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Pizza Pro Tips: Kneading, Man vs. Machine

For years now, pizza makers have debated about whether the dough for a good pie is best made by hand or by machine. Let’s take a look at both options to see which one is better.

-Kneading: One of the advantages to making dough yourself by hand is that you can better control the amount of water and salt that goes into it, reducing excess moisture and adding enough salt for flavor without sacrificing consistency or quality in your crust. An advantage to using a machine such as a Kitchen Aid mixer is that it can knead without becoming exhausted after only one minute of work – perfect for when you’re trying to get an entire recipe’s worth done all at once.

-Man vs. Machine: Take it from us: Don’t let the pros do all the work for you! There’s nothing like rubbing shoulders with a skilled pizzaiolo at the communal oven, who can tell you when to turn down the heat and when to adjust the kneading time to keep your dough from sticking to itself and tearing.

-Kneading: On average, hand-kneading produces a tighter, more consistent dough. This is mostly because machines have trouble kneading as much dough as you may want for a given recipe. Also, because it can be more difficult to control the amount of flour put into the mixer, you end up with a looser dough that’s stronger and less stretchy.

-Man vs. Machine: On average, machine-kneaded dough is more stretchy and less stiff. This is mostly because than machines can usually handle more flour per batch than a human hand can, which helps the dough to slip around in the mixer when kneading and makes it easier for the machine to knead. You still need to run through three or four cycles before you get a nice stretchy ball of dough.

-Kneading: To get the dough to make a nice, round ball when you take it out of the mixer, you’ll probably want to use a dough hook, as opposed to your hands. It also helps if you work in short bursts of kneading with little rests in between. Don’t overwork your dough by working it for more than five minutes at one time or letting it rest more than 30 seconds in between each burst of kneading. When the dough is too relaxed and flexible, it will be tough to stretch out later when shaping and baking.

-Man vs. Machine: When your dough is too relaxed and flexible, it will be tough to stretch out later when shaping and baking. The machine has a much larger capacity for dough, so we’ve found that hand-kneading produces a much tighter ball of dough than the machine ever could. As long as you don’t let your pasta maker work for more than four minutes in a row of kneading, you’ll produce good results.

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As for strength and flexibility, hands win by the nose! You can definitely hear the difference between the amount of flour used in each batch when you try them side by side.

-Kneading: Pasta makers come in three basic speeds: low, medium and high. Low is usually better for kneading yeast dough, as it’s slower and easier to control. Medium is generally for bread dough, which requires more kneading time than a batch of pizza dough does. High is suitable for pizza dough from time to time if you have a lot of people waiting for pies, or if you’re in a rush to produce several crusts at the same time.

-Man vs. Machine: Since machines mix with blades instead of using friction between the mixing mechanism and the mixing bowl (as with hands), they don’t require any resting period between cycles. This is good and bad. You don’t have to wait for the dough to rest – a process that allows the yeast to wake up, activate and produce carbon dioxide bubbles in the dough that make it rise – but you’ll also put needless wear on your mixer if you try to run it continuously.

-Kneading: When kneading pizza dough by hand, if you’re making more than one batch, it’s often a good idea to take out a piece of dough after each cycle and store it in an airtight container in the fridge while you wait for your main batch of dough to finish. Let it sit on the counter at room temperature after taking it out of the fridge and knead it briefly before shaping it into a pie. This helps to activate the yeast and prevents your dough from getting too stiff as you’re waiting for your machine to finish kneading.

-Man vs. Machine: If you’re making a very hardy dough, you won’t have to worry about stiffness quite as much. You’ll want to run your mixer for at least five or six minutes at high power, letting the friction between the blade and the mixing bowl do its thing. The result will be a stretchier, more elongated ball of dough.

-Kneading: This is where your dough really comes together. The crucial four or five minutes of kneading helps to release the carbon dioxide produced by the yeast and also to make sure that all the gluten has been activated and is ready for stretching later on.

-Man vs. Machine: Because the dough is being mixed by blade instead of friction, the amount of dough per batch will be much larger, which means that your machine is probably capable of kneading far more dough at once than you are. When you’re ready to start forming and baking crusts, put down your mixer and get ready to work.

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-Kneading: After the first round of kneading and resting, you’ll want to draw down the mixer speed to keep it from overworking your dough. What this does is make it so that the gluten develops at a faster rate – making for a stronger product without raising the temperature of your dough or causing too much “overworking” or unnecessary separation. Instead of a uniform dough that is difficult to stretch into a ball, the gluten will be forced to develop unevenly, which helps to make the finished dough more elastic and stretchier.

-Man vs. Machine: When you switch out of “knead” mode and into “stretch” mode, you can keep the motor running at high speed until your dough is ready for shaping. On average, this means you’ll get about twenty minutes of high-speed kneading before you need to take your dough out of the machine (or risk overworking it). If your machine has variable settings with several speeds that can go up to 1560 RPM, we suggest increasing your speed as needed until you get to 1320 RPM.

Is it better to knead pizza dough by hand or machine?

A common question from aspiring pizzaioli is, “If I have a machine to knead a bunch of dough, should I use it or can I just hand-knead?” This is a very good question, because without the extra kneading time provided by mechanical mixing there will be a lot less gluten development. For crusts that are going to be cooked in an oven or on a griddle, we recommend using the machine. However, for thin-crust New York-style pies, hand-kneading is usually required to get enough stretchiness and resilience in your dough.

When hand-kneading, you’ll find that the dough comes together much more quickly. While you could use a scale to measure and weigh your flour, we recommend making some judgment calls based on your experience. If your dough feels too stiff, try adding an extra tablespoon of olive oil or flour. If the dough seems too wet, try adding 1/4 teaspoon of table salt.

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When doing this by hand, set yourself up with a couple of large mixing bowls (a half-gallon glass bowl is ideal) and only use as much flour as you need to make a stiff but manageable ball of dough; this will be about eight ounces for most people.

What is the advantage of hand kneading over kneading with the power mixer?

It affords you more understanding and control of how your product is coming together. Even if you’re mixing in a stand mixer, using the dough hook doesn’t really give you a feel for the dough. You’ll want to be able to assess how much it’s warmed up as well as whether it needs more flour or water before you start shaping your pizza. A lot of what we do in the kitchen is about feel and response to stimuli; if the dough is sticking to your hands, try sprinkling in more flour. It’s all about picking up on those little cues that come from adjusting your technique as you go along.

Is pizza dough better with a mixer?

It doesn’t hurt. You’ll probably be able to achieve a better rise and more even gluten development by using a mixer for the dough balls, though we don’t recommend getting too stressed out about it, because it’s all about feel and being able to adjust accordingly when you’re on your hands and knees.

How much does pizza dough weigh?

Pizza dough is usually a little bit lighter than bread doughs, usually 7-12 oz (200-300 g) per batch. Contrary to some recipes that call for a recipe amount of 8 cups flour, you actually only need 6 1/2 cups flour total. If you weigh your flour, aim for about 16-22 oz (450-600 g) of flour and this will give you enough to work with.

Is Bread Machine good at kneading dough?

Some bread machines are very good at kneading and others are terrible. While some bread makers can knead even tough dough, the exact results depend a lot on what kind of machine you have, how it’s calibrated (make sure it has a “Knead” button!), and how much mixing power is available. Some bread machines will simply not knead tough dough because they don’t have the power to do so. In general, the higher-priced models usually have more power (watts) for their motors, meaning that more flour can be mixed with each revolution of the motor shaft.

CONCLUSION:

As you can tell, there is quite a lot of information to absorb and take in. So when you get up to the dough and it feels like your hands are full of sand, stick with it! A good rule of thumb is to knock out three or four batches before moving on to something else. And remember, this is just the beginning. Next time, we’ll show you how to shape Pizza Dough into Pizza Molds & Buckets – a very special article!