Mixing and Kneading Dough
There are some basic rules to mixing dough.
Firstly, mix the yeast with water (or milk if the recipe requires it). If small amounts of sugar are required in the dough then it’s good to dissolve them in the same water too. This gives the yeast an extra kick-start.
Secondly, mix any remaining dry ingredients together such as the flours, salt or any spices. If it is a sweet dough with a lot of sugar I usually add it dry with the flour.
Finally, mix the wet and dry ingredients together in one go. This includes the yeast-water, any added oil, melted butter or eggs. The eggs can be beaten or not prior to addition. If you try to add extra wet ingredients later in the process the dough becomes slimy and very difficult to work with for a while.
Additional ingredients such as dried fruits are usually added AFTER the first rising of the dough, mostly because you want to keep them fairly intact. Subjecting them to 10 minutes of kneading will start to break them apart.
The recipes on this website always produce the dough as shown in the video. It may take a few minutes of mixing to incorporate all the flour. Be patient and persistent!
Kneading serves a few functions. It both mixes the ingredients evenly and adds strength to the final bread. Its importance lies in the mixing of flour with water. When these two ingredients are combined and kneaded, the gliadin and glutenin proteins in the flour expand and form strands of gluten. It’s these strands which give bread its texture. The kneading process warms and stretches these gluten strands, eventually creating a springy and elastic dough. If bread dough is not kneaded enough it will not be able to hold the tiny pockets of carbon dioxide gas created by the yeast. The resulting dough will collapse producing a dense loaf.
When it comes to kneading dough there are only a few hard and fast rules.
Kneading dough is an energetic process. In many of my videos you can hear me puffing when I’m kneading dough!
Kneading involves stretching, folding and turning. Beyond that it’s up to you how you achieve it. In the video I show a couple of techniques, including the traditional French bakers’ technique of slapping and rolling. This technique is especially useful for sticky doughs or doughs with a high fat content, for example Brioche.
A typical bread dough will need to be kneaded for around 10 minutes. That can seem like an eternity when you first knead dough and your arms are aching, but with experience your “kneading muscles” will strengthen.
The window pane test is a very useful guide to when the dough is properly kneaded. If you can pull the dough thin enough to almost see through it without it tearing then you’re done. For an extreme demonstration of pulling dough watch this video on stretching dough for Apple Strudel.
The last thing to say is that a well-kneaded dough is both elastic and has a certain feel to it. It’s almost silky to the touch and it behaves in a certain way in your hands. When you’ve felt it, you’ll know!