Dough is the fundamental basis of any baked product, and the kneading process is crucial in determining the quality of bread, pizza or focaccia. The preparation of the dough involves mixing the basic ingredients - flour, water, yeast, and salt - and processing them until the desired properties are achieved.

Kneading Process:

  1. Hydration :

    • During the first phase of kneading, the flour absorbs water. This activates the enzymes present in the flour, which begin to degrade the starch and proteins, affecting the viscosity and elasticity of the dough.
  2. Gluten Development :

    • As the dough is kneaded, the flour proteins (gliadin and glutenin) form a network of gluten. This network is essential for retaining the carbon dioxide produced by the yeast during fermentation, allowing the dough to rise and develop its structure.
  3. Oxygenation :

    • Mechanical kneading incorporates air into the dough, oxygenating the mix and promoting protein oxidation, improving the elasticity and resistance of gluten.
  4. Fermentation :

    • After kneading, the dough is left to rest to allow fermentation. During this period, the yeast metabolizes the sugars present, producing alcohol and carbon dioxide, which contribute to the flavor of the bread and its leavening.

Important Considerations:

  • Water temperature : The water used in the dough should be adequately tempered to optimize yeast activity. Water that is too cold slows fermentation, while water that is too hot can damage or kill the yeast.
  • Kneading speed : Too high a speed can overheat the dough, damaging the yeast and degrading the gluten proteins, while too low a speed may not develop the gluten adequately.
  • Kneading time : Too little time does not allow adequate development of the gluten, while too much time can lead to overdevelopment, making the dough too elastic and difficult to work with.

These aspects of kneading are essential to ensure that the finished product has the desired structure, volume and flavour.

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