A Tale of Two Dough Balls

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!


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

    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

      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

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

    • Jen November 3, 2021 at 11:44 pm

      Awesome! Happy to have helped. 😊

  3. Simon January 30, 2022 at 5:57 am

    How do you dispose the starchy water if you’re not using it for anything else? I used to do the WTF method when vital wheat gluten was hard to find where I live and it clogged our house sink. However, to this day I think seitan from the WTF method is much tastier and would like to do it at least occasionally or having it as a resource for example when travelling and not having vital wheat gluten at hand. The starchy water is the problem.

    • Jen January 30, 2022 at 9:02 am

      You can compost it, it’s high in nitrogen. If it’s too much starch for your compost (often the case for me since I just have a small composter) or that’s not possible, you can freeze it and throw it in the trash in garbage day (my preferred method) or microwave it till it gets stiff and toss it that way. Finally you can dehydrate it – I pour it in thin layers on sheet pans and put it in my oven with the light on for 24-48 hours, breaking it up as it dries to help it along. Hope that helps!

      • Mike February 19, 2023 at 5:52 pm

        Legend. Thanks for this series. I’ve been meaning to do something similar but never found the time.
        So many mysteries solved!

  4. Ana Salazar September 4, 2022 at 5:28 pm

    What are the reasons why people would prefer creating Seitan using the WTF method vs Vital Wheat Gluten?

    • Jen September 4, 2022 at 7:04 pm

      I personally prefer it for making certain types of mock meats like chicken, beef, and pork styles because I find the texture easier to achieve without adding several other ingredients like tofu or beans, etc. It also shreds much more easily in my opinion without having to knead for a long time, run through a food processor or wait to autolyse. There is also a noticeable “gluteny” flavor in vital wheat gluten that I can detect and my husband despises, which is much less prevalent in WTF. However, for more heavily-seasoned dishes that can get away with a less smooth texture like sausages or for use as a burger binder, etc, I prefer using VWG.

  5. Lem90 September 10, 2023 at 10:42 pm

    Have you tried washing the flour in a stand mixer using the dough hook?
    I have seen people have had success, and less of a workout doing it this way 🙂
    I have previously only made one batch of Seitan using VWG and it turned out extremely well. Yesterday I tried WTF method for the first time and used my stand mixer to wash it with. My Seitan is resting so won’t know the result for a few days. I was very shocked at my small yield though compared to the VWG.

    • Jen September 11, 2023 at 7:39 am

      I attempted to make the dough ball in my stand mixer and it destroyed it, so unfortunately, I haven’t had the chance, but I don’t think I’d recommend it. I had a KitchenAid professional.

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