Thursday, June 16, 2011
Building Better Bread: Kneading
Drawings of busy bakeries along with carvings of people kneading unearthed at Giza show Egyptian bakers from 4000 BC kneading dough with their feet! Apparently, when they they used their hands, the bread remained hard and flat but with their feet it was soft and fluffy. The origins of machine kneading date back to1751 in Solignac, France. Which may be why French bakeries always seem to be so much more advanced the rest of the world. Hand kneading is an art and if you are able to achieve the results you want there is no reason to change your ways.
Simply put, the purpose of kneading is to develop the gluten and produce a light springy dough. It can be difficult not to incorporate too much flour into the dough when hand kneading. If you have trouble with the dough getting too heavy try mixing your dough for a few minutes in a mixer and allowing it to rest before turning it onto a board. I like to work with a very soft dough. I have often found, when using freshly ground grain that the dough might be too wet to handle in the beginning but if you knead it a bit in a mixer and give the grain some time to absorb the moisture you will have a consistency that is easy to work with.
As far as mixers go, with heavy baking I burned through many before I found one that will do a lovely job and hold up over time. I have used my Electrolux for over 10 years and it shows no sign of giving up. It is exceptionally strong with a huge 8 quart bowl that holds up to 7 pounds of flour. Even though it comes with a dough hook I only use the roller/scraper which creates a silky smooth elastic dough quickly.