Kneading or not kneading: a matter of crumb

There are few people who don’t like to cook, and few people don’t like (good) bread. However, amateur bakers are still a relatively small tribe, albeit in clear expansion. Most people I know say they’d like to make bread but they don’t dare. The reason, if it were a hashtag, would be #amasofobia, or what is the same: fear of kneading.

For some reason, imagining your hands trapped in a sticky mass that adheres to everything you touch has a greater deterrent effect than any other difficulty we may face when making bread. Kneading is scary. But is it necessary? Can it be replaced by something that doesn’t involve putting your hands in the dough? Because, actually and now that you think about it… what exactly is the point of kneading? The answers to these three questions are, respectively: no; yes; and now we see it in detail.


Is kneading necessary to make homemade bread?

Kneading is not necessary to make bread, but it is advisable. Wheat flour is characterized by having a lot of proteins called gliadin and glutenin, which together form a kind of network or mesh quite resistant, what we know as gluten. And gluten is very important in baking, because it is a fabric that allows the carbon dioxide produced by bread microorganisms to stay inside the dough, forming the alveoli. If you look at the crumb of a good bread, you will see that the holes have elastic walls, sometimes very thin and shiny. That’s gluten. In addition to wheat, rye, spelt and barley are gluten-free, which is why they are panifiable cereals. But gluten has, as we all know, a bad reputation.



The origin of this is celiac disease, a relatively common disease that consists of a gluten allergy. For this reason, all gluten-containing products (which are many: pastas, buns, breads and anything that carries some wheat flour) are labeled with an icon and a warning: it contains gluten. Does this mean gluten is bad?

I answer with another question: do people allergic to nuts or kiwis mean that these foods are bad? No. Celiacs should not eat any gluten-free products; for them there are special breads based on rice or cornmeal, which are reasonable substitutes for wheat bread. Those of us who are not celiacs, such as those who are not allergic to kiwis or nuts, can enjoy these foods without any problem. The most that can happen to us, if we spend eating things with gluten, is that the scale gives us away.

But let’s go back to kneading. We already know that gluten is essential for a good crumb.

Ok. Well, kneading is just one of the stretching and folding techniques that allows gluten to form; that is, that the proteins that constitute it and are found in an aefageal form – worth the contradiction – are structured forming the famous bubble-trapping network. For this it is kneaded, no more or less: to form the tangle that will ensure that our bread rises during fermentation and baking, and remains fluffy afterwards.

If you’ve read this far, you’re likely to tell yourself that all this is fine, but that for you kneading is still like dipping your hands in quicksand. In that case, don’t worry, there are two alternative techniques: folding and time. Making folds to bread is an easy way to promote the development of gluten and make the dough firmer and more workable; get less “spreading” to me, go.

In this video you will see the folding process.

Folds are as easy a technique as it results, especially for long fermentations. When you remember, you go to the kitchen, you make some folds for your dough. and ready It costs less than a minute and your crumb will thank you.

Unlike conventional kneading, folds are usually done from time to time (15 minutes, half an hour, or an hour). It can also be done only once in the middle of the first fermentation (unless this is at night, in which case it doesn’t make much sense (I confess that I have ever done it…).


amasar masa madre

Fermented and kneading time

What about time? Time also kneads, though not as well as our hands. If we let a dough ferment for a long time, we will see that it has “amassed itself”. This phenomenon is particularly evident in the masses with a lot of hydration, and leads us to the answer to the question that we lacked: can we make bread without kneading at all, nothing at all? Yes. It only takes enough fermentation time.

I don’t know if you can imagine the process of making bread without kneading, but it’s a tempting simplicity. In a bowl, you put an envelope of mater dough and the rest of the ingredients (flour, water and salt) and mix with a spoon (that’s what the #amasofobia). We cover and let the recommended time ferment, depending on the time of year.

When the dough has risen, we turn on the well floured countertop, form the dough, grow a little and bake. End point. Can you get a good bread, tasty and aromatic with this technique? Yes, but the crumb won’t be like well-kneaded bread, it’ll be more compact. In fact, if your kneading technique is improveable, you can also come up with somewhat dense bread and a slightly floury crumb.

I’m done with two good news about this. The first is that on our Youtube channel you have all the information you need to knead like a pro. The second is that, however bad you love or even if you don’t knead at all, following our recipes you will have a bread, if not spectacular, yes excellent. It’s a matter of crumb.

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