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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

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        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.