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On the kneading of bread, and other things.... [Mar. 20th, 2011|07:05 pm]
This weekend, I learned that kneading bread is done gently... even if the dough is pretty stiff and requires you do do things to your fingers that you really would rather not.

They say to "push it down with the heel of your hand" while folding it, with no mention of putting any weight into it... but every time I tried to press down with the heel of my hand, well, I kinda go into "I'm supposed to crush this, right?" mode. So, instead, I started using my fingers, folding the dough and stretching it, more than squishing it, and it worked out a lot better, in most ways.

My pizza crust ended up a lot puffier than my last - probably because it was kneaded better.

Oh, and the bottom was really nicely toasted, because I was using a baking stone and a pizza peel. You don't need a lot of cornmeal, or oil, on a peel, but you *do* need to be awfully careful that you don't put any pressure on the dough while it's on the peel

I also made the final recipe here:

I actually halved it, because I'm eating *way* too much bread these days. It worked out really well, though I used a bit too much flour, and needed to add more buttermilk. But I'm really starting to consider waiting until I have more people living in the house before I keep up with the bread experiments... it's far too easy to make, and eat, far too much bread.

For example: tomorrow, I just have to try out the white version of the soda bread - I have to use up that buttermilk, after all! And then, well, soda bread isn't the kind of thing that lasts forever, you know... you gotta use it up! And...

Anyway. Those are some good soda bread recipes for anyone who's interested - they were the first I found that didn't include baking powder. I was *not* going to buy buttermilk and then use a recipe that included baking powder!

(Um. For those who don't understand - baking soda requires an acid to activate - like, e.g., buttermilk. Baking powder is baking soda, plus an acid (I think the original was cream of tartar). Soda bread is intended to rise with just soda - adding baking powder just didn't seem right.)

[User Picture]From: essaying
2011-03-21 07:40 am (UTC)
Her's the thing about kneading: your goal is to *stretch* the dough. So when you push with the heel of your hand, you're pushing down and away from you, so the bottom of the dough clings to your work surface, and the top stretches away. Fold it back, and repeat. After four or so of those, turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat. The rhythm and motion can be very soothing.

Even with my crappy wrists, I can knead normal dough all the way to full gluten development (although these days I almost always use the KitchenAid). I can't do the extra-stiff ones like bagels, though.

If you want to come down again sometime, we could bake together and I could show you what I know - and also give you some very good sourdough starter.
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[User Picture]From: johnpalmer
2011-03-22 01:26 am (UTC)
That - stretching the dough - is what I I think I figured out. I was kneading too hard and probably breaking it up more than stretching it out.

I've got a loaf of standard white bread proofing now, so I'll see if my insight has helped :-). And I'd love to do some baking with you - I've never tried my hand with sourdough.
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[User Picture]From: karenkay
2011-03-21 02:22 pm (UTC)
I learned how to knead bread when I was taking a pottery class. There's a particular technique called "kikuneri", which means to knead in the shape of a chrysanthemum. You use the heel of your hand and turn the dough slightly each time (making the chrysanthemum petals.) It works very well for bread kneading--you're always working a new surface.
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[User Picture]From: johnpalmer
2011-03-22 01:28 am (UTC)
I just did a search, and saw a video, and I *think* I see what you mean. It sounds interesting - a lot different than the "fold, press, quarter-turn, repeat" I've seen.
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[User Picture]From: karenkay
2011-03-22 01:33 am (UTC)
You definitely use the heel of your hand. It's really trivial to DO, but hard to explain. I did just look up "kikuneri" on YouTube, and you're right--the one video I looked at was good, and there are several to choose from.

There's a danger of over-kneading using this technique, but it works well otherwise.
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From: kightp
2011-03-24 02:17 pm (UTC)
If you don't want to turn all your excess buttermilk into bread, I can show you how to turn it into cheese (ricotta, paneer) or creme fraiche. Both of which go nicely with ... bread!
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