It will also improve the elasticity and texture of the bread.
What if the bread machine recipe calls for nuts, fruit, or seeds?
Add fruits, nuts, chocolate chips, or seeds to your dough near the end of the kneading cycle. Add them in the last 1-2 minutes of the process.
This article is part of “How to bake awesome bread”
I hope my easy tips will give you the confidence to step into the kitchen and prepare delicious meals to eat with a handful of close friends.
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