Knead to Perfection

Once you have the basic rough dough formed, it is time to work the dough until it is smooth and elastic. Using the three options we had for forming the rough dough (mixer with stand), hand mixer with bowl, and by hand, we will discuss this most vital of stages in the bread making process.

The aim of kneading is to develop the gluten in the dough until until the dough is smooth and stretchy. If you pinch a piece of the dough between your thumb and forefinger and pull, it should stretch for at least 3 or 4 centimetres or more.

Mixer with stand is the easiest and cleanest. Leave the mixer working the dough with dough hooks on a medium setting for 5 to ten minutes until the dough is smooth and stretchy as described above.

Using a Hand mixer is the next easiest method. Increase the speed slightly and work the dough hooks back and forth through the dough until it becomes smooth. Initially you may find that the hooks do not manage to pull the dough through because there is not enough gluten developed. However after a minute or two the gluten will start forming and pulling the rest through the hooks. At this stage you can start working the mixer back and forth until a ball is formed which will continually pull itself through. Continue until the dough is smooth and stretchy as described above.

Kneading by Hand is the last and most satisfying method of preparing the dough. This method does expose the hands to flour which can sensitive the skin, so be careful not to work dough if your hands are not at their best. Put some light vegetable oil such as sunflower oil over the work surface, put the rough dough on the edge of the work surface nearest you, and start pushing the dough away from you with the heel of one hand whilst holding it near the edge of the work surface with the other hand. Fold the dough back towards you, rotate it slightly and push away again. Get into a rhythm, possibly alternating the hand you are using to hold it with the one doing the pushing. Continue until the dough is smooth and stretchy as described above.

Now the next stage is to Prove the Dough.