Now more than ever, home is where many of us are seeking refuge and solace in light of the novel coronavirus. This is a tough time, but we’re here for you—whether it’s a new pantry recipe or a useful tip for your kitchen, here are some ideas to make things run a little more smoothly for you and your loved ones.
We're all taking things a bit slower at the moment. It's hard to carve out space and time for work and play when it's all to happen within one small space.
Kneading dough, by hand, is a way to take time for yourself—to listen to a book, connect with family, or simply observe as flour and water transform into a supple dough with elbow grease and care.
Why knead at all, when there are no-knead options out there? When flour gets hydrated, its proteins (glutenin and gliadin) fuse to form gluten, and eventually, a tough and elastic network of it. Glutenin gives gluten its strength and elasticity, while gliadin brings extensibility—or, gluten’s ability to streeeeetch.
Gluten can and will form networks in dough without the aid of kneading—it will just take much, much longer. Kneading forces glutenin and gliadin to make contact more readily, to more quickly form gluten and a strong web of networks.
As yeast feeds on the sugars and starches in the dough, it releases carbon dioxide. A strong, extensible gluten network is key for holding in (not bursting from) all that air. In other words: gluten allows for a valiantly tall loaf.
Okay, now back to the task at hand: Here's how to knead dough in three easy steps.
1. Plop Your dough on the counter.
First, flour your surface well. You can measure a cook’s worth by the way they throw their flour: Throw it evenly, with force, and (real or feigned) confidence. Gently transfer your dough—using a flexible bench scraper or spatula if especially sticky—from your mixing bowl onto the surface.
2. Push & Fold.
With the heel of your dominant hand, press the dough down and away from you. With your other hand, fold the edge of the dough farthest from you in towards the center. Repeat this pushing and folding motion until the dough is smooth and elastic, no longer shaggy looking or sticky, about 10 minutes. Re-flour your surface as necessary, but not overly so—you don’t want to incorporate too much extra flour into the dough, and sometimes a little sticking is okay and helpful in developing the strength of the dough.
3. Perform the Windowpane Test.
When your dough starts to smooth out and bounce back, perform the "windowpane test." Tear off a small piece of dough and stretch it from all four corners. It should be able to stretch into a thin, see-through “windowpane” without tearing. If your dough does tear, keep kneading for another five or so minutes, then test for strength again.