Any bread baker knows the standard way of kneading bread: plop the dough on your (no doubt heavily floured) countertop, push out one side of the dough, fold it over itself, and repeat. Personally, though, I find some problems with this method:
- It’s time consuming! When I first started baking bread at home, I found myself spending five minutes just getting my dough to a workable state, and at least another twenty to knead it so that it passed the windowpane test. I’m sure the time could’ve been cut down by half if I was more experienced, but nonetheless I found myself looking for other ways to knead bread.
- It’s tiring. Twenty minutes of kneading bread? Who wouldn’t be tired? Sure, it’s nice to pride yourself in “working out” your muscles by kneading bread, but personally I’d rather get awesome kneaded dough in a shorter period of time.
So, I introduce to you a faster, less tiring way of kneading bread, which I learnt from Richard Bertinet's book.
Firstly, scrape your dough onto your clean countertop, so that it looks like an (probably irregular shaped) oval. Place your hands on opposite sides of the short end of the dough, with your palms up, and slide them underneath the top of the dough, so that your hands are like spatulas.
Using your hands, bring the dough up, and then quickly turn your hands so that your fingers are facing your body to flip the bottom of the dough. This method is harder to explain with words, so refer to the pictures; the original bottom part of the dough should now be flipped, and at the top.
Rest the part of the dough that your hands are still holding onto on the part of the dough that has just been flipped.
Repeat these motions of sliding your hands under the dough, bringing them up, flipping the bottom part and then resting the original top part onto the new top part of the dough. It seems confusing at first, but keep on going and you’ll get into a nice rhythm. If you are ever unsure, just go to Youtube and search ‘Richard Bertinet kneading bread’ — and you’ll be able to find multiple videos of him demonstrating this technique.
Once the dough is not sticky anymore, you can stop kneading and leave it to rise. To avoid the dough sticking to the bowl, you can sprinkle a bit of flour into the bowl and then place the dough in it.
And there you have it! The French kneading method that I learnt and have used ever since. You’ll want to give this a try very soon!