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why do you have to knead bread dough

Part of the wonder of bread baking is how many changes in the dough happen without the cook even touching it. It must have seemed like magic to early bakers to watch bread rise and expand of its own accord. But there is one major mechanical step that allows this magic to happen: kneading. Proper kneading incorporates air, distributes ingredients, and, most important, which gives yeasted bread chew. As we learned, mixing starts the process by creating a weak, disorganized matrix of gluten proteins. Then, kneading does the bulk of the work, the mechanical action straightening out these proteins and aligning them so they can cross-link into a strong gluten network. This gluten structure is key: It allows bread to expand without bursting.

You can knead most bread doughs by hand or in a stand mixer (we ll show each technique in detail below). While hand kneading can be a gratifying process, we recommend using a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment for this task. Not only is it easier the mixer does all the work but you re more likely to get good results if you use your mixer. Kneading dough by hand can be messy, and many home cooks add a lot of extra flour, which can compromise the texture of the baked loaf. On a practical level, it takes up to 25 minutes and some well-developed forearm muscles to knead dough fully by hand, and just about 8 minutes in the stand mixer with the dough hook. However, if you do not own a stand mixer, you can still make a good loaf of bread from most doughs.

The trick is to use a rhythmic, gentle motion that stretches and massages the dough.
Kneading dough has a few functions. First, it distributes the ingredients together evenly and allows the flour to become hydrated. As the flour starts to absorb water, enzymatic reactions occur and some proteins begin to mesh together. The two most important in this process are glutenin and gliadin. When these proteins start to get tangled up together, they form gluten, which is the protein that allows bread dough to stretch and trap gas bubbles produced by yeast. These reactions will occur on their own to an extent, as in no-knead recipes, but kneading accelerates the process.

Kneading also allows you to control the texture of the bread. A vigorous knead can help to produce a bread with a fine crumb as the kneading an tighten the gluten, keeping the air bubbles more uniform. Doing short kneading periods (or folds) spaced by time for the dough to relax and rise can give you more extensible dough which can help give you a more open crumb structure. Finally, kneading is sometimes used to add inclusions to the dough that would disrupt it's activity if added to early. This can be things like seeds, which would cut gluten strands if included too early in the process, or things like butter in a brioche, which would shorten the dough if included before the gluten had already developed.

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