The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Can't get my kneading right

Danthomir's picture

Can't get my kneading right

Hi there! I've been lurking the forums for a while and now I like a ask something if I may.

I never seem to get my dough developed right before it falls apart.

I'm using
- German type 1050 flower (supposed to have a high level of proteins)
- 68% water
- 1,5% salt
- 1% sugar

I mix it in my mixer (Kenwood kMix) for about 2 minutes on speed 0.5 until everything is combined well. The dough is lumpy an coarse. Then I speed it up to speed 1.5 and check up on the dough every 2 minutes. I notice the dough is getting more smooth and elastic, but it keeps being "short" and tearing easily.

Then, after about 7-10 minutes, more kneading seems to reverse the process. It gets less elastic, rips even more easily when performing a windowpane test and is far too sticky. When I try to form it into a ball (which is nearly impossible due to the stickiness) the skin rips and tears into a zig-zag pattern.

So I guess I overdid it. But how is it possible to over-knead it when it seems it was nowhere near the point of being kneaded enough? Ive seen countless of videos where people show an easy to handle smooth dough with a silky shine to it, where mine is always a dull looking ball of ill-behaving goo.

I did some experiments with a little more hydration and I already lowered the salt from 2% to 1.5% to have less tightening effect on the gluten. Didn't work. I tried once to just keep on mixing but after 25 minutes it was still horrible.

Any tips?



cranbo's picture

Type 1050 german flour is considered a high-gluten flour. High-gluten flour is generally harder to knead. 

I don't think you overkneaded it, I bet it's still underkneaded. I don't know how many RPM speed 1.5 is on a Kenwood. On my Kitchenaid at manufacturer's highest recommended speed (speed #2) it took close to 14 min to get the right level of gluten development, and still it could've gone longer. You can watch a video of the results here: I have yet to see a video where totally overkneaded dough disintegrates and turns watery. 

I now run at speed #4 for up to 10 minutes; in small dough batches, it doesn't cause a problem, and I monitor every 30 seconds or so after 5 minutes to see how well it's doing. 

Some other ideas: incorporate an autolyse before kneading, or incorporate some stretch & folds with 30-60 minute rests in between after kneading. Both should help get the dough development level that you want. 


pongze's picture

Are you using the dough hook or paddle attachment?  Are you using any leavening?

A suggestion, since you're using a pretty high hydration... just let it sit and do stretch and folds.  Join the no-knead revolution!  You may be amazed at how well it works.  It just takes time.

Fatmat's picture

I revert to hand mixing whenever I change flours, just to get a feel for how it does it's 'thing'. 

lazybaker's picture

I'm sure you developed enough gluten with the amount of mixing in that time. You just need the dough to relax for 10 minutes to 30 minutes in order to stretch the dough. You can't really stretch the dough immediately after mixing or kneading it. 

FlourChild's picture

lazybaker may be on to something.  Perhaps your flour has loads of gluten-forming protein but isn't very extensible- i.e., it doesn't extend or stretch easily so it is difficult to windowpane.  Replacing some of that machine kneading with an autolyse and stretch/folds should help improve extensibility.  

How does the final bread turn out?  Are there signs of under-kneading, such as a flat shape and dense crumb?

cranbo's picture

Yes i agree lazybaker is on the right track. In Bakewise by Shirley Corriher she talks about how gluten in different flours can have different levels of glutenin and gliadin: more of the former, you get a tighter, more elastic dough; more of the latter, you get a more extensible dough. 

She continues to explain a lot of this has to do with the wheat that is used to make the flour; varieties and growing conditions impact which way the gluten balance tips. 

barryvabeach's picture

I don't know what your recipe calls for in terms of mixing, but Hamelman suggests deliberately under mixing, and then letting it sit 50 minutes and then doing a stretch and fold to build up strength.  Go to about minutes 3:30 on this video, and you can see what he thinks is slightly undermixed




Danthomir's picture

Thanks for the replies everyone, much appreciated! I'm definitely going to try being more patient tomorrow when I'm going to give it another try. I'll try the resting and folding techniques and let you know how it worked out.

The strength / elasticity thing makes sense. The dough rises more than double during the first and second rise. Then, after I shaped it, it refuses to rise much further. Barely double after a few hours, no oven spring. It does get big blisters on top, which deflate after a while. Those blisters are beautifully transparent, though! After baked the crumb feels wet and gummy/rubbery. Could it be that my dough is too strong? While I'm under the assumption that it isn't strong enough all these time? I will try and give the dough more time to see if it makes it more elastic.

@Cranbo: are you saying that a high protein flower needs more kneading time (or rotations) to fully develop, or are you saying that each rotation needs more energy / is tougher to do? I always thought that more proteins = shorter mix to get it right... I might be wrong there..

@pongze: I'm using the dough hook. Never really tried the paddle for bread dough.
And I knew I forgot something, it was the yeast! I used 1% dry yeast. The active kind, which doesn't need proofing.

A general question about the stretch-and-fold: I notice in the videos that there is not yet any cell structure in the dough when he pulls it out of the box. When I tried the stretch-and-fold in the past I had the feeling that I destroyed what I wanted: the already formed 'bread'. Is it bad to tear up a risen dough? Deflate it first? Or should I use lest yeast, or add it later to do the stretches while no cell structure has formed yet?

Again, thank you very much for your help!

cranbo's picture

Why are you doing a 2nd rise? The dough may move little because after the 2nd rise it's probably overproofed. Try just one rise, then shape. Really no need for a 2nd rise before shaping. 

Also, unless you're working with a really wet dough (like ciabatta), 1st rise should no more than double. The same goes for final proof (after shaping): almost but not quite double is what you are going for. (Ciabatta and other wet, goopy doughs are the exception: the 1st rise should triple in these loaves to create the right texture.)

Re kneading, I'm saying both: higher gluten means longer kneading time, especially because it's harder to knead. 

More importantly, incorporating a rest period (autolyse) when using high gluten flour enables the dough and proteins to hydrate and become more extensible, thereby reducing kneading time and tightness.


Danthomir's picture
cranbo's picture

That looks like very good dough development

Danthomir's picture

So it took 10 hours, but here is the result:
Unfortunately, I forgot to grease the pans, so the crust is a bit damaged. Also, they seem a bit underbaked, though the probe said they reached 90C/194F on the inside. Anyhow, I'm very happy with the result. You guys are awesome!

This time:
100% German 850 flower (I ran out of the 1050)
68% water
1.5% salt1% sugar
1% butter
0.2% yeast

Mixed the flower, water (held 50 grams back) and yeast and let it autolyse for 45 minutes. The dough was extensible and smooth after this.Dissolved the salt and sugar in the remaining water and mixed in the dough with the butter until combined. This destroyed some of the gluten apparently.
Mixed 4 minutes on speed 2 until the dough was smooth again.
Let it rise for 2 hours with sets of 4 folds every 30 minutes. I took the picture in the previous post just before the second set of folds. The dough was extensible, strong but not very elastic. No fold at the end of the 2 hours, instead a rough preshape and another 30 minutes rest.
Then I shaped and tinned.
Proofing took very very long, while its 26C/79F in my kitchen, about 5 hours. I think they could have been proofed a little longer, but I ran out of time.
Baked 10 minutes at 220C/428F and then 30 minutes at 160C/320F. (in retrospect, this might be a little low). As you can see there was some decent oven spring!

Now, until these I never baked anything short of Dwarf Bread. These loafs are easily double the size I got until now! I haven't tasted them yet, they are still on the rack cooling.

@Cranbo: No reason really, I always thought a second rise was the way to go.
About the double size: I always wonder what people mean by that. Double the volume or double the dimensions? While proofing they tripled in height, and maybe doubled in volume...

I'm going to give it another try tomorrow and see if I can perfect this formula. Thanks everyone for the advise! Tips are still welcome :)




cranbo's picture

Nice to hear that it's going well!

Doubling should be double in volume. When doing bulk fermentation, best to do so in a transparent tub (like a Cambro 4qt), so you can use a grease pencil or tape, and you can tell exactly when your dough has just about doubled in volume. After shaping, it's much harder to tell when dough has doubled in volume. For most pan loaves that are scaled correctly for their pan, this means about 1" above the side of the pan. 

How is the crumb? So how did it taste?

Danthomir's picture

The crumb was perfect for a sandwich bread, a bit chewy on the crust and soft on the inside.

The taste? Well, I skipped the dinner I had planned and ate buttered bread with soup!