Last week, we learned to make a few traditional yeasted doughs, including brioches and flaky croissants. And, of course, we made them all by hand. No Kitchenaid to knead the dough for us. No sirree. Not in basic pastry. Turns out, the doughs are kneaded by slapping them down onto the counter and then scooping them up again. The process is repeated for as long as it takes to obtain a smooth, not sticky dough. Let me tell you, it’s an aerobic workout. Do that for 3 hours and by the end you are out of breath and exhausted, just like after a workout.
The workout is totally worth it because look at how light and fluffy the brioche dough is if you work it enough. I was absolutely amazed by the texture of my baked brioche. I had never had brioche so light. And the most shocking part of it all: I seriously LOVED the slap/scoop motion required to knead the dough. I told that to my instructor at the end of class and he looked at me a little puzzled. I guess not too many students declare that they love to hand knead doughs, but to transform a gooey pile of yeasted dough into a perfectly smooth ball of bread dough was amazing to me.
I was so excited about making croissants that I ate them all over the course of a week-end. Now I understand why a recent Cordon Bleu graduate mentioned that I should be prepared for a 20-pound weight gain. But how could I not indulge? I made these from scratch, hand-kneaded, hand-rolled…. I’m full of excuses.
Here’s a video showcasing how to hand knead bread dough the French way to give you a rough idea of the technique we learned to knead dough.