51. PURPOSE OF KNEADING.--As has been pointed out, it is necessary to knead dough one or more times in the making of bread, the number of kneadings depending on the method that is employed. The purpose of kneading is to work the dough so as to distribute evenly the gas that is produced by the yeast, to increase the elasticity of the gluten, and to blend the ingredients. It is a very important part of the work of bread making, for to a great extent it is responsible for the texture of the finished product. At first, kneading may be found to be somewhat difficult, but the beginner need not become discouraged if she is not proficient at once, because the skill that is necessary to knead the bread successfully comes with practice. So that the best results may be attained, however, it is advisable that the purpose for which the kneading is done be kept constantly before the mind during the process.
52. KNEADING MOTIONS.--Several motions are involved in the kneading of bread, and these are illustrated in Figures 7 to 10. In order to carry out the kneading process, first cover lightly with flour the surface on which the kneading is to be done; this may be a suitable table top or a molding board placed on a table. Then remove the dough from the mixing bowl with the aid of a case knife or a spatula, in the manner shown in Fig. 6, and place it on the floured surface. Sift a little flour over the dough, so that it appears as in Fig. 7, and flatten it slightly by patting it gently. Next, with the fingers placed as shown in Fig. 8, take hold of the edge of the mass at the side farthest from you and fold the dough over the edge nearest you, as Fig. 9 illustrates. Then work the dough with a downward pressure and, as indicated in Fig. 10, push it out with the palms of the hands. With the motion completed, turn the entire mass around and knead it in the same way in another direction. Continue the kneading by repeating these motions until the dough has a smooth appearance, is elastic, does not stick to either the hands or the board, and rises quickly when it is pressed down.
To prevent the dough from sticking to the hands and the board, flour should be added gradually during the process of kneading, but care should be taken not to use too much flour for this purpose. The lightness and sponginess of the finished loaf depend largely on the quantity of flour used at this time, so that if the dough is made too stiff with flour, the bread will be hard and close after it is baked. As soon as the dough can be kneaded without its sticking to either the hands or the board, no more flour need be added; but, in case too much flour is used, the dough may be softened by means of milk or water. Such dough, however, is not so satisfactory as that which does not have to be softened.