The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Why do some knead the bread so extensively?

MBaadsgaard's picture

Why do some knead the bread so extensively?

This springs straight out of a previous question of mine.

I promise I only ask questions I can not find answers to anywhere else!And this one I have been researching quite heavily the last day.

I have to admit I don't have many resources to turn to about the theory behind how MUCH or HOW you knead, and gluten development it results in.

Most breadbaking books I come across these days have been all about kneading your dough for upwards of 20 minutes on your kitchen machine at max effect. These are recipes found in cookbooks from a well recognized author, that has a whole team of professional bakers helping him develop these recipes, so it can't just be a wild assumption.

So what is the point in this? What property does it give the finished loaf that I am not aware of?

I would love to point out the books for you guys, but they are in danish, by a guy called Claus Meyer.

golgi70's picture

What speed is being suggested to use with the mixer? What type of doughs are they that call for these long mixes?   20 minutes at high speed in a home mixer is viable for very wet doughs such as ciabatta or focaccia but would ruin most home machines and the dough of a more standard bread.  On the other hand if its all in low speed this is a technique to develop gluten slowly using a machine which I've been utilizing lately.  speed 1 for 10-20 minutes depending on the type of dough.  The best way to use a Mixer is to begin the developing of a dough gently and proceeding with folds.  too much machine will create a dough with a less desirable crumb structure and at a point overmix a dough which will create a loss of flavor.  


dabrownman's picture

dough call for longer high speed mixes.  Most non enriched  breads can be made with no knead, slap and folds, stretch and folds,  or mixing on low speed for 10 minutes or some combination like i do - 1-3 sets of slap and folds for 6-10 minutes total depending on hydration followed by stretch and folds to incorporate add ins and further develop the dough over time if required.    

adri's picture

My suggestion is: Just make a small batch of plain dough and mix it and see how long it takes until there is no improvement in the dough.

It is amazing how good a dough can be developed and how long this will take.

From what I've learned recenty:


  too much machine will create a dough with a less desirable crumb structure

... is what Josh wrote. Without knowing what is desirable and what not it is hard to say what that means.

1st) With overkneading the gluten will be destroyed again and the crumb will really go downhill. But there is a large window where the dough doesn't get better and not worse. (Maybe it is the state where by kneading you develop as much as you destroy).

2nd) A desirable crumb structure is something that different people define differently. The so beloved Tartine bread wouldn't be worth much in my area. (It's not just the burnt crust from the images, but) The crumb structure would be too open. You cannot slice the breads well and meat paste, butter, spread, ... would get stuck in the holes. Here, the optimal crumb would be: much more holes but smaller ones (in average maybe same density). Well kneaded bread will lead to such a result.

With less kneading and more development through strech&fold, autolyse etc. you will get a more open crumb.

In my opinion there are 2 types of dough development: It can hold together but be "strechy". Autolyse (without salt!) and s&f will help with this. The other parameter is how much the dough "pulls back". By kneading and with salt you can support this.

And also, if you want to add more leaven to the bread, there is no time (or water) for a long autolyse. Then you might have to knead more.

I'm still learning and sometimes destroying dough on purpose... The money for the flour is the apprentice's due.

MBaadsgaard's picture

I can't find his other recipe that says 20 minutes, but I found this one.

This is a very high hydration bread, so I guess it is not that bad really? But still, this seems like a lot of kneading, especially for such a crumb.

dabrownman's picture

for a loaf of 25% whole grain (125 g out of 600), even freshly milled, I would be at 80% hydration or so.  This one is at 200% hydration even with only 5 C of water (238 g each) and 238% with 6 cups.  You wouldn't get a dough - this is very thin pancake batter.  At least it wouldnlt ruin your KA mixer:-)

This makes no sense to me.

MBaadsgaard's picture

I just checked what you were talking about, and I can see that google translate thinks dl means cups, but it ACTUALLY means... dl.

So yea, it's 600g water to 600g flour, 100% hydration, right?

SO more water means more kneading? Because then the recipe would make sense.

Bob S.'s picture
Bob S.

Gluten is formed when flour is mixed with water and physically agitated. The dough is then given fermentation to complete the formation of a gluten network and impart the flavor of fermentation. I don't knead by hand, but I know from experience that mixing by machine requires different mixing and fermentation times for different types of dough. No matter what the bread, the goal is to create a dough which is extensible, elastic, and plastic. If the dough does not possess these characteristics, it will not be able to retain the gases of fermentation and expand.

For most mixers, it is advisable to mix until a smooth dough is obtained. This should take considerably less than 20 minutes. There is one type of mixer that stand apart from almost all others: the spiral mixer. A spiral mixer is capable of mixing a dough to full development without further fermentation. Such a dough would seriously lack flavor, so a period of bulk fermentation is always included for flavor development.


adri's picture

Such a dough would seriously lack flavor, so a period of bulk fermentation is always included for flavor development.

If you ferment a 30% to 50% (50% I just do with very strong rye bread) of your flour over 16h with 10% to 20% starter in the preferment, there is enough flavour already existent.

In fact, to have a long bulk fermentation, you'd have to decrease the amount of preferment and loose more flavour than you can gain by a long bulk fermentation.

MBaadsgaard's picture

So unlike hand-kneading, machine kneading will not give you full development, some has to be done by the fermentation coming afterwards? So the "state" of the gluten will build up in a few minutes, and then kind og stay the same?

Just not quite sure I understand what you mean.. :(

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

"Gluten is formed when flour is mixed with water and physically agitated."  

If you stir to get the flour wet, and then let it just stand for 30 minutes.  Most of the work is already done.  Weather the machine or your hands agitate the dough, the progress will be about the same.   So wait for the flour to fully hydrate and the gluten to form on it's own, then mix or knead if you want to, the whole kneading thing is a lot easier and doesn't take long at all.  

dabrownman's picture

with the typical KA mixer at home.  Commercial baker's might worry about oxidation and over mixing but I've never gotten close to that at home even when kneading panettone for 20 minutes or more.  It does beat slap ad folds for 40 minutes like M Wilson will do on occasion though:-) 

MBaadsgaard's picture

What exactly is meant with overkneading? I thought it was a relative thing. That you will be tightening the gluten too much if you knead too long, but that the leve lof "tightness" depends on what you want to achieve..

I mean... Beyond the minimum kneading needed to make the dough come together and trap CO2.

I know the doughblade for foodprocessors can overdevelop the gluten by actually stretching it to the point where it breaks, and all elasticity is lost, so is that the kind of overdeveloping you are talking about?

adri's picture

If you knead too much, you will destroy the gluten web mechanically. Than the dough begins to loose it's stability again.

It needs quite a long time to do so on wheat doughs. I doubt that it is possible by hand.

BetsyMePoocho's picture

Dudes & Dudettes, 

If you mix/kneed any dough for 20 full minutes wouldn't you have to do it in a walk-in freezer to keep the finished dough temp in a good range???

Right now my kitchen is bouncing between 80ªf ~ 82ªf.  I have to chill my flour and refrigerate my water to keep any doughs in a good finish temp.  I can usually go 15 to 18 min for wet stuff like Ciabatta.

Hey, how about what you know from experience…… If the recipe's hydration calls for a looooonnnnnngggg mixer knead doesn't that experience dictate that an "appearance" / "window pane" check at points during the knead happen?  Oh,,, maybe a dough temp check also.   Or is it blind faith in whoever authored the recipe?

I just dearly love,, when using the same recipe on different days and ambient temps,, I check dough's kneading progress and see a very silky, smooth, shiny, gluten developed, dough that can be windowed to a see through thin membrane.  I stop the mixer even if the time hasn't run out.

Heck, all your comments and suggestions are great…. What do I know…… I just thought that I would "knead" this dough string a bit….

"Sometimes when I open the oven to get the loafs out I humbly fall to my knees and look upward to the bread heaven in thanks….. Other times I hide the loafs from my wife and Betsy."



MBaadsgaard's picture

I usually do not really check dough temperature and only adjust by refridgerating when a bit into fermentation.

When shaping, I usually do not really have any problems when it is too warm, but let us see if I will say the same when we get a little further into the summer. I have only been baking since christmas.I fold my dough a few times, never knead it. It does not seem to do anything for me that time does not do anyway.
Except distribute the tiny airpockets in the dough so the crumb becomes more even (Which I do NOT like..).

I have never heard of soft or hard gluten, only soft or hard wheat, refering to high or low gluten content. I am absolutely sure that Øland what and Meyer's other flours are 11+% protein. That said, the balance between glutenin and gliadin will definitely change the properties of the gluten, but I never heard anyone refere to this relationship unless talking about the difference between durum and normal wheat.