Is Your Bread Dough Kneaded Enough? Here’s How to Tell.

Updated: Apr. 26, 2024

Love to make homemade bread but unsure if you're kneading it right? We'll show you how to be sure you've kneaded dough enough so your loaves and rolls come out just right.

Making your own homemade bread is one of the most satisfying kitchen achievements, though getting started can be a bit overwhelming. When I first started dabbling in yeast breads, I fretted about proofing the yeast and letting the dough rise enough. Turns out that with a thermometer, learning how to proof yeast is simple. (Figuring out how to proof bread dough in a cold house was a major breakthrough, too.)

However, knowing how to knead dough (and how long to do it) is another story. It’s an important step: Kneading the dough helps develop gluten, which gives the bread structure. But don’t worry—once you get the hang of kneading, you’ll be ready to tackle any bread, even this gorgeous chocolate babka.

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How to Knead Dough

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To knead bread dough, turn it out—that’s baker speak for “move the dough from the bowl”—onto a lightly floured surface. Dust your hands with flour then shape the dough into a ball. Then push the bread away from you with your palms using a rolling motion. After every push, fold the dough over on itself, then give it a quarter turn and repeat. You may need to add more flour as you go if the dough sticks.

(For more tips, check out our full guide to how to make yeast bread.)

How Can You Tell If Bread Dough Is Kneaded Enough?

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While you might have your kneading technique down, it can be difficult to know if you’ve kneaded the dough long enough. There are three criteria your dough should meet before you allow it to rest for its first rise.

Worried about your loaf going bad before you can enjoy it? Here’s how to freeze bread.

The Dough Is Smooth

Before you knead bread dough, it can look a little sticky and rough. Kneading helps smooth the dough out. Your dough should be ready when has a nice, smooth texture.

The Dough Springs Back

After kneading the dough for several minutes, press it with your finger. If the indentation stays, the dough still needs more work. If it springs back to its original shape, your dough is ready to rest.

The Dough Passes the Windowpane Test

Perhaps the best way to tell if your bread dough is properly kneaded is the windowpane test. To do this, tear off a chunk of dough and stretch it between your fingers. If the dough tears, you haven’t developed enough gluten and it needs more kneading. If it stretches without breaking, making a windowpane of sorts, you’re done and you can let the dough rest.

How Can You Tell If Dough Is Over-Kneaded?

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You can tell you’ve kneaded dough too much if it becomes difficult to stretch. Sometimes this happens when you use a stand mixer or food processor. Overkneaded dough will be tough and make tough, chewy bread.

If you’ve kneaded by hand, you don’t need to be too worried about overworked dough—you’ll start to notice it getting difficult to manage. It takes a lot of elbow grease to knead bread dough; you’ll likely tire yourself out before you can over-knead.

With a simple windowpane test, you’ll be able to create smooth, perfect dough for all sorts of homemade breads. If you really want to dive deep into the world of breadmaking, check out tips from expert and Great British Baking Show judge Paul Hollywood.

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