How to Knead Bread Dough by Hand

How to Knead Bread Dough by Hand

Kneading is the process of combining water and flour (and any other ingredients) in a way that will result in springy, elastic dough and airy, nicely chewy bread. Many bakers use mixers equipped with dough hooks to combine the ingredients and stretch the resulting dough, but kneading by hand is the traditional way and is remarkably easy. 

1 Put your dough on a lightly floured surface. To avoid adding too much flour to your recipe, use as little flour as is effective to keep the dough from sticking.

2 Wash and dry your hands and remove any rings or dangling bracelets. Lightly flour your hands.

3 Gather the dough into a ball and start working it with the heel of your hand, pressing and stretching it until it has a little spring to it.

4 Fold the dough in half, rotate it 90 degrees, and repeat, continuing until the dough is smooth and stretchy, typically about 10 minutes (though this depends on the recipe).

RECIPE: FOUR-INGREDIENT NO-KNEAD BREAD

This bread relies on fermentation from a very long rise, rather than kneading, to break down the proteins and form the strands of gluten that structure the loaf. Make it in the morning and let it rise all day, or make it before bed and let it rise all night. If you like, use half whole-wheat flour here instead, but increase the water to 2 cups.

Makes one (8-inch) loaf 3½ cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons kosher salt

¼ teaspoon instant yeast

1¾ cups lukewarm water

1. Combine all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon, stirring the dough about 20 times.

2. Once mixed, cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and keep covered for 12 hours at room temperature. Generously grease an 8-inch loaf pan.

3. Once the dough has risen, turn it into the loaf pan. It will be soft. Let rise again, covered with plastic wrap until it has doubled in size, about 2 hours.

4. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

5. Bake until it smells fragrant and has a golden-brown crust, 30 to 40 minutes.

NOTE: You can substitute ½ teaspoon active dry yeast for the instant. Proof it according to package directions before adding to the other ingredients.

RECIPE: THE VERY BEST SANDWICH BREAD

Making bread is something of a project, so make sure you have a few hours to spare. Of course, most of that time is needed for the dough to rise.

Makes two (8-inch) loaves

2 cups warm water

2 tablespoons active dry yeast

2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons vegetable oil

⅓ cup granulated sugar

5½ cups bread flour, plus more for kneading

1. In a large bowl, combine the warm water, yeast, salt, oil, sugar, and half the flour. Mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon, and let rise in a warm place until it doubles in size, about 2 hours.

2. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and gradually knead in the rest of the flour; continue kneading until smooth.

3. Put the dough ball into a large, lightly oiled bowl, and turn it several times to coat. Cover with a damp dish towel and leave it in a warm place until the dough doubles in size, about an hour.

4. Punch down the dough with your fist (this releases air bubbles), then let it rest for a few minutes. Meanwhile, lightly oil two 8-inch loaf pans.

5. Divide the dough into two equal parts. Pat each piece into an oval shape on a lightly floured work surface, and then fold the top and bottom over the middle like folding a letter. Put each loaf seam-side down into the prepared pans and cover lightly with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until it's almost doubled, about an hour.

6. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

7. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the crust is lightly browned and the loaves sound hollow when tapped.

RECIPE: WHOLE-WHEAT SANDWICH BREAD

If you are looking to get more whole grains in your diet or simply prefer the toasty flavor of whole-wheat bread, this honey-sweetened loaf is the one to try.

Makes two (8-inch) loaves

2¾ cups warm water

2¼ teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast

⅓ cup honey

¼ cup olive oil

3 teaspoons salt

4 cups whole-wheat flour

3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading

Non-stick cooking spray

1. Stir the warm water and yeast together in a large bowl. Let stand for 5 minutes.

2. Gently stir in the honey, olive oil, and salt.

3. Gradually add both types of flour while you stir. Mix until the ingredients are thoroughly combined and the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl.

4. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic. If the dough is sticky, add a bit more flour.

5. Put the dough ball into a large, lightly oiled bowl. Spray a sheet of plastic wrap with cooking spray, cover the bowl, and allow the bread to rise for about an hour or until doubled in size. Lightly grease two 8-inch loaf pans.

6. Punch the dough down and divide it in half, using a sharp knife. On a clean work surface, lightly sprinkled with flour, shape each piece into an oval, and fold the top and bottom over the middle like folding a letter. Put each loaf seam-side down in the prepared pans, and cover with the oiled plastic wrap. Let rise again, until doubled in size, 30 minutes to 1 hour.

7. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

8. Remove the plastic wrap, and bake the loaves until the crust is lightly browned and the loaves sound hollow when lightly tapped, about 30 minutes.

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