No bread is an island

...entire of itself. (With apologies to John Donne!)
I live and breathe breadmaking. I’m an evangelist who would like everyone to make his or her own bread. I want to demystify breadmaking and show it as the easy everyday craft that it is. To this end I endeavour to make my recipes as simple and as foolproof as I possibly can.

I call my blog 'No bread is an island' because every bread is connected to another bread. So a spicy fruit bun with a cross on top is a hot cross bun. This fruit dough will also make a fruit loaf - or Chelsea buns or a Swedish tea ring...
I'm also a vegan, so I have lots of vegan recipes on here - and I'm adding more all the time.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

KNEADING - a waste of time?

My 8-year-old grandson, Alfie, demonstrating an effective kneading technique.

Here's a 'beginner', Rob, kneading dough one-handed in my workshop in High Ham on the 7th December this year. Only later did I find out he was a potter!

But how much kneading should you do?

For many years I've been telling my students that kneading is an over-rated pastime. IMO, all kneading does is to mix the ingredients throughout the dough.

We don't have time, often, in my short sessions with students, to knead for as long as some recipes ask for. 10 minutes is common, but I've also seen 15 minutes kneading specified in the odd recipe - and even 20 minutes in one case!

Well, I have to tell you that kneading for 2 or 3 minutes can be quite pleasurable - even therapeutic - but 20 minutes becomes a chore. And as my wife will tell you, I try and avoid chores!

The bread in my sessions always turns out well, but the question is, would the outcome be better if the dough was kneaded for longer?

I realised I couldn't remember ever doing a side-by-side comparison to test this hypothesis - so the other afternoon, I set to.

I made two identical batches of dough:
200g strong white flour
1/4 tsp salt
5 grams of fresh yeast
120ml lukewarm water (so, 125ml yeast liquid)

I kneaded the first dough until it was smooth - which took about 30 kneading actions or approximately 30 seconds. The second dough I set to and kneaded for 10 minutes!

This was fairly painful for me - the first thing I noticed was that my arms tired after about a minute and a half - so I  changed my action from flattening and folding to rolling the dough with both hands, than folding in the ends when the dough became long enough and rolling it out again.

Then I changed to kneading it with one hand - alternating from one to the other. After about 5 minutes,  it was noticeable that the dough had changed - it was becoming more responsive, by which I mean that it had become 'springier' to the touch.

After ten minutes, I compared the 2 doughs - and it was clear that the second dough was much smoother than the first. 

I covered both batches with an upturned bowl, and left them for a couple of hours.

After a couple of hours, the kneaded dough had risen more than the minimum knead dough.

For the purposes of this experiment, I took off sufficient dough from each batch to make a bread roll. (The rest of the dough was intended for pizzas for dinner for myself and my wife! :) )

When knocking back prior to shaping, there was no discernible difference between the feel of the two doughs.

After an hour's proving, there was no difference that I could see between the two rolls - they both appeared to have risen the same amount.

Not the best rolls I've ever made - but is the one on the right a touch biggerr
I needed to look at the crumb, so I cut each roll into two pieces and compared the. Again, I could find no difference.
It was immediately apparent that I hadn't left the rolls long enough to prove!
(And both pizzas appeared exactly the same.)

So my conclusion is that there is no real difference in outcome between a 10-minute kneaded dough and one given only 30 seconds-when the dough is left to prove for an hour.

My next task will be to make the bread without giving it two provings - and this time, I'll make one batch of dough which I'll then divide in two, give one 30 seconds and the other 10 minutes.

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