Does kneading bread dough seem like a lot of effort?

Do you find yourself with a sticky lump rather than a smooth and elastic dough?

Read on for my three simple ways to knead bread dough by hand without it feeling like a workout.


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Why knead your bread dough?

As you make your dough, you mix flour and water (or another liquid) and bring your ingredients together.

When flour absorbs liquid, gluten begins to form.

Gluten is a stretchy, elastic band-like protein that gives structure to your final dough – it acts like a scaffold in your bread. Without enough gluten, your final bread may fall flat.

Stretching and folding your dough when kneading helps gluten develop and makes sure all your ingredients are well combined.

All the methods below include some form of stretching and folding the dough – this is the important bit to develop gluten in your dough.

The Epsom Bakehouse how to knead bread dough

1. Kneading with the heel of your hand (the traditional way)

This is the method that most likely comes to mind when you think about kneading bread dough.

But even though this is the most hands-on method to kneading dough, it still doesn’t need to be a strain!

Firstly, don’t position yourself too close to the work surface. You want to be able to lean in as you knead. If standing, place one foot slightly in front of the other – the opposite foot to whichever hand is kneading.

Place the dough on the work surface. Then anchor down the dough with one hand whilst using the heel of the other hand to stretch out the dough.

Turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat the stretch and fold. Don’t worry if the dough is sticking a little. If you have a dough scraper, use it to gather the dough back into a ball every few turns.


2. The slap and fold

If your dough is more wet and sticky, this method can be very effective. Plus it can stop you getting too covered in dough.

This method is best done when you have a little bit of space. Be careful if you have cupboards or lights above your work surface that you don’t flick the dough onto them!

Gather the dough into a rough ball on the work surface.

Using your thumb and first fingers, pick up the dough at one end. You should be holding the end third of the dough.

Now the fun part! Slap the dough down onto the work surface. The dough should stretch as you do this. If you’re not sure you’re doing this right, check out my video below.

Keep hold of the dough and pull and stretch it towards you once it’s on the work surface. Fold the dough in half, then turn it 90 degrees.

Pick up the dough and repeat. Slap and fold the dough until you have a smooth and elastic dough.

3. The on-off kneading method

This might just be the method for you if you’d prefer an almost hands-off kneading method. You can even leave the dough in the bowl.

Once you’ve brought the ingredients together into a dough, hold the bowl with one hand and use the other to pinch a small section of one side of the dough.

Stretch the dough up in the bowl and fold it over into the middle of the bowl.

Turn the bowl slightly with the other hand. Repeat the pinch, stretch and fold with the next section of the dough.

Repeat, turning the bowl, then pinching, stretching and folding the dough over. Continue until you’ve completely rotated the bowl two or three times.

Cover the bowl and leave the dough to rest for 10 minutes. Then repeat the stretch and fold process, followed by resting the dough, two further times.

Once finished, cover the bowl and leave the dough to rise. This method is also useful if you have other things to do in the kitchen or elsewhere whilst making the dough.


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