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Busting Baking Myths: Can A Food Processor Replace Hand Kneading?

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You need to build up gluten, for bubbly, airy bread loaves and perfect crusts. Gluten is a powerful cross-linked network of proteins that catch and spread gas bubbles as the bakes of dough. Gluten is created through kneading, but it can take up to 20 minutes if you knead by your hand to create enough gluten in a wet mixture such as pizza dough.

You could use a stand blender (see this article for more details on how to knead a dough in a stand blender). But almost knead a dough can do in a food processor in far the fastest and easiest way. The rapid action of a food processor blade can almost effortlessly turn dough elastically in only minutes. Find out more about best stand mixer reviews if you are looking for the new reference.

The food processor also ensures that the dry and wet ingredients are uniformly incorporated and avoids unmixed pockets of meal for the most straightforward dough you ever make.

How to Know When Dough Is Properly Kneaded in the Food Processor

Dough should look smooth, almost brilliant, when knead a dough properly. It should feel very stretchy and spring fast back in place if you pull the dough. The following photos show how dough in the food processor looks under-knit, properly kneaded and over-knit.

Here are a few tricks we’ve discovered for making and knead a dough in your food processor.

The Blade Is Best

Many food processors come with dull plastic “dough blades,” but we found they are not the best tool for the job. They tend to drag the dough or leave it stuck to the sides of the bowl, out of reach of their stubby blades. The regular metal blade is far better at forming and kneading the dough quickly and effectively.

Use Chilled Water

The forceful action of a food processor creates friction, pumping a lot of heat into dough. To counteract this effect, which can kill yeast and stunt both rise and flavor, it’s important to use chilled or iced liquids when you make dough in a food processor.

Avoid Over-Kneading

Don’t over-knead, especially if the dough is enriched with butter; the heat from the processor can soften the butter too much, which affects the texture of the bread.

Add Liquid Ingredients While Processor Runs

Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients while the processor is running to make sure they get mixed together quickly and evenly. If you pour the liquid on top of the dry ingredients and then turn on the processor, the liquid can overflow the workbowl and make a mess.

The vast majority of bread recipes these days call for kneading bread in a stand mixer. But a food processor can also “knead” almost any kind of dough, and do it faster. The only exception is extremely wet dough with a hydration level over 75 percent, such as the dough used in our Pizza Bianca.

Here’s the best way to do it to ensure a texture similar to a stand-mixer recipe:

  • Use Metal Blades

Many food processors come with dull plastic blades meant to mimic the kneading action of a stand mixer. But we found they tended to drag the dough or leave it stuck to the sides of the bowl, out of reach of the stubby blades. A sharp slicing action is essential to forming dough quickly in a food processor (the longer you process, the more you risk overheating the dough), so always use the metal blades.

  • Limit Batches to 1½ Pounds

The 10- to 12-cup capacity of most food processors limits any batch of dough to about 1½ pounds (that translates to dough made with 2 to 3 cups of flour). Larger recipes will require mixing in two or more batches and then combining by hand.

  • Use Cool Water

The forceful action of a food processor creates friction, pumping a lot of heat into dough as it mixes. To counteract this effect, it’s important to use cool water to create a final dough with a temperature around 75 degrees. (Lower temperatures will mean the dough takes longer to ferment; higher temperatures can kill yeast.) To determine the optimal water temperature, we like the “130 degree” rule, where you subtract the temperature of the flour from 130: For example, if the temperature of the flour is 70 degrees, your water should be around 60 degrees (130 – 70 = 60).

  • Knead Briefly

Because food processors spin at thousands of rpm (versus the few hundred rpm of a stand mixer at its highest setting), knead a dough that would take 8 to 10 minutes to knead in a mixer will come together much more quickly in a food processor. In our tests, just 45 to 90 seconds was all it took for the dough to form a cohesive ball.

  • Complete Method

Place dry ingredients in bowl of food processor and pulse briefly to combine, about 5 seconds. With machine running, slowly add cool water through feed tube; continue to process until dough forms satiny, tacky ball that clears sides of bowl. After 45 seconds, if dough is sticky and adheres to blades, add 1 to 2 tablespoons flour and continue processing. If dough appears dry and crumbly, add 1 to 2 tablespoons cold water and process until knead a dough forms ball.


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