1. Place your dough on a well-floured work surface. Grab the side of the dough furthest away from you and fold it toward yourself.
2. Fold the dough in half and use your body weight to push the dough into itself. The beginning of the kneading process might require a lot of flour. Be generous to start, but try not to add more than the dough can easily incorporate, or you will throw off the flour-yeast-water-salt ratio.
3. Give the dough a quarter turn (90 degrees). Grab the other side and fold it in half. Again, with a lot of weight behind it, push the newly folded half into itself. Repeat this process until the dough is smooth, silky, and elastic, about ten minutes or more.
Don't worry about over-kneading your bread when you're kneading it by hand--you'd have to really overwork it to break down the gluten structure.
Certain flours will make your bread more dense, no matter how much you knead it. Rye flour, for example, doesn't contain gluten proteins, so most rye bread recipes contain wheat flour for structure. Whole wheat flours are high in protein, but the bran can interfere with the gluten structure, making many 100% whole wheat breads fairly heavy textured.
4. If you're adding raisins, nuts, or olives to the dough, work them in now.
A fully developed dough should be very smooth, with small air bubbles just below the surface of the skin.
When you've finished kneading, shape the dough into a loose ball. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, turning it over to coat the surface lightly with oil, and let it rest smooth-side up.
Cover the dough with a damp kitchen towel or plastic wrap to keep the surface from drying out. Let the dough rise as directed in the recipe.
Between the first and second rise, you don't have to knead the bread again: you can just fold it gently to express some of the gas.
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