The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Kneading questions

Rupert's picture

Kneading questions

From what I've read I seem to have a problem with kneading.

All dough I've kneaded so far tears as I stretch it. I read that this could mean it wants more kneading even though I've been at it for 10 to 15 minutes. I once kneaded for 30 minutes but it still tore.

I also read about the windowpane test but I've yet to have have dough that passes this - it just tears.

The poke test: Failed that also. Also when I fold it & form it into a ball the edges don't stick to each other so on the bottom of the ball it just like folded dough with seams.

All of the above has happened with each recipe I've tried: Basic white, wholemeal, sourdough etc. However I've gone ahead and baked. Most has been quite eatable, even the sourdough.

So should I just continue and ignore the dough tests or just give up? 

wayne on FLUKE's picture
wayne on FLUKE

What is the hydration level of the recipes (ratio of water to flour)?

Wetter dough is much easier to stretch without tearing also seams will definately stick if the dough is wetter..

Are you adding a lot of flour while kneading? This is a common beginner mistake. Try a bench scraper to lift and fold the dough so it doesn't have a chance to stick to your hands. When you do touch the dough, be quick and it won't stick (as much).


Rupert's picture

Just baked an excellent white loaf. Hydration is 64% but also uses olive oil plus I use oil on surface rather than flour. It still tears, fails window test. I'll get back to you with similar for others I made...

fminparis's picture

Stop worrying about the "experts" say.  If you like the bread you bake, great.  I've baked great bread for 30 years and never tested the dough. I have no idea if it would pass the window test, the poke test, or anything else.  If you don't like your bread, try using more water, or less water, more kneading, less kneading.  It will all be good to eat.  I use a Cuisinart to knead my dough.  All "experts" say to knead for 45 seconds to one minute.  I found two minutes better. Stop listening and start baking.

Rupert's picture

Having read so much on the art of baking bread in the last couple of months and found so many conflicting views I think your advice is is the best so far. Whatever I'm doing works for me so I'll stick to it.


nicodvb's picture

With the flours I use (but I'm on the other side of the ocean) I find that folding the dough is simply impossible with an hydratation rate < 70%. Tearing may happen for various reasons: underveloped gluten, too elastic dough, too much bran (rye, wholemeal) are the most common one.

If you feel that your dough is very elastic (that it resists deformations) then you should minimize folds or the dough will tear, as you have seen. You can also try to blend your flour  with a lower gluten flour to reduce this excessive elasticity.

With rye and wholemeal there's never too much kneading. 

bobku's picture

If you are kneading for 10 minutes by hand I would'nt worry about it. That should be long enough for just about any dough. I use to have a problem doing the windowpane test also until I realized I was doing it wrong, take a small piece of dough about size of a golf ball. Keep slowly flattening and stretching the dough, keeping in mind that you are trying to create a windowpane don't pull to hard or any dough will tear. Don't get to stressed out it's only dough. If you knead for 10 min your gluten developement should be fine, but if you do the windowpane test correctly I'm sure you'll see it works.

I use wild yeast starters for most of my breads  I have found great sucess with doing  stretch and folds. I find the gluten development is far superior then anything I have gotten kneading by hand. I even stretch and fold my bagel dough with no problems

Rupert's picture

I've been baking bread for almost a month now and 80% of the loaves have been real good. My last sourdough was too flat but the crumb looked as it should and it tasted great. Having never eaten sourdough bread before I wasn't sure what to expect initially but I've since tried some from a micro-bakery I found.

Seems to me that I'm getting pretty close now and just need to a little more practice to get consistent results. I got an oven thermometer today and discovered my old oven was 15 C below the dial temperature but I have a new oven coming next week anyhow. I'm now looking for a cloche/bread dome/combo thing but I find they're very expensive. Maybe a tagine...

Started a rye starter the other day which is now showing signs of life.

This bread making is quite addictive - I love a good knead. The only problem now is that I'm eating far to much bread for the good of my waistline.

Rupert's picture

Thanks for all your comments & advice. I won't be giving up any time soon. I've met the baker from Hitchin Bakehouse who was very encouraging and gave me some of his (very healthy) starter. Nick's bread is excellent and for anyone living in the area I highly recommend checking it out.
So, since last night, I'm in the process of producing a SD loaf & it's all looking good so far.

Rupert's picture

Well, it was looking good for a while there & then it didn't rise very much during the prove. To make things worse I think I overcooked it. So, mild disaster: