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September 2007 . April 2013 Video . May 2013 Video (with sound!)

Kneading Slack Dough by Hand

September 2007
cinnamon bun dough . rustic boule dough . wild bread dough


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As for many of the French and Italian style breads that I make, the dough for wild yeast bread is quite slack. I knead it by hand. It isn't as difficult as it might seem... A dough scraper is very helpful (I think it's essential) when kneading slack dough. Use it to clean the board, fold the dough in half and give it a quarter turn as best you can. A big advantage is that the hand holding the scraper stays quite clean.

kneading slack dough © ejm September 2007kneading slack dough © ejm September 2007kneading slack dough © ejm September 2007
kneading slack dough © ejm September 2007

This is how slack dough looks after hand-kneading for about 5 minutes. It still resembles porridge. Fear not. Use the dough scraper to maneuvre the sloppy mess into your rising bowl. Scrape your hand off as best you can and cover the bowl. Let it rest on the counter for 20 to 30 minutes. (See how the dough scraper has pretty much completely cleaned the board.)

slack dough after kneading © ejm September 2007

After the dough has rested, it's time for its first turn. Scatter a dusting of flour on the board (I use a flour wand) and pour the dough onto the board. Don't worry that it still looks like porridge. Wash and dry the rising bowl.

slack dough just before 1st turning © ejm September 2007

Slip the dough scraper under the right side of the dough in preparation for gently folding the dough in half.

slip dough scraper under one side of the dough © ejm September 2007
slip dough scraper under one side of the dough © ejm September 2007dough folded in half © ejm September 2007

The dough is now folded in half. Gently pat any excess flour off.

The dough is now folded in half. © ejm September 2007

Slip the dough scraper under the bottom side of the dough in preparation for gently folding the dough in half again. Fold and continue to the left and top of the dough.

slip dough scraper under one side of the dough © ejm September 2007dough folded in half © ejm September 2007

Maneuvre the dough back into the clean rising bowl. You'll see that it looks a little less porridge-like. See how the dough scraper has pretty much cleaned the board. Cover the bowl and let the dough rest in a draft-free area on the counter for another 20 to 30 minutes.

after first turning © ejm September 2007
after first turning © ejm September 2007

After the dough has rested, it's time for its second turn. Scatter a dusting of flour on the board and pour the dough onto the board. It already looks less like porridge. Wash and dry the rising bowl.

before the 2nd turning © ejm September 2007

Gently fold the dough in the same way as before starting at the right side and working around all four sides. Gently pat the excess flour off.

dough folded in half © ejm September 2007gently pat off excess flour © ejm September 2007
gently pat off excess flour © ejm September 2007dough folded in half © ejm September 2007
dough folded in half © ejm September 2007gently pat off excess flour © ejm September 2007

Put the dough back in the clean rising bowl to rest for another 20 to 30 minutes.

after the 2nd turning © ejm September 2007

One more time, after the dough has rested, it's time for its third turn. Scatter a dusting of flour on the board and pour the dough onto the board. It is still quite loose but looks much more like dough. Note how the dough just pulls away from the bowl. If it sticks, use a (clean) finger or rubber scraper to gently pull the dough out onto the board. Wash and dry the rising bowl.

before the 2nd turning © ejm September 2007

Gently fold the dough in the same way as before starting at the right side and working around all four sides. Gently pat the excess flour off.

slip dough scraper under one side of the dough for 3rd turning © ejm September 2007dough folded in half © ejm September 2007
slip dough scraper under one side of the dough for 3rd turning © ejm September 2007dough folded in half © ejm September 2007

Now the dough looks smooth and will still be quite soft. Use the dough scraper to gently put the dough back into the clean rising bowl. Cover and allow it to rise in a draft-free area on the counter to about double (another couple of hours or so, depending on the temperature of the kitchen).

after the 3rd turning © ejm September 2007
after the 3rd turning © ejm September 2007cover and allow to rise to double © ejm September 2007

Once the dough has doubled, gently release the risen dough onto the generously floured board.

dough has doubled © ejm September 2007

Divide the dough into two and shape into two rounds and place on parchment paper covered peel. Flour the rounds and cover with plastic. Allow to rise in a draft-free area on the counter til just doubled. Placing cookie cutters on the shaped dough as it is rising etches a design on top of the bread. They also help to keep the plastic from sticking to the dough.

shaped into two rounds © ejm September 2007the loaves are doubled and ready for baking © ejm September 2007

When the shaped bread has doubled, liberally spray with water and bake at 400F in a preheated oven for 40 to 50 minutes. To make sure the bread is fully baked, check that the internal temperature of the bread is 210 to 220F - around 100C. (I use a meat thermometer.) Place the baked bread on a footed rack and allow to cool completely before cutting. The bread continues to cook as it cools.

slack dough bread © ejm September 2007
bread thermometer © ejm September 2007check the internal temperature © ejm September 2007

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See how the cookie cutters have etched a design on top of the bread.

slack dough bread © ejm September 2007

In 2009, I discovered the wonders of using an inverted roasting pan placed over the baking bread to promote oven rise. The difference in height is remarkable!



Kneading Slack Dough by Hand Revisited

April 2013

After reading Chad Robertson's "Tartine Bread", Ken Forkish's "Flour Water Salt Yeast" and watching Richard Bertinet's Gourmet Magazine video showing how to hand mix and knead brioche, I have revised the way that I hand-knead bread. I still knead, using a dough scraper as above, but there is something really thrilling about plunging both hands into the dough. (This method worked very well to make BBB's Whipped Spelt Bread.)

slack dough bread  April 2013 When hand kneading slack dough, I alternate between using Richard Bertinet's "lift, flip over, slap down" method and my own "hand wringing" method. Both methods are easy and both work very well. I use a dough scraper every so often to clean the board. (Nope, still no sound on our recording equipment - too bad too - I love the sound of the dough slapping down. It isn't particularly loud. There is just a nice satisfying *Plop* as the dough hits the board.)


The above dough was made following the recipe for Harvest Bread with Poolish in "Flour Water Salt Yeast" by Ken Forkish. (Please look at more photos of Harvest Bread - aka Thermometer Bread.)

Bread (February 2013)

Kneading Slack Dough by Hand Revisited Again

May 2013

kneading (May 2013)

Video - With Sound!

slack dough bread May 2013We were bemoaning the fact that our digital camera doesn't have a recording device and were so excited to realize suddenly that we could use our MP3 player to record the sounds of kneading slack bread dough ... thank goodness for the internet and the several people who posted tutorials on how to edit movies in Windows Movie Maker. It's not perfect syncing but it's close.


September 2007 . April 2013 Video . May 2013 Video (with sound!!)

blog from OUR kitchen: Kneading Slack Dough by Hand ~ Wild Bread recipe (omit the olives) ~ converting recipe for wild yeast to one with domestic yeast ~ Kneading Slack Dough by Hand Revisited ~ not-wordless not-Wednesday: hand-kneading slack dough

The Fresh Loaf (ejm): Kneading Slack Dough by Hand







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