Kneading is the process of developing dough into a smooth, elastic ball. When flour is mixed with liquid, GLUTEN strands are formed. Kneading develops the gluten by making it stronger and more elastic for better volume and gas retention. Well-developed gluten allows the yeasted dough to stretch and expand as it rises. Proper kneading also produces a finer grain or texture in breads. Kneading can be done by hand or by a stand mixer, food processor or bread machine.
Kneading by hand takes about 7 minutes, sometimes more or less depending on your recipe and how you knead the dough. Make sure the height of your kneading board is comfortable for you. Sprinkle a small amount of the remaining recipe flour onto you kneading board or surface.
Place the dough onto your floured kneading board, turning it over several times to make it easier to handle. You can let your dough rest for 5 minutes or so at this time – just put a bowl over the dough so it doesn’t dry out. Resting the dough will relax it, making it easier to work with. Using curved fingers, fold the dough in half toward you. Then, with the heel of your hand, push the dough down and away from you, firmly but lightly, in a rolling motion. Give the dough a quarter turn. Repeat folding, pushing, and turning steps, adding only enough flour every few turns to keep the dough from sticking to your hands and to the kneading board. Continue kneading until the dough is smooth on the outside, springs back when pressed on with your fingers and is no longer sticky. See section below for a test to determine when your dough is kneaded enough.
Please refer to the photos below for tips on kneading your dough. Click on the image for a larger view.
Place dough on a floured surface.
Using curved fingers, fold dough in half towards you.
With the heel of your hand, push the dough down and away from you, firmly but lightly, in a rolling motion.
Continue kneading until the dough is smooth on the outside, springs back when pressed on with your fingers and is no longer sticky.
KNOW YOUR DOUGH! Learn how to recognize the condition of your dough. The ratio of flour and liquid is critical in any bread recipe. Dry, stiff doughs and wet, sticky doughs do not rise well.
Specialty flour doughs (like whole wheat or rye) require less kneading – 5 minutes is usually sufficient. Because there is less gluten, overkneading increases stickiness and makes doughs more difficult to handle. Kneaded specialty flour doughs will not look as smooth as doughs made with white flour.
A Test to Determine if your Dough is Kneaded Enough
The GLUTEN WINDOW:
It is important to know when your dough has been adequately kneaded. After the first few turns in kneading, tear off a walnut-size ball of dough. Using both hands, hold the dough between your thumbs and forefingers and stretch it – much like stretching a balloon before blowing it up. At this time, the dough will probably tear easily. Add the dough piece back to the large dough ball and continue kneading. Repeat this process every couple of minutes. If the dough is kneaded enough, it will not tear easily and a translucent membrane will be visible. This is known as a gluten window. See pictures below. Click on the images to get a larger view.