A well kneaded bread dough is best identified by its look and feel of the texture.
Not with a stipulated timeframe and definitely not with a timer.
Table of Contents - Navigate through the article easily!
- Don't time, let your dough show you
Time should never be a factor to determine if your dough is well-kneaded
- Kneading only quickens the process for gluten development
With or without kneading, gluten develops when your ingredients are mixed together
- Why focusing on time is not reliable
There are many factors that affects how quickly or slowly gluten develops. Find the summary here
- My experience with Asian soft bread dough
Here, I share my experience on how I learnt to identify how my dough should look and feel when it is well-kneaded
- The transformation we want to achieve!
We'll get to the end state together, without looking at a clock or a timer!
- Dough texture as it gains gluten strength
Here are two pictures to show how the dough looks as it begins to gain gluten strength in the early stages of kneading
- You have not over-kneaded and ruined your dough
Don't worry! Keep on kneading even though your dough seems to come together before getting all loose and shaggy again
- Very close, but not yet
Take a closer look at the two videos! As long as there is still a tiny bit of dough sticking to the side and/ or bottom of the mixing bowl, your dough still requires more kneading
- Almost done!
This video shows how your dough looks when the kneading is almost done. During this time, take extra care and be more diligent to stop the kneading process and perform the necessary checks
- Performing Checks
These are the checks that I perform to test if the dough is sufficiently kneaded
- Window-pane illustration
Compare two pictures illustrating how the dough should be able to easily stretch to a consistent thin layer when it is well-kneaded
- Final texture test
This video clip shows how the dough should feel and look like when you are done kneading
- Finally, we have reached a well-kneaded dough!
Closing reminders and a peek of my oh-so-soft-and-fluffy, savoury and sweet Asian bread! Also, click on the voting poll to let me know if you will try out these techniques in your next knead!
- Want to try the techniques using the same recipe I did?
Check out the recipe I used in this article! I have also included some minor adjustments which I made. Asian butter bread is flexible; go ahead get creative!
- Welcome back! Click on the voting poll and let me know
Were you able to successfully achieve a soft textured bread using the techniques described/ shown in this article?
Don't time, let your dough show you
The answer is not to time your kneading process! Instead, judge by the look and feel of your bread dough as it gets stretched around your mixing bowl.
What? But I don’t know how the dough is supposed to look and feel when it’s well kneaded! That’s why I NEED to know an estimated timeframe. After all, if we use similar type of machine and speed, it shouldn't vary much, right?
Unfortunately and perhaps much to your annoyance, the answer is – No.
Before you move away, I assure you, that the purpose of this article is to help you identify how your bread dough should look and feel when it's well kneaded.
Kneading only quickens the process for gluten development
But first, you need to understand that the kneading process is only to aid the gluten development of your bread dough; which defines the outcome of your bread’s texture.
Kneading only adds to quicken the process that would otherwise attain a similar texture over a longer period of time, should your dough be left on its own.
Details on what gluten is and how it develops
There is already a chemical process going on when all your ingredients are added together to form that stick mass of bread dough.
This is how Artisan breads can achieve a good texture with a no-knead technique, simply by leaving all four ingredients; flour, water, salt and yeast, together to perform their own chemical magic over time.
Naturally, another reason why the bread dough is left to ferment on its own, without intervening to quicken the process, is to produce a certain ‘soured’ flavour that is commonly savoured in Artisan breads. However, in this article, we are only focused on the bread’s texture, not the taste.
Why focusing on time is not reliable
Having said so, even if you were to use the no-knead technique, you cannot rely on a specified timeframe to ascertain if the gluten is well developed, unless you always contain your dough in a very scientific and controlled environment.
Reason being, there are many other factors that will affect how quickly or slowly the gluten develops in your bread dough.
If you would like to read up more on the details of how these factors affect gluten development
- Food Science: Understanding Gluten' s Role in Baking
Learn how to increase or limit this sticky protein for breads and pastries with the best texture
- All About Gluten | The Big Bake Theory
- Climate temperature and humidity-level
- Temperature of water
- Type of yeast
- Type of flour; affecting the absorption pace
- Even the different brands of ingredients used may have an impact! For example, different brands of butter/ oil will have different percentage of fat content
- Energy level; in terms of power and speed when using a machine for the kneading process. Otherwise, even with bare hands, we'll need to consider the amount of force used when kneading!
Geez.. just typing that out made me feel like giving up on kneading my own bread if I had to control all of these factors! Let’s not be control freaks here :)
My experience with Asian soft bread dough
The bread dough used in this article is that for an Asian soft bread, as it was in attempting to achieve this uniquely soft and fluffy texture found in Asian soft bread, which taught me how to judge when my dough is well kneaded using a stand mixer.
I performed many trial and errors, yet each time, I failed to achieve the soft and fluffy texture that I often saw many others succeeding. Going through reviews and feedbacks on highly rated recipes from the internet, I noticed that many people cautioned against over-kneading; since a machine is expected to exert more force in less time.
Learn more about a dough's texture when it is under-kneaded or over-kneaded
- Bread Baking Clinic: Under-Kneading & Over-Kneading | The Kitchn
After talking about that ideal kneaded dough that's "just right," it's worthwhile to spend some time looking at the other ends of the spectrum. Knowing when you're under-kneading or over-kneading, and correcting for it, can mean the difference
However, I have found that under-kneading is perhaps the likely cause with many, like me, who have been struggling to achieve the desired texture.
Do note that under-kneading, similar to over-kneading, also results in a dense texture.
This is the reason why we should not rely on a fixed timing, instead let our bread dough ‘speak’ to us!
Finally, one day, I decided to stop checking the clock and also stopped using a timer. Fully fixing my eyes only my bread dough as it went round and round my mixing bowl, stopping it at random intervals to test the texture of the dough. Despite my stand mixer having extreme heat radiating outwards, I still only focused on letting my dough show me when the gluten is well developed.
Here, I saw how my dough transformed and finally achieved the soft and fluffy texture I was after.
The transformation we want to achieve!
Focus your eyes only on your bread dough, instead of a clock or a timer.
You’ll realize how much more you actually enjoy the kneading process this way!
To illustrate how my bread dough transformed, here are some photos and videos I have taken through the kneading process.
A wet shaggy mass of dough with uneven texture, when ingredients are first mixed together.
The development of gluten during the kneading process can be seen as the dough gains strength; sticking to the sides of the mixing bowl.
You have not over-kneaded and ruined your dough
Even though it seems to be picked up completely by the machine hook before it gets loose and shaggy again.
Don't worry and continue kneading! The gluten has not yet fully developed!
After more kneading and just when you think the dough is well kneaded..
My fellow baker-friend, take a closer look again.
The tinniest bit of dough that still sticks lightly to the side and/ or bottom of the mixing bowl is an indication that the dough still requires a bit more kneading.
Just a tiny bit more. Don't stop the kneading process yet.
Kneading is done when the dough gains good gluten strength to ‘wrap’ around the machine hook and no longer sticks to the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl.
The dough begins to have more structure, looking heavier as it 'wraps' around the top part of the machine hook.
At this stage, the dough seems to have a life of its own, spinning faster as if to be in control and moving the dough hook around than to be stretched and pulled along.
Depending on the amount of dough compared to the size of your mixing bowl, the dough may begin to slap itself around the side of your mixing bowl.
Notice how the sides of the bowl looks much 'cleaner' now too; with no dough stuck around it.
Here is where you need to be more diligent; stopping the kneading process frequently to perform a few checks on your dough.
To perform the checks, first stop your machine (I know what you are thinking here). Okay, seriously, here goes:
1) Dough strength when lifting up your stand mixer head: The first check is to take note of how easily and quickly your dough breaks or tears apart as you lift up your stand mixer head.
- Since the bulk of the dough will drop to the bottom of the mixing bowl as you lift up the stand mixer head, as long as the dough is unable to connect without a breakage, I suggest that you continue with the kneading process
- If you prefer, you may also perform the window-pane check (reference next point for more details). At this stage, you will not be able to stretch a thin transparent layer that is consistent and it may even easily break off while stretching since the dough has not yet gained sufficient gluten strength
2) 'Window-pane' check is the next step; once the dough is able to connect without any breakage as you lift up your stand mixer head.
- This requires you to take a portion of the dough (usually, I'll take the portion that is stuck to the dough hook as it contains a sufficient amount of dough) and, using your thumb, index and middle fingers, gently stretch the dough apart
- The dough is determined to be sufficiently kneaded when it can be stretched to a consistent thin transparent layer without having any breakages
It will resemble a 'window-pane', seemingly allowing you to look through it.
- If you can consistently stretch the dough to a thin transparent layer, yet causing one or a few small round holes to appear, do not fret as it is not an issue!
3) Texture Test: When you touch the surface of the dough, you will be able to feel that it is smooth, bouncy and does not stick to your fingers.
- It will also look paler in color!
Let me know if this article has helped you!
Finally, we have reached a well and sufficiently kneaded dough!
Give your stand mixer some love by switching the power supply off and allowing it to cool down, as well as a pat on your back for observing well!
Don’t forget to cover your dough with a cloth/ plastic wrap so it doesn’t dry up while you await the beautiful rise of your soft and fluffy bread dough!
Here's a peek of my oh-so-soft-and-fluffy, savoury and sweet Asian bread!
Just to reiterate my point that we cannot fix a time to the kneading process, would you like to take a guess how long it took me to knead my dough? I checked the timing of the photos and videos I took and the length spanned approximately an hour! It’s no wonder I couldn’t get a successful soft and fluffy Asian bread previously since I was under-kneading my dough!
Remember; do not rely on the time of your kneading process this round for the next as well! Just watch your dough transform and let it show you when it is done!
Asian butter bread is flexible and can be eaten plain or with your favourite filling! Get creative!
I hope this article has helped you to see what a well and sufficiently kneaded dough resembles in texture.
I urge you to try out this technique when kneading with a stand mixer and wish you every success in achieving this oh-so-soft-and-fluffy texture!
Some minor adjustments to the recipe I used (link below).
Want to use the same recipe to try out this technique and perfect your knead with a stand mixer? Find the recipe I used in this link!
- Did not include milk powder
- Doubled the recipe portion
- Made two separate flavours and shaped the dough differently
- Kaya filling with sesame seed topping
- Plain filling with cheese topping
If you have tried out the techniques indicated in this article.. Welcome back!
Let me know your queries or feedback in the Comments section
Michelle on May 13, 2018:
I have a really difficult time with well hydrated doughs. They are incredibly sticky, so I find it difficult to judge how long to knead. I can have it missing in my KitchenAid for fifteen minutes, and it's still super sticky. Any thoughts or suggestions? I know you say not focus on time, but fifteen minutes?!