The Fresh Loaf

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Overworking the dough

JonnyC's picture

Overworking the dough

Can anybody please tell me about over kneading dough. I have been working on it for 10 minutes and still struggling with the consistency of the final loaf when cooked. I use bakers strong flower and the final loaf is very dense and springy. I am also adding 1 teaspoon or Bread Improver with the yeast at the start.?? 

Could over kneading be an issue. I have tried the window test and it stretches without breaking but it might just do that even if it is over worked. ??

Any help appreciated 

Regards John 



barryvabeach's picture

John,  I have read that it is virtually impossible to over knead if you are kneading by hand, and extremely difficult to over knead even by machine, 10 minutes would not be over kneaded by most machines. If you are getting a window pane, kneading is not the issue, post the recipe and someone may be able to help. 

Edo Bread's picture
Edo Bread

I doubt it. Bread improver? Just the sound of that scares me. What is it suppose to do? Hard to know what that does to the total chemistry of your loaf.

PetraR's picture

You will be overworked LONG before your bread coule ever be over kneaded.

In a mashine on a low setting * on my kenwood that would be setting 2 *  you can knead your dough for 15 to 20 minutes, I only ever do 7 minutes and knead for another 7 minutes by hand.

Not sure why you think you need bread improver?

Without the exact recipe we can not be of much help , please do post it:)

FrugalBaker's picture

Not sure if you're kneading the dough by hand or in a mixer. It will take a great deal of time in order to overknead a dough though. If it was by hand,it's hardly the case. When using yeast,always make it a habit to test it's effectiveness. You can dissolve the dry yeast in some warm water and a sprinkle of sugar. If it bubbles in a few minutes,then you have an active yeast. As for the bread improver, I'd keep them strictly for burger buns or such as they do lend a helping hand on giving the bread a more fluffy,elastic consistency but it's not a natural ingredient to be ingested daily. Afterall, we bake at home so that we could avoid all the nasty ingredients from the commercial bakes out there,right? Hope my 2 cents worth helps a bit! 

JonnyC's picture


 Into a bowl i put 11/2 cups of warm water - 2 teaspoons of yeast - 1/4 cup of caster sugar - 1 teaspoon of bread improver to improve oven spring? 

I let it activate for 30 minutes (lots of bubbles and foam by then) 

I add 4 cups of flour- 2 teaspoons of salt mix well and tip onto floured bench

I then add 1 Tablespoon of butter and knead for 10 minutes 

when silky i return the ball to a large oiled bowl and proof for up to 11/2 hrs in warm position until it has doubled in size.

It is then emptied onto a bench gently knocked down shaped and placed in a buttered bread tin.

I then proof for another 1 hr then place in a 180 degree un fan forced oven for 40 min. with tray of water in bottom.

The loaf looks fantastic and weighs 1046 grams but it is always dense and heavy not light and fluffy ???? WHY - any ideas appreciated 

Regards John 


PetraR's picture

I am not sure why it turns out heavy and dense, maybe you could rub the butter in the flour and not adding it when it is all mixed, that way you can incorperate it much better.

I am not good with cups and such as I use metric systeme and weigh all my ingredietns, that way  is so much more precise and you get the same baking results every time.

I proof my yeasted bread first for 1 hour and second rise for just about 40 minutes.

And you use a LOT of caster sugar in your loaf, I use only 2 tsp of sugar.

I use strong bread flour which has 13.4 % of protein.



AbeNW11's picture
AbeNW11 (not verified)

AKA weight!

Flour: 480g

Water: 340g

Sugar: 57g

Salt: 11g

Butter: 14g

Yeast: 6g

Bread improver: 1tsp


Well I've put all the numbers into a converter and even taking into account slight discrepancies I'm not sure how you get a final loaf of 1046g 

Anyways... let's try and see what's going on. Its been a long time since I've used instant or dried yeast though.

First of all 10 minutes kneading is no problem at all.

Not sure on the exact ratios but 6g of instant or dried yeast = 2 grams of fresh yeast. Well you could bulk ferment for a lot longer. 1.5 hours doesn't seem enough. You probably could do an overnight bulk ferment and then a 35-40min final proof come morning.

With that small amount of yeast and quite a large amount of sugar there could be problems there. Sugar has to be balanced too.

A side question... why are you activating the yeast for 30min!? 5 minutes is enough. What about a teaspoon of sugar to activate the yeast and once it begins to froth, about 5 - 10min, then add to recipe.

I rarely add oil to my breads so cannot comment here.

AbeNW11's picture
AbeNW11 (not verified)

Told you it's a long time since I've used dried yeast

2 tsp dried yeast = 17g fresh yeast

So IGNORE that part.

Activating it for 5-10min still stands.

1tsp sugar!

Bulk Ferment for 2 hours.

Final proof for 35-40min.

FrugalBaker's picture

You could try to halve the size of your loaf and see if it works? I've never worked with dough with added butter as some experts out there commented that milk and butter could be the factor that 'weight' down the dough. Sometimes,silly mistakes like a typo in the recipe could be the culprit. By all means,if this recipe doesn't work.....move on to the other. Recipes are just a guideline and you should improvise from it to suit your liking. 

JonnyC's picture

Thanks Frugal I'll try to halve it all and leave out the butter and see how that goes. I was going to just cut down to 3 cups of flour and leave the rest as it was. I've been trying to get a nice loaf for weeks but they are always heavy not light and fluffy. Seems simple doesn't it. Can you recommend a recipe? 

Regards John


lazybaker's picture

It sounds like the dough was underproofed. Rather than going by the time the recipe suggested, go by the appearance of the dough. You have to nudge or poke the dough to see if it slowly bounces back. If it bounces back right away, it's underproofed. Underproofed bread produces a heavy loaf and texture. If the dough is difficult to work, just leave on the counter covered with plastic wrap for 30 minutes or more to allow the gluten to relax. 

There's a recipe from this site for light and fluffy bread, that is, if you don't mind eggs and dairy:

JonnyC's picture

After 1.5 hrs i would have thought that was long enough it had at least doubled in size. So it should bounce back slowly ok i'll try that. 


FrugalBaker's picture

I am new in baking too. So I do feel your predicament....If you are into yeast bread,try to search from Pain sur poolish. It is simple enough but you will need to have patience as good things happen to those who can wait. It is a pre-ferment formula. Floyd has a Pain au Provence on this site. You could leave out the herbs if you want and use the dough recipe as a base. And from there,you could add in whatever you would prefer in the future. I think I read once that Floyd has a Daily Bread recipe here too. On the other hand,I am more into yeast free sourdough breads. Once you get the hang of it, you will be hooked. Just one last note,baking is science. So do adapt to the metric Grammes, is more accurate than the imperial measurements. 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

your culprit,  too much gluten and short rising time.   Try the same recipe again, drop the dough enhancer and make half the flour AP.  Strong flours work better for long or abusive fermentations.   -or-  You could also try 2 or 3 bulk rises with the strong flour only.  That would help the yeast soften the gluten before a final rise after shaping.

If you drop the flour to 3 cups, then lower the salt as well to no higher than 1.5 tsp.

JonnyC's picture

Thanks Mini I'll try using the 1/2 all purpose flour and drop the bread improver as suggested.

Jane Dough's picture
Jane Dough

I used the Bakers' Strong Vienna Flour quite a bit when I initially started baking think that was the way to go.. Once I began to see the differences in protein content and what most "bread" flours seem to be I scaled back.  And my crumb and overall loaf improved exponentially.  I no longer use it 100% for anything except cinnamon buns or similar sweet dough.  The protein content is about 16% and that's a huge difference from what we refer to as "bread flour" which seems to be around 12%  in most of the formulas and recipes.  So I can only imagine an "enhancer" could be catastrophic. 

Plain and simple - flour, water, salt yeast - til you know what kind of product you're enhancing would be my advice.  You could still use your "strong" flour but I'd only use a maximum of 50% for the flour content and use an all purpose for the rest.

suave's picture

At 10 minutes by hand it may well be underkneaded.  If your loaf is too dense and springy, likely you did not add enough liquid and your flour is too strong.

JonnyC's picture

Thank you everyone for the advise

I'm definately going to try 50% strong flour and 50% all purpose. I'm cutting back to 3 cups of flour in total and kneading for at least 10 to 15 minutes - 10 min activation of yeast - 1 teaspoon of sugar - and with the drop in flour i'll be cutting back the water a bit. I will try a 3 hr initial proof. I'll leave the butter in 1 tablespoon for now

Thanks again


Ramses2's picture

I agree with Lazybaker. It seems to me that you problem is almost certainly the result of UNDERPROOFING after the loaves have been shaped. If you proof to about 80% increase in size you will get a maxium oven-spring, especially if you slash the loaves. 

One other factor that can help is to allow your partially mixed dough ( holding back some flour ) to rest for 30 minutes before you proceed to final kneading.