If you come along to one of my bread making courses here in Ironbridge then you probably won’t be taught how to knead dough. I realise that this sounds a bit strange when I teach bread making, but about four years ago I decided that, after many experiments kneading your dough is unnecessary.
The stretch and fold method that I teach instead develops the gluten in the dough just as well. It is easier on your back, arms and hands. The stretch and fold method makes bread making accessible to most people. For example, I have had people with arthritic hands come along my course and realise that they can still make bread at home, when they had almost given up hope.
It is a lot less messy when the dough stays in the bowl. You don’t need to keep cleaning the kitchen surface.
You can fit your bread making around your day, because a dough that is developed using the stretch & fold method can be left for 10 minutes or up to an hour between each stretch and fold session. If you are busy working the dough will happily wait for you.
My favoured stretch and fold method is also gentle on the dough, which is preferable for fragile flours such as heritage grains and wholemeal doughs. When you knead doughs with a weaker gluten structure or with sharp pieces of bran the constant tearing of the gluten strands has a damaging effect. Gentle stretching and folding strengthens the dough without the constant tearing.
However, I do realise that people love to knead bread. Some people find it really therapeutic and calming. Some relish the ten to fifteen minutes of physical activity. It’s a chance to focus just on the dough rather than the million other things that we are normally focussing on.
For these people I have filmed a video to show you the best way I know for kneading bread.
This method makes sure that your dough sticks to itself rather than to you or the surface because you are regularly letting it go and lifting it off the surface.
My top tip for when you knead is to not flour the surface. You have made the dough to the consistency that you want and if you add flour to the surface as you knead you will change that consistency to a stiffer dough, which may result in a brick of bread.
Which method do you prefer? Are you a kneader or do you like to stretch and fold in the bowl?