When I posted my other bun’s recipe, one member in Facebook Group was asking if I have any hand knead bread recipe. I told her I do not have and I will try and share with readers if I am successful.
The rationale that I have decided to try is because for my Kenwood chef standing mixer, it is very difficult to knead a small amount of dough. I considered it as efficient only if it kneads about 500 grams of flour. To me 500 grams of flour will work out to about 800 grams of dough. If one bun weighs 50 grams, 16 buns will be baked. In my small family of 4, that will last us for 3-4 days and rest be assured after the second day, family members started to lose interest on the same bread for the third and fourth days. Therefore, hand kneading has an advantage of kneading small quantity of dough of say less than 300 grams of flour.
Another reason that I have agreed as I am already using hand knead method of my Chinese steamed buns (aka bao) and my pizza dough. I do have some experience in hand kneading. If you are interested in hand knead of steamed buns, you can refer to this post by clicking the link: Hand Knead Bao Recipe (手工包食谱）
The hand knead pizza dough is in this post: Easy Peasy Hand Knead Pizza : Bakwa Leek Oriental Pizza (手工披萨： 肉干大蒜披萨）
Though I have hand knead pizza dough and Chinese steamed buns, that is a bit different for hand kneading bread. Hand kneading bread buns that have much more challenges. We want our buns to soft and fluffy and therefore we need to hand knead the dough to windows pane stage. Only with window pane’s stages, the gluten is well developed, when you start proofing, the gluten structure will trap the carbon dioxides produced by the yeast and provide of fluffy soft structure. But this is not absolutely necessary for Chinese steamed buns and pizza. Chinese steamed buns is steamed and hence softer than baked bread. Pizza is thin and therefore not necessary to reach that stage.
Well, bread makers will know that we all aimed that our bread dough have developed gluten structure until window panes stage. The well developed gluten structure is affected by the type of flour used, the hydration ratio of flour to water, the timing for proofing and most important of all , the kneading part. By machine kneading, with the right recipe and the right speed, you can easily reach that stage by less than 20 minutes and over kneading will break the gluten structure and your bread will become compact.
Since machine need about 20 minutes, therefore for hand kneading, it will definitely be a more tedious exercise. It is a good arm exercise and I definitely sweat a lot during the kneading. You need to psychologically prepared for this, arm strength, passion and patience to do this. It definitely can be done but it need practises too. If you are serious into hand knead bread at home, be prepared to face some imperfections and never ever compare your bread with commercially sold bread. Homemade will give you sense of achievement and you know exactly what you used in the bread making. I am sure readers have every single personal reason to try making bread at home.
Since that request, I have hand kneaded a few times before I issue this post. The picture above showed that what I have prepared using the hand knead approach. I think now is the right time to issue this recipe after I am satisfied with the last attempt.
In this post, you will heard a lot about the word “gluten”. Gluten will help to make the bread puffy and soft and meanwhile spongy. In very layman term, flour = gluten plus starches. If you wash away these starches in the flour, you will get gluten or mian jin and that elastic ball in the picture above is the thing that give you a spongy bread. Therefore, hand kneading aims to make these structure as developed and possible.
As per Wikipedia,
“Gluten (from Latin gluten, “glue”) is a mixture of proteins found in wheat and related grains, including barley, rye, oat, and all their species and hybrids (such as spelt, kamut, and triticale). Gluten is appreciated for its viscoelastic properties.It gives elasticity to dough, helping it rise and keep its shape and often gives the final product a chewy texture.” (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gluten)
Since this is hand knead bread recipe targeted at the first timer, therefore the recipe will be straight forward, direct and simple. You can use this recipe as a starting point, get the feel of the sticky dough that changes to smooth dough after kneading and subsequently modify to suit your needs.
WHAT IS REQUIRED
Servings : About 15 small buns of 30 grams each
- 300 grams of bread flour
- 180 grams or ml of plain water or milk
- 5 grams of instant yeast
- 10 grams of butter, softened at room temperature (optional)
- 1 tablespoon of white sugar
- 2 tablespoons of milk powder (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
STEPS OF PREPARATION
- In a mixing bowl, put instant yeast, salt, flour, milk powder, sugar and milk. Stir until well mixed. Make a well in the centre and gradually about 150 ml of milk. The remaining 30 ml of milk will be reserved for usage in the subsequent kneading.
- Use a spoon or chopstick to stir until it forms crumbly like dough which takes about 30 second. The main purpose is to make your hand cleaner for subsequent kneading.
- Transfer the crumbly dough to a lightly floured surface. Start kneading the dough using your hand. Once of the classic actions is use your palm to knead the dough as if you are washing your cloth. You can also punch the dough or even use the rolling stick to roll the dough. What you need is the strength to exert pressure to the dough such that the dough gluten to starts to form.
- During your initial kneading, the dough will be crumbly, dry and rough. It is difficult to knead and there is a tendency to break. When you encounter this, pat your palm with the remaining 30 ml of water (in various stages as and when you feel like it) and continue kneading. Once all the water are added and it is still too tough to knead, let it rest for 10 minutes before continue the kneading. During this 10 minutes, the gluten will gradually loosen, the flour starts to absorb water and become softer and a whole series of autolysing chemical reactions are happening inside the dough. When you come back, the dough will be much softer, smoother and easier to knead. Should there be a need , you can repeat this process a few times until you feel that the dough is easy to knead.
- After 20 minutes of kneading, to test if the gluten structure is ready, you can use your hand to lightly tear the dough as thin as possible. If your dough is not ready, as long as your tear, it will be broken into 2 pieces. If it is ready, you should be able to get a thin film of dough that you can see through. This is called window pane stage and one of the factors that affect the softness of the bread. As a first timer, it may be tougher to use hand to perform the testing part. You can use a rolling pin to roll a small piece of dough as thin as possible and take up. If it does not break immediately, it is considered as ready for next step. A small hole in the thin film is generally acceptable since this is for new bakers.
- Once it is ready, put the soften butter and continue to knead until all the butter are absorbed into the dough. Butter will inhibit formation of gluten and it has to be added at the stage only when gluten is formed.
- When ready, your dough should be very much smoother than initial kneading. Shape the dough into a big ball and place the dough into a greased mixing bowl big enough to cover the dough after proofing. Cover with a clingy wrap or wet towel to prevent moisture lost and hence a hard bread. Let the dough proof until double in size . This is called the first proofing and during this time, yeast will start to excrete carbon dioxide to make it looks bigger and the gluten structure will continue to be formed and strengthen. Proofing time depends on different area. In Singapore, it is always less than 1/2 hour. Therefore, use observation instead of timing as it will be influenced by room temperature and seasons
- After first proofing, you will note the dough after its chemical reactions inside, become smoother and puff up adorably. A classic way to test if it is ready is to use a finger to touch the dough. If you feel like a spongy feel and the dough did not bounce back, it is considered as done. Punch the dough to force out all the carbon dioxides trapped inside the dough. The dough will immediately collapse, with lots of wrinkles and came back to the same size before the proofing.
- Divide the dough into your desired size. A 30 gram dough yield a very small buns like those served at hotel buffet counter. A bakery sold bun usually needs about at least 50 grams of dough per bun and let it rest for 5 minutes before the next step. This step is necessary as during the punching, the gluten contract again and you will have a hard time to shape the dough.
- After resting, take one piece of dough and shape it into a ball. Always find the smoothest part of the ball as the top of the bun and transfer to the baking tray and give enough space to second proofing and baking. As a guideline, a 1 cm space in between is adequate.
- Pre-heat your oven to 175 degree Celsius.
- Prepare your bread balls for second proofing. Let it proof until double or triple in size. Note the size after proofing in the picture above. REMEMBER TO COVER WITH A CLINGY WRAP DURING THE PROOFING. The bread after second proofing will be very light and airy. Do not touch the bread dough anymore as when you touched them, the proof bread will collapse again.
- Bake in the pre-heated oven of 175 degree Celsius for 12-15 minutes. At the 7-8 minutes juncture, you will likely start to smell the aroma of the freshly baked bread and what you need now is the browning of the bread. It should turn to light brownish by 15 minutes.
- Once out of the oven, immediately brush the bread with a thin film of butter on the top. This will provide an irresistible buttery aroma and it will also help to prevent moisture loss. Note that the bread crust will be rather hard when it is out of the oven and it is normal. It will soften after it cooled completely.
- For storage: Always placed cooled bread in an air tight container to prevent moisture loss that leads to hard bread.
I do not know how many readers will require the hand knead bread recipe as most have bread maker and also standing machine. One will really appreciate hand knead breads with all the hard work invested and do not get deter if the first batch does not suit your taste buds. Do not think that bread making is not for your if you fail your first time. I prepared 3-4 times before I am satisfied and it is the quest of getting better hand knead bread that pushes me forward..Do give it a try.. Of course you can also ask your hubby or son to assist you in the kneading. Ha-ha. This is a long winded post as there is a need too.. Since this is designed for first timer, I am sharing in a very detail manner. If time and circumstances permit, I will upload a video to supplement the post.
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