The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

No, seriously... is there such a thing as overkeading by hand?

  • Pin It
AbbeyP's picture

No, seriously... is there such a thing as overkeading by hand?

Hi All!

I'm new to posting on the forum but have been lurking for a while.  I found a couple of posts saying that there's no such thing as overkneading by hand (at least when going for the crustier, artisan-type breads) but, I fear that you all doubt my commitment to kneading.  I have never, and I mean NEVER gotten a good baker's pane on my dough and I have always wondered if it is because I overknead and break my gluten bonds, but I keep reading that it's only possible if you are Superwoman (or man).  I am concerned that I might actually be... I was looking at invisible jets on eBay this morning...

Here is my level of commitment:  I started this morning at 7:30am with a sourdough starter at room temp, I added my flour, salt, sweet and fat and set on to knead... kneaded for probably 20 minutes while on the phone.  Every half hour or so afterward I kneaded again for at least 10 minutes (sometimes longer).  It is now, almost 3pm and I am FINALLY getting a window-pane like structure.  I guess I'm answering my own question here, but can it REALLY take that long to sufficiently develop gluten?

I'm rising the dough now before baking, I never really did a "bulk rise" per se, figured that the 7 hours of kneading took care of that.

We'll see how it goes....

Question being, is there anything wrong with it taking me this long?

Thanks for all of the expertise!


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I really don't see the need to knead and knead and knead some more.  I suspect you must have very dry dough as you didn't mention any fluids in the dough other than the starter (details? water/flour?)  The dough does need water or other liquid to form gluten.  

I would be interested in knowing exactly the weights of your ingredients when you make up the dough and how much flour is being added with the kneading.  That would be very helpful.  Then I (we) could give you some idea as to what is going on in your kneady situation.  :)


AbbeyP's picture

No harm in increasing the bustline either ;)

Thanks for the quick reply!

AbbeyP's picture

so, I'm a bit of a rebel on this, I don't really weigh anything... I keep a fairly wet starter (it's pourable, about like pancake batter).  I used about a cup and a half of it, and added no additional water.  I just stir the salt, fat and sweet (honey in this case) to the starter and add as much flour as needed to make a slack-ish dough.  I generally try to avoid adding any flour while I'm kneading, and choose instead to work it until it from sticky to handle-able by the slap and pull kneading method.

I know, I know, it's a sin, but I feel so confined by measurements!  especially when my starter is not always the same consistency.

I just baked the loaf and I think it must have been okay to knead that long.  It wasn't rising so well after a measly half hour, and I got a little impatient thinking the long hours of kneading had exhausted my yeasties so I went ahead and baked it,  it sprung really well (meaning the yeasties had plenty more life in them), but I should have let it rise longer, as it was quite dense. I keep forgetting that a straight sourdough is slower to rise.

I think part of my kneady issue is that I'm not agressive enough once I get it to a handleable stage, I have always been afraid of tearing the gluten strings I created.  But this tims, throughout my kneading I noticed that when I was roughest, the dough would tear for a while but then come back together stronger.  Anywho, I would like to attest to the fact that, no matter how ridiculously long you knead the dough by hand, there is NO such thing as overkneading.

I've got another day off tomorrow, so I'll be trying again... this time with more Superwoman strength.  Hopefully it won't take as long. :)

tsjohnson85's picture

I generally like to knead with the slap and fold method, too, but I would never take so long to knead as you've described--and I can get a decent windopane with most doughs.  I think I do things differently in the following ways:

1. I autolyse.  Now, since you're not measuring things out, or adding additional liquids, this might go a little differently than for most other people.  If you're committed to your method, then I would suggest mixing your ingredients together (except the salt) into a rough-looking dough and let it sit for at least 30 minutes.  This will allow the extra flour to hydrate.  

2. I add the salt later in the process.  After the autolyse, incorporate the salt into the dough, either by squeezing it into the dough, perhaps with a little extra water, or by sprinkling the salt on the dough and using the fraisage technique.  (There are videos of this, including ones with Julia Child demonstrating it with pâte brisée, but really it's just using the butt of your hand to press the salt into the dough.)  Then, you can knead with the slap and fold method as you normally would.  Some might recommend kneading the dough a bit first and then adding the salt halfway through kneading.  The point, I believe, is to reserve the salt since it can hinder forming the gluten if it is added too early.  

3. If knead be (get it?) I do stretch and folds in the bowl while the dough is bulk fermenting.  I don't always do this, but if I get tired kneading, or I don't like the consistency of the dough after 10 minutes of kneading by hand I will do some stretch and folds at two or three 30 minute intervals during fermentation.  

ragreen's picture

!!! thank you!!

AbbeyP's picture

So, after a long evening of fun and frolic to take my mind off my failed loaf yesterday (didn't get much sympathy from the bartender...), I came home to read your advice and got started right away!  I set up a fairly stiff autolyse last night and put it in the fridge.  I just pulled both the refreshed starter and the autolyse and am about to run out for a while. I'm thinking that, as warm as my house stays, the starter should be pretty vigorous by the time I get back and I'll give the loaf another shot, withholding salt until I get some decent gluten formation.

Thanks again for the quick and detailed responses!


sasidhar79's picture

Hand pulled noodles are the result of over kneading the dough.

You need to let the yeast have some gluten to develop.

ragreen's picture

Have to say, I worked with a woman who was a pastry chef at the King David in Jerusalem, she told me once, using a floor mixer Hobart "Don't worry, it's pretty difficult to overknead." So, one may assume, that ain't gonna happen by hand. In a mixer, maybe. If you fall asleep. By hand? Someone will have called 911 long before. If you overknead by hand, you need to calm down, and cut back on the coffee.


AbbeyP's picture

Haha, I'll be sure to have my Liz Lemon-style life alert button at the ready. :)  Thanks for the reassurance.