Perfect Kneading Pizza Dough Techniques: by hand, mixer or spiral
Last Updated on November 2, 2021 by Stefano
The perfect Pizza Dough kneading techniques are not easily shared on Internet. Often even in paid courses you don’t get them. Therefore I decided to discuss this topic today. So if you want to knead by hand or using a Stand Mixer or a Spiral Mixer and you want to get answers to the most common questions you are in the right place. We will also introduce the concept of the no knead Pizza dough.
Kneading Pizza dough is not always an obvious activity. There are common questions that everybody, before or later, will start to ask. For example for how long kneading pizza dough is necessary? Is it better to knead by hand or with a Stand Mixer? Or does Kitchenaid dough hook knead Pizza properly?
Well, let’s explore together some key topics you need to knead great pizza:
- Kneading Pizza Dough By Hand
- How and when to knead with Stand Mixer
- Kneading Dough with Spiral Mixer
- No knead pizza Dough
Kneading Pizza Dough By Hand
One can think that Kneading Pizza by hand is not a good idea, if you can avoid that. Well let me tell you that this is absolutely not true. I think that kneading pizza dough by hand is a very good exercise. It lets you know the behavior of flours and I know that in several courses the recommendation is to start this way.
The truth, however, is that kneading pizza dough by hand is a good idea in some cases, obviously not always. I isolated three situations where you can definitely leverage hands and prepare a great Pizza Dough:
- Learn when the dough is ready (observing the flour while it changes under your hands)
- To make products that do not require a strong gluten mesh
- Not so high hydration dough
- Tips for a perfect Pizza dough kneading Technique by hand
Before we examine each of the mentioned cases for kneading dough by hand, let me recommend you some kitchen utensils. Let’s start getting a nice and heavy bowl. I prefer to have a steel one as they are durable and with their weight they help with stability. Also try to get one with a large base.
Hopefully you have a smooth and clean countertop. If you do not have it smooth you can buy a nice stainless steel cutting board to use for kneading every time you need. Last but not least, you need a decent dough scraper. This is essential to close the dough properly.
And now let’s jump in the various reasons or situations where it makes sense to knead pizza dough by hand.
Learn When the Dough is Ready
This is one of the most important reasons why you should always start your kneading journey using your hands. Some of the questions you will ask yourself will find answers kneading by hands. I am referring to doubts like “how long does the kneading take”, “what happens if I knead too much” or “how do you know when to stop kneading dough”.
No matter if you are new or already experienced with pizza dough kneading, I am sure you heard before about the “windowpane test“. This is actually the test you do to understand if you created a proper gluten mesh. It consists of taking a side of the dough, stretch it gently to check if the dough itself can enlarge and become thin without ripping. It is called windowpane test because when the dough is ready you should be able to almost look through it. I have a small video on my Instagram Profile where you can see how it is done. Anyway a picture is better than any description:
Now, on Internet nobody explains you when to get to this specific point. And of course not even how. Well, kneading by hand will bring you there! Later in this post I will provide you some tips for a perfect Pizza dough kneading Technique by hand. Right now I can tell you that when you start kneading by hand you slowly create a perfect gluten mesh. The good thing is that the risk to knead too much is close to zero. Also you basically do not risk to increase too much the dough temperature.
I strongly recommend to knead by hand a few times, especially if you are using a flour for the first time. Try to create a perfect gluten mesh that will surpass the window test. Only now you now till what point you should knead the dough, also in a stand mixer!
Make Pizza that do not require a strong gluten mesh
Until now I wrote about kneading by hand to understand when the dough is ready. Essentially to get familiar with the creation of the gluten mesh. However, not all kind of Pizza require to create a perfect gluten mesh.
Let me explain a bit more. Kneading is the second part of the process to make Pizza. The first one is to select the right ingredients. The goal of kneading is to make sure the dough has all ingredients properly incorporated and the gluten mesh is there. However, the more you knead, the stronger the gluten mesh will be. Until it breaks because you kneaded too much, of course.
Making a strong gluten mesh is not necessarily what you search for. It really depends on what type of Pizza or Focaccia you are preparing. In fact it is always possible to structure the mesh with other steps of the the pizza making process. Moreover there are types of pizza that do not want at all a too strong gluten mesh. In some cases you are searching for extensibility of the dough when you stretch it in the pan and if you have a too strong gluten mesh you will not have extensibility!
If you think about last time you stretched the Pizza for your baking Pan, did you manage to extend the dough easily? If not, it is possible that you manipulated the dough too much 😉 (of course assuming that you used the right flour). Try to knead by hand next time and look at how much you can structure your gluten mesh.
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Not so high hydration dough
When you are in the process of learning Pizza Dough Kneading Techniques you will be soon attracted by the high hydration dough options. In the last months it became a real trend, especially for homemade pizza dough. Well, if you want to try a high hydration pizza dough I recommend you to avoid kneading by hand.
It is not impossible to knead pizza by hand with high hydration. However it requires a pretty good experience and manual skills. The trick here is to touch the dough quickly so that it does not have the time to stick on your hands. In any case I am not a fan of kneading by hand this way.
From my point of view you can knead by hand when you are not going too high with hydration. My suggestion is to not go over 68% of water on the flour. And no worries because such hydration is already pretty high and perfect for Neapolitan Style Pizza or Pizza Pan.
Tips for a perfect Pizza dough kneading Technique by hand
I know this is probably the most juicy part for you. Until now I only shared some high level and theoretical information about kneading by hand. For a respectable Pizza Dough Kneading Techniques article I definitely want to share more. Specifically I want to share some of the tips that made me changing the way I knead.
Let’s start with the usage of a bowl. I told you before that from my point of view is mandatory to have one. And I want to reiterate the same concept.
Besides that, the tip number one is to always start adding the all flour in the bowl with the yeast (and malt if the recipe requires it). Next step is to start adding water a bit at a time. Do not have rush! I generally add from 20% to 50% of water immediately, make sure the flour is absorbing it properly and only after I add more.
Tip number two: to start kneading by hand do not use hands 🙂 I know it sounds weird but at the beginning use a spoon to mix. It will help you a lot to keep your hands clean to add more water later on as well as to turn the bowl to make sure flour does not stick on the borders of it.
There is one more tip or recommendation I want to share. This will be my tip number three of this Pizza Dough kneading techniques article. When the water is completely absorbed, the spoon will be not effective to continue the kneading process. Is then time to start using hands. But, do not put both your hands in the bowl! Use your favorite hand to continue the kneading while keeping the other one free and clean. This clean hand will be the one that will turn the bowl and take other ingredients (like salt or oil).
Last but not least tip is about the proper movements. This is for the right gluten mesh creation. You want to do a movement from the lower part of the dough toward the top, move the dough from down to top. As it is not necessarily easy to explain you can watch my video on YouTube. I am providing you the direct link to the part where I reproduce the movement here.
Kneading Pizza with Stand Mixer
If you are kneading at home often, you most probably already have a stand mixer. I recently published an article on the blog to talk about them. I think they are an excellent option to knead pizza dough if you pay attention to some details.
And this part of the article is just to give you some tips on when and how to properly knead with a Stand Mixer.
Let’s start with the hooks. If you followed my previous article about the best mixer for Pizza dough, I described them in details to let you understand what to buy. It is here worth to repeat the concepts. You want to use the Spiral Dough for Neapolitan Style Pizza and for dough that has an hydration not higher than 68/70%. If you want to go for high hydration Pizza Dough you better use the Flat Beater (or K-Beater). Last you can use the Dough Hook for almost everything. However this is not my favorite when it comes to create a strong gluten mesh. In fact I generally use it to feed my sourdough or to make Pasta Dough.
However, when it comes to Pizza Dough Kneading Techniques and stand mixers, the best tip I can give you is on temperature management. One of the biggest issues when kneading with stand mixer is indeed the temperature. If you read this blog you know that I write often about temperatures. I also published a dedicated article about this topic.
Stand mixers are known to transfer a lot of heating to your dough while they knead. This is a fact. To avoid that this becomes an issue you have three options. Feel free to combine them, especially during summer:
- Put Flour in fridge or even freezer;
- Put the bowl in fridge or freezer;
- Use iced water.
If you follow my suggestions you will be able to have a perfect pizza dough with a stand mixer.
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Kneading Pizza with Spiral Mixer
The Spiral Mixer is the best kitchen appliance to make Pizza. If you are lucky enough to own one you know what I mean. They play in a different league.
However, the move from a Stand Mixer or even from kneading by hand is not always straight forward. It takes a bit to adapt the way you knead. Is not that uncommon to knead too much. I have also seen often a wrong way of adding ingredients, which is one of the crucial points of kneading with a Spiral Mixer.
Therefore, to come close to the conclusion of this article about Pizza Dough Kneading Techniques, I want to provide you with a single tip. Actually this is more than a tip. Is more a suggestion on how to properly knead with a Spiral Mixer. I am sharing the process I follow:
- Add all flour and yeast in the bowl;
- Start the spiral mixer at first speed (around 80/100 RPM);
- Start pouring 70/75% of water slowly but without breaks;
- When the gluten mesh starts to be created (but not completely created), add salt;
- Increase the speed of the spiral mixer up to 200 RPM;
- Add now remaining water a little bit at a time.
The entire process should not last more than 12/14 minutes in general.
No Knead Pizza Dough
There is one more topic about Pizza Dough Kneading Techniques that is worth to mention. And is actually the opposite of kneading! I am referring indeed to the no-knead technique.
For long time already this is one of the most favorite ways to prepare a good Pizza dough with reduced efforts. Despite the fact that is called “no-knead” we have to remember in fact that you still need to take care of the dough.
The real difference between the no-knead and the kneading by hand or with a Mixer is that you leverage some chemistry principles to create the gluten mesh. The Pizza Dough is obtained simply mixing the ingredients all together and let the time pass. During the period of time you wait, you just need to do some folding (especially for high hydration pizza dough).
I have to admit that I am not using this technique. Therefore I do not pretend to provide a tip at any cost. In this case the Internet Search Engines are your best friends! … At least until I try to make a no-knead pizza and prepare a new article for you 😉
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