An extract from our new e-book:
“By kneading the dough you are achieving three things.
Firstly, the ingredients of the dough are more thoroughly mixed.
Secondly, the gluten in the flour needs to be developed. Gluten, when developed, is flexible and strong enough to hold the bubbles and starch that give a loaf its structure.
Thirdly, introducing air pockets into the dough. These are important for the yeast to thrive and for the dough to be able to rise effectively with an open texture.
Nearly all hand kneading techniques involve stretching and folding the dough. A variety of techniques are possible although for the most part they give similar outcomes.
After a few moments of stretching and folding a piece of dough it is possible to feel changes in the gluten structure. The ball of dough becomes stronger and more resistant to stretching.
As you continue kneading, there will be a transition from a sticky rough mass into a smooth shiny structure that can hold its shape. Kneading a ball of dough typically takes 5-10 minutes.
It is important to knead dough gently. Over-stretching or tearing the dough disrupts gluten development and leads to a dense loaf. Be sensitive to the changing nature of the dough and don’t fight it or muscle through it. After 5 minutes of gentle stretching and folding the dough will feel like it doesn’t want to stretch out very much any more. If the dough no longer wants to stretch and you feel it needs more kneading, give it a rest for 5 minutes and then continue.
It is best to knead with either no flour on the worktop or only a very light dusting. Through kneading, the dough will become easier to handle and less sticky.
Gluten development while proving
The texture of the dough will continue to improve while it is rising. Very gently stretching and folding the dough every hour or so during the first rise can further contribute to the strength of the dough and texture of the bread. No-knead doughs rely on this stretching and folding, combined with a very wet dough, to allow the kneading stage to be skipped.