Bread Making Part 5: The Need to Knead ~ Mountain Mama

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Bread Making Part 5: The Need to Knead

Today's experiment involves the importance of kneading or, in my case, hiring your favorite thug kitchen appliance to abuse your dough.

My bread today is a simple wheat bread with both store-bought yeast and sourdough starter. Why? Because (for the experiment) I need the assurance of the quick rise, but I want the flavor of the sourdough.

Especially since, as I write this, I realize I forgot the salt. I always forget the salt. I think there is some synapse in my brain that makes it physically, mentally, and biochemically impossible for me to remember the salt.

It might explain my blood pressure of 106/60.

First I proofed the yeast. This is entirely optional but if you have had rising problems I recommend it. Plus it makes for a good experiment.

In 2 cups of (room temp to lukewarm) water I added 2 T of sugar and 1 T of active dry yeast. I swirled it to dissolve the sugar and I swirled again about 30 seconds later to dissolve the softened yeast.

After 5 minutes, there is a foam of bubbles on the top. If I let it sit a little longer there would be a froth of bubbles. Bubbles are the best way to know your yeast is alive. I've looked into teeny tiny heartrate monitors but apparently yeast doesn't have a heart.

Don't tell it that though.

Two balls of dough:

Each consists of:

1 cup bread flour
2 cups white whole wheat flour
3/4 cup sourdough starter
1 cup of your yeast mixture
1 t salt (if your synapses are fully firing)

The first batch I kneaded in my mixer just until the ingredients combined (about 3 minutes on level 3 speed)

The second ball I kneaded for 12 minutes on level 3. That's how long it took for the dough to windowpane.


When I try to stretch batch #1 it pulls apart like playdough.

But when I stretch out batch #2:

It makes a windowpane. If I had used only bread flour (or white flour) I could stretch the pane so thin I could see through it. This bread has whole wheat in it. The bran tends to cut into the windowpane so it tears easily but it's still there.

What makes the windowpane? Anyone?

Correct! Gluten. Gluten, after being bullied around for 12 minutes, decides to unite with its friends and fights back. It makes dough springy and elastic and all those little windowpanes inflate like balloons when the yeast continues its little bubble making party.

Later, we'll compare the two different loaves.


  1. Anonymous1:40 PM

    Ooo, bread making. I've never managed a successful loaf of bread. I've not given up hope, however; I'm trying to convinced James to drag his bread machine out of retirement so I can use it. Bread machines do all the work for you, don't they? I mean, I don't think I could screw up bread in a bread machine.

  2. I bake bread every single day but I didn't know all of this!


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