Kneading is often an integral part of making nice and fluffy bread. But over kneading can make your bread stiff, which is a concern for the amateur baker.
It’s possible to over-knead with an aggressive electric dough mixer but I wanted to see if you can over-knead dough by hand, this is what I’ve found:
It is next to impossible to over-knead bread dough by hand. Although kneading by hand is more difficult, it is still the best way to knead bread dough. There is minimal chance for your bread to become over kneaded and you can feel when it has optimal gluten development.
If you want to see proof of this then watch this fun video below where someone kneads dough by hand for an hour and a half!
In this article, you will find out why kneading by hand is the best way to make bread at home.
Moreover, I will also provide you with an overview of what happens when you over-knead your dough and what to do next. So, if you want to know more about baking bread at home, read on.
Signs Of A Well Kneaded Bread Dough
A well-kneaded dough feels nice and smooth to the touch. In the beginning, your dough will have a rough or sticky texture. But the more you knead, the smoother the texture will become.
You can tell your dough is well kneaded if it springs back after you press down on it. Another way you can check whether your dough is kneaded enough or not is through the windowpane test.
If you can stretch a piece of dough thin enough to see light through without tearing it, i.e. making a “windowpane”, then it is kneaded enough.
Signs That You Over-Kneaded Your Dough
Though over-kneading by hand is next to impossible, it’s something that’s important to know for any baker, especially using a mixer.
The first sign of over-kneading is when the dough becomes harder to manage. You will have a hard time flattening and stretching the dough. The dough will feel dense and hard against the counter.
Another sign of over-kneading the dough is when you will face difficulty folding the dough in the usual pattern. Even if you can fold the dough, it will not meld well together.
If you try to stretch that dough, it will rip and tear. The dough will tear because the over-kneading caused the gluten to become tight and non-elastic.
Like a well-kneaded dough, the over-kneaded one retains its original shape. But it cannot spring back like a well-kneaded dough when pressed.
An over-kneaded dough has no elasticity. It is dense, firm, and hard. Hence you will have a hard time shaping the dough to the bread of your liking.
What To Do If You Have Over Kneaded Your Dough
Over-kneading your dough does not end your homemade bread-baking adventure. If you notice that your dough is stiff and difficult to work with, do not fret, you can fix it.
The first thing to do is to let it sit. Double the resting period of the bread dough and keep it untouched. For example, if the recommended resting period was one hour, you should let the dough sit and rise for two hours.
If the dough is extremely stiff, you can place it in a bowl, cover it with plastic wrap and store it in a fridge overnight. The cold will slow down the yeast fermentation and relax the stiff gluten.
The gluten will soften and become smoother in the refrigerator. This is called “retarding” the dough – basically slowing it down.
After you take out the dough from the fridge, you will notice that it has risen and feels softer. Try not to manipulate the shape of the dough too much lest the gluten toughens up again. Just shape it and let the dough sit and rise for a second time before putting it in the oven.
What Happens If You Bake Over Kneaded Dough
If you bake over kneaded dough straight away, you will end up with rock-hard bread, plain and simple. Instead of fluffy, warm, soft, and smooth bread, you will end up with a dense loaf.
The outer texture of the over-kneaded bread will be rough and hard. If you cut the bread, you will notice that the inside is crumbly and dry.
In the oven, the over-kneaded dough will not rise as much as it is supposed to, because the hardened gluten will prevent the yeast from inflating the dough.
In an over-kneaded dough, the gluten structure creates a barrier that traps the gases released by the yeast. Thus, preventing the gasses from pushing upwards and inflating the dough in the rise.
How to Avoid Over-Kneading Dough
If you are a beginner, kneading by hand will seem tedious. Hence you may opt for the stand mixer. But the powerful motor of the mixer could over knead the bread dough.
If you are using a mixer, to avoid over kneading you should stop and check the consistency of the dough after every 2-3 minutes. If the consistency of the dough is dense, you will know when to stop the mixer.
I think using your hands to knead is a good skill to learn because you get to know the feel of the dough at different stages. You know when it’s just “right”, and that skill is hard to replicate. It’s what separates an experienced baker from a beginner.
You will tire yourself out before you over-knead your dough with your hands!
Why You Should Knead Bread Dough By Hand
Kneading your bread dough with a mechanical mixer is easier and faster than using your hands. But the easy road is not always the best road taken.
Again, when you use your bare hands for kneading, you can control the dough better. You can feel the texture of the dough and determine whether it is kneaded well enough or not.
Moreover, if you over-knead your dough, it will be easier to fix the problem using your hands instead of using a mixer. There are fewer limitations to bread baking when using your hands.
Hence, kneading bread by hand is the best way to go. It’s also nice and therapeutic to do.
How to Properly Knead Dough by Hand
To knead the dough by hand, first, place it on a surface or counter lightly dusted with flour. You should dust your hands with flour too. Then shape the dough into a rough circle.
There are various techniques for hand-kneading bread dough. But most of them involve stretching and folding the dough repeatedly on itself.
Gluten takes around ten minutes to form while kneading by hand. So keep on stretching and folding for ten minutes until the dough becomes smooth and soft.
You should flour the dough in between kneading, to avoid stickiness. But do not overdo it with the flour, or else the dough will become dry and stiff.
You can do an alternative to traditional kneading by using the “stretch and fold” method. This is where the dough is made with more water and is developed inside the mixing bowl by periodic stretches of the dough and folding back over itself.
Read all about it in my article on kneading vs stretch and fold.
So in summary, you are highly unlikely to over-knead dough by hand.
More likely that you will get sore arms. I hope you have learned enough about kneading dough properly from this article to start baking yourself.