Home Cooking

How long do I knead Italian bread for?

Chandler114 | Sep 3, 201810:38 AM     7

I've made Italian bread several times, and it always turns out ok, (except my no knead recipe which is awesome), but it's always too dense with a fine crumb. I don't want a densely packed, fine crumb loaf, I want big, fluffy holes and light texture. Only when I use white flour (I always use unbleached a.p.) it always seems to be so dry it's crumbly, or wet and floppy. Even if I slowly add small amounts of water to the flour at a time it goes from a pile of dry, powdery crumbles one instant to a sopping wet mush ball the next! I know I've read/heard Italian breads, are supposed to be wetter doughs but this seems a bit extreme. Then, when I knead it I have to keep adding flour, over and over and over again just to keep it from gluing itself to everything. It is a HUGE mess, it's like paste! I have to add so much flour to the counter top & my hands that I'm pretty sure it screws up my ending result. But I don't know what else to do, because it is unkneadable otherwise. Furthermore, when I'm kneading I feel like I'm never able to knead for the proper amount of time. I'm making bread right now and I just kneaded for an hour... Unbleached a.p. flour (I got this recipe off allrecipes "mama d's Italian bread" because my old recipe was pretty good but I wanted to try something different) and I kneaded it for an hour and it never got to the windowpane test. The finger poke test was okay, they filled in but not too quickly and the dough did get smooth but not super smooth. It actually started to get a little bit shaggy before I just stopped and decided to let it rise, which is what I usually do, because I've heard shaggy dough means that I over needed it. I checked for the windowpane test probably about every 10 minutes, so how did I over knead it?! Do I really need to knead for over an hour? I was kneading so much that my arms started to cramp up and I was starting to sweat just a little.
If it matters, I use Kroger brand unbleached a.p. flour, yes I know it's not the best flour, but I'm usually pretty broke and I would rather eat homemade bread even if it's dense, than buy store-bought. But even when I've used "King Arthur" this same problem still happens to me so it can't be just the flour.

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