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Newbie needs help - Why did dough remain moist and sticky?

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fredk's picture

Newbie needs help - Why did dough remain moist and sticky?

I was trying to make some parker house rolls, I followed this recipe by Bobby Flay from the FoodNetwork website:

1 1/2 cups milk
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces, plus more for brushing
1/2 cup sugar
1 package active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
6 cups all-purpose flour

I was using my kitchenaid mixer with the dough hook. Everything was going well, but by the time I added all 6 cups of flour, the dough was still sticking to the sides of the bowl, and I was not getting a dough ball.

(I'm new to baking, but I learned that you should add flour until a dough ball forms and it stops sticking to the bowl. I've made pizza dough successfully with this in mind.)

So I kept adding more flour. After about another half cup of flour, the dough was getting into a ball shape and not sticking as much to the sides, but after kneading for a few more minutes, I lost the dough ball and it started sticking to the sides again.

So I added more dough. I got up to an extra cup and still the same thing. As long as I kept kneading (in the kitchenaid with the dough hook), the dough was still sticking to the sides and the dough ball would lose its form.

I finally stopped after that one extra cup of flour. I was affraid to add any more. I let it rise for about an hour and dumped it out on the counter to form into rolls, let them rise again, and baked.

The rolls came out pretty good, everything seemed normal. I imagine the rolls were heavyer than intended due to the extra flour. But what the heck was going on that I needed to add so much more flour?

The temp and humidity in my kitchen was on the cool and dry side. I sifted the flour before adding into the mix.

Thank you. I'm glad I found this website. I've just discovered the joys of baking and really having fun with it.

dolfs's picture

As given the resulting dough has almost 75% hydration, which is wetter than a standard French baguette dough. This is with the assumption that a cup of AP flour is about 127 grams.

That seems too wet to me as well, so no surprise here. I think you will have to just keep adding flour until you get the consistency described (smooth ball). If they (FoodTV) did this with cups that were, for example, the equivalent of 140 grams each, you are now missing out on 6 times the difference of 13 grams, or almost a 80 grams (amore than half a cup). Factors like humidity difference between yours and their kitchen may also play a role. 

In general, when recipes/formulas are not given by weight you run the change of large discrepancies like this. Convert the recipe to weight (use my spreadsheet for example) and then record how you have to change it for your situation. That becomes your final "personal" recipe.  This recipe has respective weights and percentages of:

  • Milk: 49.06%, 172g
  • Butter: 15.72%, 55.1g
  • Sugar: 13.36%, 46.8g
  • Yeast: 0.98%, 3.4g
  • Water: 15.72%, 54.8g
  • Egg: 19.94%, 69.5g
  • AP Flour: 100%, 349g


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ryan's picture

it may be easier to start with your flour, and then add your fats and eggs and then add liquid at the end to just get it moistened. feel it and see what it needs, and make the adjustment more liquid or flour for drier. you may screw up, or get it perfect. just keep trying and you'll get there. cooking/ baking (to a point) is intuitive and not an exact science.


good luck and happy baking,


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

The easiest solution would be to hold off with the 1/2 cup of water toward the end of mixing. You might not even need/knead it.

Adding more flour than the recipe can very easily slow down rising times.

Mini O

dolfs's picture

Most likely the recipe is not "wrong" perse, but rather uses a different notion of a "cup of flour" than the preparer did. If the dough ended up to wet, that would mean that there was actually less flour in the dough than was meant by the recipe. Thus, adding flour would not negatively affect rising time as anticipated by the original recipe.

It is much less likely that there is a difference in the volume of the milk and water components between original and what was done here. Thus, withholding water instead, would have both flour and water contributions be less than intended. If yeast was not adjusted, it may actually speed up rising time (possibly affecting taste negatively, although in this case I doubt it would be a serious issue). It would also lead to less overall dough than intended, possibly affecting the expected yield (number of portions/rolls). If, for example, there indeed was 80 grams of flour to little, and thus you would have to also without some 60 grams of water, you would have 140 grams less dough, easily 1-3 rolls. Finally, this particular recipe has only 54.8 grams of water in it, so you might find (in the extreme case) that you would have to withhold all the water and it might still not be enough so you would have to withhold milk as well.

I think in the end, both methods will work, but if you plan to make it again the benefit of my original suggestion is that, after the initial experiment with corrected amount of flour, you have a weight based formula and also percentages. That means, going forward, you can reliably weigh and scale up or down.


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Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

And I mean adding lots & lots of flour.

Mini O

raykat's picture


hi im im a qualified baker with over 20 years experience in the trade

a lot can vary  from recipes if you can send me the method that u uused to make this im sure i can help ie

1st step to last

email to

p.s look forward to helping you out

fredk's picture

Thanks for all the comments. I love those spreadsheets, dolf. What exactly is the hydration value?

Here are the directions for the recipe that I used:

Place milk in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat, stir in the butter and sugar and let cool. Dissolve yeast in warm water and let sit until foamy. Combine milk mixture, eggs, yeast, salt, and 1/2 of the flour in a mixer with the dough attachment and mix until smooth. Add the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, and stir until a smooth ball forms. At this point, I still did not have the smooth ball and had to continue adding flour, almost another cup, until a dough ball somewhat formed.

Remove from the bowl and knead by hand on a floured surface for about 5 minutes. Place in greased bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 60 to 70 minutes. On a floured surface, punch down the dough and shape into desired shapes. Place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Cover again and let rise until doubled, about 30 to 40 minutes.

Preheat the oven 350 degrees F.

Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and brush with melted butter before serving.

Cooky's picture

Hi, Fred. Previous comments are all on point about the proportion of liquid to flour -- which is the simple way of saying "hydration value." In bakers-speak, the flour is 100%, and the amount of liquid is measured against that to come up with the hydration percent. 

 I think your experience is an example of why so many bakers get hooked on weighing ingredients versus measuring. Also, moisture in the flour can vary an amazing amount from one bag to the next, I have found. I can follow a recipe exactly and end up with different dough texture each time

 I'm really looking forward to raykat's comments. Having seasoned pros like that on the premises -- and willing to share their knowledge -- is one of the great benefits of hanging around this site.



"I am not a cook. But I am sorta cooky."

dolfs's picture

Cooky explains hydration already. Keep in mind, though that hydration is made up from contributions of water from all ingredients that contain it. In a recipe like this, the milk also contributes (about 90% of it is water), and so do the eggs. That water present in the flour, although typically around 11%, can vary by flour, storage method, and weather, and is typically not accounted for as it is already part of the 100%. My spreadsheet takes all that into account.


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Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

A few years back a twit from England terrorized a newsgroup with his inability to understand what a cup was.  His repeated rant was, "what's a sodding cup?"

He wouldn't stop (figuratively speaking) screaming long enough to understand that, yes Virginia, there is such a thing as a standardized cup.

However, there are still problems with cups. In one of the UseNet baking newsgroups, there was a challenge - if you have a set of scales, weigh a few cups of flour and post the weights.

The range was from less than 100 to more than 200 grams. The less than 100 gram sorts sifted their flour more than once, spooned it into the cup, and then scraped off the excess with a straight edge. The more than 200 set scooped the flour out of the flour sack with the cup - and did it rather viciously. Worse, the scoopers had as much as a 25% cup to cup variation.

If you sift the flour once, spoon it into the cup, and then scrape off the excess, you'll get close to 120 grams every time.

All of which tells us that a cup is a rather variable measure. Flour, like other granulated solids such as sugar and salt, can be compressed. So, when someone says, "Use 8 cups of flour" what DO they mean?

Bobby Flay admits that chefs are lousy bakers. And I like his pie fillings better than his pie crusts. Which is to take nothing away from the Iron Chef, he is a great chef.

But, did you see him make the rolls? If so, how did he measure the cups? There could be a clue there. Is he a scooper? A sifter? Did someone give him the flour so you never saw it measured?

Some more baking relevant suggestions.

I suggest beginners start by mixing by hand so they'll know what dough should feel like, and what it feels like as it develops.

There's no one "correct" feeling for dough. How wet, or dry, the dough should be depends on what you are making. KitchenAid's suggestion to add flour until the dough ball comes together is a hint for using the KitchenAid mixer effectively, not a hint on how to make good bread. While the KitchenAid mixers are not as limited as to the dough hydration they can handle as a bread machine, they ARE limited. If the dough is "too wet" for the machine, it will crawl up the dough hook and make a mess. Even if the dough should be that wet to make a focaccia or other bread that uses wet dough.

Because of the practical limitations of cups, I am suspicious of recipes that say, "8 cups of flour." I prefer recipes that say, "6 to 12 cups of flour" and tell you how the dough should feel. When I teach classes, I suggest that the students start at the lower end of the range and add flour slowly after that. If the recipe has a fixed amount of flour, I suggest they start with 1/2 to 2/3 of that amount and then add more flour slowly. I have them do this by hand, or with a wooden spoon, until the dough is too stiff to stir by hand. At that time, it's time to start kneading.

When I add flour to such a recipe, I like to pretend I am Ebeneezer Scrooge from "A Christmas Carol" and that flour costs as much as Saffron ("The Most Expensive Spice In The World! (tm)" I add a tablespoon at a time.

Most doughs work better when they are a bit too wet than when they are a bit too dry, so don't over add flour.

Some people freak out when the dough is sticky, but THE number one beginners error is adding too much flour. It's OK if the dough is a bit sticky. It's just flour, water, salt and yeast. It's not going to dissolve your flesh. You can wash it off your hands, off your work surface , off the floors, off the walls, off your clothes or whatever.

The goal isn't to have a dough that is not-sticky. The goal is to have a tacky dough that would rather stick to itself than you, the work surface, or whatever.

Even my bagel doughs are somewhat tacky, and they are very dry doughs.

I hate to blow my own horn (not that it stops me very often), but I have a tutorial for beginning bakers on my web site at It has gotten lots of positive feedback, so I think it really, really works,

Also, on the kneading by hand front, I have some videos of how to knead at that have gotten good feedback also. My approach is very effective, but low impact. People with carpal tunnel issues or arthiritis who have told me they couldn't knead bread were amazed that they could in fact knead bread using my approach.

While a good mixer is a great tool, I think that it often gets in the way of learning to bake. And with a small batch of bread, a mixer really isn't a time saver.  Once you know how to bake, then the mixer can be a great boon.

Hope that helps,



JERSK's picture

    I've looked up several recipes for Parker House Rolls and this one contains the most eggs. I think "parker House" is in reference to a folded light buttered roll served at OMni Parker House in Boston.. Bobby Flay has 2 recipes on internet one contains only 1 egg, 2 sticks of softened buttered and 2 cups water, no milk. Other ingredients are almost the same. This recipe you've tried seems brioche like which is pretty sticky. Other hydrationsin recipes I've seen come out to about 66%. This also includes hydration from the butter which I don't know if dolfs has included that in his spreadsheet. If you are a new baker than you probably don't have to be to concerned about hydrations and pctgs., though they are good to know. Measuring accurately with cups or scales is important as are the quality and types of ingredients you use. I don't really think of Bobby Flay as a baker, though he probably does have his own bakers and his recipes may just be scaled down versions of theirs. A lot could go wrong in that process alone.

dolfs's picture

In my spreadsheet I had not yet incorporated the water content of butter. I now have (a simple matter of looking it up and entering the value in my spreadsheet's ingredient database), and it changes the hydration of the recipe as I originally analyzed it to 77.64%.

Keep in mind that fats tend to make a dough more supple (feeling softer), even if they contain little or no water. If you would substitute canola oil for butter, for example, the hydration would not change (canola oil has no water in it whatsoever), but the dough would still feel different.


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Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

A while back there was a discussion in the Bread Baker's Guild of America on the topic of calculating hydration. A number of very experienced bakers opined that they include eggs, butter, and oil as liquids for the purpose of calculating hydration.

At the least, eggs are around 75% water, and all of these things act as a hydrating agent.

So, you stumbled on, or figured out, something that had bedeviled me for years until it was explained to me.



dolfs's picture

  • From "The Bread Bible" comes a recipe using a sponge. It uses no eggs and has a hyfration of 66%.
  • From the CIA's "Baking and Pastry" the formula for "Soft Roll Dough" contains 10% eggs (half of Flay's posted recipe).
  • From "Beard on Bread" comes a formula with 67.15% hydration, 1 egg (5.5%).
  • From Flay's "other" recipe we find a 55% hydration dough, with just one egg in it. There is also a note that mentions the recipe is untested by the FoodTV kitchen. It does say, however, that this recipe was provided by the Omni Parker House itself.
From this I conclude that the formula's for Parker House rolls are all approximations and the name is perhaps more about the shape. I do think, however, that the recipe that started this thread seems to have excessive eggs in it.


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Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

The key thing in the Parket house roll is that it LOOK like a Parker house roll and have a rich taste.

James Beard and Bobby Flay probably winged it and came up with their own recipe.  However, how the dough handles can change a lot depending on the flour used, among other things.


I'd probably trust the Omni recipe the most.  And I'd be ready to adjust it as needed.

That said, I did make the Beard recipe several times for Thanksgiving, but haven't done so in years. 



fredk's picture

I know virtually nothing about baking, and just from this thread I have learned a great deal. Mike, your video's are great. I went and made some bread yesterday using my hands to knead it out. It was fun and I think I'll 'stick' to that for awhile until I know what I'm doing.

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

Many people make kneading seem like a big effort, and like you'll spend hours doing it.

After I got out of the learning phase, it became quite easy, and not at all a big deal.

Even though I am very aware of the stretch and fold technique, for  smaller batches I usually knead.  Often by hand.

I have two mixers and tend to use them either to make pre-ferments or feed up starters, or when I am so darned busy that I don't want to be distracted by kneading.  I can't do anything else while kneading, and it messes up the counters.... in the throes of getting ready for Thanksgiving dinner, those considerations can be significant.