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What you 'Knead' to Know

Why do you need to knead the dough and how do you know if you've done it right?

Kneading dough is an essential step in making bread and other baked goods. It's the process of working the dough by hand to develop the gluten, which gives the bread its structure and texture.

I personally love making homemade bread and cookie dough, and I much prefer to do the kneading by hand then by machine. I love the feel of the soft cool flour and the meditative action of rolling the dough.

To knead dough, start by flouring a clean, flat surface. Take a portion of the dough and press it down with the heel of your hand to flatten it. Fold the dough in half, and then press it down again with the heel of your hand. Repeat this process for about 10 minutes, or until the dough becomes smooth and elastic.

As you knead the dough, you'll notice that it becomes more elastic and less sticky. This is because the gluten in the dough is developing and strengthening. Kneading the dough helps to distribute the yeast and other ingredients evenly, which leads to a more consistent rise and texture in the finished bread. It's important to knead the dough for the right amount of time, as over-kneading can lead to a tough bread, while under-kneading can result in a bread that doesn't rise properly.

When the dough is ready, it should be smooth and elastic, and it should bounce back when you press it with your finger. You can also test it by doing the "windowpane test" where you stretch a small piece of dough out as thinly as possible without it tearing, if it stretches thinly and becomes translucent, it is ready. Once the dough is kneaded, you'll typically let it rise before shaping and baking it. This process helps the bread to rise and become light and fluffy.

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