For bubbly, airy loaves of bread and perfect chewy crusts, you need to build up gluten. Gluten is a strong network of cross-linked proteins that traps gas bubbles and stretches as the dough bakes. Gluten is developed by kneading, but creating enough gluten in a wet mixture like pizza dough can take up to 20 minutes if you're kneading by hand.
You could use a stand mixer (for detailed information on how to knead dough in a stand mixer, see this article) but by far the fastest, easiest way to knead almost any dough is in the food processor. The rapid action of a food processor's blade can turn dough elastic in just minutes with almost no effort. The food processor also helps ensure that the dry and wet ingredients are evenly incorporated and helps avoid unmixed pockets of flour for the most effortless doughs you'll ever make.
Here are a few tricks we've discovered for making and kneading doughs in your food processor.
1. The Blade Is Best
Many food processors come with dull plastic “dough blades,” but we found they are not the best tool for the job. They tend to drag the dough or leave it stuck to the sides of the bowl, out of reach of their stubby blades. The regular metal blade is far better at forming and kneading the dough quickly and effectively.
2. Use Chilled Water
The forceful action of a food processor creates friction, pumping a lot of heat into dough. To counteract this effect, which can kill yeast and stunt both rise and flavor, it's important to use chilled or iced liquids when you make dough in a food processor.
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3. Avoid Over-Kneading
Don't over-knead, especially if the dough is enriched with butter; the heat from the processor can soften the butter too much, which affects the texture of the bread.
4. Add Liquid Ingredients While Processor Runs
Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients while the processor is running to make sure they get mixed together quickly and evenly. If you pour the liquid on top of the dry ingredients and then turn on the processor, the liquid can overflow the workbowl and make a mess.
How to Know When Dough Is Properly Kneaded in the Food Processor
When properly kneaded, dough should have a smooth, almost shiny appearance. If you pull the dough, it should feel very stretchy and quickly spring back into place. The photos below show what underkneaded, properly kneaded, and overkneaded doughs look like in the food processor.
Food Processor PerfectionLet America’s Test Kitchen help you unleash the power of the all-in-one multitasker gathering dust in your cabinet. Your food processor can do the work of a whole set of knives, a meat grinder, a food mill, a box grater, a mandolin, a stand mixer, a blender—and do it all faster—with just the touch of a button.
Underkneaded (breaks when pulled)
Properly kneaded (fully elastic)
Overkneaded (tough and dense)
For recipes to make with your food processor tonight, go here! And for more information on food processors, read these posts: