A Tale of Two Dough Balls

EXPERIMENT #5:
How much time is really needed to knead?

I’ve seen this one asked a great number of times. Washing flour is a deal-breaker for some because of the time and effort that is involved, and kneading the dough can certainly feel like a chore. I am sticking with the same measurements that I’ve used for my prior experiments so I have a good base for comparison.

So again, two dough balls made from 12.7% bread flour, and both starting starting with 236mL water. For the first I mixed the flour and water until they were just about combined, trying to make sure the crumbliest bits were integrated using only a dough whisk.

I let it sit, then made the second dough ball just as I usually do, mixing until the same point as the first, then spilling out onto the counter to finish. I kneaded this dough for exactly 4 minutes until the dough was a cohesive, relatively smooth ball.

I let them both sit for 15 minutes because the first dough looked like it needed the extra time to pull itself together 😆. At that point I was able to gather the first into a ball for weighing. Both dough balls came in at exactly the same weight, 678g. Then I covered both with water and let them rest for about 2 hours.

On to the washing, nine minutes on the clock for each. My usual dough ball did its usual thing, while I washed as I usually do. The no-knead dough ball fell apart a bit more in the initial wash. The starch seemed more difficult to get out as the clumps stuck together more, and I had to focus on breaking the harder bits apart with my fingers during washing. I think if the no-knead ball was just covered with a cloth instead of water, the extra air would have dried it out more and made it even more difficult to wash.

Overall it took about the same amount of time to get to the about the same amount of starch remaining. My weigh-ins at the end both came to exactly 213g each.

After resting both for 5 minutes and wringing out as much excess water as possible, my weigh-ins were 227g for my normal dough ball, and 214g for the dough ball that started with more water. Here is another case that I am a little torn. Did I lose gluten with the wetter dough? If so, it was only a 13g difference. So, if I was in a rush, I might opt for this to save time washing. I think next time I will try going with something in between.

CONCLUSION:There was zero difference in gluten yield between the dough ball that was kneaded for 4 minutes vs the one that was just mixed after allowing them to rest for two hours. However, during the washing process I found it was easier to wash out the starch in the kneaded dough ball. The one that was not kneaded formed tougher clumps of starch that were harder to get out. If I didn’t know what I was doing I might unintentionally leave in extra unwanted starch.

Personal note: I prefer kneading for the extra 4 minutes it took over fighting to break up the starch clumps while washing. This is leading me to another experiment to see if adding more water to the initial dough changes things.

About the Author:

I created this website hoping to make it easier for people interested in seitan to be able to find, share, and rate recipes. Through both research and my own experimentation, I hope to answer some commonly asked questions in the "Learn More About Seitan" section, and you’ll find some of my own recipes here, too. Happy cooking!

4 Comments

  1. Mara April 19, 2021 at 2:32 pm - Reply

    How about covering the dough ball with a plastic bag, and giving it some room? I do that with my sour dough so a crust does not form. I think I read somewhere to submerge the doughball in water and place it in the fridge. Then taking it out, wouldn’t that make it harder to work with, to get the stretch and the knots? Not sure, a newbie here.

    • Jen April 19, 2021 at 2:43 pm - Reply

      I was taught that a cloth and allowing the dough to “breath” was better, but testing out a plastic bag sounds like another worthy experiment! I still prefer the cover-with-water method, though. I just leave it on the counter to rest like that. It really made no difference to me in ease of being able to wash out the starch, and since I’m washing with water, anyway, I just start with the water that’s in my bowl. No need to add laundry to the equation! 😆

  2. erica dawson November 3, 2021 at 11:13 pm - Reply

    Hi thankyou for this it has answerd so many questions for me ✌

    • Jen November 3, 2021 at 11:44 pm - Reply

      Awesome! Happy to have helped. 😊

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