What Does Kneading Dough Do?

Kneading the dough can make rolls and bread chewy, light, and airy. This is an important step in preparing yeast bread.  If the gluten is not well-developed, your rolls or bread will be tough and flat.

Kneading dough is a traditional method that has been practiced for thousands of years.

What is the reason why bread makers spend a lot of energy and time in this practice? This is because of the proteins found in the flour that gives structure and strength to the bread dough.

There are two proteins found in wheat flour, namely glutenin and gliadin that mix together to form gluten.

During the initial mixing of bread dough, these two proteins are knotted and mangled together in no particular order.

While kneading the bread dough, the proteins then line up and gluten strands form a matrix in the bread dough.

The matrix then creates structure and strength that traps gasses and lets the dough rise.

Kneading Dough by Hand

Kneading dough by hand is the easiest to control and oldest method.

There are a few techniques to knead the dough by hand and all of them involve stretching and folding the dough continually.

In general, kneading dough by hand can take around 10 minutes for enough gluten to form.

Flour can then be added little by little to the dough while it is kneaded so that it will not stick. However, care must be taken to avoid adding too much.

When you add excessive flour during the process, this can result in a dry and stiff dough.

When the dough is kneaded adequately, this will have a silky and soft texture and will also spring back if you poke it with your finger.

Mechanical Dough Kneading

Kneading dough can also be done with the use of a stand mixer with dough hook attachment or a bread machine.

A bread machine is completely automated that makes them foolproof. It is faster to knead using a stand mixer compared to kneading by hand.

Again, care must be taken to avoid over kneading.

No-Knead Bread

When kneading is needed for the proteins to line up and for gluten matrix to form, this might seem counterintuitive that the no-knead bread can still form fluffy and light loaves yet it is possible to form gluten naturally.  

Letting the dough ferment for more than 12 hours allows the enzymes and yeast to work their magic.

The enzymes in the flour can break down knotted up proteins, with the dough getting inflated by the gas the yeast produced.

This then creates some kind of slow-motion process of kneading.

Since the extended enzymatic action has broken down the proteins, only a tiny amount of natural kneading is needed for lining them up to gluten strands.

No-knead bread is more of auto-knead bread.

Under Kneading

What will happen when the bread dough has not been kneaded adequately or it wasn’t given enough time to auto-knead? The dough will lack enough strength for holding its shape while this inflates from the yeast gasses.

Rather than inflating up, the dough will spread in an outward and flat direction.

The dough could fall back on itself as well as collapse as gases produced by the yeast escape the dough.

The baked loaves that were kneaded will be dense and flat in texture.

Ways to Tell If Dough is Kneaded

Knowing when you could stop kneading the dough is actually one of the many mysterious aspects of baking bread.

Of course, it isn’t a wobbly mess of dough, yet is it done properly? Below are some of the clues you should look for.

Strengthening gluten is the point of kneading the dough, which is the stringy bands of proteins that provide bread its texture and structure.

As you work the dough, such gluten strands tighten up and get into the line.

Kneading for ten to twelve minutes by hand or eight to ten minutes in mixers are general standards. If you have been massaging the dough for that period of time, you can be assured that you have done your job.

Read this review article I wrote on Food Processor That Kneads Dough.

Below are some of the things that you should look for:

Windowpane Test

You can do this by pulling off a golf ball sized dough and stretch this into thin sheet between your fingers.

If gluten is developed well, the dough would stretch into a thin film without breaking. If it breaks quickly, keep kneading.

Poke Test

Give the dough a firm poke using your finger. If indentation fills back easily, you are good to go. If the deep dimple stayed that way, continue kneading the dough.

Hold Its Shape

Lift the dough in your hand and consider holding it in the air for a few seconds. If that holds the ball shape, it means that the gluten is strong and tight. If that sags down between your fingers, gluten will be loose and will require more kneading.

Smooth Dough

The dough will look like a lumpy, shaggy mass and would smooth out gradually as you knead. Once you’re done, it must be smooth completely and tacky a bit to touch.

When You Are Tired

You might laugh, but tiredness is one of the signs if the dough was kneaded. If you have been kneading for ten to twelve minutes and your arms are very tired, your dough might be good.

If you’re tired before that time is up, it is very okay to rest for several minutes and come back to it.

As long as the dough you made is close to passing all the tests mentioned above, though you are not 100% confident, you may consider yourself within range and consider it a day.

Kneading dough is very important if you want to get the best results when baking bread.

There are numerous kneading techniques you can take for consideration. Depending on your needs or preferences, choose the technique or method you’re most comfortable with.

Just make sure to do it properly to avoid any possible problems in the long run.