The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Kneading Mystery

sdionnemoore's picture

Kneading Mystery

I'm trying an onion bread that was posted by FloydM. It calls for kneading. By hand. Ugh! So I tried. I kept adding flour. And more flour. A little at a time, granted, but it was so frustrating (and messy and sticky) and it made me want to just dump the entire 5 lbs on the dough and be done with the torture. I persevered though and finished.

I think.

My question is this, what am I looking for when I knead? Great biceps? Nice forearm toning? :) I keep hearing that you'll see a difference in the dough as you knead. That you'll feel a difference. The dough was smoother toward the end, but I wonder how much flour is too much and how do you know you've gone overboard with adding flour? 

I'm a newbie to this. Does it show?



Stephanie Brim's picture
Stephanie Brim

This makes for much less tired arms. Being 3 months pregnant, that's a good thing.

I knead for about 5 minutes before I put the salt in the dough. After this 5 minutes I let the dough rest for about 10 minutes, then I actually *knead* in the salt for about 7 minutes or until it's incorporated into the dough. This gives you, and the dough, a chance to relax and unwind

I do this with almost every bread now.

proth5's picture

If you have plenty of "elapsed time" as opposed to "work time" available, I have found the following to be a wonderful way to develop all types of doughs that require kneading.

Mix all of your ingredients -including any pre ferments and salt - (this way of developing the dough is so gentle that you must add all of the ingredients at the beginning) in a bowl with a plastic dough scraper.  Mix to a "shaggy mass."  Cover the bowl and let is rest for 30 minutes.

At intervals of thirty minutes, use the scraper to fold the dough over itself in the bowl 20 times. Use a relatively energetic stroke, but don't tear the dough. Rotate the bowl about 90 degrees after each fold.  Do this four or five times OR until you have the consistency you want.

This involves almost no physical effort, you will not be tempted to add additional flour, and the "mess" stays in the bowl and off your work surface.  Plastic dough scrapers can be purchased very inexpensively (I think one of mine cost $2.50) and are nifty multitaskers in any kitchen.  You almost certainly got into a little trouble by adding too much flour in the kneading process.

There are many other excellent ways of hand developing dough and there are many videos of them that can be found through these pages, but this one is my absolute favorite. 

Hope this helps.

Happy Baking! 

sdionnemoore's picture

I so appreciate your suggestions. Thanks. I'm pretty excited about the look of the onion bread. It really puffed up great and I did a 6 stand challah braid. I'll have to show pics when it's done.

Thanks again,


sdionnemoore's picture

I'm so excited. It might lack something in flavor (can't put my finger on it), but I'm thrilled that the braid went so well. 


I don't know how to post a pic (sorry), but I did just post it on my Website. It's on the left of the main page and a dough-before-the-oven is under Baker's Dozen, left side. 

Can someone explain how to put pictures in?



sdionnemoore's picture

Sorry. I tasted my onion bread, but felt it lacked something (as I mentioned above). Because I'm new to bread baking, how does one develop the ability to critique your bread in order to know what flavors are lacking?


I'd love to hear from anyone who has tried this bread and perhaps tweaked the recipe. To me, it is lacking something crucial. Alone it was so-so, but with butter (salted) it seemed better. So I'm thinking it lacked salt. But, no, it's not possible because the onion soup mix had salt in it. Quite a lot, I'm sure. It also seemed that the flavor held a bitter edge. I'm not far enough along in bread-know-how to analyze beyond those observations, but if anyone could offer suggestions for these undertones, I'd appreciate it.

flournwater's picture

I'm new to this bread thing so this is not "expert" advice.  But it does incorporate what I've experienced in recent months.

Flavor in my bread was a problem for me for quite a while.  My bread had nice crumb, great crust, wonderful texture, but no taste.  I found that I needed to increase the salt to about 2% bakers percentage as a start.  I then found that by adding a bit of whole wheat flour (or rye flour) to my white bread (batard/boule) at a rate of about 10% - 12% bakers percentage the flavor improved nicely.  The other thing I found was that, until my starter had about four weeks of age on it, the sour flavor I hoped for wasn't there.  I needed to brew the starter for at least four weeks to get what I wanted from it in flavor.  I also found that if I oiled the bowl in which the dough was resting for its first and second rise with a light coating of walnut oil the flavor improved, even though there was no noticeable evidence of the walnut flavor per se in the bread.

Also, on the subject of kneading, I sometimes use a method similar to the one described above where a scraper is used, but I use a stiff wide bladed spatula sprayed with non-stick spray.  I use that method more frequently for Ciabatta breads but it works well for any dough that is somewhat sticky.

DrPr's picture

I like combining the ingredients loosely in a big bowl and then transferring it all onto an unfloured breadboard.  I don't need extra flour at this point because there is plenty of loose flour in the mixture.  I knead for about 5 minutes or a bit longer (less than 10 minutes) until I am happy that everything is incorporated, then let iet the dough rest under a linen cover or under an upside-down bowl for 20 minutes.  There is an amazing difference in the dough after that 20-minute rest. It is pliable, soft and stretchy.

At this point I knead in the sea salt. Usually the dough is a bit tacky, which I like, but the salt firms it up a bit and I don't need to flour the board (I may need to lightly flour the board if the dough is sticking to the board, though).

I think experience is the best teacher. One day soon you will suddenly see what it is you are looking for and your eyes will light up like my cat's: