I have been making my own bread for a couple of months now with varied success. I am only making standard white loaves at the moment as i want to get nice and comfy with the whole process before moving on to other breads.
I have been using the River Cottage Bread book and I have been using a baking stone etc but my loaves always come out just a little dense. not unedible but not light and fluffy. I did have one nice fluffy loaf but I could not replicate it again. I have tried various little changes like using a bread peel to transport loaves rather than manhandling them thus losing some of the gas but they are still coming out the same.
Then I read that one of the causes is not kneading enough. Most recipes tell you anywhere between 8-15 mins of hand kneading should do it. I normally do about 10 mins, do the windowpane test and carry on. However, after watching various videos online I noticed 2 things: my dough has NEVER looked as light and smooth and satiny as the dough does in various videos and I wasn't doing the windowpane test right. it seems that people can stretch their dough until it resembles a latex glove - really thin. I stretch mine until i can see some light through it but that is about it.
So i decided to knead for a lot longer until I achieved these results.I kept kneading my dough until it started to change. I did the windowpane test every 5 minutes or so. It was getting better and definitely more elastic, I kept going as it still wasn't silky smooth. After an HOUR of kneading (I was so bored by this stage) it was definitely a better dough than I had had before but still not 100% smooth and elastic, I didn't have the time (or the patience) to carry on. It is now on it's final rise before going in the oven so I'll let you know how it turns out.
Surely this can't be normal but I cannot see how 8-10 mins of kneading gets those results. My kneading technique is much the same as most other peoples - gentle stretching and folding in on itself. The recipe uses Allinson Premium White Extra Strong Bread Flour (i'm in the UK) 500 grams, 5g of fast action yeast, 10g salt, 300ml lukewarm water and a glug of olive oil.
Can anyone explain where I might be going wrong? Maybe the dough was fine after 20 mins but I just couldn't see it? I saw two videos that suggested another way to check your dough to see if you have kneaded it enough - One said press your finger in and if your finger print bounces right back then it's ready. The other said press your finger in and if your print stays then it is ready!
Any advice appreciated.
I know people might think "just get a mixer" but I really enjoy the kneading and what to get it right. I also read about autolyse and that sounds as if it might help.