French Bread – Making and Kneading the Dough

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 69,610
    Chef Amy Riolo demonstrates how to make and knead the dough for french bread.

    Amy Riolo: My name is Amy Riolo and we are making French Pains au Lait. Right now we are going to make our french bread dough and knead it. So the next step in making our dough is to add the remainder of the three quarters cup of milk into our yeast and milk mixture which we started from before and we are just going to whisk those together. You can see that the yeast has dissolved and that the milk is nice and foamy. That means that the yeast is working. If you ever put yeast in with liquid and it doesn't foam then that means that it's not working. That's what proofing the yeast is all about. So if your yeast isn't foaming, it's not working, it's not good. You want to go the store, make sure you check the expiration date and buy good yeast. Now we are going to add the rest of our ingredients into the standing mixer and what I have here is two cups of bread flour. I am going to add that in. Next, we will add two cups of all-purpose flour and we are going to add our two teaspoons of salt, our teaspoon of sugar and we will slowly stir these together on a low speed. This will start to resemble a coarse meal and then we can add a in a quarter cup of unsalted butter. The reason why I am working with unsalted butter is because whenever you bake, especially if you are baking European pastries it's always good to work with unsalted butter. Unsalted butter allows you to control the amount of salt that you want in a recipe and since baking has a lot of chemical proportions in it, it's really important to make sure that we get the right mix. When our dough is done mixing, it's going to be almost a ball so that we know we can go ahead and start working with it. I am just going to move our bowls over to the side and our dough is ready so we can stop our mixer. Then I am going to flour our work surface. When you make bread you can notice that a lot of different recipes will always tell you to flour your work surface and you don't want to go over board. You always want to leave a little space in the center because you might not need the flour. It's much better to use less flour than you need than to use too much. Because if you use too much flour your bread is going to be tough, but you always want a little bit just to make it hold together and to give you the nice shape.

    But if you had to air it, it's always better to air on the side of having too little flour. So now our dough is ready and we are just turning it out. Now we can grab it all together and make a nice little ball. If you have noticed, we have used a combination of all-purpose flour and bread flour. Bread flour is great in making recipes because it has a higher protein content and what that means is when the protein mixes with the water and or any liquid that you have in your bread recipe, that creates gluten and the gluten is what gives dough its elasticity. When dough is more elastic, it's more springy, it's light and it tastes better. So it's always best if you can to use a little bit of bread flour or all bread flour in with your recipes.

    You want to get a nice mix of elasticity and a springiness and just a traditional dough flavor. So now we are going to knead the dough and the first thing we do is we have to make a ball which is what we have here or put little bit of flour right on the bottom of where we are working and then we will start to knead. The kneading technique is to take the palms of your hands. This is the palm of your hand where it meets your wrist and you want to flour them a little bit and then flour the top of your bread because what we are going to do is push down, push back away from you and then grab the dough back in. It's very simple, just push back away from away from you and then pull the dough back in. So you push back, pull away. It's a rocking motion. Every time you do that, you are going to turn the dough a quarter turn to your left, so counterclockwise. So you start out, you push it back and forth and then you turn it. We are going to do the same thing again. So we go back and forth and turn, back and forth and turn and you keep doing that and after you do it a few times you can really get the hang of it and it becomes almost second nature and you just do it over and over again. This is a great workout for your upper body and it really makes the dough be elastic. Now you can put a dough hook in your KitchenAid and let the Kitchenaide do your work for you, but I think that it's really nice to get your hands into the dough because you can feel what's going on and you will know exactly how much kneading it needs.

    Most doughs as a standard, need about 8 to 10 minutes of kneading. That's really going to get that gluten working, it's going to get the yeast evenly distributed and it's going to make sure that you have a nice light bread. If you have ever have bread that's too heavy than it should be that's because it probably, wasn't kneaded long enough. So we are going to keep pushing back, pulling it back towards us and turning a quarter. We will do this for about 10 more minutes until the dough is nice and elastic and springy.

    So after we have finished kneading our dough for 10 minutes it should be nice and smooth and elastic. We are going to form it into a ball and place into a large bowl which we have oiled with a tablespoon of oil. We are going to turn the dough to coat it and make sure that it gets covered with oil. Then we are going to place a piece of plastic wrap which has also been oiled on top of the bowl and cover it and we are going to set the french bread aside for two hours and let it rise until it's double in volume.