A previous column explained how to prepare basic yeast dough for bread baking. Once mixed, this dough must be kneaded to develop gluten in the wheat flour and provide structure for the bread as it bakes.
Kneading may be done using the dough hook of an electric mixer or a food processor, following the manufacturer's instructions. Many bread bakers, however, enjoy the traditional technique of kneading bread dough by hand.
Begin by turning the dough out of the mixing bowl onto a floured surface and forming it into a fairly flat ball. Allow the dough to rest about five minutes.
Sprinkle the dough with flour, and using floured fingers, fold it over toward you (Step 1). Press the dough away, using the floured heel of your hand (Step 2), with a rolling motion.
Rotate the dough a quarter-turn, then repeat the folding and pushing motion, adding flour as you knead. Flours vary in moisture content, so it's impossible to say exactly how much should be added during kneading.
This first kneading should be thorough, but not rough. Develop a rhythmic pattern as the dough is worked, with time in between for it to relax.
After about eight to 10 minutes the dough will become smooth and elastic and air blisters will begin to appear just below the surface. At this point it should no longer stick to the surface or cloth and will spring back when depressed lightly with your fingers.
The dough is now ready for the first proofing, or rising. Grease a large clean bowl, place the dough in it and then turn the dough over (Step 3) so that the entire surface is lightly greased, preventing the formation of a dry skin.
Cover the bowl with a clean towel (Step 4) and let it rise in a warm (75 degrees to 85 degrees), draft-free place until doubled. Plastic wrap may be substituted for the towel if desired.
When the room is cool, the bowl may be placed on a rack over a pan of warm water or in an oven heated for less than a minute, just until it feels warm. Turn the heat off, place the bowl inside and keep the door closed.
Future columns will be devoted to shaping the dough into loaves and baking the bread.
Suggestions for column topics may be sent to Back to Basics, Food Section, The Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053.