Proper kneading is crucial in bread making as it develops gluten, a protein that gives bread its structure, elasticity, and chewiness. Moreover, it evenly distributes yeast, facilitating a uniform rise.
There are various ways to knead bread, such as traditional hand kneading on a countertop, using a stand mixer with a dough hook, or a technique called autolyze, which allows water and flour to rest and hydrate before kneading.
This guide compares hand kneading with a dough hook and explains which is better.
Prepare Your Surface: Dust a clean countertop or a large cutting board with flour. This creates a non-stick surface for kneading.
Turn Out Dough: After mixing your dough (either by hand or in a mixer), turn it onto your prepared surface. It may be sticky at first, but resist adding too much extra flour. This can make the bread tough.
Begin Kneading: Push the dough away from you with the heel of your hand, then fold it back over onto itself, give it a little turn, and repeat. This action stretches the gluten and makes the dough smoother and easier to handle.
Continue Kneading: Keep kneading in this rhythmic manner. You’re aiming for dough that’s smooth, springy, and elastic. As you work, you can add a little more flour if the dough is too sticky or a bit of water if it’s too dry.
Time for Kneading: The time for kneading by hand can vary depending on the dough and your technique, but a general rule is about 10-12 minutes for most bread doughs. You’ll know you’ve kneaded enough when the dough feels smooth and bouncy, and when you press it with your finger, it should spring back slightly.
Let it Rest: Once you’re finished kneading, form the dough into a ball and let it rest. Place it in a greased bowl and cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap. This will allow the yeast to ferment, causing the dough to rise.
Kneading with a Dough Hook
Prepare the Dough: First, combine all your ingredients in the bowl of the stand mixer. Remember, the liquid ingredients are usually added first, followed by the dry ingredients, and the yeast is typically added last.
Begin Mixing: Attach the dough hook to your stand mixer, and start it on a low speed. This helps to incorporate all the ingredients without creating a mess. You want all of the flour to be absorbed into the dough.
Increase the Speed: Increase the speed to medium once the ingredients are mixed. The dough should come together and pull away from the sides of the bowl. If it’s too dry and not coming together, you can add a bit more liquid. If it’s too sticky, you can add a bit more flour.
Knead with the Dough Hook: Continue kneading with the dough hook. The motion of the hook will stretch and knead the dough, similar to hand kneading.
Time for Kneading: Kneading with a dough hook typically takes less than hand kneading, usually about 5-7 minutes. You’ll know your dough is ready when it’s smooth, elastic, and slightly tacky to the touch but not overly sticky.
Rest the Dough: Once kneaded, remove the dough from the mixer, shape it into a ball, and place it in a greased bowl; cover it with a damp cloth or plastic wrap, and let it rise until it’s doubled in size.
Dough Hook vs. Hand Kneading: Pros and Cons
Dough Hook Kneading
- It saves time and effort, as the mixer does the work
- Can handle larger amounts of dough easily
- Allows multi-tasking as you don’t have to constantly monitor the process
- Less mess as you don’t have to flour a surface or your hands
- Consistent kneading action that may yield more predictable results
- You can overwork the dough if not careful, making the bread tough
- The high upfront cost of purchasing a stand mixer if you don’t already have one
- It may not fully incorporate ingredients as effectively as hand kneading
- Harder to “feel” the dough, which can be critical in determining when it’s been kneaded enough
- Cleaning a mixer can be more challenging than simply washing your hands and a kneading surface
- It gives you a better feel for the dough, helping you know when it’s just right
- No special equipment is required, making it accessible to everyone
- It can be satisfying and therapeutic, giving a sense of connection to the baking process
- Easier to adjust the dough (add flour/water) on the fly
- Generally easier cleanup, only requiring a clean surface and your hands
- It can be physically taxing, especially for larger amounts of dough
- Takes more time than using a dough hook
- The outcome can vary more depending on your kneading technique
- It may be messier, requiring a floured surface and potentially covering hands in the dough
- It can be challenging for those with joint problems or physical limitations
Tips for Hand Kneading
Keep Your Surface and Hands Well-Floured: Starting with a well-floured surface and hands can help prevent the dough from sticking too much. However, be mindful not to add too much extra flour, which can make your bread dense.
Use the Heel of Your Hand: When kneading, push the dough away from you using the heel of your hand. This action helps stretch the gluten proteins and incorporate air into the dough, which is essential for a good rise and texture.
Fold and Turn: After pushing the dough away, fold it back onto itself and give it a quarter turn. This consistent movement helps to evenly work the dough and develop the gluten structure.
Be Patient: Kneading is a process that can’t be rushed. Take your time to knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic, usually for about 10-12 minutes. Rushing this step may result in bread that’s dense and heavy.
Know When to Stop: Over-kneading can lead to tough bread. The dough is ready when it’s smooth, springy, and slightly tacky to the touch. A good test is the “windowpane test,” where a piece of dough can be stretched thin enough to see light through without tearing.
Let it Rest: After kneading, let the dough rest and rise. This period allows the yeast to ferment the sugars in the dough, producing carbon dioxide that gives bread its rise and contributes to its flavor. The dough should be placed in a greased bowl and covered to prevent drying out.
Some high-powered blenders have a dough function that can be used to knead bread. Add your ingredients as usual, then use the blender’s dough setting to combine and knead. Be aware, though, that this method might not develop the gluten as effectively as traditional kneading methods, and it can potentially overheat if you’re not careful.
A bread maker is an appliance designed specifically for baking bread. It typically has a kneading function, allowing you to add your ingredients, set your desired program, and then does all the work of mixing, kneading, and even baking the bread for you. This is a great hands-off method, but it does require the upfront cost of purchasing the machine, and it may not give you as much control over the process as other methods.
Some food processors have a plastic dough blade that can be used for kneading. It’s a quick process that only takes about 90 seconds, and you need to be careful not to overwork the dough. This method can work well for wetter doughs that can be challenging to knead by hand.
Some recipes call for a no-knead method, which involves mixing the ingredients and then letting the dough sit for a prolonged period (usually 12-24 hours). This slow fermentation process allows the gluten to develop without kneading, and it can yield bread with a great texture and flavor. It does, however, require more time than other methods.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much is 10 minutes of hand kneading equivalent to with a dough hook?
Usually, kneading with a dough hook takes about half the time of hand kneading. So, if a recipe calls for 10 minutes of hand kneading, it will typically take about 5 minutes with a dough hook. However, this can vary depending on the specific dough and mixer.
Which recipes are best made with hand kneading?
Hand kneading is often best for doughs that require a delicate touch or a keen sense of when the dough is ‘just right.’ This can include artisan breads like baguettes, sourdough, ciabatta, or doughs that involve add-ins like seeds or dried fruit.
Which recipes are best made with a dough hook?
Dough hooks excel with heavy, dense doughs that can be tiring to knead by hand, such as whole wheat bread, bagels, or pizza dough. Also, they are great for recipes that require long kneading times or involve large amounts of dough.
What happens if you over-knead dough?
Over-kneading can result in tough and dense bread rather than light and airy. This is because over-kneading can break down the gluten structure that gives the bread its texture and can also cause the dough to become too elastic, preventing it from rising adequately.
How to know if my dough is kneaded enough?
Your dough is typically kneaded enough when it’s smooth, elastic, and slightly tacky but not sticky. A common test is the ‘windowpane test’ – take a small piece of dough and stretch it out – if it can stretch thin enough to let light through without tearing, it’s kneaded enough.
Why rest the dough after kneading?
Resting the dough after kneading allows the yeast to ferment the dough’s sugars into carbon dioxide and alcohol, which causes the dough to rise. This resting period, also known as proofing, also lets the gluten relax, making the dough easier to shape and resulting in bread with a better texture and flavor.