When you mix and knead, you make things.
It’s call “aggressive dough handling” when you mix and knead the dough. These are the first steps. They include putting together the ingredients and starting to make gluten. Mixing means putting things together: At the very least, mix flour, water, salt, and levain. Kneading is when you move dough around to make it more homogeneous and to help the gluten in it grow. All of the following techniques are mostly kneading techniques, but mixing is built into the process.
Kneading by hand
Probably the easiest way to do this is to use a lot of elbow grease. Also called “bench kneading,” this method is use to push or mash the dough on the counter with the heel of your palm. To make things more interesting, you can fold the dough toward you after each push. If you want to get really fancy, you can rotate the dough a little after each knead to keep it in a roughly circular shape. The rotation evens out the dough tension and helps you keep a steady kneading rhythm.
Hand kneading isn’t for people who aren’t strong or who don’t want to work very hard. It’s a lot of work, and depending on the type of dough, it can be very difficult. People who knead dough with a lot of force and leverage tend to make it come together faster and make more gluten. To knead dough by hand, it can take up to 30 minutes. A skilled baker might be able to do the same thing in half the time, relying on their huge forearms and sheer willpower for strength. People usually do this to mix and add dough to the mix, not to make the dough more elastic and strong.
Hand kneading is best for low-hydration doughs that don’t stick to the counter or to your hands. Dough with more than 75% hydration tends to make bench kneading difficult or impossible. If you’re one of those people who likes to make more mess than bread, then you might be better off just making your own bread.
Slap and then fold
If you want to improve your mixing skills, the slap-and-fold method might be a better option than bench kneading. It’s faster and more efficient than bench kneading. Another name for this technique is the “French fold.” It was popularised by Richard Bertinet, a masterful, old-school Breton baker. As the name implies, the baker slaps the dough on the table, then picks up and folds the dough from the bottom. This is how they make bread. This happens over and over again until the dough is a smooth, cohesive, and supple mass. As soon as the baker slaps and folds the dough, it turns into a smooth, round, and even dough in minutes.
This method is fast and effective because it is a very rough kneading method: It uses gravity and throws the dough on the counter, which gives the baker more leverage to apply more force to their dough than if they just knead it on the bench. You can slap and fold if you’re angry or frustrated and want to let it out. It is, in fact, the roughest, most vigorous method of hand-kneading that there is. People who use slap and fold work best with soft, medium-hydration doughs that are neither too stiff nor too wet or sticky. Doughs that have more than 50% water and less than 80% water work best. Some of the dough should stick to the counter so that the baker can make surface tension by pulling the dough and folding it over.
If you want to knead your dough, you have to slap and fold the dough. Make sure you have a lot of counter space to do the skill right. It is very noisy and messy. To people who haven’t tried making bread before, the process can be jarring. Bits of dough fly all over the place, stick to walls, floors, clothes, and even your hands. Plus, the counter gets messed up, and you’ll need to scrape it clean when you’re done. It’s not at all a gentle way to knead. The slap and fold method might not be right for you if you like gentle dough handling, high yields, and precision. As for me, I hate having to clean shards of dough from every corner of my kitchen. There are other ways to do this, though.
Putting together Rubaud
He came up with Rubaud mixing, a way to mix and kneade dough by hand. Rubaud mixing was invent by the late French-trained baker Gerard Rubaud. The technique was popularise by Trevor Wilson, who briefly studied with Rubaud and used it in a TV show a few years ago. An unofficial name for Rubaud mixing is the “scoop and smash” method. This method mimics the action of a diving-arm mixer, which is know for being gentle when working with dough and for keeping the temperature of the dough from rising too much due to friction because of friction.
A cupped hand is use to scoop up the dough from the bottom, stretch it, and gently let it fall back onto itself over and over again. It is a gentle way to mix that doesn’t put gluten under a lot of stress. Slapping and folding and hand-kneading are messy ways to mix things by hand. This method can be done in a bowl, so it’s much cleaner than those two ways. The method makes the dough a little more airy, and because there isn’t much contact with your hand, less dough ends up on your fingers. Less dough means more yield and less clean up.
Rubaud mixing is best for doughs with at least 75% hydration, says Wilson. At lower hydration levels, more intensive mixing and kneading methods may be need to get the dough to form. If you want to make small batches of dough, this is the best way to do it. A cupped hand can only scoop up so much dough at once.