I recently posted a reply at another thread in which I outlined several steps that I frequently use when making doughs by hand, whether a NY style dough or another type of dough of similar hydration. Since this thread has evolved into a thread mainly to help newbies, many of whom do not have dough mixing equipment, I thought that it might be useful to repeat the content of the abovementioned reply for the benefit of newbies who would like to knead their doughs by hand. Here are the hand kneading tips for a typical dough formulation including flour, water, yeast (IDY), salt, oil, and sugar:
1. Although not obligatory, my preference if a sieve or hand crank sifter is available, is to sift the formula flour into a first bowl and add and stir in the IDY. (See Note 2 below if using ADY or fresh yeast instead of IDY.) The IDY can also be sifted along with the flour if the openings of the sieve or sifter are large enough. Sifting the flour will improve the hydration of the flour by incorporating more water into the dough. Unlike ADY, it is not necessary to rehydrate the IDY in warm water although it perhaps should be rehydrated in a small amount (a couple of ounces) of warm water if the knead time is to be brief (e.g., below about five minutes), in which case the rehydrated IDY can be added to the rest of the formula water or to the rest of the ingredients in the mixing bowl. The abovementioned five-minute number is one that Tom Lehmann often mentions as the cutoff for rehydrating the IDY when hand kneading. See, for example, Reply 1 at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php?topic=21801.msg220619;topicseen#msg220619
2. Put all of the formula water into a second bowl, add the salt, and stir until dissolved, about 20 seconds. It is not necessary to warm up all of the formula water if prehydrating the IDY is deemed necessary or desirable (e.g., to around 105 degrees F), only the part used to prehydrate the IDY. Using all warm water will only increase the finished dough temperature and accelerate the fermentation of the dough and shorten its window of usability. Any water not used to rehydrate the yeast as discussed above can be cool or even cold right out of the refrigerator. Ideally, for a home refrigerator application, the finished dough temperature should be between 75-80 degrees F. Using cool/cold water at around 75 degrees F should allow one to achieve a finished dough temperature in that range, although some adjustment may be needed from time to time based on experience. A thermometer (e.g., an analog or digital instant read thermometer) will be required to measure the finished dough temperature. If too high or too low by more than a few degrees, the water temperature can be adjusted for future dough batches as noted above.
3. Add the oil to the bowl with the water/salt mixture. Alternatively, the oil can be added after step 4 below and incorporated into the dough. (Some people feel that the oil interferes with the hydration of the flour if added to the water. On the other hand, adding the oil to the water disperses it more uniformly throughout the dough as it is kneaded into the dough.)
4. Gradually add the flour/yeast mixture to the water/salt mixture a few tablespoons at a time and, using a sturdy spoon, combine the ingredients until it is no longer easy to stir more of the flour/yeast mixture into the dough mass. If desired, a wire whisk can be used at the beginning to improve the hydration of the flour even more, and switch to the spoon when the whisk bogs down. The whisk can take any of the forms shown in the photos below (although a Danish whisk, not shown, can also be used). If the oil was not added in step 3 above, add to the oil to the dough in the mixing bowl and knead into the dough.
5. Using a spatula or a flexible plastic bench knife, scrape the rough dough mass out of the mixing bowl onto a work surface that has been lightly dusted with a bit of flour. The bench knife I use is like the one shown at http://www.kingarthurflour.com/shop/items/bakers-bench-knife
but any bench knife can be used, even the plastic ones (as shown, for example, at http://www.bakedeco.com/dept.asp?id=194
6. Sprinkle the remaining flour/yeast mixture a little bit at a time onto the dough mass and knead into the dough mass after each addition. To facilitate this process, use wet hands or hands dusted with a bit of the flour. It is also possible to use a bench knife, or even two of them for a large dough batch, to turn and knead the dough mass as the remaining flour is added to the dough. For some guidance on how to use a bench knife to help knead the dough, see this video: http://www.monkeysee.com/play/997-pizza-how-to-make-dough-by-hand-part-two
If the dough is hard to knead for any reason, let the dough rest from time to time during the kneading process. This will allow the flour to better hydrate and will allow the gluten structure to relax and become less elastic, making it easier to knead the dough.
7. Continue kneading until the dough is smooth and malleable yet a bit tacky. Resist the temptation to add more flour. As the hand kneading continues, the wetness of the dough should gradually diminish and disappear. If the dough really sticks to the fingers and to the work surface (the dough will usually pull away in strands as it is pulled away from the work surface), add additional flour, a quarter teaspoon or half teaspoon at a time, and knead into the dough with each such addition. If the dough is too dry, add more water, about a half teaspoon at a time, and knead to incorporate. If more flour and/or water are used in this manner, note the total amounts of each added. This might help modify the dough formulation for future dough batches, especially if a scale is used to weigh the flour and water.
8. Another dough kneading method that can also be used as part of a hand kneading regimen is the one shown in Images 4a-4c at http://www.woodstone-corp.com/cooking_naples_style_dough.htm.
. For other knead methods, including stretch and fold, see http://www.fornobravo.com/pizzaquest/instructionals/59-written-recipes/175-the-stretch-and-fold-method.html
(including the video referenced in the article) and http://www.gourmet.com/magazine/video/2008/03/bertinet_sweetdough.html
Note 1: It is also possible to add the salt to the flour rather than to the water in the mixing bowl. The same also applies to sugar (if called for in the dough formulation). However, adding both the salt and sugar to the water helps them dissolve faster and better. If honey is used in lieu of sugar, it can be added to the water in the mixing bowl or to the dough in the bowl as it is being mixed and kneaded. The honey can be warmed up slightly to make it flow better but that step is optional.
Note 2: If ADY is used instead of IDY, it should be rehydrated in a small amount of the formula water at about 105 degrees F for about 10-15 minutes. It can then be added to the rest of the formula water or to the rest of the ingredients in the mixing bowl. If fresh (cake) yeast is used, it can either be rehydrated in tepid water (a portion of the formula water) at around 80-90 degrees F, or simply be crumbled into the mixing bowl.
Note 3: If weights of ingredients are used and one of the dough calculating tools is used (e.g., at http://www.pizzamaking.com/dough_calculator.html
), it is recommended that a bowl residue compensation of 1.5-2% be used in the tool to compensate for minor dough losses during preparation of the dough.
If one has an electric hand mixer, another kneading regimen that combines use of the electric hand mixer and hand kneading is described at Reply 30 at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,3985.msg36489.html#msg36489
. It will be noted that many of the steps suggested above are also incorporated in the procedures described in that post.
EDIT (9/21/14): Edited from time to time to incorporate newer information. For the Wayback Machine version of the nonworking Woodstone link, see http://web.archive.org/web/20140330190734/http://woodstone-corp.com/cooking_naples_style_dough.htm