The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Best Kneading Surface?

fotomat1's picture

Best Kneading Surface?

Getting ready to redo a kitchen...what should the counter on the island be made of for great kneading ability? What's in YOUR Kitchen??  Wood,marble,granite,corian,formica,stainless steel or other??? Thanks

embth's picture

and it is a great surface for working dough.   I have lived with other counter tops….formica and Corian specifically.  At various work places, I have worked dough on wood and metal surfaces.   I would not trade my granite for any of them.  Have fun remodeling your kitchen.  There are so many options out there for you to consider in materials and appliances…and great ideas for cabinets with special features for efficient storage.  : )

Windischgirl's picture

I'm in no financial position to redo my kitchen, altho if I win the lottery...!

I have a wooden kneading board made by my grandfather at least 30 years ago.  I like the wood because it "catches the flour"--it's much easier to lightly dust flour on the surface and get an even coating.  Any time I've been too lazy and tried to knead on my formica counter or on my marble pastry board (because it's closer to hand than the kneading board) the flour ends up in uneven little piles and I end up with streaks of flour in the dough...and a lower quality end product.

The other reason I prefer wood is that it's temperature is more stable.  Marble, granite, formica, and stainless steel all tend to be cold to the touch.  A cold surface is desirable for making pastry, but not for bread.  Bread wants warmth!

That said--if money is not a limiting factor--you may want to consider something I saw at a home show a bunch of years ago: heated countertops.  When I asked the salesman why heated countertops would be desirable, he responded that they were for people "with too much money and not a lot of sense!"   I would disagree, since I could certainly see them being useful for baking bread, but how much bread would you have to make to justify the cost?  And if you can afford them...could you adopt me?

Good luck with your remodel!


PaddyL's picture
PaddyL an antique, enamel-topped table and I knead bread on it all the time.

Xenophon's picture

Perfect to work on, smooth, easy to clean.  And perfect if you make lots of pastry and need a cool surface for laminating doughs, quickly cooling a largish quantity of pastry cream, preparing sugar fondant....

If I had my way my kitchen would be nothing but one smooth surface (floor), stainless steel cabinets and working surface and one steel frame table with a marble slab.

bob13's picture

I do not think any one counter top material could be best for all applications.  Having said that, I have granite which is nice, durable, and easy to clean.  But for bread making I still put my 40 year old maple bread board (30" x 40" with a protrusion that rests against the front of the counter to keep it from moving around) .  It is easy to clean, nice to work on and brings back many fond memories.   It was my wives before I started to make bread myself only a few months ago.  Now I see why she liked it so much.  Plus, if it gets damaged or stained I can always make a new one without have to remodel the entire kitchen.  Good luck with your redo and enjoy your new kitchen.

DavidEF's picture

While granite looks great and seems like a natural choice, since it is mined from the Earth, it isn't all that great for food prep. A lot of people don't know that granite is somewhat porous, and therefore is usually treated with a coating when used as a countertop material. The coating is not very heat resistant, which abolishes one of the reasons people think to get granite in the first place. And I don't know (does anyone?) if it is safe for direct contact with food ingredients. Alternatively, you may like to try quartz tops, if that is an option. Quartz countertops can be made to look like granite, they are non-porous, so they don't need a coating, and they are very heat resistant. They also can be a lot less expensive than granite.

I have formica countertops in my kitchen, but I don't use them for working dough - I use my quartz stovetop.

dabrownman's picture

butcher block counter top for the island that was 2" thick and very heavy.  It was big, very cool looking and one of the reasons we bought the house.  Used it for over 20 years.   It was the near perfect bread surface but also great for chopping anything for cooking - and we do a lot of chopping..  Now we have granite on the island.  One of the most stupid things we ever did was replace that butcher block top.  The granite is about as good as wood for bread baking as a feather is compared to a 747 for human flight.   Everything glass breaks on the granite too.  I can't tell you how much glass has broken in the granite but its is only slightly behind the amount that has broken on the 'new' tile floor:-)

The one good thing about granite is that when the kitchen is hot you can put a bag of ice on it to cool the granite down when making laminated dough in the AZ summers.  Still, you learn to work with what you have and I still have the butcher block out in the garage in case Lucy nor I never ever figure out how to shape a wet dough on granite which was easy as pie on wood.  It just slides without pulling tight.

The remodeling guys really wanted that butcher block and were disappointed when it only got as far as the garage.

Maybe not so odd, the slightly textured Formica (really Wilson Art) counter tops we used to have were also much better for making bread too.   Granite is at least 3rd place in our book.

loafgeek's picture

Sounds exciting. I need to redo my countertops.

kensbread01's picture

but we use a portable wooden bread board  (similar to what bob13 uses).  The sell these on Amazon for about $50 but we managed to find the same thing in our Ikea store for only $10.  Used it to make bread, pastry, pizza, etc.  I now prefer this because it is easy to remove and I don't have to scrub the flour off the granite counter-top.  When I am done, the clean up time is cut in half. 

here is the link..

WE place the protruded edge face down so it clips to the front of the countertop.  This keeps it from sliding around.  Then when you want to use as a chopping block, flip it back over.   Cleans up fast and easy.

DavidEF's picture

mrh0726, that stuff is beautiful! I just looked it up in Google Images. If my kitchen happened to have that, I would probably not worry about it either. I eat lots of questionable junk already, so why be picky? However, some people DO care about what chemicals may be on their food prep surfaces, so I mentioned it, just for those people. Given the choice, I'd stick with quartz, but I wouldn't complain if granite were my lot.

pmccool's picture

would have to be maple or beech countertops.  There's nothing quite like wood in terms of texture or thermal properties for working bread dough.

That said, I very much enjoy the soapstone countertops we had put in a few years back.  No sealer, no porosity, no staining, no melting under a hot pan.  Yes, they can suck a lot of heat out of a dough, so they work better with pastry than with bread dough, but I've learned how to deal with that characteristic.

We had Formica countertops for years and they worked pretty well with bread dough, too, so one doesn't have to spend top dollar just to have a workable kitchen.  About the only thing I would absolutely, positively rule out is any kind of tile or stone that has grout joints.  That's just too much work for cleanup for my tastes.