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Best way to knead bread dough if recipe calls for stand mixer and I don't have one..

Would I be better off kneading by hand, or in the food processor? I"ve made bread successfully both ways. If the recipe calls for kneading in the stand mixer using the dough hook for 15 minutes, how much time should I spend processing it in the food processor, or how much time kneading by hand? Thanks.

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  1. I have a stand mixer with a dough hook and make bread with it or by hand. Just knead it like you normally would, it will turn out fine. I use the mixer when i'm not in a hurry. As I can mix by hand faster.

    1. Exactly what horseshoe (are we related by screen-name?) said. You'll know by feel, look and smell when your dough is "smooth and elastic". In a processor, kneading happens pretty fast, I think. Less time than a stand mixer... Adam

      1. A food processor can take as little as 30 seconds. I don't like using it to make dough because I don't get the same feel for the dough as doing it by hand but in a hurry, if you check carefully, it's such a time saver. Doing it by hand, it's about the same amount of time as a stand mixer.

        1 Reply
        1. re: chowser

          thanks, all. I'm going to do it by hand. It's so much fun anyway!

        2. When I was learning to bake bread, I went to Black Oak Books in Berkeley to check bread books in its cooking section. I stumbled upon Van Over's "Best Bread Ever" with a preface by Jacques Pepin. It looked too good to be true, so I phoned a gourmet cook friend. He told me he always used his food processor to bake bread. Van Over argues that there is less oxidation of the dough and better quality as a result of food processor, His basic method is to mix the ingredients, let them autolyse for at least twenty minutes, and then process them for 45 seconds with the steel cutting blade, not the kneading blade some processors come with. When the dough comes out of the processor, the gluten is not fully developed, so the texture is not quite what you would get with hand kneading. But as the full chemical bonding takes place, the dough develops, and you get a dough of extraordinary quality. I often bake bread that way, sometimes cutting large batches into as many as eight pieces to process separately. If you want to be most precise, you can calculate a base temperature for flour and water, which varies with some makes of processors. In practice, I find that the 45 seconds with our Cuisinart processor and flour and water and room temperatures gives me dough between 75 and 80 degrees, which is right where you want it. This method works especially well in kitchens with limited working space.

          Dough processed this way is fine. Sometimes clean up can take longer, especially if your dough contains eggs. Soak the processor cup, blade, and lid in water made acid with a splash of vinegar, and it will come off cleanly.

          On the other hand, you may enjoy kneading by hand and have room in which to do it. For most bread, I find between 300 and 500 strokes of kneading works quite well--it may vary a bit depending on how wet the dough is and how much oil, if any, is in it. Try working the dough for about five minutes, give it five minutes of rest, and work it again for another five, with another five minutes of rest, before finishing it.

          One trick than can be helpful for very soft dough is to hold back some of the water--like an ounce or so--and then work it in during the last minute of kneading. Since there is less water to lubricate the dough as you knead it, it works a bit faster. If you add oil or butter at the end of kneading, you coat the gluten strands and get a brioche-type dough.

          Doughs that are given longer rising times because they are fermented at room temperature don't absolutely have to be kneaded to the point of passing a window pane test. One Canadian baker working in England says he doesn't think the length of kneading is all that critical. Others will argue with him. But you can shorten the kneading time with lean artisan breads and still get good results by folding the dough at least twice during the bulk fermentation and again just before shaping it. However, if you are making a dough with eggs and oil and the like, do take time to knead well. Laurel Robertson's "Featherpuff bread" in her bread book, which is loaded with cottage cheese, takes quite a lot of kneading.

          My ultimate advice is start simply. Try mixing a classic French bread recipe--16 ounces by weight of flour (abot 3 1/4 cups by scoop and scrape) with 10 ounces of water and a teaspoon and a half of salt and about a teaspoon or a little more of instant yeast. Mix the flour and water and let it rest for between 20 minutes and an hour. Then mix in the salt and the yeast (separately so as not to have the salt kill the yeast). Knead it by mixing for 45 seconds in the food processor (in two or three pieces) or by hand. Try kneading it for 10 minutes. If it feels smooth and elastic and tacky, but not sticky, it is probably enough. Fold it after each hour of rising, especially if you hand kneaded it. If you are going to let it rise in a farily short time in a warm spot, give it a full 15 minutes of kneading. If you like, you can refrigerate the dough and retard it overnight, which will give some time for the gluten formation to continue.

          If you like a more Italian recipe, use 15 ounces of flour to 10 ounces of water.

          And if you really like, you can cut way back on the yeast and give it more time to ferment.

          It helps to let the dough rise in a graduated cylinder like a juice container. That way you know pretty well when it has doubled.

          Whatever you do, keep in mind that it is only flour and water, and approach it like scrambled eggs. Pay attention to what it does more than to recipe proportions. There is no one way to go about it, and the results will large depend on your personal preferences and environmental factors.

          After you've gotten the feel of dough in your hands, you won't fret much about it. You'll know the feel of an elastic dough.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Father Kitchen

            Father Kitcheh, when you use the food processor, what is the texture of the dough when you're done? I've been trying to get it to the same feel as doing it by hand and it sounds like, from your post, that I don't need to do that. In the end, I've usually turned out the dough, let it rest and then kneaded by hand.

            Also, as dough w/ fats like eggs and butter added in go, have you seen the Artisan Bread in 5 minutes brioche recipe? I gave it a try for Thanksgiving, mixing the ingredients, letting it rest for 2 hours at room temperature, then put it in the refrigerator for 24 hours. The result was okay but I felt like kneading earlier would make a big difference. These no knead type breads always result in such wet sticky dough that I feel like I'm doing them wrong. Kneading by hand, vs food processor or no knead or stand mixer gives me the best feel for the dough. But, I'm usually happy with the dough I get from my bread machine. I rarely bake in the bread machine but the dough always has the right feel when it comes out. Thanks for all your help--I learn so much from all your posts.

            1. re: chowser

              Chowser, your question is a bit hard to answer, since the feel of the dough depends not only on how much it is kneaded but also on its hydration and the presence or absence of enrichers. I generally go for a medium-soft dough (about 67% hydration or 2 parts water by weight to 3 of flour). The dough as it comes out of the mixture feels more like putty--smooth, but not as springy as a dough kneaded by hand. That will change somewhat it if it has had a long autolyse. If the dough is rested an hour after initial mixing, a surprising amount of gluten forms, and you will notice some difference in its feel and in processing. I think for me, visual clues are more important in food processor doughs. How does it come together in a ball? How many bits roll around not in the same ball (often there are some). You can experiment by mixing a small amount--say nine ounces of flour--and either adding slightly more water than six ounces or slightly less water than five. Then add, as needed, flour to make the ball come together or water. Initially, I used to panic when it didn't seem right. Gradually, I began to trust it. In humid weather, sometimes the dough is softer than I had planned, but in general it works out. As for brioche, I've never had much luck. I ran into Charles Van Over in Border's in Chicago some years ago and he mentioned he hoped to have a new edition of his book out. That hasn't materialized. I told him of my problem with brioche, and he said that he and his wife Priscilla frequently made brioche dough in their processor. In ours, the blade tended to lift up, so I gave up on it.
              But the basic theory of brioche is that you develop the gluten and then cut in the fat or oil to coat the gluten strands. Rosa Levy Beranbaum has a nice treatment of it. So when I thought I understood the proper way to do it, I came across a recipe in Patricia Wells' At Home in Provence that is a processed dough with olive oil added during the mixing. She calls it a brioche. I haven't tried it yet. I suppose Challah is a semi-brioche dough. Ultimately, I think what is important is that it works. So to get back to no-knead brioche dough, I would think that kneading it first, even minimally, would give satisfactory results. So your experience is good to hear. Thanks for sharing.

          2. There is NO bread recipe that requires a bread mixer.

            All breads can be (and in my opinion should be) mixed by hand.

            This is almost like asking, "If a recipe says to chop the cabbage using a food processor, and I don't have one, can I chop it manually with a knife instead?"

            And, of course, you know the answer to that question, right? :-)

            7 Replies
            1. re: ipsedixit

              I am not sure that your absolute statement, "No bread requires a bread mixer," is entirely correct. I think a pandoro would defeat almost anyone who lacks a stand mixer. But I don't think the point of this discussion was about a moral imperative that dough should be mixed by any particular method. It was about comparing methods.
              There are compelling reasons for using a mixer. A very exerienced cook told me that food processor mixing, because it oxidizes the dough less, results in bread with better flavor. I would tend to agree with him, but I have never actually run a blindfold taste test. There are also practical reasons. I have friends with a micro kitchen. They have no convenient work space for kneading dough. Their tiny counter between the stove and the sink is crowded and really too high to be practical for kneading. And sometimes even in my huge monastery kitchen, when the brother cook is at work, I need to leave his work surface free. A food processor is very handy then. Another reason, which is rather common, is that many physically limited people don't have the body strength to knead bread. Would you deprive them of the pleasure of making and eating bread at home? Also time constraints can be important. I may not have enough time to knead by hand before our prayers in the morning, but I do have enough time to process the dough in a processor. Finally, the size of the dough batch may make it impractical to work entirely by hand. So there are plenty of times when it is perfectly appropriate to use mechanical mixers.
              Having crossed swords with you on that, however, I would like to enlarge the discussion slightly. The most important tool in bread making is a set of responsive hands. So mechanical mixers should not be regarded as a substitution for hands but an extension of them. I am a handweaver, and I recall many similar discussions about appropriate technology in the textile field. They reflected reactions to the dehumanizing aspects of industrial manufacturing. Ink, if not blood, was spilled over the question as to what constitutes a tool and what constitutes a machine. And I think an opportunity was lost and many craftspeople were bypassed as irrelevant. I hope such misguided zeal will not creep into discussions about artisan bread. Some decades ago, people realized that technology is not the enemy. It is the way we treat one another that is important. Schumacher encapsulated the notion in the expression "appropriate technology." I submit that what we are exploring here is different aspects of appropriate bread-making technology.
              As for cutting cabbage, I recall the many mandoline-like cabbage shredders I have seen in my day. Sure, you can shred cabbage for a vat of sauerkraut with a sharp knife, but would you want to if you have a good cabbage shredder? I have a ceramic blade vegetable slicer that cuts vegetables (including cabbage) into thinner and more uniform slices than I can easily manage with knife. When I chop the vegetables, I use a knife. When I want them in paper-thin slices, I use the slicer. Again, it is a question of appropriate technology. I could manage without the mechanical slicer. A good chef's knife, kept sharp, will handle almost any cutting need in a kitchen. But is it wrong of me to want to get some technological help?

              1. re: Father Kitchen

                Father Kitchen,

                Perhaps you misread my post, but I wasn't intending on making a moral judgment w/r/t bread mixers v. hand kneading.

                Rather, my point was that a bread mixer is never a necessity, nor a requirement, for baking.

                Regarding your example of pandoro, I've never actually seen one made with anything but hand kneading. But even leaving that example aside, I would venture to guess that there isn't one baked or bread product that was created or invented solely because, or after, the invention of the bread mixer? Can you think of one? I cannot.

                As to veggies, for me it is easier, more efficient to do it by hand. I've tried food processors and they just don't have the same visceral appeal to me. I can do paper-thin much easier by hand than with a slicer, incl. things like taro root, potatoes, bitter melon, etc. Give me a good knife and a cutting board and I'll be happy to shred until the cows come home.

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  Thanks for the clarification. I just didn't see why anyone should suggest that bread should be made by hand. And of course, just about every bread can be.
                  I'd love to know more about your experience of seeing pandoro made with hand kneading. Some years back I wanted to try it, following the Carol Field recipe. But her emphasis on using a stand mixer put me off. I didn't have a stand mixer. Maybe it would be fun to start a pandoro thread.
                  In any case, I often knead by hand, just as often knead by food processor, and rarely by stand mixer. It all depends on time and space.
                  As for the vegetables, I wish I had your knife technique.
                  Thanks so much.

                  1. re: Father Kitchen

                    Interesting discussion. I am definitely agnostic when it comes to cooking technology. I wound up making the bread by hand and it was delicious. It was a sticky, buttery dough so it was a bit of a challenge, but it was not bad and I really enjoyed it, especially smearing softened butter into the dough. I had to work a little bit of extra flour in to avoid it getting too sticky but I was surprising at how it was actually possible to knead such a moist dough without it getting stuck on everything. Based on comparing my bread to the photo of the bread in the magazine, my sense is that mine was a bit more squat and didn't rise as high. I can't be sure whether the hand-kneading had anything to do with this. Once before, I made brioche in the food processor, and the dough was very wet, and I can imagine it might have been difficult to knead by hand. I really do love feeling the resistance of the dough when working by hand, however.

                    1. re: Father Kitchen

                      We used to live next to a very traditional Italian family, and every Christmastime they would make either Panettone or Pandoro. I'd always go over and watch them make it -- by hand, no less -- and it was very impressive and interesting. And, yes, I can see why a mixer would come in handy when making this bread -- it's almost like working with play-doh dipped in hot molasses.

                      As to my insistence on knifework, I think part of it (or maybe all of it) is due to growing up with both parents being chefs and working in the back kitchen at our family restaurant. I think my mother would ostracize me and banish me from all further family celebrations if she ever found a (gasp!) food processor in my kitchen.


                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        I neglected to mention that my bread was a pandolce, another Italian Christmas bread. This one is from Genoa, and the recipe was in this month's Saveur. It's denser than either Panettone or Pandoro but I've never made either of those. I started a separate post about that recipe, in case you hadn't connected the two yet.

              2. Here's a sweet dinner roll recipe (similar to King's Hawaiian Rolls or Portuguese sweet bread ) that requires no kneading. This recipe has been in my wife's family for many years.

                Chorag (Armenian Sweet Dinner Rolls)


                6 cups all purpose flour, not sifted
                1 tsp baking powder
                1/2 tsp table salt
                1/2 cup lukewarm water
                2 Tbs (or 2 packets) active dry yeast
                1 cube (1/4-lb) melted butter, (salted or unsalted ok)
                1 cup lukewarm milk
                3 eggs (for use in dough)
                1/2 cup granulated sugar

                1 egg, whipped with 1 tsp water (for coating each roll)
                2 Tbs of sesame seeds for topping rolls


                1. In a 5-qt bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt and set aside until needed.

                2. In a cup, completely mix dry yeast into warm water (not over 100-F) and allow it to proof (form bubbles). This takes about 15-minutes. Set aside until needed.

                3. In a 4-cup measuring cup or bowl, melt 1 cube of butter in the microwave, about 45-seconds.

                4. In another cup, heat milk in the microwave until lukewarm about 45-seconds.

                5. Pour warm milk into melted butter and mix well.

                6. Beat 3-eggs into milk/butter mixture. Whisk until completely mixed.

                7. Whisk sugar into into milk/butter/eggs mixture until it is well blended.

                8. Add yeast/water mixture to milk/butter/eggs/sugar mixture and mix well.

                9. Add blended liquids to flour/baking powder/salt mixture. Stir with a fork until a soft sticky dough forms. Make sure flour in bottom of bowl is completely mixed in. Don't knead.

                10. Cover bowl of dough and allow to rise 2 or 3 hours in a warm place, such as an off oven with oven light on.

                11. The dough is sticky, so spray cooking oil onto your hands and into a 1/4 cup measuring cup so you can handle dough. Scoop out 1/4 cup portions of dough and form each into a ball. Place each on cookie sheets that have been lighly sprayed with cooking oil. Place balls of dough about 4 to 6 inches apart to allow room for rising. The size of each may vary slightly, that's ok.

                12. Place cookie sheets in an off oven with oven light on for 1 to 1-1/2 hours to allow dough to rise.

                13. Whisk together 1-egg and 1-teaspoon of warm water.

                14. Carefully brush each risen dough circle with beaten egg and then sprinkle with sesame seeds.

                15. Bake at 350-F. for about 20-minutes, or until light golden brown.

                Make 2-dozen dinner rolls that are about 4-inches across and 1-inch high.

                1. I can think of a lot of reasons for using my new Cuisinart stand mixer. Firstly, for us seniors it enables us to make bread. We have less strength in our hands and some of us have arthritis. Secondly, it is more fun!
                  Also, has anyone tried the "no knead" method? I have and it is fantastic. My loaves come out wonderfully. No sitting around waiting for the bread to rise. I whip up the dough before bed (with the Cuisinart 800 watts of power), put it in a bowl, cover it, put me and it to bed and in the morning I have a beautiful mass of dough to shape and bake! This is why I started baking again. I think you will love it and there are numerous recipes on line. My favorite are Steve's You Tube videos on no knead bread.