Kneading dough is an essential baking skill. We not only knead bread doughs but many other products such as biscotti and scones. It might seem intimating but kneading is actually very simple and quite robotic once you get the hang of it. I, personally, love kneading dough as it provides me a time to mentally zone out while my hands exert that muscle memory.
How to Knead
With your dough in front of you on whatever counter or surface you are working on, gently pull the top of your dough away from you.
Fold the dough that you pulled, over the other half of your dough.
With the bottoms of the palms of both hands, roll the folded dough away from you while also pressing down on the dough to push it into itself. You don’t want to push down too hard! It’s more comes naturally with rolling the down with the palms of your hands.
Pick up the dough and give it a quarter turn then repeat steps 1-4! It’s that easy!
If your dough becomes difficult to work with and isn’t folding easily, you can let it rest on your counter for 5-10 minutes. This relaxes the dough and allows a much easier kneading process when you return to it!
How to Know When to Stop
When you first start kneading, your dough will be loose, sticky, and messy. As you knead, the gluten in your dough will develop, locking the dough together. As you get closer to being done, your dough will be smooth, less sticky, and neater.
Some people can just tell by looking and feeling their doughs that they are ready. But, there is an easy way to check for proper gluten development for the less experienced called the Window Test.
The Window Test
Using a bench scraper or a sharp knife, cut off a portion of your dough. Placing the dough in your fingers between your hands, gently rub the dough apart until it is thin. If your dough is easily falling apart at this stage, it’s not ready yet! With your thin piece of dough, hold it up to a light (or a window!) and you should be able to see light through your dough without it breaking.
This means that your gluten has been properly developed and you are ready to on to the next stage in your recipe! With the chunk that you separated, place it back on the rest of the dough on the place where you cut it and knead it back into the rest of the dough.