This afternoon i made a batch of bread for dinner rolls. This is the same basic bread recepe I've been using since I was a teenager, except now I use half KA white whole wheat flour:
Melt in a medium bowl
2 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup milk
2/3 cup water
Microwave 1 minute
1 heaping teaspoon salt
1 heaping tablespoon sugar
1 packet dry yeast
Let sit for one minute, stir
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups King Arthur white whole wheat flour
At this point the dough pulls away from the edge of the bowl, but is still sticky. At this point I usually turn it out on a floured cloth, and kneed it for a few minutes until I don't feel any lumps in the dough. Today, however, I ran out of AP flour: I keep it in an old hoosier cupboard sifter, and didn't see I was almost out until I was already started. I got out almost the two cups for the batter, but I didn't have any flour for the pastry cloth, I didn't want to make a sticky mess by trying, so I just stuck it in the warm place directly.
The dough doubled in size nicely, I punched it down divided it into 9 balls which went into a 10 inch square pan. It didn't rise so much on the second rising, and, running out of time before dinner, I stuck it in the oven. There was no oven spring at all, and the rolls had a rough surface instead of a smooth one. I was concerned, but they were all right. The rolls were dense, but not gooey in the middle, and they tasted fine.
The point of the experiment was to see if kneeding is needed at all. I know it's supposed to elongate the gluten, and allow air pockets to form. It frankly seemed to make only a little bit of difference, and may well have been OK if I had taking a little more time for the second rise.
Maybe for pizza, where you need the elasticity to stretch the dough, it's more important, but bread seems to work ok if you just stir it.
You're making an enriched dough here (milk), and it will remain supple no matter what you do. My suggestion would be to use half AP flour and half unbleached white bread flour for your recipe. Whole wheat will impede rising because of the lack of gluten. I always knead bread doughs to improve gluten and contribute to oven spring and crumb structure. Your doughs should pass the windowpane test and register 77 to 81 F before the bulk rise. The best sources on these last two subjects are Peter Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice and Jeffry Hamelman's Bread. Two small but significant additions that will help for the size recipe you're making would be 1 or 2 TBS of vital wheat gluten and a pinch of powdered ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) to your dry ingredients: both will improve gluten and promote yeast activity.
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