The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

kneading: how much is too much

tgw1962_slo's picture

kneading: how much is too much

I am relatively new to bread making, so I am often uncertain about kneading dough.

I've been told that if I knead the dough too much, the final product will come out dense.

But I've also been told that in order to get air into the dough, I should knead the dough

pretty thoroughly.

For example, making baguettes. I guess I'm supposed to knead the dough quite a bit to get

those holes that baguettes are known for. 


So I guess my question is... How much is too much? 


gaaarp's picture

Kneading dough serves three purposes:  ensuring that the ingredients are evenly distributed; developing the gluten; and beginning the fermentation process (that is, getting the yeast to start doing its work).  Generally, when people talk about kneading, they are concerned with the second purpose, gluten development.  And overdeveloping the gluten is what you worry about when kneading.

But take heart.  Unless you are using professional mixing equipment, or possibly a food processor, it is nearly impossible to over-knead.  As Peter Reinhart is fond of saying, if you are using a stand mixer, it will overheat before your bread does; and if you are kneading by hand, you will tire out long before your gluten gets overdeveloped.

After you have been baking for a while, you kind of get a sense for when you've kneaded enough.  The standard method to test your dough is the windowpane test.  I believe there are pictures and detailed descriptions of this test elsewhere on the forum, but in brief, it goes like this:  cut off a small piece of dough and stretch it in each direction.  If you are able to pull it to a thin, translucent membrane (like a windowpane), your dough has been kneaded enough.  If it breaks or cracks, you need to knead some more.

So take heart.  Unless you are Superman or Wonder Woman, you probably won't overknead your dough.  But you will get a good workout!

verminiusrex's picture

My usual knead time with my KitchenAid 600 is about four minutes, but I've forgotten it for ten minutes before without any noticeable change. I also think that there is a point where the dough will often just wrap around the kneading hook and take a ride when it can't be kneaded anymore.

 Hand kneading, I don't know.  I'm lazy and willing to let the machine do all the work.

holds99's picture

I frequently pass this link to to Richard Bertinet's video, showing his method of mixing dough, along to new bakers.  Having been there myself I understand your question re: mixing dough.  I think this video pretty much sums up dough mixing and demonstrates the main reason for mixing, which is combining the ingredients and fully developing the gluten in your dough so you get a good rise with nice open crumb. 

This method doesn't require anything but your hands and dough.  Try'll be amazed at the results.  Mr. Bertinet is mixing sweet dough in this video but the same principle applies to any dough...stretch that dough and develop that gluten.

Best of luck in your baking sure to try Mr. Bertinet's "slap and fold" method.  Based on personal experience I can tell you absolutely that it really works.


mean_jeannie's picture

What an enlightening video - I am grateful you've shared it and I found it.

LazySumo's picture

Mixing the dough is one way of developing gluten. Simply leaving flour in contact with water will, over time, generate gluten on it's own. Given that, if you take your flour, water, yeast and salt then mix it well and give it plenty of time it will form up nicely. MUCH less work this way, regardless of how you were originally kneading.

Additionally, if the extra time is spent in the fridge (retardation) then the dough's flavor gets a SERIOUS kick in the backside.

Atropine's picture

holds99--thank you so much for that video!!