The need to Knead

For a long time, bread-making was impossible for me. I developed an RSI at work and my wrists became very weak and painful. I indulged in a bread-maker, but the bread was frankly mediocre. I tried another bread-maker, with more success, and I found two ranges of mixes that worked well with it to produce a reasonably appetising loaf. Wright’s Sun-dried Tomato and Parmesan became a favourite in our household. I had less striking success with my own bread i.e. the recipes that came with the bread machine, apart from a very good cinnamon and raisin loaf that used to lift the lid from the machine when it baked.

When I got the Kenwood Chef, bread became a more regular feature and was so much better than that made in a bread-machine, that I ceased using the latter altogether. A few years away from work and my hands are somewhat improved, and I do some final kneading because I think that it improves the bread. I begin to recall how much I loved this process, working with the dough beneath my hands… but, oh, it makes my back ache so! Don’t get to my age – you fall apart, it’s horrible.

As my enthusiasm for bread-baking has rekindled, I have been re-learning… and picking up ideas that were not firmly rooted in a Dom Sci class in the Sixties. Primary of these ideas is that kneading is not what it used to be. In fact, it looks a whole lot easier these days. I watched Paul Hollywood making light work of sticky doughs and I copied him and found that using oil instead of flour made a whole heap of difference to the work and to the bread. Of course it does! Not adding all that extra flour (with its unstretched gluten) is bound to improve the end product. That much is obvious. I still need to work on the scraper technique however…

And now I discover Richard Bertinet. No flour, of course. No oil either! Now, that is interesting. I watched his technique in a couple of videos last night and then I got me over to Amazon and I bought me a couple of books and now I am wishing that we were in need of bread because I really want to try his technique. That technique is so obviously easier on the hands and the wrists but the whole body motion looks so much better for the back too.

I am sure, dear reader, that you are way ahead on me on this one and that I am the one playing catchup but, should you not be aware of this marvellous baker, do yourself a favour and at least watch the videos.

This first video is at Gourmet and addresses sweet dough in particular but I put it up first because this is the one in which Richard talks about the whole body movement. It is short, under 4 minutes.

I’m not at all sure about embedding this second one, as it appears to be the whole DVD from Richard’s book and is probably in contravention but I am linking to the book, so …

Not so much a kneading as a stretching process.

I was impressed. Dough that goes SPROING!

I invested in Dough and also in Crust: From Sourdough, Spelt and Rye Bread to Ciabatta, Bagels and Brioche (with DVD).

Amazon tells me that my books are on the way and will be with me on the 24th December. I think not, but we shall see.

I shall report back on how it goes. I have over forty years of muscle memory and habit to counteract; it may not be quite as simple as saying “I am going to change what I do.”

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