When it comes to making homemade bread, I’m sure many will agree that kneading dough is the most tedious part of the process. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy kneading by hand when I am feeling up for it, there’s something almost therapeutic about it. When I am not wanting to be elbows deep in the dough for 20 minutes, however, I tend to turn to good ol’ modern technology.
Perhaps the single biggest advantage to enlisting the help of a machine during the kneading process is that it can cut the time of kneading in half. It is also completely hands-free if you are using a stand mixer, which is a huge plus in my books. It’s not just your stand mixer that can lend a helping hand here either, you can use a variety of different appliances to knead dough. The most common ones are a stand mixer, bread machine, or food processor.
When we really boil it down though, which kneading machine is going to give you the best results? And which is better, between a dough hook vs hand kneading?
Let’s find out!
Why is kneading dough important?
If you are new to making bread, you might be wondering why you need to knead dough in the first place? The purpose of many steps within the bread-making process, like mixing ingredients for baking the loaf, are pretty clear cut.
Don’t be fooled though, kneading dough is very important in developing gluten. Simply put, gluten is what gives the dough its elastic texture and the gases that are trapped in the dough are what make it rise. Developing this protien gives the bread its srturcture, and without a proper knead, your loaf would come out of the oven flat and tough.
Kneading dough by hand
The manual technique for kneading dough is an art that our ancestors have been perfecting for hundreds of years. Kneading dough by hand is fairly easy, not to mention a good bit of fun! I tend to combine all my ingredients in a bowl and mix them all together with a wooden spoon until I get a shaggy dough. Then, I tip the dough on a silicone kneading mat and begin kneading.
There is no right or wrong way to knead dough. I tend to press the dough away from my palm, fold the dough in hand and press down again. The constant repetition of folding, pressing and turning ultimately creates a smooth, gluten-developed dough.
If you are new to this bread-making business, here’s a quick 2-minute video that will help you perfect your kneading technique.
You can be at this for anything between 10-20 minutes, and even more, depending on the type of dough you are working with. A high hydration dough will take longer as you need to get the dough to a smooth consistency without sticking to your hands or mat.
If you want to find other methods of mixing bread dough by hand, take a look here. As I said, there is no right or wrong way so find a method that suits your best.
Despite what you might be told, you don’t actually need to knead dough for it to develop gluten. Gluten develops on its own as long as there is water in the mixture. This method of kneading is known as the no-kneading method as it is by far my favorite way to make dough, especially when I am whipping up a homemade pizza.
All you need to do is mix your ingredients in a bowl with a wooden spoon until you get a shaggy dough, cover it with cling film and leave it to rise on your counter or in the fridge for 18 hours. No mess and no cleaning up. How great?
Regardless of which method you have used to knead your dough, always check if enough gluten has developed. The best and most foolproof way of doing this is by using the windowpane test. Take a piece of dough and stretch it out. If you can see light through it and it doesn’t tear, then your dough is ready.
- Can knead on any flat surface
- Don’t require any equipment
- Time consuming
- Puts pressure on your wrists
Kneading dough with a dough hook is my preferred option; it’s faster and completely hands-free. That said, there is one very important factor to consider here. if you are planning on kneading dough regularly, you are going to want to think about how powerful your mixer motor is.
If your mixer is quite small and you only use it to make cakes or light ingredients, then it might not be suited for kneading dough. Dough is very tough and you need a powerful motor to withstand the kneading, especially if you plan on baking homemade bread regularly.
I have had many baking friends tell me they don’t knead dough in their stand mixer because it either stalls, gets too hot, or vibrates too much. I, on the other hand, have quite a strong KitchenAid mixer and have never had any issues with kneading.
Another thing to consider is the type of dough hook you have. Most stand mixers come with a C-shaped dough hook. A C-shaped dough hook works by pushing the dough to the sides of the mixer. The spiral dough hook pushes the dough in a downwards spiral motion, mimicking the movement of hands kneading dough.
A C-shaped dough hook does the job, but it does have the tendency of throwing the dough from side to side and doesn’t really knead. If you want to use your stand mixer to its full potential, then opt for one with a spiral-shaped dough hook.
How to knead dough with a dough hook
Using a dough hook to knead dough is very simple. Put your ingredients in the bowl, lock the dough hook into place and turn your stand mixer on. It is important to knead at a low-speed setting as to not aggravate the motor.
The stand mixer will take around 10 minutes to knead, depending on the type of flour you are using and how much water there is in the mixture. To test your dough is ready, use the windowpane test I mentioned above.
- Kneads dough quickly
- Hands free
- Can put strain on your mixer
Don’t have an electric mixer but don’t want to work up a sweat with manual kneading? Here are a few mixer substitutes that are perfect for kneading dough.
It’s worth mentioning that there are other ways you can knead the dough. A quick and effective way is by using a food processor. Sure, this is probably not the first appliance that pops into mind for kneading dough but this machine can develop the gluten in as little as 90 seconds with its aggressive blade and powerful motor. Pretty neat, right?
The only downfall with using a food processor is that you can end up over-kneading the dough. If it’s not ready after 90 seconds, keep kneading 10 seconds at a time until it passes the windowpane test.
Another alternative, and perhaps the best, is to use a bread maker. The bread maker has become my best friend when it comes to making bread. When I want homemade bread but don’t have the patience to knead by hand, I turn to my bread maker to knead, prove and bake the bread.
If you are someone who loves homemade bread but doesn’t want to spend the whole day kneading and waiting for it to rise and bake, then a bread maker might be just what you were looking for.
The great thing about bread makers is that they are very customizable and have an array of settings. If you want to add a personal touch to your loaf without doing the hard work, you can set the machine to the knead only setting and then bake it in the oven.
Dough hook vs hand kneading: Which is better?
It’s really hard to pick which is better. I enjoy making bread from scratch with my own hands but I do love the swiftness of the dough hook.
Both methods are equally as effective and the end result is the same. I make bread a lot so I tend to use a combination of hand kneading some days and using either my stand mixer with the dough hook of my bread maker.