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What Happens if You Over Knead Dough? (And What to Do About It)

What Happens if You Over Knead Dough? (And What to Do About It)

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There are times when you’re craving that fresh, warm taste of baked bread but can’t be bothered with the baking process. After all, making the dough can be a real challenge!

You can end up with a dough that’s too soft and won’t hold its shape, or one that’s way too firm that you have to deal with a couple of other bread issues. There’s also the question of: What happens if you over-knead dough?

To help you make the best bread out there, put on your apron and read this little guide to find out!

Why Knead Bread Dough?

Before seeing what happens if you over-knead bread dough, allow me to show you why you need to knead dough at all. Apparently, there are two main reasons why you need to knead your dough.

The first reason is to add strength to the dough, and the second is to provide structure for the final baked product.

You see, flour contains two proteins called gliadin and glutenin. When the two combine, they form gluten.

As you knead the dough, the proteins begin to become more orderly, lining up to form long-chain amino acids that make the dough firm. The longer you knead the dough, the smoother and stronger it’ll get!

When you’ve finished kneading, and the dough starts baking, the wonderful mixture of proteins you formed will catch the gasses the yeast releases. This helps the dough puff up and rise.

A well-kneaded dough will hold its shape while being baked, thanks to all that kneading!

On a side note, we’ve been focusing on bread dough so far, but it’s good to understand how bread dough is similar or different from pizza dough.

The Best Way to Knead Dough

Kneading Dough By Hand

There are a few ways to knead bread dough, but using your own hands is the most tried and true method. Kneading dough by hand will give you the most control over the dough.

You’ll be able to feel the firmness of the dough along with the texture. As a result, you can easily adjust the dough, like, for example, adding more flour if the dough is sticky (more on that here).

To knead dough by hand, one should push the dough down and forward, then fold the dough over itself and repeat. Once the dough is soft and springs back to the touch, it’s ready for baking!

Another effortless method of kneading dough is to use a bread machine. Most bread machines are programmed to mix ingredients and knead the dough, which makes them an almost foolproof method of kneading.

The downside of using one, though, is that they’re limited in the kind of bread they can make. Hence, not all doughs will work with these convenient kitchen appliances.

Many people opt to use a stand mixer to help knead dough. Most mixers come with a dough hook (like this Cuisinart mixer) designed to knead the dough and mimic the hand-kneading motions.

Since stand mixers are very powerful, it can be very easy to over-knead dough using one.

So, if you’re using a recipe that suggests using a stand mixer, follow the directions carefully and take note of how long it’s recommended to mix the dough and at what speed.

Essentially, you’ll be looking for the dough to pull away from the sides of the mixing bowl cleanly, then mixing for about 4-5 minutes more afterward, depending on your dough type.

When to Stop Kneading

Now that you know how to knead your dough, it’s time to learn the key signs of a perfectly kneaded dough.

An adequately kneaded dough will have a distinct texture and elasticity. It should feel smooth when you poke it with your finger but elastic enough to retain its shape once you pull back.

The windowpane test is another method that’ll help you figure out if the dough is ready. To do this, take a small piece of dough between your fingers and gently stretch it. 

The dough should stretch without tearing, leaving a thin, almost see-through layer that looks like a windowpane.

If your dough looks like this, without any breaks or tears, it’s ready for the next step! In terms of time and effort, kneading dough should take about 10 to 15 minutes by hand. 

Remember, the time it takes to reach this consistency can vary according to the type of dough and what method you use to knead.

Signs of Over-kneading

The first thing you will notice when you over-knead a dough is that it’ll feel overly dense and stiff. Once you try to press it down and flatten it on the counter, you’ll find it rather hard.

Kneading it by hand after that will be tough, and it won’t easily reshape. Actually, instead of stretching when you pull it, the dough will probably tear.

These are all key indicators that the dough has developed too much gluten, causing the dough to be overly firm. 

In short, if your dough is tight and has almost no give, you’ve overdeveloped the gluten by over-kneading. 

Baking Over-kneaded Dough

Hard And Crumbly Bread

If you have an over-kneaded dough on your hand and still want to bake it, you need to remember that the results might be a little different than normal.

First, the outside of the bread will be tough and dense. The exterior may feel more like a rock than a nice soft bread!

Next, you’ll likely notice that the bread didn’t rise much as it baked, creating a small, solid loaf. 

This is because the dough had so much gluten that it created a solid barrier inside the bread. Because of that, the gasses released from the yeast were trapped, and the barrier prevented them from pushing the dough upward.

Also, when you cut into an over-kneaded dough, you’ll notice that the interior is very dry and crumbly. The slices will likely fall apart rather than hold their shape.

While the general taste of the bread may be the same, it won’t have a nice mouthfeel but, again, be dry, dense, and crumbly—no, thank you!

What to Do When You Over-knead Dough

Bowl Of Croutons

If you have found out that you definitely did over-knead your dough, there are a few things you can do to try and help fix the dough.

First, let the dough sit and rest (find out why rest is so important), untouched for about double the time recommended in a recipe.

If your recipe says to let the dough sit and rise for an hour, let it rise for two hours. If possible, place the dough in a bowl, cover it, and let it rise overnight in the fridge.

The dough will cool, causing the yeast to act slower, taking a full night to inflate the dough. This will give the gluten time to relax and soften a little. 

It’ll also allow the yeast to work its magic and push the dough upward slightly. After rising, shape the dough quickly and try not to play with the dough too much.

You want to manipulate the dough as little as possible to prevent creating more tough strands of gluten. Let the dough do its second rise, allowing it to rise a little longer than usual, and then bake.

If the bread comes out of the oven and is still tough from over-kneading, don’t throw it away! This is the perfect loaf to use to make croutons or even breadcrumbs!

There are uses for even the toughest loaves of bread (see several other ideas in my post about uses for leftover bread)!

How to Prevent Over-kneading

Working With Sourdough

One of the best ways to prevent over-knocking a dough is to always knead by hand. When you use your hands to knead dough, you can feel the dough at every step of the way.

You’ll know if it needs a touch more flour, more water, or if it’s starting to get firm.

So, there’s a huge chance that when you have your hands in the dough, you’ll likely stop kneading before the dough even gets too hard—your hands will get tired too! 

Read the notes in your recipe regarding kneading and follow them exactly, so that your kneading time coincides with the recommended and proven times.

In addition, always remember that making dough is an art form. The more you do it, the better you’ll become and the less likely you’ll over-knead! Practice makes perfect dough!

Frequently Asked Questions

So, do you know the answer to our main question: What happens if you over-knead dough? Hopefully, your answer is yes! 

Still, before you go and start baking away, it’s best you take a look at these other question:

Is it OK to knead the dough after it rises?

Nothing will happen if you knead the dough after it rises for a little bit. In fact, this can help it deflate a little bit, getting rid of the extra air. 

However, don’t go overboard! The real kneading happens mainly before the rising part. Afterward, you can only give it a couple of folds but nothing more to avoid over-kneading.

Is my dough over-kneaded or under-kneaded?

To tell the difference between over-kneading and under-kneading, you need to distinguish the main signs behind each.

Over-kneaded dough:

  • Feels tight
  • Tears easily 
  • Doesn’t shape well
  • When baked, results in a loaf that’s hard, dry, and chewy!

Under Kneaded dough:

  • Lacks structure 
  • Appears rough
  • Sticks excessively to surfaces
  • Fails the windowpane test

How do different flours affect kneading?

The type of flour you use for baking can greatly affect gluten development and water absorption. 

For instance, bread flour requires more kneading to the higher protein content, while whole wheat flour contains bran and germ, which can affect how the gluten develops.

It’s best to look up the flour type you’re using and its protein content to get a general feel for it.

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Warren Cox

Wednesday 23rd of March 2022

My dough is 600g bread flour, 2 teaspoons instant dry baker's yeast,1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon sugar 1 tablespoon oil,70% hydration and refrigerate it over night. I then put it into a bread machine on dough setting. I let it knead for the time specified by the machine before placing the dough into a loaf pan to rise before baking. I bake at 200c for 45 minutes. It rises perfectly and is light to handle. It cuts nicely when cool but is crumbly the next day. Any suggestions. Thank you, Warren.

Joe Schepis

Friday 24th of December 2021

My mother from Sicily made fresh bread for at least 90 years, as she lived to 100! My mother kneaded dough in a pan for 20 vigorous minutes. Incredible quality. Also good exercise.


Saturday 27th of June 2020

I'm just doing a pie crust and I think I kneaded my dough miserably (I kinda enjoyed kneading it cause it's my first time)... I'm eased a bit to know the dough can be saved by letting it rest because I did it this night so I can let it rest in the chiller overnight!! Thank you so much QwQ! I never knew that kneading dough can be so enjoyable that I was lost to my thoughts!

Eduardo Revollo

Thursday 28th of May 2020

Hello, I am making Biga type Baguette dough near the equator In Colombia. Mean temperature in my city is 30°C.

I made a preferment on the first day. On the second day I mixed the preferment with 500g flour, 300ml water, salt and yeast. I used room temperature water and kneaded for about an hour until I got a nice consistency (It was firm and see through without tearing) and let it rest in the fridge.

On the third day I shaped and baked a couple of baguettes, beautiful crust. And saved the dough for the next day.

On the fourth day I baked a couple more and took about 500g and mixed it again with 500gflour, and 300ml water, but this time it was really cold, around 5°C, salt and yeast. I kneaded for no more than twelve minutes and got the right consistency, and let it test in the fridge.

Fifth day I baked a couple more and saved the last bit for mixing it again and making more dough, this time I used “fresh” water, around 25°c because the prefermented dough was 16°.

I kneaded for TWO HOURS!! By hand And never got the right consistency !!!

I’m pretty sure it has to do with the Warm temperature of water, ¿can I leave this dough overnight in the fridge and mix it tomorrow with more flour, water, salt and yeast and knead it again?

What tips do you have for bakers in this weather? It’s not very humid, most days are 28°-30° and we’re at sea level.

Thank you very much for your very appreciated knowledge.


Thursday 7th of May 2020

Thank you for this post; I obviously over kneaded! And I did get the result you described. I am a first time bread maker, and would love to perfect this loaf. If I am to insist on using a stand mixer, as you clearly prefer no to do, how long would you recommend kneading on low speed if my recipe call for 15 minutes of kneading by had? Its sooooo much more convenient.

Sarah | Baking Kneads

Monday 11th of May 2020

Hi, Saul!!

I would guess you would need about 10ish minutes of kneading in the machine to to equal the 15 by hand. That being said, it will less relying on an exact time and more of looking for the right consistency for the dough. It will probably take a little bit of trial and error! Good luck!