First kneading

Unless the ambient temperature in your house is above 23°C, it is a good idea to place all of the ingredients in a warm place (23–28°C) for at least an hour before getting started. One way to reach the right temperature is to use an electric blanket.

The bread dough can be kneaded manually on the kitchen counter, on a pastry board, in a plastic bowl or using a stand mixer. I typically use a mixer; manual kneading takes little more time, but significantly more strength.

Kneading by hand

If kneading by hand, after weighing out the flour subtract a couple handfuls for dusting the surface you’ll be doing the kneading on. This way, you will end up using exactly the right amount of flour, even accounting for the dusting.

Start by piling up the dry ingredients. Make a small hole at the top of the ingredients pile and gradually pour in the liquid ingredients, mixing them with the flour, initially using your finger but as the dough becomes more dense transitioning to kneading. Once the ingredients have combined, knead the dough as follows: grab one edge of it, lift and stretch slightly, fold it in half and push down; then grab another edge, lift, fold, and push down; and so on. Continue until the dough becomes uniform, typically around 10 minutes. Don’t worry about overdoing it, too much hand kneading is rarely a problem.

Kneading using a stand mixer

Ingredients ready for mixing
Ingredients ready for mixing.

If kneading with a stand mixer, use a bowl that’s at least 5 liters and a dough hook attachment. Add all ingredients to the bowl and mix at the slowest speed for exactly 6 minutes. Faster speeds or longer mixing times would tear too many of the gluten “threads” which help the loaf keep its shape.

After the kneading

Right consistency after first kneading.
Right consistency after first kneading.
After the first kneading is complete, cover the dough with a dish cloth and put it in a warm place (23–28°C) for 20 minutes (this is autolysis). If you did the kneading by hand, you may transfer the dough to a lightly oiled plastic bowl for this period.