How to Knead Bread in a Food Processor

Published November 1, 2010. From Cook's Illustrated.

Why break out the stand mixer when a food processor works just as well?

The vast majority of bread recipes these days call for kneading bread in a stand mixer. But a food processor can also “knead” almost any kind of dough, and do it faster. The only exception is extremely wet dough with a hydration level over 75 percent, such as the dough used in our Pizza Bianca. Here’s the best way to do it to ensure a texture similar to a stand-mixer recipe:

Use Metal Blades

Many food processors come with dull plastic blades meant to mimic the kneading action of a stand mixer. But we found they tended to drag the dough or leave it stuck to the sides of the bowl, out of reach of the stubby blades. A sharp slicing action is essential to forming dough quickly in a food processor (the longer you process, the more you risk overheating the dough), so always use the metal blades.

Limit Batches to 1½ Pounds

The 10- to 12-cup capacity of most food processors limits any batch of dough to about 1½ pounds (that translates to dough made with 2 to 3 cups of flour). Larger recipes will require mixing in two or more batches and then combining by hand.

Use cool Water

The forceful action of a food processor creates friction, pumping a lot of heat into dough as it mixes. To counteract this effect, it’s important to use cool water to create a final dough with a temperature around 75 degrees. (Lower temperatures will mean the dough takes longer to ferment; higher temperatures can kill yeast.) To determine the optimal water temperature, we like the “130 degree” rule, where you subtract the temperature of the flour from 130: For example, if the temperature of the flour is 70 degrees, your water should be around 60 degrees (130 - 70 = 60).

Knead Briefly

Because food processors spin at thousands of rpm (versus the few hundred rpm of a stand mixer at its highest setting), dough that would take 8 to 10 minutes to knead in a mixer will come together much more quickly in a food processor. In our tests, just 45 to 90 seconds was all it took for the dough to form a cohesive ball.

Complete Method

Place dry ingredients in bowl of food processor and pulse briefly to combine, about 5 seconds. With machine running, slowly add cool water through feed tube; continue to process until dough forms satiny, tacky ball that clears sides of bowl. After 45 seconds, if dough is sticky and adheres to blades, add 1 to 2 tablespoons flour and continue processing. If dough appears dry and crumbly, add 1 to 2 tablespoons cold water and process until dough forms ball.

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