So you’ve let your dough rise – it’s now full of pockets of gas and is much more relaxed. But the next steps in recipes can be confusing whether you need to knead it again after it has risen.
After the first rise, you should only knead dough very briefly and gently to avoid tearing. This allows the large bubbles to be deflated and dispersed, ready for another rise. Being gentle prevents tearing the gluten network which is delicate after resting, and crucial for a good bread.
Also known as “knocking back”, you can do this process by pressing down the dough with your knuckles to deflate it. You can then fold the dough in on itself a few times to add strength while it proofs again.
This is better than aggressively kneading on the counter again, which will only break the gluten strands that were built up in the first knead and rest.
Here are some more tips on the kneading process and why we do it.
What Kneading Does To Dough
We have a lengthier first knead and a short second knead (or knockback).
The first knead builds and organizes gluten so that the dough is smooth and elastic. It can now hold on to gases and allow the dough to rise in volume.
The second knead breaks up these large bubbles of CO2. These came from the first frenzy of yeast activity once it came in contact with food from the flour and water.
The second rise (or proof) is less active, so the gas bubbles are smaller. That’s the reason for this 2 stage process, alongside building flavor.
You can choose to completely deflate the dough for bread with smaller holes, like a typical loaf. Or you can just fold the dough a few times to shape it and preserve most of the gas inside.
This gives bread with nice big holes like a ciabatta.
1. Lengthens/Organizes Gluten
The process of letting the dough rest allows the yeast to create gas bubbles, which is one of the best parts of any good bread.
However, if the dough has not been kneaded properly these bubbles will simply escape or not form at all.
By kneading the dough, you are lengthening and organizing the gluten strands inside it, allowing them to easily capture and keep the air bubbles inside.
The kneading of the dough is one of the most needed parts to ensure that the dough does not end up dense.
2. Removes Gas
When you leave your dough to rise, this is to have it filled with CO2 gas created by the yeast in the dough. When you are kneading the initial dough mixture there will be no gas, just a sticky conglomerate of ingredients that almost look like they will turn into a nice soft loaf.
After the initial rising of the dough, usually, in a well-oiled bowl, the dough will have filled with gas.
While this is exactly what we want, it is not spread equally throughout the dough, causing some parts to be overly fluffy and others to be too dense.
When you knead the dough for the second time you are popping some of the air bubbles while spreading the gas.
This should deliver an equally airy bread once it has been left to rise for the second time, and then placed in the oven.
3. Activates More Yeast
Yeast is a single-celled organism that creates some of the most amazing foods on earth. This happens through fermentation when yeast consumes sugars in the flour.
By kneading the dough after the first rise, you are activating the yeast again by giving it fresh flour as food. By kneading the dough, you are actively making the yeast create better flavors and more airy bread down the line.
How To Know When The First Rise Is Complete
The first rise, also known as bulk fermentation, is complete when the dough has doubled, or tripled in size.
Allowing the dough to triple in size will take longer, and this extra time makes for better bread. The extra fermentation improves the flavor and texture of the bread.
At this stage, it’s best to not add any more flour or water as they won’t incorporate.
This time taken of the first rise is dependent on the amount of yeast and the temperature. In most recipes, you will be waiting around 2-3 hours, but using less yeast or lower temperatures and it could be 5+ hours.
A warm spot and it might only take 1 hour – but the results will be worse, you’ll get bland, tough bread.
Shaping And Proofing The Dough
Once the dough is knocked back, it is ready for shaping and proofing (which is the final rise before baking).
If you have some elaborate shaping to do then the dough might need a “bench rest” to relax again before being stretched into place. It needs to sit on the counter for 20-30 minutes for the gluten to relax and allow folding and shaping without tearing.
If you aren’t doing advanced shaping, the folds that accompany the second knead can be enough to shape the dough into the desired shape.
Just fold all edges into the center for a round/boule shape, or fold more rectangular for an oval loaf.
For better-shaped bread, you can use a banneton proofing basket which I wrote a guide about. It’s now ready for a final rise.
How Long You Should Knead The Dough
There are two stages of kneading, which I think are both best done using the hands. This lets you build up the experience of knowing when the dough is ready at certain stages, rather than using a mixer.
For a standard knead, you should aim for around 10 minutes if you are fairly inexperienced (it’s pretty much impossible to over-knead by hand).
As you get better at the technique you might only need 5-6 minutes. You can tell it is done by using the window pane test – stretch a piece of dough in your hands and see if you can get it thin enough to see light through without tearing.
The gluten development is complete if you can do this.
Using a stand mixer can make the process take only around 6-8 minutes, but only proper stand mixers can be used with the dough hook attachment.
Many inexperienced bakers usually over-knead the dough by using the stand mixer, not paying attention to the overall look of the dough.
Keep this short and gentle as you don’t need to build any more gluten up. You just need to even out the gas distribution in the dough and “reset” it for the second rise.
Don’t tear the dough on the worktop – instead aim for pushing down to deflate the gas. Then fold the edges in and turn as you go.
Hopefully, you have the information you need on kneading after the first rise of dough.
Keep it gentle and try to keep that nice structure that has built up within the dough. You can then shape it to make any bread of your choice.