While I usually post recipe on Tuesdays, sometimes there are other kitchen topics I like to talk about, too. Technology in the kitchen is great, and we have so many gadgets that make our lives easier from food processors to blenders to stand mixers and more that take a lot of the grunt work out of cooking and baking – most of the time.
There are still some times when you need to know how to do some of them by hand. For me, I can’t use my (current) food processor to make sweet potato chips, much as I’d love to, because the mouth isn’t wide enough to slide a potato through. Even though I have the slicing attachment (which is wonderful for so many purposes), I have to manually cut my sweet potato into slices for the chips. The same holds true when I’m making scalloped potatoes – or at least it does until I get one of the awesome new wide mouth food processors.
I use my stand mixer for just about everything, including kneading bread dough, which saves me a lot of time and effort, though the muscles in my forearm suffer from underdevelopment because I don’t knead them by hand. Some doughs do require hand kneading, however. When I make my Gram’s biscuit recipe, after I stir together the ingredients by hand in a bowl, I need to knead the dough for it to come together. The same holds true for my pizza dough and even the awesome cinnamon rolls I made last week.
Kneading by hand allows you to create the elastic bonds that hold the cooked items together and create their amazing texture, but some doughs get too tough if you knead them with a machine. Kneading by hand allows you to control that so that you form the gluten strands just as much as you need without going overboard.
So do you know how to properly knead? If not, you will now!
The concept of kneading is relatively simple. You simply need to push it around and introduce air while keeping it from sticking to you or anything else. You may start with something that looks like this – especially if you’re making biscuits or my cinnamon rolls, but it won’t look like this when you’re done!
First, make sure to flour your surface. You don’t want the dough to get stuck on your counter. Simply grab a small handful of flour – the same type you used to make your dough – and sprinkle it in a large area where you’ll be kneading.
Flour your hands, as well, then remove the dough from the bowl and place it on your floured surface. You can either sprinkle a little more flour atop it or cheat like me and pick up the dough and turn it over so that the bottom – now floured – side has become the top.
Using the heel of your hand, push down and away from you into the dough so that you’re spreading the dough along the surface and stretching it lengthwise. Use your muscle and body weight. Don’t be afraid that you’re going to hurt the dough. You want to work it.
Pick up the now long end and fold the dough in half, placing the end atop the other end.
Rotate your dough a quarter turn.
Repeat as much as your recipe requires. For my biscuits, I need to do this only ten or twelve times. For the cinnamon rolls, I want to do it for a couple minutes. For bread dough, you generally want to do it for around 10 minutes or so until the dough feels like a baby’s bottom. You may need to introduce more flour it the dough starts to stick to your surface, but once you get going into a rhythm, you’re set. It should take only a couple seconds to go through these steps and flip to repeat again. It doesn’t have to be a slow, hard process.
I talk to so many people who are intimidated by making bread and other dough products. Don’t be. They’re easier than you think they are, and learning a few techniques like this make it that much easier. It’s really hard to overknead dough by hand, especially if you’re following the directions in your recipe for how long and what the dough should look like when you’re done.
For me and my cinnamon rolls last week, the dough was done quickly, and I was able to easily roll it out into the rectangle to finish it up. And now it’s time to go make more – since Little Miss was already begging for more cinnamon rolls this morning. With only it taking only an hour or so to make them, how can I refuse?