For light, airy loaves of bread with perfect chewy crusts, it is necessary to develop gluten. Gluten is a dense network of cross-linked proteins that traps air bubbles and causes the dough to expand during baking. Gluten is produced through kneading, but it can take up to 20 minutes of manual kneading to have enough gluten in a wet mixture such as pizza dough.
You could use a stand mixer (for information on how to knead dough in a stand mixer, see this article), but the food processor is the quickest and easiest way to knead almost any dough. The rapid action of the blade of a food processor can make dough elastic in mere minutes with minimal effort. In addition to ensuring that the dry and wet ingredients are evenly combined, the food processor prevents unmixed pockets of flour for the most manageable dough you’ll ever make.
Making Dough with a Food Processor
The specifics of making dough in a food processor vary by recipe, but the general steps are as follows.
- In a liquid measuring cup, combine wet ingredients. This facilitates pouring it into the food processor.
- In a food processor, pulse the dry ingredients until combined.
- While the food processor is operating, add the liquid ingredients until the dough forms a rough, elastic ball and begins to clear the bowl’s sides.
- If the dough is too moist, incorporate some flour. If the substance is too dry, add some water. Again, exact instructions for making dough in a food processor can be found in the recipe.
- Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and knead by hand for 30 seconds or until dough forms a smooth, round ball.
How to Determine When Dough Kneaded in a Food Processor Is Appropriate
When properly kneaded, the dough should appear smooth and almost glossy. The dough should feel very elastic and spring back into place when pulled. The images below depict the appearance of under-kneaded, properly kneaded, and over-kneaded doughs in a food processor.
In a food processor, kneading dough is a quick process. The rapid action of the blade of a food processor can make dough elastic in mere minutes with minimal effort. We’ve discovered that dough is adequately kneaded when it forms a rough, adjustable ball and begins to clear the bowl’s sides, which takes 30 to 60 seconds. However, it is essential not to knead the dough over, significantly if it is enriched with butter; the heat from the food processor can cause the butter to soften excessively, affecting the bread’s texture.
Which Food Processor Size Is Ideal for Making Dough?
For making and kneading dough, a food processor with a capacity of 11 to 14 cups is optimal. Successful models of these larger processors can handle vast and tiny quantities of ingredients. The Cuisinart Custom 14 Cup Food Processor, with a 14-cup bowl capacity, is our preferred food processor for kneading dough (and all other uses).
Here are some tips for making and kneading dough in a food processor.
1. Skip the Dough Blade
We discovered that the soft plastic “dough blades” included with many food processors are not the best tool. They tend to drag the dough or leave it clinging to the bowl’s sides, out of reach of their short blades. The standard metal blade is vastly superior for rapidly shaping and kneading dough.
2. Use Chilled Water
The vigorous motion of a food processor generates friction, which produces a great deal of heat in the dough. When preparing dough in a food processor, it is crucial to use chilled or iced liquids to counteract this effect, which can kill yeast and inhibit both rise and flavor.
3. Avoid Over-Kneading the Dough
Do not over-knead significantly if the dough is enriched with butter; the heat from the processor can excessively soften the butter, affecting the bread’s texture.
4. Add Liquid Ingredients While Your Food Processor Runs
While the processor is running, add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients to ensure they are thoroughly combined. If the liquid is poured on top of the dry ingredients and then the processor is turned on, the liquid can overflow the work bowl and create a mess.
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