Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Today, we'll talk about kneading your dough.

The process of kneading your bread dough develops the gluten of your flour. Well developed gluten allows your dough to stretch so that it can trap gases, hold in air bubbles, and double it's size. The time to knead is after you've added flour until the dough is soft but not excessively sticky.

There are several ways to knead.

Hand Kneading - First, get comfortable. I find it easier to knead with arms out stretched and locked elbows so that I can use my body's weight to help with the kneading. A kitchen counter can be higher then you can comfortably knead, at least if you are my height. You may wish to move to a table. Rub some vegetable oil on the table and your hands or use flour to dust the counter and hands. Now position your dough in front of you and push the heels of your hands into the dough. Fold the dough over itself, and repeat. Occasionally give your dough a quarter turn. (This sounds complicated when written down. You need to come over so I can "just do it"! Or check online for some video tutorials.) 

In a few minutes, the dough will begin to feel smooth and elastic. To test if the gluten is developed. Pull a golf ball size ball of dough between your hands. It should stretch without breaking. 

Hand kneading is something that will come by practice and experience. Start with a small amount of dough. (pizza dough is perfect) With some experience and strengthening of your arm muscles, you can knead large batches of dough. Sometimes it is easier to divide a large amount of dough in half and work with them separately. Or call in some reinforcements. One lady said that she would divide her dough in small amounts of one loaf of bread each and call all her children into the kitchen to knead for a few minutes. Children often love to knead dough. Family togetherness while providing daily bread!

Machine Kneading - If your electric mixer is equipped with a dough hook, you can knead your dough in your machine. After adding your flour, turn your machine to medium speed. Usually you will knead for about 1/2 the time of hand kneading, about 5 minutes. Just stay close to your machine. Occasionally the dough will all go to one side of the bowl and cause your machine to "walk" off your counter! I once caught my machine just as it was falling to the floor! You can check your gluten develop by stretching the dough, as mentioned above.

Bread Machine Kneading - I have no experience with bread machines but I understand that you can use them to mix and knead your bread even if you prefer to shape your dough and bake it in your oven instead of finishing it in your bread machine.

No Kneading - It isn't absolutely necessary to knead bread dough. Recently there has been an influx of books sharing techniques to make wonderful bread without kneading. Usually they are using a wetter dough (higher hydration) and often refrigerating the dough overnight to eliminate the kneading. If you want to read more check out Artisan Breads Every Day or Artisan Breads in Five Minutes a Day. 


  1. I've got an Electrolux Assistent bread kneader, but it takes some getting used to. I haven't mastered it, yet.

    A bread machine is great for a single loaf or a pan of rolls. Saves a lot of time when you are fixing a big dinner. I put the dough on an oiled counter to beat out the air and shape, then oven bake.

    Enjoying your series! ~Liz

  2. I'm a bread machine kneader and I love it. I have a used Zojirushi I bought of Ebay & at night I throw the ingredients in, select the dough cycle and set the timer for however long it will be until I plan to wake up. I can even convince myself I'm soaking the wheat a bit this way ;) When I wake up, it's beeping at me & all I have to do is roll it out, rise & bake. Fresh bread by 9am! And the quality is fantastic. Comparing it to the Kitchen Aid and the dough definitely has better gluten development (it's not as tight). I do like the workout from hand kneading, but it seemed impossible to commit myself to 10 minutes of sticky hands that aren't available for babies.


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