The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Hand Mixing vs. Machine ???'s

Justkneadit's picture

Hand Mixing vs. Machine ???'s

Ok, I've been reading ever so studiously about bread baking. I mean I need to know the basics, it's the foundation to great bread. I'm a little confused though between hand mixing and machine mixing and the importance of one over the other.

I've read that mixing is one of the most important steps in bread baking, but when I usually read this it then goes into instructions on how to machine mix. So, is mixing in the machine equivalent to kneading by hand? I have a dough whisk and believe me I could attempt to mix until I'm blue in the face and fading quick but I only seem to be able to just combine the ingredients and after that I just push the lump of mass around the bowl.

Is my techniques slacking or was my assumption right? Thanks. 

suave's picture

Whisk is just for combining ingredients.  Once the dough comes together you knead.

Justkneadit's picture

I understand that part, but what I'm asking when does kneading by hand do the same as mixing in a machine?

suave's picture

Anything that household stand mixer does can be done by hand.  It's harder with some doughs, and techniques may change depending on the type of dough, but one absolutely can do without a machine.

rayel's picture

  I have often asked a similar question when mixing with a machine. When is it mixed, and has the kneading really begun? Something about the immediate feedback that hands on provide, (and results) often cuts to the chase. The machine is a great energy saver, and other times ones hands out peform it. I have a dough whisk, and have gone that rout, and understand when you say, mix till you turn blue. I love when I can get my hands into it, so many answers so quickly.


dabrownman's picture

I use the whisk is on eeg whites or cream or want to beat air into something.  If I have a very wet dough that doesn't have much whole grain in it, I use the paddle for 4 minutes until it comes together well on KA speed 2 and then switch to the dough hook  for another 8 minutes on speed 3.  A stiffer dough we start out with dough hook  on speed 2 and give it a go for 8 minutes.  This gives you some gluten development to start out with.

Then we like to let it rest for 15 minutes before doing regular kneading or sets of S&F's or French Slap and folds or some combination.  I don't think that a mixer can give you the dough you want all on its own.  We do most  bred by hand now a days because we think we get better results - it is just not as fast but I'm not a commercial baker in a hurry doing a ton of dough either.  It is more fun and way less clean up doing gluten development by hand.

Still, some very slack doughs benefit from being machine worked first and some folks are physically challenged one way or another and need the help. 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Rarely does one over-mix using hands.  (Exceptions might include high % rye doughs.)  

That is why rather specific instructions are for mixing machines.  Mechanical mixers don't turn blue, they can get hot and start to smoke, and it is usually too late, a sure sign that either the mixer is over taxed or dough too stiff, over-mixed or all three.  Mixers don't have brains directly attached.  There might be some mixers with computers but way out of the price league of home bakers.   I can see it now in 5 yrs...  

"The new home Sensor Mixer" ...mixing your doughs to the right amount of gluten integrity!  Choice of 99+ settings!  "No longer will those egg whites be up for debate!  Press "soft peaks" "medium" or "stiff peaks"  for perfectly beaten egg whites each and every time!"  "...and don't forget those valuable temperature settings!"   "Now it does more!"  "Use the East coast setting and mistify water adding valuable humidity to your home environment!"  "Shuts off automatically, connects directly to your home computer!"  "Download a recipe and instruct your mixer at the same time!"  

suave's picture

Overmixing is, for the most part, a myth.   Unless, of course, one keeps a 50-qt spiral in the garage.

davidg618's picture

During the middle year, of the last three years, I put my mixer away, and mixed, kneaded and/or stretch-and-folded doughs by hand. I did this primarily to teach my hands what successful dough felt like from initial mixing to final shaping and proofing. It was a year well spent.

In the past year I've returned to machine mixing (KA 600 Pro). For most doughs I use speed 1 or 2 only, and single digit times. I routinely mix, autolyse and a first kneading with the machine, then I perform a series of S&F's during the first hours of bulk fermentation. During every step I handle the dough: my year of hand work guiding me.

David G

Justkneadit's picture

Thanks everyone. I hand mix because I do not have a mixer. I didn't know if I was missing out on better dough if I didn't have one because I am unable to mix very well with my hands.

judsonsmith's picture

Sometimes in a commercial bakery, with breads made with the "short mix" (like some ciabatta methods) all the mixer really is an (really strong) ingredient incorporating robot. All the actual dough development happens with a long bulk fermentation and some folding. Its really not so hard for a human to fold 50k of dough in a bin. Incorporating that much in ingredients could be really rough on the body but in small batches it's a breeze, and there's no difference in quality of ingredient incorporation ( I think) in small batches between hand and mixer. So all I'm saying is what everyone esle said already- You're good to go!