The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Would you bake if you didn't knead with your hands?

thihal123's picture

Would you bake if you didn't knead with your hands?

I was just wondering if I'd be so interested in baking bread if I automated much of the process using my Kitchen Aid professional series mixer. I'm thinking I probably won't be as interested, though the interest would still be there. What I live about the bread making process is how hands-on it is. I mix everything by hand. The only thing that use machines are the digital scale (which I just started using; I was using measuring cups before) and the oven.

Wondering if there's anyone here who would be less interested in making bread if they automated the mixing and kneading process.

MangoChutney's picture

I loved kneading the dough, but I hated the sticky part leading up to that point.  Doing the sticky part of the work with a bench mixer and dough hook has made me into a baker of bread on a regular basis, when before I was interested but dreading the mess.

PaddyL's picture

I loved kneading bread, it was almost my favourite part of the whole process...until I got arthritis and found I was depending more and more on the dough hook.  I still get my hands into the dough when I take it out of the mixer, and I still enjoy kneading despite the after effects on my hands.

PaddyL's picture

I loved kneading bread, it was almost my favourite part of the whole process...until I got arthritis and found I was depending more and more on the dough hook.  I still get my hands into the dough when I take it out of the mixer, and I still enjoy kneading despite the after effects on my hands.

dabrownman's picture

like bagels we knead by hand because the KA would melt if it tried to do it.  Many of the breads we bake, like MangoChutney, that are middle of the road hydration we start in the KA for 4-5 minutes and then finish with S & F's.  High hydration doughs, not ryes or whole grain doughs,  we do both ways bepending on what kind of  holes we want.    High % whole grains with high hydration we do by hand.  Ciabattas are always done by hand.  But, for 35 years, all bread was done by hand  because there was no KA in the house :-)  I am starting to not use the KA much at all for any breads.  It is really not needed in the scheme of things and not required to make bread.

Commercial bakers need them and folks who are baking a lot of bread otherwise just to speed things up and make large batches.  Same for commercial yeasts.  Makes things much faster for commercial bakers who don't use SD or for those who don't have the time for SD or don't want the tang. 

Still, would bake bread either way - and do.


Patf's picture
Patf best. I don't even use scales, just handfuls of this , swirls of that, sprinkles of the other .  But that is for our everyday basics, wholemeal or white or spice buns. If  I'm trying a new recipe I measure.

I have arthritis in my shoulders, so have cut down on the kneading, but the bread is still good.

thihal123's picture

With regards to measuring, I think if you're a seasoned baker, it's possible to do because you can feel the dough and know how the dough is supposed to be given the formula. However, for a novice like me without having yet honed down the feel of what so-and-so hydration dough feels like, it's better to measure. I'm sure that in time, I'll get down for how a certain dough is supposed to feel like, then I wouldn't need to measure so much. :)

An analogy, for those who run, is like learning to know how a certain running pace feels like. We hone down that skill on the track so that when we're on the road, we know how a 6:00 min/mile feels like, how a 5:00 min/mile feels like etc. But, it takes constant reminding and honing down, because the body responds differently depending on how well-rested, well-conditioned, and/or out-of-shape it is.

Ford's picture

Physical/Psychological Therapy:  I have said it before, hand kneading is therapy for me -- both physical and psychological.  The physical part is obvious.  The psychological comes when I take out my frustrations on the bread dough by hand mixing and kneading.  Beating the dough has kept me from getting in trouble with my associates.  Besides, the more I beat the dough, the better is the bread.


berryblondeboys's picture

I use machines for kneading, but there's still the hands on part with shaping the loaves. that's enough for me! I wouldn't make bread regularly if I had to do it by hand - too time consuming for a busy mom for me!

proth5's picture

I do a hand mix.  I am fascinated with the ease that dough will come together using a few strokes of a plastic scraper and time. I love the smell when I get fresh commercial yeast - even when I combine it with a levain.

Sometimes I hand knead the dough.  I love to feel it form under my hands and to establish a rhythm for the process.

Sometimes I use a spiral mixer. I love to see the patterns from the spiral and see and feel the dough change under my watchful attention.

All of my mixes then go into fermentation where the dough undergoes tranformations in its smells and textures where I must use all of my senses to judge its readiness.

Then there is dividing - where I can use my eyes and hands (and yes, a scale) to judge the right proportions for my loaves.

Then shaping - where disorganized dough becomes a sleek shape.

Then proofing - where all my senses again engage to judge its ripeness for the bake.

And then the glorious bake where hands, eyes, and nose engage to determine if loaves are prepared to exit the oven.

Hands off because a mixer is used for one little part? I hardly think so.



Ocelaris's picture

I only bake as much as I do because of my kitchen aid professional stand mixer. If I had to do it by hand, it wouldn't turn out as good (because of time/effort) or I just wouldn't do it. When I first started I really had a lot of fun doing crazy breads, but now that I've been baking for about 2 years, I'm happy to have the assistance of the bread machine. I'm not the most experienced or knowledgeable baker, but I'm able to turn out a good sourdough consistently every time, and the stand mixer definetly helps in that regards developing gluten. My father baked an American style sandwich bread since I was born and he always kneaded it by hand, and he's still at it. I'm to the point where I don't put a lot of value on the "how" the materials get mixed (at least in the first stages), there are plenty of professionals out there using machines and turning out better loaves than I am. I've found the initial mixing is a smaller part of the equation than the final kneading/shaping in regards to getting a good oven spring. I toss the inital ingredients in the mixer for 10 minutes before it's primary rise, then punch it down once by hand, then knead a little by hand and proof. 

Reading other people's comments, I guess it depends on your "go to" loaves, mine is a quarter whole wheat, sourdough, with a fairly tight structure, and not too high of a hydration, so the stand mixer works rather well. If I was doing higher hydration loaves, the stand mixer might not help as much, and I've done bagels in the stand mixer, and maybe I don't mix it as long as some, but it worked just fine. I've had a million hobbies, and if you have unlimited time and energy, which we all do when we start getting into these things, it's great to do it by hand.  But the hobbies that you keep are ones where you can take a break from the extreme rigors and keep up with it day in day out year after year.

mgbetz's picture

From time to time, I have problems with my hands and cannot knead.  This has not lessened my enjoyment!  Using the KA hook, then forming the bread by hand for oven bake in pans, braided or free-formed.

The same wrist/hand problem led me to explore quick breads again...the savory, not sweet, type.


Janetcook's picture

I stopped baking years ago because the kneading took too long and I didn't have the time when the kids were young.  I began baking again a couple of years ago but discovered mixers and have used one ever since.....I bake several loaves daily and, like Pat stated above, only a fraction of the baking process is done in my DLX......initial mix and then a rest and then more mixing in the machine or S&Fs done by hand.....all the rest is hands and senses on.


Kitchen Barbarian's picture
Kitchen Barbarian

I hate kneading, so if I had to knead by hand, I wouldn't bake much.  These days I let my Zo do nearly all my kneading for me.  I fianlly sold my original Hobart mixer because I never use it anymore, except for cakes for which it is WAY overpowered.