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 yeasted breads, I fretted about proofing the yeast and letting the dough rise enough. Turns out that with a thermometer, letting yeast proof is simple. (Figuring out how to proof bread 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 star bread.
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.
How Do You Know If You’ve Kneaded Bread Dough 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.
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.
It 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?
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. If you’ve done it by hand, you don’t need to be too worried about overworked dough—you’ll start to notice it getting tough. 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.