How To Mix Bread Dough By Hand How to Knead Bread Dough to Perfection

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Kneading bread dough can be one of the most enjoyable steps of bread baking, but the idea of it can intimidate some novice bakers. Once you understand the simple steps, however, you will see how basic the process is and won’t shy away from recipes calling for kneading. When you think about it, people have been kneading dough by hand for thousands of years, so why can’t you? It only takes 10 minutes, a little flour, and your own two hands. 

Why We Need to Knead

The reason kneading is an important part of bread making is to create structure and strength in the dough, leaving it silky and soft with a little cushiony feel. Flour contains two proteins that combine to form gluten, which is responsible for creating the elastic texture in the dough. After the dough ingredients are mixed, the proteins are in a random pattern and knotted together. When the dough is kneaded, the proteins begin to line up in such a way that strands of gluten develop and create a structure that allows for the trapping of gases and the dough to rise.  

Simple Steps for Kneading

Kneading only takes a few minutes, requires just your hands, a flat surface, and a bit of flour to keep the dough from sticking. 

  1. put dough on floured surface

    The Spruce / Wanda Abraham

    Use a counter or tabletop that allows you to extend your arms to knead the dough while not making you hunch over a table.
    Sprinkle the surface with flour and scrape the dough out of the bowl onto the countertop.

  2. use heel of hand to begin kneeding

    The Spruce / Wanda Abraham

    Begin kneading the dough, pushing it down and then outward, only using the heels of your hands.

  3. fold dough as you kneed

    The Spruce / Wanda Abraham

    Fold the dough in half toward you and press down.

  4. continue to knead and stretch dough with heel of hand

    The Spruce / Wanda Abraham

    Then use the heels of your hands again to push down and outward, lengthening and stretching the strands of gluten and dough fibers.

  5. continue to knead

    The Spruce / Wanda Abraham

    Turn the dough about 45 degrees and knead again with the heels of your hands. If it is getting sticky, add a little more flour. Continue to knead, folding and turning the dough, until it is smooth and supple. 

    Tips to Knead Properly

    Kneading is a basic and repetitive technique, but there are still a few things to keep in mind to make the process easier and more successful.

    • Kneading can be messy. You may want to wear an apron or old clothes to prevent flour from getting on your good clothing.
    • Always keep a measuring cup of flour beside your work area to use to prevent the dough from sticking to your counter or kneading board as well as for lightly dusting your hands with flour to keep the dough from sticking to you.
    • Be mindful of adding too much flour, though, since doing so can result in a crumbly bread. If your dough continues to be sticky but you feel like you have added enough flour, let the dough sit for 5 minutes, which allows the water to absorb the flour; this will make the dough easier to handle.
    • If you are unsure if the dough has been kneaded enough, you can do the “windowpane” test. Remove a small bit of dough (about the size of a golf ball) and hold it between your thumb and first two fingers of each hand so the dough is in front of you. Then, gently pull your fingers and thumbs away from each other to stretch out the dough. If the dough doesn’t break, it means you have kneaded it enough; if the membrane pulls apart, you need to knead it a bit more.

Video about How To Mix Bread Dough By Hand

How to Mix Dough without a Mixer | Make Bread

Check out these helpful kitchen tools for mixing dough!

5.5-Quart Stand Mixer:
12inch Stainless Steel Whisk:
Bamboo Cutting Board for Kitchen:
Mixing Bowls with Airtight Lids:
Food Kitchen Scale:

Watch more How to Make Bread videos:

I want to give you some tips on how to make bread dough at home without a mixer because you certainly don’t need a mixer to make dough. In fact, my preference is usually to not use a mixer at home, because the mixers that you use at home have such a smaller motor compared to a professional kitchen, that it just makes more sense to me to knead everything by hand.

But you shouldn’t be afraid to knead it by hand, if a recipe calls for mixing it in a mixer. If anything, you’re getting back to a more traditional way of mixing, that’s actually gentler on the dough and produces a more moist crumb. Mixing it in a mixer just is a way of developing the dough and you can do that with your hands.

And so, any time you come across a bread recipe there are usually two types of mixing steps. The first is incorporating all of the ingredients and normally you would do that on low speed on your mixer. And then the second step is developing the gluten and mixing on a high speed in your mixer. And so if you’re going to do this at home, the first step is to just incorporate all of the ingredients and stir it and combine all of the ingredients with your hands.

It’s okay if your hands get sticky and they will get sticky, because the gluten hasn’t developed yet. And I often like to use some type of plastic dough scraper to sort of keep the dough going, even though my hands are sticky. Once you have the sticky dough incorporated the next thing you want to do is to develop the gluten, and that’s where you take the dough out of the bowl that you’re using, and put it on a flour-dusted surface and start to knead it.

Really, when you’re kneading it you’re just working the gluten. The more strength you can use with your arms and with your body, the faster you can develop that gluten in the dough, if the recipe is calling for kneading and developing. And then after you knead it, you start to do a window pane test and you check to see, how has my gluten developed? And so once you have your gluten developed and it passes the window pane test, then you can put your dough aside and let it ferment, and that’s very, very similar to kneading it with a mixer.

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