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Every now and then I come across a bread recipe that calls for a food processor to mix and knead the dough. I know it's very quick, but is it actually the right tool for the job? This recipe calls for a food processor, and every time I make it I'm worried I'm going to destroy the machine: the thing shakes and wobbles alarmingly, so that I have to hold it steady the entire time, and I'm always worried about burning out the motor. And this is a sturdy, 14 C (3.3 L) Cuisinart machine.

So: is it actually preferable to knead dough in a food processor? It just doesn't seem like it's built for that job.

(I'm assuming here that there's an answer beyond "individual preference," but maybe I'm wrong.)

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  • Note that these are for bagels and not typical bread dough. I have never made bread dough with a food processor which, to me, would pulverize a dough, not knead it.
    – Rob
    Sep 28 '20 at 13:51
  • @Rob It's not that different from regular bread dough, except for the addition of gluten powder.
    – crmdgn
    Sep 28 '20 at 14:06
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It's not preferable to use a food processor over a mixer with a hook, it's just a bit faster - food processors spin very rapidly and put a lot of energy into the dough quickly. A dough hook does the same thing, it just takes more time. A lot of it is personal preference, in my case I don't like either and prefer to knead by hand as I enjoy the process, if I am going to use a machine it's going to be my mixer with a hook as I can see the dough develop. With a food processor I'm constantly concerned it will self-destruct and take me with it in an explosion of polycarbonate shards, plus it turn dough rubbery very quickly if you leave it on too long.

So, use your hands, mixer or food processor, they will all get you there in the end.

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According to Stella Parks (in these recipes 1 2), food processors are ideal for breads requiring "intensive gluten development": bagels, whole wheat loaves, or other breads made with high-protein flour. Her main concern is stiff or glutinous doughs burning out the motor or gearbox of a stand mixer. While there are a wide variety of stand mixers on the market, common models use plastic or nylon gears which can break if the machine faces too much resistance. Food processors, on the other hand, have powerful induction motors that are less likely to fail in this manner.

Another advantage of a food processor is speed: dough is fully needed in under 2 minutes, while stand mixers can take up to 10. Again this is a factor of the differing motor and transmission.

Speaking from personal experience, wet doughs tend to gum up my food processor blade, slowing the machine down, and making cleaning difficult. Some recipes attempt to avoid this problem my adding the liquids in two steps: first a relatively dry dough is kneaded to develop gluten, then the remaining liquid is streamed in. In a stand mixer, on the other hand, you can almost always add all the ingredients and flick the switch. For these reasons, I stick with a stand mixer unless I am dealing with a truly tough dough, like one of the two recipes linked above.

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