Italian Bread – Kneading the Dough

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 27,898
    Chef Amy Riolo demonstrates how to knead the dough for Italian whole wheat bread.

    Amy Riolo: Hi, am Amy Riolo and we are making Italian wheat bread. We have just made our sponge and we have allowed it to sit for four hours and it gets nice and springy and bubbly. If you can look at it you can see before, it just looked like a regular batter, but now it has got all of those bubbles in there and that's perfect, that's what we want. That's going to make our bread have a really nice texture.

    So what we are going to do now is we are going to take our sponge. We are going to add it in to our standing mixer with the rest of our ingredients. So you will notice in this recipe we used whole wheat pastry flour and not traditional whole wheat flour and the reason for that is that whole wheat pastry flour is softer. It's made from a spring wheat, a soft spring wheat which is actually much more tender to taste in the hard winter wheat in the regular whole wheat flour.

    So that's one advantage that you can have if you are ever making a whole wheat recipe and you want it to have a nice, tender taste. This is our salt, then you can go ahead and substitute almost an equal proportion of regular flour with the whole wheat pastry flour. You still get the wheat, you get the brown texture and color, but you have a much more tender crumb to your bread. So that's what I have done in this one. Now we can mix this on low. We just want to mix until everything starts to come together and then we are going to knead it. So that looks pretty good and we can flour our work surface. Again, you want enough to keep the bread from sticking, but not too much that it's going to really make the dough tough. This is kind of a wet dough and in baking when the dough is a little bit sticky we call it tacky and that's okay, because if it's sticky or tacky these kinds of doughs that are the messiest to work with, actually produce the best flavor. So be patient if you are just learning to bake and don't worry about the dough being so sticky. It's better to have sticky hands and have a great flavor dough than to have dry hands and have a bread that's tough or doesn't enough flavor to it and especially because we are working with the wheat which has the denser texture, it's nice to have give it a little bit of extra moisture in this bread. So I am going to flour the top of the bread and then I am going to flour the palms of my hands and I am just going to grab the dough together into a ball and I am just incorporating enough flour to make it so it's slightly sticky, but not sticking too much.

    If you can see, this part of our work surface here has a lot of dough on it. That's too much. So we are going to add more flour and I will add the flour about a tablespoon at a time because you really want to be careful not to add too much flour, but just until it's not too sticky and you can work with it. That's how you can gauge or monitor without a measuring cup or measuring spoon how much dough you need. It's fine to keep adding dough as you go. So now we have our dough and it has formed into a nice ball and what we can do is start kneading it. To start kneading it, the technique that we are going to use is we are going to flour the bottom of our hands where are palms meets our wrist and then we are going to push the dough away from us, pull it back with our fingers and turn it a quarter turn. So it's push away, pull back and turn a quarter turn. Because this dough is wet, I am going to continue to flour my hands and to flour my dough throughout the process so that it becomes easier to work with. But again, adding as little as I need, just so that I can work with the dough. This is a very popular Italian bread. There are thousands of Italian brands in Italy. Here we have one specific kind of loaf which we refer to as Italian. But in Italy, each city in each region really has their own special breads that they make. This is a traditional kind of a Hearth type of a loaf that you would have with a very rustic supper. Bread is so priced in the Italian culture and in the baking tradition that it's really a wonderful part of the culture. Many times people are -- they use different proverbs based on bread or different sayings based on bread. If someone is good, they will say that they are good like bread. If someone is kind, they will say that they are warm like bread. If someone is flexible, they will say that they are like bread because they are flexible and they move easy. So you can see from all of these different sayings that bread is really important in the Italian culture. Bread, as we know it, dates back Italy to Roman times because when the Romans gained control of Egypt in about the first century A.

    D. they learned all of their secrets about making bread and the Egyptians had already perfected the fermenting process. So having bread which was leavened was very common in ancient Egypt. By about 2800 B.

    C. you can see in remnants from Ramesses II tomb that they had different kinds of bakeries, not only one kind, but very elaborate bakeries. Some of them catered specifically to royalty and they would have cakes and pastries and then they had bread, more simple, humble bakeries that would cater to the average person. So we are going to continue to knead this bread for approximately ten minutes till it's smooth and elastic. Then we are going to form into a ball and cover it with a kitchen towel and let it rest for 20 minutes.