I personally love making bread by hand. There is nothing better than taking out a fresh loaf from the oven knowing that you have put your blood sweat and tears kneading dough, elbows deep in flour.
Now, bread has gone from being a very time-consuming activity, to be the easiest thing ever.
Do you want fresh bread right this minute? Your local bakery is probably only a few streets away.
Do you want to make fresh bread at home without all the effort? Your trusty bread maker can have a loaf whipped up in a matter of hours.
Do you want to bake a loaf in the oven but can’t be bothered kneading? Use your mixer and dough hook!
Kneading the dough is probably the most time-consuming part of making bread by hand. It’s not as hard as people make it out to be, but you do need some time, patience, and a lot of arm power. It also helps to know at what stage enough gluten has been formed so you don’t over knead your dough.
The windowpane test is the best way to tell if your dough has created enough gluten.
Because kneading is the most challenging aspect of bread, a lot of us opt to cheat a little bit by using a stand mixer or hand mixer with the dough hook attachment.
With all this new technology though, people are forgetting how to make bread themselves.
Do you think our ancestors brought out their bread makers and plugged them in? I doubt it!
So, if you are finding yourself spending more time at home at the moment wanting to make bread and are wondering, “can you make bread without a mixer?”, well I am here to tell you that you don’t need a mixer to make bread!
While there are plenty of great budget stand mixers out there, bread has been something that has traditionally been made by hand, and you can make it by hand too without the need of any fancy baking tech.
How To Make Bread Without a Mixer
I know making bread by hand can seem daunting at first but it really shouldn’t. Making bread without a stand mixer certainly takes more time, but with the tricks I’m about to share, you’ll be a bread-making pro in no time.
There are actually different ways in which you can strengthen the gluten in the dough without needing a mixer.The most obvious one is by kneading it by hand until the dough becomes more elastic.
Another way is to use a bread maker, if you have one, that is. Bread makers are one of those kitchen appliances you didn’t know you needed until you realize how unbelievably easy it is to make bread with. These bad boys knead dough, rise it, and bake it, all with the touch of a button.
If you have a food processor, you can also use that to knead dough. Using a food processor to knead dough is one of those hidden secrets that not many people know about.
Let’s take a look at each of those methods one by one.
Mixing Dough by Hand – Guide to Different Kneading Techniques
The first thing you want to do is gather all your ingredients and mix them in a bowl until it turns into a shaggy dough.
Turn the shaggy dough onto a floured surface. Now the fun part! Start kneading!
There is no right or wrong way to knead dough, just do it the way that it works for you. And more importantly, don’t rush! Kneading takes time. You could be elbows deep in the dough for as long as 15 minutes.
If you thought there was only one way to knead bread, you are wrong!
There are so many different methods and techniques used, and I am here to take you through them!
Usual Kneading Method
This is the one that most of us know and dread. It is the most time-consuming way and the sorest (in your forearms).
The technique is very simple. You press the dough down with your palm away from you, fold the dough in half, and press down again with your palm. This can take up to 15 minutes before you start to feel the elasticity of the dough.
Make sure not to over-knead the dough. Remember, the gluten will continue to strengthen as it rests, so kneading it for around 8 minutes, like in this video below, and letting it rest will also do the trick.
Like with any kneading method you choose, always use the windowpane test to check if your dough is ready.
Slap & Fold
If you don’t trust your forearm strength, you can try the slap and fold method.
That is, you slap the dough down onto your countertop and fold it onto itself, turning it 90 degrees each time you do it, as per the video linked above.
This method works really well if you are working with a high hydration dough which is difficult to manage.
The slap and fold method can also take up to 15 minutes. You will know it’s ready when it starts to feel soft, more elasticated, and doesn’t stick as much on the countertop. Again, it should also pass the windowpane test.
Folding and Leaving, Folding and Leaving, Folding and…Leaving
This doesn’t require much forearm strength if any. With this method, you mix your ingredients in a bowl until there is no mixture around the edges of the bowl. Leave the dough covered for 5 minutes.
After 5 minutes, uncover the dough and pick up a side and fold it over itself. Repeat this for 4 folds. Cover up and leave for another 5 minutes.
After another 5 minutes is up, do this again. You will do this for 20 minutes for a total of 4 times. You will be surprised at how elastic your dough will be by the end of this.
I find this method the most tedious as you need to get up every 5 minutes and fold it over.
I mean, it really isn’t that tedious, I just always find myself getting comfy on the sofa in that 5 minutes and can’t be bothered getting back up.
No-knead and Forget (for 24 hours)
This is by far the laziest way to knead dough. I wouldn’t even class it as kneading because your hands barely even touch the dough!
It is also the most time consuming method in terms of well..time… because you need to let the dough rest for a very very long time (I will stop saying the word ‘time’ now).
All you need to do is mix your ingredients in a bowl until you get a shaggy dough, cover with cling film and leave to rest either at room temperature or in the fridge for anything between 18 to 24 hours.
This is the method I use for the pizza recipe and it’s definitely the best method by far.
Aside from it being the easiest on your part, leaving to ferment the dough for such a long time enhances the flavor and the texture of your dough, which is exactly what you want for pizza.
This is how you mix dough without a mixer. Easy. Right?
This pizza dough has been fermenting in my fridge for over 24 hours now using the no-knead and forget method. I can already tell this is going to be an amazing dough to work with (and eat).
Also, can we just appreciate that strong bubble game?
Not many people know this but you can make your bread dough in a food processor.
This method of kneading dough is the least time-consuming way.
All you need to do is put all the ingredients in the food processor, turn it on, and let the food processor knead your dough.
Make sure your food processor is large enough and has enough power as bread dough can be quite tough.
The aggressiveness of the blade will form a strong gluten structure in a matter of a few seconds, 90, to be exact. Told you this was the least time-consuming way to knead dough!
When the 90 seconds are up, check that your dough is nice and elastic. If it still looks shaggy (which it shouldn’t do), just put it back in the food processor for 10 seconds at a time.
The only downfall with using a food processor is that it can go wrong very quickly, so make sure you don’t take your eyes off the dough.
You don’t want to overwork the dough as it will result in your bread being very tough and extremely chewy.
If you don’t want to risk it, you could always knead the dough for the first minute in the food processor and then transfer it to a floured surface and continue kneading by hand.
Once the kneading is done, place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover it with cling film and let it rise in a warm place until it’s doubled in size.
A bread maker doesn’t only knead your dough to perfection but it also bakes your bread to perfection too.
If you love homemade bread and want to start steering away from store-bought bread, then you should definitely invest in a bread maker, I promise you will not regret it!
As with anything, bread makers can range from being fairly cheap (I’m talking under $50) to eye-wateringly expensive. So, regardless of your budget, you will definitely find something within your price range.
Bread makers are even better than mixers as they literally do everything for you. Who needs a mixer to make bread when you have one of these bad boys?!
This bread was made in my trusted Panasonic bread maker.
I know this article is about how to make bread without a mixer, but I felt like I should mention how you can make dough using a mixer too.
If you only have a hand mixer, you will have to use the best hand mixer with dough hooks.
If your mixer doesn’t have dough hooks or isn’t powerful enough, you will really struggle as bread dough is very tough. If you have a stand mixer, again, make sure it includes a dough hook (most stand mixers do anyway).
Using a mixer to knead dough can be an expensive way to do it. So, if you don’t have one and aren’t much of a baker anyway, there isn’t much point in getting an expensive one. That said, there are plenty of great budget stand mixers out there that work just as well as high-end ones.
Kneading dough with a mixer is also one of the least time-consuming methods. Add your ingredients, set your mixer to medium speed, and let the dough hooks work and strengthen the gluten for around 6-8 minutes.
It might take a bit longer depending on the speed and strength of your mixer.
Best Dough Kneading Technique
Depending on what bread-based recipe I am making, I will use a different kneading technique.
If I am making pizza, I use the no-knead-and-forget-in-the-fridge-for-24-hours method.
You do need to plan in advance as this is a make-ahead recipe, but it is truly the best method you can use for pizza.
The slow fermentation gives the dough an amazing texture and taste that is indescribable.
I know you might be thinking why wait for pizza when you can have it now, but trust me when I say it is worth the wait.
If I want to make bread the same day, I will go for the kneading by hand method or kneading in the stand mixer.
This method is definitely the best in developing gluten faster.
Kneading the dough by hand until it is taut also means it won’t need much time to rise – probably around 1 hour to 2 hours or until doubled in size.
This method of kneading will give you delicious bread in just a few hours.
Of course, If you have a bread machine, definitely use that to knead, rise and bake your bread on the same day. With a bread machine, you will have warm, fresh, and undeniably irresistible bread in just under 3 hours with zero effort on your part.
I’ve got to be honest, kneading dough in a food processor isn’t really my thing. Mainly because I don’t have a food processor large enough or powerful enough. But if you have a large food processor that can do it, then definitely go for it. It’s an easy, no mess, no effort method.
The verdict to ‘Can you make bread without a mixer?’ is, ‘You don’t even need a mixer!’.
Honestly, who told you you need a mixer to make bread? Bread should be made in its purest form, with natural ingredients and some elbow grease, just like it’s been made for centuries.
If you want to cheat a bit (we all do it), reach for your tech, like your mixer or your bread maker. These do make kneading dough so much easier.
There are so many kneading methods and techniques, and since we all have a lot of time in our hands at the moment, there is no better time than now to become a bread master.