The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Mixing or Kneading the dough

ndowidar's picture

Mixing or Kneading the dough

Hi everyone, 

 I'd be very grateful if someone could help me understand what I'm missing. I'm curious about what the difference is between just mixing and kneading. I recently took a bread class from a chef at great artisan bakery; The Essential Baking Co., Seattle, WA. There was so much to cover in the class I wasn't sure what we were doing when we actually did it! After the class I purchased the highly recommended Bread book by Hammelman and have since, been enjoying making bread. I guess I'm actually just doing what Hammelman says in the recipes without actually using a mixer. This is where my question really begins. In the class after we mixed the ingredients we had to pick up the dough and slap & fold it for like 10 minutes, but in Hammelman's book all that's done is mix the bread at a cetain spead for three minutes or so. So I've basically been just mixing in the bowl until I feel that the dough has changed perceptively; 2-4 minutes. I haven't kneaded the dough like we did in the class. So what am I doing wrong if anything? The bread I made actually turns out pretty good. (Everyone loves it).

 I'm very interested in making the bread correctly though. So do I have to knead the dough? How do I apply Hammelman's recipes to making bread by hand? Is there some step that after mixing I should just assume to knead the dough for 15 minutes before starting the bulk fermentation and later steps? As you can tell, I probably "can't see the forest from the trees" now.

 Thanks so much for your help!



OldWoodenSpoon's picture

but he uses a machine for most of them.  His formulas usually start with "... for 3 minutes at first speed until all the ingredients are combined".  That's mixing, whether you use a machine, a spoon, or your hands.  The goal is uniform combination of the ingredients.  He then moves on to the "... for x to y minutes at second speed", again with the machine, and tells you "medium gluten development" or a similar target.  That's the kneading step, or at least part of it, and the goal is development of the dough to a certain point.  Typically, he then will direct you to put the dough aside for bulk fermentation for a certain period of time, "with folds at x minute intervals".  That is the rest of the kneading stage, as Hammelman typically lays it out, and the goal is to complete the development of the gluten.  The stretch and fold method is a low-impact, low-stress (on both the dough and the baker) means of bringing the dough development along to completion.

The point is, really, that you must get the ingredients combined, and you must get the dough (gluten) developed, and you must get it fermented before you shape it, proof it and bake it.  What you are discovering is that there are many, many techniques and terms for how to go about this.  Some work better for certain types of doughs than others.  For example, that "slap & fold" method you were taught in your class is one of the popular ways to tame a very, very wet dough.  If you are in a production oriented commercial bakery, which is really Hammelman's point of origin, then you will (probably primarily) rely on machines because of the labor savings, consistency and timing they afford.  In your home kitchen, you get to do what you want!  You can also do it different sometimes, just to see what the other methods are like.  Just keep the objectives in mind as you do so.

There's more detail to it than this, but this is the broad brush view anyway.  I'm sure others will add more, and if you have specific questions, just ask.  There's never a shortage of free advice around TFL, and it's guaranteed to be worth what you pay for it.


ananda's picture

Hi Naeem,

I go along with most of what OWS writes above.   Hamelman writes for "Baker's" [it's a key word in the book title], and his recipes and formulae assume the use of a spiral mixer.

Yes, there are 2 stages; the first being to combine ingredients, and the second to develop gluten.   Once complete a commercial baker will frequently refer to the dough as being "mixed", and so it comes off the machine.   To me, "kneading" is part of the mixing process; it is a word I never use in the bakery.

There are, however, other ways to develop the gluten in the dough than using a mixer, and you can choose from a whole range of methods, whichever one suits you, and the product you are making, the best.

Best wishes


LindyD's picture

Hopefully you purchased the second edition of Bread, Naeem, as Mr. Hamelman discusses hand mixing, which was not done in the first edition.

He also provides diagrams, which you might find helpful in addition to the good advice already given by Andy and OWS.

The topic can be found in the index, under mixing dough, I believe.

ndowidar's picture

Hey everyone,

 Thanks so much for you help. I understand now what I was missing. I do actually have the 2nd edition of Bread, so I'll look into the mixing a little more like you recommended. I guess I just jumped in to the book! It's been a blast to try these recipes.

 Thanks again for your help.