Dough Hooks

What is a dough hook and what different kinds of dough hooks are available? What materials are dough hooks made from and why are they useful in a kitchen area?

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The feel of flour under the tips of your fingers, the smell of freshly cooked dough and the taste of the lightly warmed fresh food you have just cooked all add up to a wonderful sensory experience. Cleaning up after such a baking experience is not so wonderful, however.

With flour spread all over the surface, fingers clogged with dough, physical exhaustion, utensils covered in flour and butter chunks and only partially-mixed dough, sometimes, kneading dough by hand can be quite a tricky and messy task to undertake.

This means that, if you have an efficient and cost-effective kitchen accessory, many of these dough issues can be resolved. Dough hooks can provide a wonderful addition to your kitchen equipment and be simply clicked into place on your individually chosen stand mixer.

For thicker bread dough, lighter pastries and many other food items, dough hooks can alleviate many problems of kneading dough - including under-kneaded dough as well as partially-mixed dough or even dense dough.

Below are some frequently asked questions about dough hooks, along with answers...

Why do different kinds of dough have to be kneaded?

Kneading can be a laborious process, but also a necessary one. Kneading dough is not only a mixing process - as, through this process, the dough’s elasticity is increased, producing gluten. This gluten binds the bread and ensures that it remains intact during baking. As a result, your dough will remain as one solid form - rather than separate during, or even after, cooking.

Without this essential step, dough can become crumbly or thick, even after baking, and so be left with an unsatisfying consistency. This makes kneading an essential step which cannot be omitted from the cooking process.

What are dough hooks?

Dough hooks are accessories to many commonly purchased stand mixers that can easily click into place, ready for use almost immediately.

Typically hook-shaped or even corkscrew-shaped, dough hooks can be an odd-looking kitchen accessory. They could even be mistaken for being broken or damaged! However, these handy little accessories are brilliantly designed for mixing and kneading dough for you.

Effectively and efficiently kneading dough without as much of the mess and physical exhaustion that kneading by hand can bring, dough hooks provide a quicker and more effective alternative to hand-kneading.

What food items can dough hooks be used for?

Dough hook attachments can be used for a wide variety of dough food products. These include - but are not limited to - many different types of bread dough, pasta dough and doughnut dough, along with more exotic and creative croissant dough, sweet dough, kourou dough and even phyllo dough.

However, dough hooks can also be used to mix thicker food mixtures that are not included under the ‘dough’ label, such as icing sugar fondant and other thick mixtures.

How do I use my dough hook?

Depending on the food product you intend to produce, the way in which dough hooks are used can differ, if only fractionally.

Below is a general step-by-step guide on how to use dough hooks to mix and knead a non-specific variety of bread dough...

  1. Using a stand mixer, with preferably a deep bowl big enough to contain bread dough of your chosen quantity, attach your chosen dough hook (either J-shaped or corkscrew-shaped) onto the relevant attachment area. If you attach the hook correctly, this will often be indicated by a clicking sound. However, it is essential that you do not force your chosen dough hook into the attachment slot, as this can result in a broken or damaged dough hook or even a damaged stand mixer. This damage can occur immediately or after prolonged use.
  2. Pour the dry ingredients of your chosen recipe, including your chosen dry yeast, into the bowl. However, hold approximately 340 grams of your chosen flour back for some further steps later. It is not necessary for these dry ingredients to have been previously mixed by hand, as your dough hook attachment will mix them for you.
  3. Turn the stand mixer on. Using a low speed setting (the speed will depend on your individually chosen brand of stand mixer), slowly begin to mix the ingredients. Always begin mixing your dry ingredients on a slow setting, as the dough hook should slowly mix the dry ingredients in order to prevent any spillages or ingredient loss.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the mixture (or follow the next step in your chosen recipe) slowly and carefully - again, to prevent spillages. The dough hook should now begin to form and knead a dough-like mixture. This will be indicated by the solidifying of your dough into one larger mass. The speed setting can be turned up depending on how much your chosen dough needs to be kneaded (check your chosen recipe for this step).
  5. Add the rest of the flour that was kept back in step 2 (approximately 340 grams) and continue allowing your stand mixer to mix with your dough hook until the flour is fully stirred into the rest of the dough.
  6. Continue to follow your chosen recipe while letting your dough hook knead. Remember not to divert from the instructions of the recipe. Alternatively, you can continue to knead your dough until it begins to form a ball in the mixing bowl and sticks to the dough hook.
  7. Detach your dough hook from your stand mixer and pull the fully-kneaded dough from the hook with your hand and deposit in a separate bowl ready for either proving or baking.
  8. Either wipe your dough hook clean or put it in a dishwasher.

Why are dough hooks useful in baking?

Dough hooks are particularly useful kitchen accessories as they can remove a large percentage of the frustrations, messes and annoyances which commonly occur in many kitchens nationwide.

  • Dough hooks reduce mess and hand-kneading

Reducing not only the mess of hand-kneading but also the physical exhaustion involved, dough hooks are also great for the production of light and fluffy mixtures, a purpose for which hand-kneading is not always fully proficient.

  • Dough hooks are time-efficient

More often than not, hand-kneading dough typically takes approximately 25 minutes to complete. However, by using stand mixers with their dough hook attachments, this time can be dramatically reduced to almost 8 minutes' total kneading time.

This means that dough hooks can also reduce the amount of time it takes for you to make your chosen dough as well as prevent you getting sore wrists by the end of the kneading process!

What different types of dough hooks are available?

How you can use a dough hook depends on the hook itself. As a result, there are two types of dough hook from which you can choose in accordance with your individual requirements:

  • C/J-shaped dough hooks

Curved in a hook-like shape, the C or J-shaped dough hook bends around itself in order to provide the dough with thorough mixing and kneading.

The most commonly-known type of dough hook, the C-shaped hook, is particularly useful for thicker, stiffer dough which should be fully aerated in order for the dough to be left to prove and achieve maximum rising when cooking. Dough like pizza dough or bread dough particularly benefits from being mixed and kneaded with a C-shaped dough hook.

As a result of the simple, yet perfectly designed, hook-like shape, the C-shaped dough hook is very easy to clean. This means that it can be either wiped clean with a cloth or sponge or cleaned very thoroughly in the dishwasher.

  • Corkscrew-shaped dough hooks

With a shape as though it has been moulded around a pipe, the corkscrew dough hook looks exactly like its name suggests. With many tight curves, the corkscrew dough hook can come across as an odd kitchen accessory to use.

This particular dough hook works by pushing the dough to the bottom of the kneading bowl and is often used on stand mixers with a larger capacity as a means of reducing the number of spillages which C-shaped dough hooks can often produce.

However, corkscrew dough hooks (as well as C-shaped dough hooks) are often very rare kitchen accessories and cannot be transferred from one stand mixer to another. They are specifically designed kitchen accessories for very specific stand mixers.

Though one particular model of stand mixer might be practically possible to use with your corkscrew dough hook, it may cause long-term damage to your mixer if that hook is not specifically designed to fit.

What materials are dough hooks made from?

Dough hooks, both C-shaped and corkscrew, are typically made from stainless steel or aluminium and can even be nylon-coated. All of these materials are particularly suited to kitchen work because of their strength, durability and ability to be moulded into a variety of odd shapes.

  • Stainless steel dough hooks

Both types of dough hooks can be made from this durable and long-lasting material. A low carbon steel containing chromium, stainless steel provides a corrosion-resistant layer which makes it a great material for use in kitchen work.

From forcefully mixing and kneading a thick, sticky dough, to being submerged in soapy water in a washing-up bowl, to being rapidly cleaned in a dishwasher, stainless steel is capable of withstanding a whole range of different - and, often, extreme - kitchen requirements.

This means that stainless steel dough hooks are not easily scratched, scuffed or marked, even with the most vigorous of pot washing or handling.

  • Aluminium dough hooks

Often used in a whole variety of kitchen accessories on account of its strength, aluminium is the perfect material from which different kinds of dough hooks can be moulded. Approximately a third of the weight of steel (2.7g/cm3), aluminium is a light material with a good strength-to-weight ratio.

Like its stainless steel counterpart, aluminium is naturally corrosion-resistant, as it produces a protective oxide coating. Anodising, painting or lacquering this material can increase the corrosion resistance of aluminium.

Aluminium is also highly recyclable. It is 100% recyclable and can be re-melted without any of its previous qualities being lost in the process. This means that not only is aluminium a durable, strong and corrosion-resistant material, it is also good for the environment!

  • Nylon-coated dough hooks

Both stainless steel and aluminium dough hooks can be coated in nylon. Nylon is a commonly-used coating in kitchen accessories. Dough hooks of either type receive anti-stick properties when given this coating. This means that nylon-coated dough hooks are easily cleaned - more so than their solidly stainless steel and aluminium counterparts.

These nylon-coated dough hooks are also dishwasher safe and more useful in a wide variety of stand mixer bowls as a result of their anti-scratch properties. They are also as strong and durable as their stainless steel and aluminium counterparts, as these two materials provide the majority of the dough hook’s material and nylon coats this.

Are dough hooks easy to clean?

Depending on what your individual dough hook has been used to mix and/or knead, some mixtures can be easier to clean than others. As well as this, what type of dough hook you have chosen (either C-shaped or corkscrew-shaped) changes its ability to be easily cleaned.

  • Hand-washing dough hooks

Although C-shaped dough hooks are more easily cleaned by hand with a soapy wet cloth or other cleaning material as a result of the hook's simpler shape, corkscrew dough hooks can also be cleaned by hand. Nonetheless, it can prove difficult to clean such a hook, depending on what mixture it has been kneading previously.

  • Dishwashing dough hooks

Both shapes and materials can withstand a vigorous dishwashing process; this is because of the durable and strong materials from which they are typically made. One crucial implication of this is that dishwashing dough hooks could be an easier alternative to hand-washing them.