The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Resting Dough During Kneading- Yes? No?

CoveredInFlour's picture

Resting Dough During Kneading- Yes? No?

Hello! :)

In the past 6 months that I've been making bread by hand, I've been having a serious problem with adding too much flour to the dough during the kneading process. I have not yet learned to properly judge stickiness versus tackiness so I tend to add more flour (with a heavy hand) to reduce or eliminate what I think is too much stickiness. That may be part of what is causing my breads to blow out on the sides, as well as not quite enough rising time. I'm new at this and hoping to learn, or die trying. :D

However, in the past 2 weeks I've started leaving the dough to rest while in the kneading stage instead of adding more flour. I remember reading somewhere that letting the dough rest at that stage allows the flour to absorb water and make the dough more "dry" and elastic without adding more flour. Some of the recipes I use recommend this step, as in "Knead for 5 minutes and let rest for 5 minutes. Knead again for 5-6 minutes until elastic and smooth.", others do not, only stating "Knead for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic."

Is it a problem to let the doughs rest during or even before kneading for 5-10 minutes with recipes that don't call for it? I don't know if affects the gluten in a negative way, but it seems to help me reduce the stickiness and not add a lot more flour that I don't need?

I know there is the autolyse method, but I don't usually have the time to let it sit in the fridge for an hour before working with it.

My other question would be, "If I can knead/rest/knead, do I alter the amount of overall kneading time?" If it says "Knead for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic", should I knead for 5 minutes, rest for 5 minutes, then knead again for 5 minutes?

Thanks for reading!

Janknitz's picture

And it doesn't always involve "letting it sit in the fridge for an hour."  Generally, it's adding most of the wet ingredients and flour (but not the salt and yeast) and letting it sit, covered, in the mixing bowl for 15 to 30 minutes right on the counter.  I just wrap some plastic around the dough hook and leave everything in place in my kitchen aid mixer.    

Do some searching here to learn more about the autolyse method before you rule it out.  

CoveredInFlour's picture

I apologize for my error in information, when I did a search for autolyse a few months ago, no hits came up as the search here was not working for me.  

Later on, I was told by a professional baker that the autolyse technique involved letting the liquid and the flour sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour. That was the information I have been basing my opinion of autolyse, I had no reason to doubt the source.

LindyD's picture

Not your fault you were grossly misinformed, CIF.

Lesson No. 8 of the TLF lessons talks about autolyse.

No idea why your baker gave the instruction to refrigerate (retard) the dough and in fact, it makes no sense since we want to assist fermentation by achieving the proper dough temperature.

Placing dough undergoing an autolyse in the cooler would really mess up the dough temp.

Getting back to  your question, don't add flour.  You can lightly oil  your hands and work surface, or lightly water them.

Look into some of the videos by Mark Sinclair of Back Home Bakery (top video tab) and watch him demonstrate the stretch and fold.

Happy baking!

Candango's picture

Without getting too technical, let us just agree that "autolyze" is the process of being a bit patient and letting the just-mixed dough sit for "a few" (that can be 10-15-20 min or more), to allow the flour to absorb more of the liquid.  You may have already added the yeast but quite often you can hold off on the salt until after this rest period and then add it.

When your baker friend noted that it was a one hour rest in the fridge, it can be, but doesn't have to be.  Your current objective, as stated, is to allow the dough to become more dry by absorbing more of the liquid.  OK. The rest period will help.  You also note that you have/had a tendency to add too much flour during the kneading period because of the stickiness.  There is another "sneaky" way around that, that works well with wet or sticky doughs.  Keep a bowl of warm water just to the side of your work area when you are kneading.  Instead of adding flour to the dough, dip your fingertips into the water and then start kneading.  You might repeat this every few minutes.  The dough will not stick to your wet fingers.  At the same time, you don't want to overdo it and add too much water, but you will quickly find a balance.  And then after the bulk fermentation period, you will find the dough less sticky and easier to work with.  Cheers,


PaddyL's picture

I often get part way through kneading, then cover the dough with a bowl and tell it to 'autolyse' itself and I will do the same for about thirty minutes.  When I come back to it, I'll pick up the rested dough and slam it down on the table a couple of times before starting to knead again.  By this time, it seldom needs much hand kneading at all.

rhodriharris's picture

Have read somewhere than the best developer of gluten in your dough is to autolase.  Apparently kneading is not the best way to develop gluten but merely helps it.  Scientifically gluten is activated or developed by the absorbtion of water and so simply wetting the flour and leaving it to absorb the water would develope the gluten.  Apparently this is why people love to autolase and why your dough is so nice and flexible after.  I autolase at room temp for ten to fifteen mins and get good results after that but i also stretch fold and knead too.

Anyone else ever heard of this about gluten development by water??? cant remember where i saw it.

In fact my sourdough starter dosent get much mixing and a day later the gluten develops into lovely long strands too!

Chuck's picture

Probably the reason your searches didn't find "autolyse" is it's so easy to misspell (for example "autolyze"). When searching for problematic words, type in every spelling you can think of separated by the vertical bar (and no spaces), like this: "autolyse|autolyze|autolase".

There are lots of ways to avoid adding much flour to the dough during kneading. A couple of the best have already been mentioned: less kneading (probably autolyse combined with stretch-and-fold), and oil rather than flour (a mister may be helpful but isn't really necessary). Another possibility is to still use flour but arrange to only use a thin layer of it - to do that I find shakers like these invaluable.

Janknitz's picture

It's all part of the learning curve.

The other thing you'll want to master as time goes on is handling wetter and stickier doughs.  It comes with time and experience and a willingness to play with hydration levels.  

No knead breads, for instance, are based on the premise that a high degree of hydration will develop gluten WITHOUT any kneading.  With practice you can learn to handle those doughs.  I found that my regular breadmaking improved a lot after I'd been playing with no kneads for a while, because I no longer felt the urge to add tons of flour just to be able to handle softer and sticker doughs.  My hands had learned what to do.  

Enjoy the learning process.  It's all fun, and you learn from failures, too.  

CoveredInFlour's picture

Thank you for all the responses!

The search didn't work due to a weird cookie error with Firefox. I'm not sure how I fixed it, but about 3 weeks later the search worked fine.

The baker I spoke with works at one of the grocery stores in my area. He bakes bread at home, so when we were talking bread, I asked about autolyse as I had no idea what it was. He said "You mix your liquid and flour, put it in the fridge for an hour to aid the absorption of the water. Take it out and let it come back to room temperature and then continue the process." I don't know how successful he is with his bread, but the loaves from the store that I sometimes buy are great. So this is why I thought it was a 1 hour or more process (I forgot about bringing it back to room temp. I have a lot to learn!)

I'm printing out this thread, I will definitely use the autolyse process when I make Clayton's "Feather Bread" this afternoon. I will also try the water/oil when kneading the dough.


Thanks again for all your help, I really appreciate all the experience that you're sharing with me - and everyone else who's reading this thread that has the same question. :)


rhodriharris's picture

congrats with the autolase, bakers put dough in the fridge to autolase a lot because they are making many types of bread and may need an hour or two to do other jobs, or at least thats what happens in the busy bakery near me. I only do short autolases so don't and get great dough from it, if anything the dough seems less sticky and very firm.

msbreadbaker's picture


It was interesting to read your reference to Bernard Clayton's recipe, "Feather Bread". It was one of my favorites for many years. However, after not making it for several years (moved on to lots of other recipe's) then going back to it, I was not able to revive the former really good bread feature that it always had before.

I am careful to follow recipes as given and the only thing changed was I started using King Arthur flour. I just couldn't figure out what to attribute the difference in taste to. I will be very interested in how you made out with it, have you made it any time before and did you really have a good turn out with it.

It always made a beautiful loaf, but for some reason, the taste changed. (Maybe it was me)

Thanks, Jean P. (VA)

CoveredInFlour's picture

I have never made it before, and I have to say while it looked good (I posted some pictures here ), I found it to be a bit too salty. It calls for 1 tbs salt, which when broken down between the two loaves seems pretty standard (1 1/2 tsp salt per loaf), but I think next time I would use 2 tsp salt instead.

As for flour, I use No Name All Purpose Bleached Flour because they discontinued the AP Unbleached Flour they used to offer (and I am *still* seething about it). Purely on cost I cannot afford to use the more expensive brands of unbleached flour. I hate it but that's what it is.


wayne on FLUKE's picture
wayne on FLUKE

This week at Albertson's (here in Florida at least).


CoveredInFlour's picture

I just finished kneading a batch of Feather Bread after letting the dough sit for 20 minutes on the counter at room temperature and I cannot believe the difference! I used only 4 cups of flour in the dough (calls for 4 to 4 1/2), and because of the absorbtion I didn't have to add any to the board. After 5 minutes of kneading it was a beautiful ball of dough with barely any sticking to the board.