Kneading by hand is one of the joys of baking and one of the keys to a successful bread is gluten-development. It is through this step that we are able to create structure for our baked goods (we want lots of them when making bread and a controlled amount when making cakes or pastry). The bonds are strengthened with movement. That is why in bread making we knead the dough until we create strong gluten strands.
Although gluten develops as soon as water gets in contact with the proteins in wheat, the proper technique will make bread kneading and baking faster for us.
There are lots of different methods to knead by hand but I find this one works best for me. Don’t worry about over-mixing at this point it would be very hard to do so by hand.
Let’s start the lesson by creating something we already know, try it out when making a pizza dough or any bread of choice.
1) In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients . Make sure you add the instant yeast last after you have incorporated the sugar or salt into the flour. This prevents the yeast from dying upon contact with the salt.
2) Make a well in the center and add your liquid into the flour. Using your hands, incorporate the flour into the liquid while rotating the bowl clockwise (for right-handed people and counter clock-wise for left handed). Pause for a while at the state that it looks like a shaggy mass before completely mixing it and gauge whether it is too wet or too dry, add flour if it is too wet and water if it is too dry. If the mixture has turned into a dough already, it will be difficult to absorb more water. So this is the time to decide on it.
3) Dust your bench with a light sprinkling of flour. Remember that the consistency of the bread is based on certain ratios of flour to water. You’d need just enough flour to prevent the dough from sticking on your bench but not too much that it makes the dough dry.
4) With floured hands, tip the dough on the bench start by making a rough ball with the dough.
5) With your finger tips, fold the dough towards you with two hands and press the dough with the heels of your hand slightly pushing the dough away from you. You will notice that you would have stretched the round and curved part of the dough where you have just created the fold.
6) Give the dough a quarter turn. And repeat to fold the dough towards you using the heels of your hands to press the dough once again pushing it slightly away from you.
7) Repeat these motions for approximately 5-7 minutes (depending on how consistent your movements are) until the dough feels less sticky, and starts to come together into a smooth supple ball of dough (don’t stop until you get there, the sooner you master the technique the faster it will be for you).
8) The dough is ready for its first proof as soon as it looks like this.
WATCH Elaine put the above method in action via edible journeys.com.au/correct-kneding-techniques