Kneading Bread when you don't have a good surface

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As you can see from many of my pictures, my counters are 4" x 4" tile. The grout indentations between the tile are troublesome in many ways and I would never have this in a home again. They are especially bad when it comes to kneading bread. The groves collect flours and dough making cleanup a chore. And, if you ever want to roll something out smooth, forget it. But the solution ended up being very simple and, in many respects better than a smooth counter top.

I started with an impulse buy of an 18" x 22" poly cutting board. This is the somewhat translucent poly board with a very slight texture on each side. It feels "non-sticky" when you touch it. The size was important since it is the depth of a standard counter top (22 inches) and would lay nicely giving me a clean 18-inch wide working area.

Unfortunately, I doubt you will fine this size and the regular kitchen supply store. I found mine at a restaurant supply store called Cash & Carry in nearby Vancouver. I am sure there are many other such stores.

Upon trying it for the first time I was happy with a number of things. The first thing I noticed was the amount of flour required to keep dough from sticking was greatly decreased. This meant less juggling with the recipe. I could pour out a relatively sticky dough and work with it on this surface with little clean issues. (If only my hands were so non-stick!)

The second major benefit was that I could take the entire kneading surface to the sink for washing up. This coupled with less flour removed many of the negative aspects of hand kneading bread.

The persistent problem was that the non-stick surface did not stick to the counter either. To remedy this I would make sure the board was solid against the splash board and tolerate the thumb, each time I folded and pushed down on the dough. The aforementioned benefits greatly outweighed this little inconvenience.

The problem did nag me and continued to look for a solution. I thought about putting little rubber feet on one side of the board, but this struck me as I would lose 50% of my board. Then, one day, while getting some vegetables out of the crisper, I noticed the drawer liners my wife had place in the bottom of the drawer. She had placed a woven-looking spongy liner (see close up to the right) that she had gotten at the local grocery store. This clung to the bottom of the drawer refusing to move but could be picked up with no noticeable resistance. Much to my wife's dismay, I liberated two of these and placed them under my poly board. Viola! Absolute perfect performance, no sliding, no need to have a splashboard as a backstop, simply and inexpensive. The one's pictured here are about 12" x 12" but you can also get these in six-foot rolls twelve inches wide (the rolls are about $1.50 each).

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