When you see a beautiful loaf of bread with a perfect crackling crust and soft, airy inside, you should consider how much work is behind the final version you enjoy.
Making bread and pastries begins by mixing dry and wet ingredients. Those ingredients are combined by kneading. When you knead the dough sufficiently, the components will be evenly distributed, and the dough will have a homogeneous structure.
Should you knead the dough before it rises?
Yes. Kneading makes a difference. To get a good ball of dough, you should knead it first. Whether your loaf of bread will be raised, airy and soft inside, or hard and compact depends on whether you knead the dough well.
Kneading enables the development of gluten. Flour contains two types of proteins, gliadin and glutenin. When kneading the dough, these proteins develop, combine and form gluten strands. These threads are heated when you knead the dough, which allows the proteins to spread during fermentation and encourages the molecules to bond, making the dough elastic and giving it a better structure.
If gluten is sufficiently developed, it allows the dough to retain carbon dioxide gas bubbles, which develop by yeast or baking soda fermentation. Gas bubbles will create air pockets that we all love to see in our loaf of bread.
Also, kneading allows for an even distribution of yeast or another leavening agent in your dough.
Can you knead the dough after it rises?
Kneading the dough after it rises is optional and depends on your expectations of what you want your bread to look like. Once the dough rises, you can, but you don’t have to knead it again. If you kneaded the dough enough before the first rise, you encouraged gluten development.
If you like your bread without big air holes in it, then we encourage you to knead it after the first rise. However, do it gently. This way, you’ll promote the release of large gas bubbles and redistribute the yeast. Air pockets in your bread will be smaller.
If you want large holes in your bread – and a lot of them, do not knead it after it rises. Gluten will trap the gases inside the dough, and they will be getting bigger and bigger while the dough fully proofs. If that’s the structure you like, do not knead the dough, or you will flatten it. Also, be very gentle with the dough when shaping it, so keep as many gluten balloons as possible.
Tip: Maintaining the structure of the dough will make air balloons expand during baking, and you’ll get a loaf of bread with an open crumb. By kneading the dough after its first rise, you’ll push out too many gases, which will result in a loaf of bread with a close crumb.
How to know when to stop kneading?
When you’re combining ingredients and kneading the dough for the first time, you can do a little test to see if it’s kneaded enough. Take a small ball of the dough in your hand and stretch it with the other hand. If you kneaded the dough properly, gluten has developed, and your dough is elastic and stretches without tearing. It’ll take you about 10 minutes of vigorous kneading to achieve this texture of the dough.
If dough tears keep kneading.
After the first rise, you should knead the dough gently to set free excess gases for a minute or two. Make sure you don’t over-knead your dough.