Kneading bread can be quite daunting, but actually it is quite easy. It takes a bit of effort and a bit of practice but it is not rocket-science. It is a critical step though, as if not done properly the bread will not rise. Kneading helps the development of gluten, which is a type of protein. As the gluten is formed during the kneading process it binds the dough together into a cohesive structure. Just think of it as the glue in bread-making!
Basically you just fold the dough, knead, over and over until it feels smooth and has an elastic structure. When you stretch the dough it should have a tendency to spring back, like elastic. The only secret is to knead the dough in the most efficient way possible to save you time and effort. So what is the secret?
Once the dough is mixed together, normally in a bowl, tip the mixture out onto a clean work surface. It might be a little sticky at this stage, and you can add a dusting of flour to the surface to help, but it is not normally necessary and the dough will loose its stickiness as you knead.
Take the ball of dough and flatten it with the heel of your hand. As you flatten it push the dough away from you too, stretching it out. Do not be gentle with the dough, this is the time to get all that stress out of your body from a hard day at work. The more you squash the dough the quicker it will release the gluten and attain the right structure.
Pull the flattened half back and over to create a ball shape again. Turn this ball a quarter of a turn and repeat, flattening the dough with the heel of your hand.
And that is it, flatten out and away, bring the flattened dough back to make a ball again, turn and then flatten out.
Keep going until the dough is smooth and elastic. To be honest with you it should feel a bit like plasticine!!
2017 Lincoln W. Betteridge