Bread Education

Kneading Techniques

Kneading is all about modifying the flour protein to impart flexibility with enough strength to trap, yeast and bacteria generated, CO2 gas. It’s important that the protein network in the dough remain in tact so the gas doesn’t escape like a deflating balloon.

See these photos below of wheat flour protein (gluten matrix) being stretched by expansion of the dough due to gas produced.

Gluten protein strands show the three dimensional framework. This makes wheat bread unique, light and pleasant to eat.
Gluten structure showing in a mature sourdough

Generally speaking the less intense the mixing technique, the longer the bulk fermentation required to condition the protein. This modifying of flour protein requires both physical work and enzyme action in the dough.

This physical work can be achieved in many ways:

  • gentle expansion during resting (bulk fermentation) combined with stretch and folding (reminiscent of the “no knead” method requiring a long bulk fermentation & DTO (dough to oven time – which is the overall time from completion of mixing until the dough enters the oven. )
  • more intense hand mixing with slightly shorter bulk fermentation and folding.
  • mechanical mixing with machines very short fermentation & DTO.
  • very intense mixing with machines very very short fermentation.

Give it a Rest

After a period of kneading, say 5 minutes it is important to leave the dough to rest for around 5 minutes. You will notice a difference in the dough development immediately.

As the intensity increases the dough to oven time (DTO) is generally shortened because the protein has a finite time frame in which to be at it’s optimum for the oven.

Dough made with each method will have different characteristics and will yield different bread characteristics. For example:

  • Less intense mixing with longer DTO usually produces a more open crumb structure with a smaller overall bread volume. Better keeping qualities and a more complex flavour.
  • Conversely, the more intense mixing with shorter DTO achieves a finer softer crumb with a bigger overall bread volume and slightly shorter shelf life.
  • There are other more complex features that each method results that are more esoteric and I won’t go into here.

Here are a couple of videos which demo various kneading techniques.

The kneading starts at 4 mins into this video.

If the above video is a bit intimidating, here is a technique we use successfully which doesn’t require as much physical strength.

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