The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Most Efficient Kneading Techniques

DanAyo's picture

Most Efficient Kneading Techniques

There are so many ways to knead dough. Slap, stretch, fold, pull, roll, and the such. It seems that the gluten is most efficiently formed by some kind of stretching.   

Since I’ve been kneading my starter (dough) twice a day, I’ve had plenty of short practices. 

If stretching is the most efficient way to develop gluten. I thought that rolling the dough out, as you would a very long baguette and then folding that “rope” in half, then half again, until the length was shortened as much as possible. Then roll out the dough again and repeat the above.

What are your thoughts on the best way to develop gluten?


Oh, I like the Rubaud Method for wet dough. How do you handle wet dough?

trailrunner's picture

I am going backwards as far as touching the dough. I have reverted to the almost no knead method. I watched a Rubaud video to find out what his method  is about. I have found that I can mix everything....flours, liquids and levain and salt and get it all wet and then just go away. I come back and it is beautiful. Pull it up and over itself as Rubaud and Trevor do a few times and some gentle stretch and folds and  is ready to bulk ferment and shape and retard.  Very little actual hands on and letting the ingredients work for you. 

Bread1965's picture

I think the old school perception I have of bakers kneading their dough on a bench to work up gluten has been left behind with the whole artisan bread making "movement".. Everything from true no-knead, to Tartine, to FWSY methods have made this very much about letting the ingredients benefit from time over the baker's hand..

I too like the Rubaud method and have used it on very wet dough's.. It works much better than what I would have done in the past - slap and folds on the bench (aka counter) - for a wet dough.. and it's much less messy..

I've also experimented with mixing the water, flours and starter around 6pm, letting them sit out on the counter until about 11pm and then putting them into the fridge. By morning there's a good amount of gluten in that dough.. I'll bring it out of the fridge, add salt and go at the rest of the process.. it's something Trevor has written about.. I find it very effective.. but I think a simple version of the Tartine method would be my go-to way as it gives very consistent results....

I don't think there's a 'wrong way'.. it's just about preference and how much time you have available..

pul's picture

No mixer, no slaps, just autolyse (sometimes), mix all ingredients for 30 sec to 1 min, and then 3 sets of gentle stretches and folds. I think long fermentation, stretches and folds, make the dough smooth and it works well for me. But I make one loaf at a time.

Southbay's picture

The first thing I do is mix all of the water and half of the flour in a bowl and let it sit; could be a few hours or overnight if I get too busy with other things. Starters are also fed at this time but not added to the dough. Then, later or much later, the salt and starter are mixed into the goop before the rest of the flour gets incorporated with just enough in-the-bowl kneading action to eliminate shagginess. The dough gets a few quick stretch and folds with maybe 10 minutes in between because I want that dough in the fridge before it starts expanding. Now it can rest in the fridge overnight, and I’ve left them in there for as many as 5 or 6 nights before proofing and baking.

You can take a dough like this out first thing in the morning, whatever morning, for shaping, and it should be risen and ready to bake in time for dinner if not sooner. 3 nights is my personal sweet spot, but some 5-night mixed grain jobbers are nice. For even more flexibility, you can let a formed boule proof up to 75% or so in a banneton and then stick it in the fridge again overnight or during the day to slow final proofing. Then it’s ready to bake straight from the fridge whenever with the option of some last-minute proofing if needed. I get great results from this approach as long as I’m vigilant for overproofing, and it’s a way to have a bread ready to bake first thing in the morning. 1-night bread tends to get better oven spring than a 3- or 4-nighter. Usually the dough is so established at shaping time that I can’t get seams to stick, so proofing steam side down works nicely.

I evolved my all-the-water/some-of-the-flour half double autolyse and cryotherapy thing when trying to really soften up hard flours like semolina or whole wheat before mixing in the easier-to-dissolve white flours, but it makes white breads come out good and chewy after a few nights too. It gives all kinds of flexibility to do hands-on work when you have time and let time do the work when you don’t. 

I’m not much for exact measurements and timing, and resting sourdough for several days takes a little familiarity with the speed of your starter and resulting expansion of your dough as well as some monitoring. A stiffer dough is better for long hibernation. A good starter needs to provide a perky, lively rise, but when my starter is too fast and happy, there can be more expansion in the fridge than I desire. It’s fun to make double-size dough balls so you can bake half after the first night and half some days later and compare.

This was a lot of words for something that should feel simple. Drown the heck out of some of the flour and don’t be afraid to fridgerate, refrigerate, and even rerefridgerate to slow expansion while your gluten does the networking and you figure out precisely when you want to bake the dern thing.

HeidiCooksSupper's picture

Based on Mike at 3 or 4, 35-50 minute intervals with a S&F at each.  Variation depends on ingredients, ambient temp, hydration, forgetfulness, etc.  When the dough seems right, it get shaped and baked.

doughooker's picture

I have learnt my lesson about kneading. Too much kneading and your crust will be as hard as a rock.

DanAyo's picture

I baked a bread yesterday with no-knead and folding. AND my crust was not hard. You may be on to something.