The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Kneading Question

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JenT's picture
JenT

Kneading Question

I've just been watching some online videos of kneading by hand and I think I may have been doing it incorrectly all this time.  I've got the basic premise down but in all the videos the baker seems to be going much faster than I ever do.  I do a VERY SLOW push away, fold over, 1/4 turn method.  In the videos, they are moving much faster and not pushing as far out as I do.  When I push, I push with one hand and hold the bottom of the dough back with my other hand.  Any thoughts on this?

browndog's picture
browndog

as long as your dough ends up rising and baking well, you aren't likely to be doing anything wrong. There's no reason to knead meditatively unless you want to, and you don't have to worry the dough on fast-forward either. I think people who handle dough a lot just get faster because they do it so much...remember how slow you drove the first week you had your license? But you got over that... The point is to develop gluten and get yourself a nice smooth springy alive-feeling dough, and push-fold-turn is a time-honored way to do it. Then there's the 800 slaps on the bench method, the mixer method, the stretch-and-fold method, the no-knead-at-all method---whatever works for you and produces bread you're happy to eat will be the right way! Do go to Floyd's lessons while you're here.

andrew_l's picture
andrew_l

I do agree with browndog!! Over the years I've tried firm kneading and "knocking back" where all the air is knocked out of the dough(Elizabeth David), firm slapping and stretching (Bertinet), no kneading as such but regular folding at 10 minute intervals for the first half hour then hourly folds (Lepard), no kneading at all (Dunaway, NYT) with one fold at shaping - they all produce good breads but seem to require different baking methods.
 For example, I can't make a free form loaf using the NYT method, but the Lepard method forms an excellent surface tension. I can't get "holes" in the loaf using the firm knocking back, but it makes an excellent tin baked sandwich loaf. All methods produce fine flavoured bread - I conclude that there is no such thing as one "Right Way"!!! Andrew

JenT's picture
JenT

Hmmm. . .thanks guys.  My bread is rising and tasting okay (definitely room for improvement, though) but I still don't know that I've ever had that "Aha" moment when you've kneaded enough and the dough is "alive and springy."  I wondered if it was my kneading method.  I have been reading Floyd's lessons and plan on experimenting this weekend so I'll let you know how it goes.

browndog's picture
browndog

let me add that while slo-o-ow kneading in itself isn't 'wrong', if you don't do it  a) long enough or b) with compensating fermentation periods or folds, you might not be getting a good enough gluten development. Also depends somewhat on what type of bread you're making-- predominately white dough of what I would call 'normal' hydration is going to bounce back at you a lot sooner and have a different feel than a whole wheat or rye bread, then of course start adding other stuff like oatmeal (sticky) or potato (velvety)--but unless you are boldly going into the higher-hydration doughs, kneading straight dough you should definitely get to a noticeable springy feel if you keep at it long enough, usually 10 minutes or fewer  for me but might be 15 or more for you with the laid-back approach. Just don't knead 'by the clock'  and you'll get there.

BROTKUNST's picture
BROTKUNST

.. the simple Autolyse step in between your kneading. I'd expect that you would experience a small 'Aha' effect when you see what happened to your dough in 20 minutes. 

Also, I assume you weigh your ingredients and you fine-tune the precise portions by 'feeling'. Keep notes what you did and how the dough felt ... the next time you prepare a dough with the same ingredients you could make slight adjustments and compare the outcome to your earlier notes.

 You mentioned the 'room for improvement' ... if you could describe this with some more detail what you felt your bread was missing , then you may get some more pointy feedback, I hope.

 

BROTKUNST

JenT's picture
JenT

Thanks, Brontkust.  I do weigh my ingredients and have begun getting the hang of adding "by feel" rather than sticking to the strict measurements.  I need to read up more on the Autolyse step as I was not familiar with it until discovering this site.

Are we allowed to post links here?  I am a member of another board where I posted some pictures and my comments on a few recent loaves that might give you indications of how I'm doing.  Of course, you'd have to wade through my initial questions and comments so I don't know if you'd be interested. 

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

Gosh! This thread could so easily have been written by me. I'm so glad I found it and I'm here to tell you that misery does love company! :D

It's a relief to know, I'm not the only remedial bread builder on the face of the earth - a narcissitic ideation for certain...but I was halfway afraid I was the only one who couldn't sence or feel the AHA when the dough is ready!

Thanks to all of you for asking and answering these difficult questions!

I have one more question to add to this re: the window pane test and bounce back. I built one of Mary Glezer's bread recipes. Sorry to say I can't find the recipe anymore or I would post it. But I went through the autolyze period of 45 minutes then tucked into kneading for the first time to see if I could "feel" it better now that I was progressing slightly with the stretch and fold (which has a ring to it kinda like the "twist and shout" method).

I kneaded with the fold, press away, turn, fold, press away, turn for about 15 minutes the first time, then let it rest and came back and kneaded some more, let it rest, then came back and kneaded some more. The dough was almost like a rubber ball it was so bouncy! And it wasn't dry. It was still mildly tacky-ish...so I don't think I over added flour...But I couldn't get a window pane. Maybe my definition is wrong...I thought when doing a window pane test that the dough texture should be very "homogenous" almost like "chewing gum" for lack of a better term. (i.e. When you first start chewing bubble gum and try to blow a bubble, the bubble is brittle and breaks because there is still too much sugar in the gum and the full elasticity isn't activated. The gum texture appears grainy and striated. But when you chew for awhile and the gum is fully worked then the texture is smooth and satiny...and homogenous.)

Is that the texture we should be looking for with the window pane test or should the dough still have a certain graininess in it but be able to be gently coaxed into a windowpane?

TIA!

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

is my favorite method to use, even with whole grains. If you find your dough being very stiff, rubber ballish..put it back in the bowl, cover it up and let it sit for 15-20 minutes, knead it just a bit and try the window pane again. 

BROTKUNST's picture
BROTKUNST

Jen, the 'feel' is good and necessary, however when you add flour I think it's good practice to keep track of  the  adjustments. This is easily done  when you set aside  let's say 2 oz (50g) of flour and add what you feel is needed. When done, weigh what is left and the balance is what you added. Change the formula accordingly and you'll save some time in the next round ...Make also a note what kind of flour and Brand you used. (plus the date/season and room temperature)

 

Don't be easily intimidated by wetter doughs (I don't say you are) ... M. Glezer describes a nice technique in her Artisan Baking (across America) book that -amazingly to me- indeed works like a charm. An definite upgrade to some 'push and shove' I've seen me practicing at the beginning. 'Folding' is another magic tool as you will read abour in many sources.

Adjustments by 'feel' tend sometimes to be too hasty because one wants to get it 'right' just in that moment. Aimful patience is at times the most important ingredient.

 

BROTKUNST 

Cooky's picture
Cooky

Being still in the figuring-it-out-as-I-go-along phase, I have similar erratic results with kneading. My solution so far is to basically give up on kneading lean breads, and use stretch and fold almost exclulsively.

I quickly learned (from this site!) that it works like magic for wet-wet doughs, but Mike Avery's videos (http://www.sourdoughhome.com/stretchandfold.html) were my big breakthrough on using stretch/fold for stiffer doughs as well. I even used it recenntly on whole wheat loaves that came out with a beautiful crumb, even though I only 'kneaded' it for about five minutes.

I have better luck kneading rich doughs, like challah, which respond beautifully to the technique you describe, whether fast or slow (as dictated by my mood on baking day). Those are much easier to handle, and get to windowpane stage right on schedule.

 

 

 

"I am not a cook. But I am sorta cooky."