How I designed a hand knead technique that rocks

This journey started in 2018, I needed to find the best way to hand knead bread, reason? I was about to start making this site and well, I would be baking a lot of bread. Back then (not much has changed now) I didn’t have any money, saddled in debt and living in a bedsit with the occasional mouse for company! I couldn’t afford a dough mixer plus it was about time I learned how to make bread without one. 

(To view the best hand knead technique article click here)

Over the many years of bread baking, I had learned a few ways to hand knead, though my mixer never broke down, fortunately, so never was forced to make bread in quantity with my hands.

Until now...

So I started using the combination of the French and the one handed technique to knead the dough. Flipping between the two when my hands got tired. Knowing that the heat from my hands would warm up the dough and it being summer at the time I tried using fridge cold water at 3.5C, to cool the mix.

I mixed and knead but..

Halfway through I took a temperature reading and it was plus 27C! The dough was nowhere near ready yet, it would be about 34C once I’d finished - far too hot!

No good.

Next attempt was to slow mix. This would reduce the heat that was created…

I kneaded the dough slowly for 5 minutes and placed it back in the bowl to rest for 2 hours. I did two stretch and folds at equal intervals to help it along. 

This way kinda worked,

    but it was still too hot when it came to moulding. I was forced to dust the table heavily with flour in order to mould it. Once baked I still longed for a springy textured crumb that I had hoped for, 

Still no good.

I buried my head in a few bake books for a couple of days. 

This gave me the idea to do a stretch and fold after slow mixing again. But this time resting the dough in the fridge between the folds.

This seemed like the best of both worlds of my dough kingdom, I got a cool temperature and a developed structure.

But there is a but…

I was trying to make a tin loaf!!

It should be fast to make. Typical mixer settings would start with a short, slow mix to incorporate the ingredients. Followed by around 5 minutes of fast kneading.

Only a short rest before shaping and final proofing. This creates a light texture and a small, dense crumb which is perfect for sandwiches.

Stretch and folds weren’t going to work. It would work for other breads, but not for this one.

I tested this method and it was better than the others, though it missed an exciting oven spring and took ages to rise.

It was nice, but not what I wanted.

So again, no good.

I thought long and hard this time. There must be a way to bake a decent tin loaf using my hands to knead the dough??!!

There must be...

But then... Eureka! The best way to hand knead dough was created!

I could use the fridge to cool the dough between slow and fast hand kneading. I could also cool it further by allowing it to rest in the fridge after mixing.

With that, I ditched some of the slower, gentler techniques of hand kneading and used a more vigorous one that I had played around with a few years ago. I was trying to get the French method of hand kneading right, and for years I thought I was doing it correctly until I double-checked! You can see it by following the link at the bottom of the page.

I also needed a way to slowly knead the bread, so I played around with it, pushing and pulling it until I found a nice little motion.

And it worked!

To view it, follow this link to discover the how to knead dough.

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