The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

to knead or not?

ladonohue's picture

to knead or not?

I am new to baking.  I started a few weeks ago beacause my small town started a farmers market and we didnt have any vendors so I volunteered to bake bread.  I have been using a recipe that says nothing about kneading in the instructions.  Is this because it doesnt need to be kneaded?  Its certainly edible once it comes out of the oven and people seem to like it but I want to get better results if I can.  Is it a general rule that if you knead long enough you will evenutally get a window pane? I have yet to reach this point in any recipe I have used.

Also it instructs to add all the water first and then add in the flour gradually.  All the reading I have been doing lately says to add liquid to flour.  It seems that it makes more sense to me to add flour into liquid since I have yet to use all 5 cups of flour.  Thoughts? 

  • 1 3/4 cups warm water (105°F to 110°F)
  • 1 tablespoon dry yeast
  • 3/4 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 5 cups (about) all purpose flour

Read More site is exactly what I have been looking for. I await your expert advice :) lisa
jcking's picture


Look on the home page and you wiil find "Highest Rated Stories Your First Loaf - A Primer for the New Baker". A very good place to start.


Chuck's picture

If it tastes good and looks good and people buy it and you don't get frustrated to tears in the kitchen, to @#$%! with the theory about what you "should" do. If you plan to go from non-baker to farmers'-market-baker in under a month, you may be in for a "trial by fire"; I suspect we'll see you post a new specific question every day or two for a while:-)

Fashions in breadmaking techniques have changed quite significantly fairly recently. Kneading in particular varies all over the map; it was the height of fashion in 1950  ...but not in 1750!  (Is it sometimes a good idea? that's a "religious" question -- Is it always required? NO.) The "windowpane" is debatable too. (Is significant gluten development a good idea: usually -- Does gluten always have to be developed all the way to "windowpane"? NO) Also, quite often there are lots of very different ways to reach a goal. Look at the copyright date on each book you read, and discount its advice according to how old it is.

What I usually do is mix all the "dry" ingredients in one bowl and all the "wet" ingredients in another bowl, pour them all together all at once, and stir like crazy (or even "knead") until it's all mixed. But if the recipe recommends a different procedure, I'd give the recipe the benefit of the doubt first.

Probably the number one piece of advice is to get a scale. Measuring by weight is much more accurate. People that have a "feel" for bread dough  --perhaps learned from their mother--  and make appropriate adjustments on the fly do perfectly well with the old "cups" system (despite its inaccuracies)  ...but if that description doesn't fit you, something more accurate is probably a very good idea.

Having chosen to measure by weight, you're still faced with the choice of which weight system to use: grams (metric) or ounces (U.S. or Imperial). IMHO, for scaling a recipe way up  --which you're quite likely to need to do every so often baking for a farmers' market--  the "metric" system works better.

After a while, you'll probably view recipes as "suggestions", for which you will interpret and change both ingredients and techniques quite freely, based on the experience you've gained with other loaves. But initially "sticking to the recipe" is probably prudent. (Except of course for recipe "rising times"  ...which are never more than guestimates. A couple ways it's been phrased here on TFL are "watch the dough not the clock" and "lose the clock".)



ladonohue's picture

Thanks so much for the comment. I am so glad I found this site!  Insomnia pays off again!

Im sure you will be hearing from me again.


HeidiH's picture

I'm a relative newby to bread baking having been at it only a year or so.  I started with no-knead, moved to hand-kneading, then to stand-mixer kneading, and now to stretch-and-fold.  It seems that the choice broadly is time versus manipulation to allow gluten to develop but that does not mean the results are the same for the different methods.  

I'm presently using the same method as Chuck for mixing -- mix dry in one bowl, wet in another then pour the wet into the dry and stir until everything is mixed.  Sometimes this means using my hands to mix.  Then I set it aside and go into stretch-and-fold mode at 45 minute intervals.  This works well for the kind of work I do which is home on the computer.  The timer going off for each interval gets me up to stretch my legs, let a cat in or out, etc.  This works for throwing together bread on a day-to-day basis but if I want to follow a recipe to a T, I do and if the recipe is good so is the bread!

Stick with this site and you'll learn a lot.  I certainly have.  It's easy to make bread that's better than store bought.  It's harder to be able to bend bread making to your will to get the breads you want.  The information the more expert folks here share is invaluable.