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Why is my dough getting stickier while kneading?

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DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

Why is my dough getting stickier while kneading?

I'm a little confused. Kneading has turned out to be one of the tougher things for me to figure out with bread baking. I always feel like I didn't do it right. One thing is that I don't really know what properly kneaded dough should feel like. I've read posts on here, and watched a few different youtube videos, and still can't figure it out. Everything I've seen indicates the dough should get less sticky and more pliable when it is properly kneaded. I can't seem to get that result. I don't know what I'm doing wrong. My dough does seem to be more extensible after a while of kneading, but it also becomes more sticky, and doesn't want to let go of my hands or my work surface. It sticks to everything like chewed gum.

I know there are several variables in bread making. I'll try to explain as much as I can about mine. I'm usually baking with my 100% hydration sourdough starter, but I've also recently baked a recipe using commercial yeast only, out of a book. I've used different flours, ranging from AP to Bread to Whole Wheat. Usually, it is a random mix of two or more of those. Sometimes I have my starter kept on top of my fridge, being fed twice a day, sometimes in the fridge being fed once a week or so. I'm very experimental with my food, if you can't tell. I've had some decent loaves, some great ones, and a couple of barely-edible-but-not-quite-a-brick loaves in the past few months that I've been baking. Sometimes I get great flavor, sometimes no discernible flavor, and exactly once the loaves turned out to be really sour. I don't know what I'm doing most of the time (really, like ever), but I haven't counted many of my attempts as disasters. I have learned a lot, but currently trying really hard to get the kneading down, and I'm stumped.

Kitchen Barbarian's picture
Kitchen Barbarian

It would help to know the recipe you use when this happens.  One thing that comes to mind is that if dough is overkneaded (and I don't see how that could happen when you're kneading by hand, or at least not when *I* am kneading by hand) overkneading could be causing the gluten structures to actually break down.

I've also seen this when the protein content of the flour used is unsuitable for bread.  The dough gets stickier and starts to tear a lot.

If it is a very wet dough (high hydration) it might be more appropriate to stretch and fold rather than trying to knead it.

cranbo's picture
cranbo

How long are you kneading, and what method? 

Sourdough does get more sticky as it ferments.

 

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

Okay, here are some of my recent tries. I checked out a book from the Library called The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book. The book starts out with some introductory stuff, then gives a recipe for a small beginner's loaf, called in the book A Loaf For Learning. Now, this book is all about whole grains, so the recipe calls for 100% whole wheat. But, this is no sourdough. It uses commercial yeast and total time from start to finish is less than 5 hours, if I'm remembering correctly. I tried to follow the instructions as closely as possible, but the dough became very sticky as I was kneading it. The loaf never rose much, and had no oven spring at all. I'm not sure, but I think in this case, I didn't have enough flour. The recipe is measured by volume, and calls for three cups of flour scooped after stirring or otherwise loosening up the flour in the bag. But, for reference, it says 450g of flour. I'm not sure it was that much by scooping loose flour that way, but I'm only assuming at this point. I should have gone ahead and weighed the flour out, but all the rest of the ingredients were in volume measurements as well, plus I was trying to follow the recipe as exactly as possible, since it is supposed to be a Loaf For Learning.

Yesterday, I baked a loaf from some dough I had mixed up two nights ago, and left to retard in the fridge. I didn't measure anything. I scooped out some of my sourdough starter, plopped it into a bowl, and added water, then flour. At that point, I still had a batter-like consistency. I let it ferment in my oven with the light on for a couple hours, then pulled it out and added some more water and flour. I mixed in flour a little at a time, until it seemed like it should be a good hydration level to work with, then let it autolyse for a while, maybe 15 to 20 minutes, and began to knead it. I was looking for it to become less sticky, but it never did, and after a while, it started to become more sticky! I had not been using any water, oil, or flour on my worksurface while kneading, because I wanted the hydration level to stay where it was. But, when it became so sticky I couldn't get it to let go of me or my worksurface, I scooped it up, threw a little flour down, and kneaded it in for less than a minute, then put it into a very lightly oiled bowl, and stuck it in the fridge. The next day (yesterday evening), I took it out, let it sit at room temperature for a while, then shaped it, stuck it into an oiled loaf pan, let it rise for just a couple hours, then baked it. It rose quite a bit in those two hours. In fact, I realized when I saw it, that I made too much dough for the size loaf pan I was using, but it was too late to worry about that. It baked up nicely, has a nice crumb and tastes decent, although a little stronger flavor might have improved it.

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

FlourChild's picture
FlourChild

re: your 100% whole wheat loaf, it can be quite challenging to get much structure and rise out of whole wheat.

re: your second loaf (sourdough), the only thing that really jumps out as an issue is that you didn't measure or weigh anything, so you won't be able to reproduce your successful loaf very consistently.

re: kneading and getting stickier, since you have some sourdough, I recommend keeping it at room temp for a few days and after each feed, practice kneading it at different hydrations so you can see how the dough looks/feels at several key points. Begin with 60% hydration, then repeat the process at the next feed at 70% hydration.  

Key points:

-Mixing- Mixing is harder and longer at 60% than at 70%. Note how the dough feels at the point at which you no longer have dry spots of flour.  

-Autolyse- Leave the dough to autolyse for half an hour and note how the texture and stickiness have changed (smoother and a little less sticky than at the end of mixing).

-Kneading- Knead for 3-5 minutes and note how the texture and stickiness change- most doughs will get less sticky during this period as the gluten formation takes up water.  They will also get smoother.  

There is a point with most doughs where they become less sticky, but it's all relative.  A dough with 60% hydration may not need much more flour to prevent sticking after that, it stays nice and easy to handle.  A dough with 70% hydration will have a point where it becomes somewhat less sticky, but it will likely retain some stickiness and still need to be scraped up with a bench scraper if you're not adding flour.

- More Kneading- After the point at which the dough tightens up and becomes relatively less sticky, if you keep kneading it will gradually become softer and smoother, and, if hydration is higher and you are not adding flour to prevent sticking, it will seem stickier  Many of us leave off kneading before this point and do a stretch and fold or two instead.

If you do this with your starter at feeding time, you can experiment with different hydrations and longer or shorter kneading, also substituting stretch and folds for kneading, etc., and you won't have any consequences in your bread because most of the starter will just get thrown out at the next feed.  

Editing to add:  I suspect that the reason your doughs seem to get so much stickier is that they are higher hydration- once you go past about 65-68% hydration, the doughs are going to remain sticky no matter how long you knead them.  Hard to say for sure since we don't have that information, but if the doughs are sticking to everything after 10 or more minutes of kneading, it could just be that it's a fairly wet dough.

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

FlourChild,

In reply to your edit about hydration: I usually have a hydration around 65-70% when I'm measuring out things myself, not using a recipe. Both of the examples I gave were exceptions to this. With the 100% Whole Wheat, I don't know the hydration, because it was all measured out by volume, and had other ingredients besides flour, water, salt and yeast. I remember it having honey, oil, water, yogurt, flour, salt. I think there was at least one or  two more. And then, of course, the sourdough loaf I just made had no measurement system at all, but I'm sure it landed near the 65-70% level, since that is what I've been doing the most of. It had probably somewhere near 20-30% Whole Wheat, slightly less of Occident flour (basically, All Purpose), and the rest bread flour.

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

It could be possible that I'm overkneading. I usually lose track of time, because I'm trying to develop a "feel" for the kneading process. I thought less stickiness was one of the signs of properly kneaded dough, so I have kneaded for very long periods of time trying to reach that point. However, more often, I don't knead very long at all, and I'm pretty sure the dough is underkneaded, because I know I'm not going to be happy with my kneading anyway. In those cases, the dough is still very tough, not extensible at all. I've had decent bread turn out both ways, as well as dense and/or dry bread. There are so many different factors, so I'm trying to get just this one (kneading) for now, then I'll figure out another one later, and so on.

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

I will try your suggestions. Thanks for the pointers. As for the sourdough being unmeasured, it was just one loaf, one time. I usually meticulously measure everything, as I'm somewhat a perfectionist. But, I'm also very experimental, and I am trying to learn the "feel" of proper hydration, proper kneading, etc. so I threw that one together as sort of a test and a learning process. I've had loaves turn out fine with everything weighed out, and also loaves that didn't turn out so well, in spite of carefully weighing my ingredients. I would count this as one of the top 10 best loaves I've made, but I'm not really interested in repeating it. I've made better loaves than this, as far as flavor goes. I just can't seem to get consistency no matter what I do, though. There is a whole lot of skill I have yet to develop. Thanks again.

Kitchen Barbarian's picture
Kitchen Barbarian

I strongly doubt you are over-kneading if you are kneading by hand.  But 100% whole wheat loaves are, as another poster noted, quite challenging.  I don't do them myself.  One thing that might help is to allow an autolyse - whole wheat will absorb more water, but it absorbs it more slowly, so giving it a rest to absorb the water might make a difference. 

Consider going to stretch and fold - some bakers never use anything else, even if it's NOT a really high hydration dough.  You could try it and see if you like the results.  I can't do anything else if I had to do something by hand - bad shoulders, bad wrist, I'm just falling apart, LOL!

Here is another freshloaf thread about this recipe:

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/11531/trouble-loaf-learning-laurel039s-kitchen

Other info about this recipe:

http://fortheloafofbread.blogspot.com/2011/07/loaf-for-learning.html

 

FlourChild's picture
FlourChild

I also think that you are probably not over-kneading your dough.  I guess my long-winded point was that through the autolyse and first 3-5 minutes of kneading, most doughs do seem to be getting less sticky.  But after that, the dough becomes softer and silkier with more kneading and, depending on hydration, can still seem quite sticky.  Learning to notice that point at which the dough comes together (sticks to itself more than its surroundings) is the skill to develop.  Then you can decide whether to knead further (sandwich loaf or brioche) or to start the bulk ferment and maybe throw in a fold or two in lieu of extra kneading.

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

Last night, I tried the Loaf For Learning again. I weighed out 450g of flour. The dough was more resistive. In fact, it was quite stiff. I ended up adding some water while kneading, but I never got it to be soft or light. I autolysed for 20 minutes as soon as the ingredients were incorporated together, before kneading. That probably made a difference as well. I paid more attention to the dough while rising, and didn't give it as long per cycle. Still ,the final proof rose just over the rim of the pan, maybe 1/2" to 3/4" or so, and it never sprang in the oven. It seems less dense than the last one, but not by much. It was hard to evaluate the kneading, because it really wasn't wet enough to begin with. It was just slightly sticky, and since I was incorporating water, it never really stuck to me or the worksurface, at least at first. It did start to stick more after several minutes of kneading, and that's when I stopped, hoping I hadn't overdone it already.

I also mixed up a bit of dough with starter, water, bread flour, and salt. I used the 1:2:3 ratio of starter:water:flour that has been mentioned on this site. If you calculate that for hydration, you get just over 71% so it was very wet dough. I kneaded for just a little while, and stopped, because I was really trying to concentrate on the Loaf For Learning. I guess I didn't succeed in either of these, as far as kneading goes. Maybe sometime this weekend I will get a chance to try again, with a lower hydration white bread flour sourdough.

Kitchen Barbarian,

Thanks for the links. One thing that was mentioned on the Fresh Loaf post, was kneading too strongly/roughly. I didn't know there was such a thing. Is this a real problem? I thought kneading more roughly would be a good thing, but maybe less is more? Another thing I thought about is the gluten content of the flour. I'm using KA Whole Wheat flour. The book recipe calls for Whole Wheat Bread flour, but my flour is not specified as being for bread. Still, it has 4g of protein in 30g of flour. I would think that should be enough, but maybe not. Could I be using up the gluten in the flour by kneading too roughly AND for too long? I wish I had some way of knowing what the dough is really supposed to be like when it's right, and how to get it there. Mine always seems wrong, by the descriptions I've read over and over, and seen in videos. That is one reason I'm using the Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book. They do give a lot of info and vivid descriptions, but it just isn't good enough.

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

pretty good for a 100% whole grain loaf.  It has to taste great and make some good sandwiches.

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

It tastes wonderfully nutty and goes well with extra sharp cheddar. The texture isn't exactly smooth, though it's better when toasted, with a slathering of butter. I've had some good loaves turn out even when I knew I'd totally bombed the kneading part. But, I'm sure it could only get better with proper kneading, and that's why I started this thread. The premise of the Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book is that you can get soft, light, well risen loaves from 100% Whole Wheat, if you do it right. They start off by saying that most people try to do whole wheat the same as white flour, and get poor results, or turn to adding white flour to the recipe, or VWG, to get more lift. I just want to learn to knead properly for now, because it affects all of my loaves, no matter what ingredients I'm using. Other improvements can be made later.

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

I've been doing a bit of research, both on this site, and others. It seems the consensus is that overkneading by hand really is nigh on impossible. So, now I'm even more stumped! What is going on that causes the dough to change on me while kneading into a stickier version of itself? I can't seem to find that answer anywhere!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Note how the bubbles appear denser near the bottom and bigger on top even though the crust color is the same on the bottom as the sides of the loaf.  Also the bumpy top crust surface could be caused by waiting too long before baking.  Try shortening some of your rise times.  If your last proof is longer than the bulk rise, try switching them giving the bulk rise a longer time. 

Get into the habit of checking dough reaction feel instead of visual height clues as to when the final rise is ready to bake.  You might be letting the dough ferment too long.  On the next bake, from the time you start mixing the ingredients, touch and press on the dough to feel how it is changing.  Do it every 30 minutes and take notes.  Do the same with your just fed starter noting the texture before feeding, after, and during fermenting.

Another question...  Are you adding the salt and if so when in the process and how much?  (I guess that is three Q's)  :)

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

Mini, let me start at the bottom, with your question about salt. The white sourdough loaf pictured didn't have salt - I forgot to put it in. The WW loaf I made from a recipe that was supposed to be for beginners. I followed the directions as closely as possible. The salt goes into the dry flour before the wet ingredients are added. For three cups of flour (which the book says is 150g each?), it calls for one teaspoon of salt. The second time I made it (which is the loaf in the picture above) I did a couple of things differently. I weighed the flour out to 450g, instead of doing what the book said - stir the flour, then gently scoop out the cup and level it. The first time it was too slack, and the second time it was too stiff! Also, instead of kneading right away, I let it autolyse for about 20 minutes. The book doesn't call for that, so I didn't do it the first time. Finally, I drastically reduced the fermentation periods, because I thought that the lack of oven spring the first time could have indicated it was overproofed. The recipe calls for two bulk fermentations and a final proof. I did all three of those still, but I cut the time way down. However, I didn't cut the final proof time. It was two hours, so maybe I did wrong there. I was trying to get a good rise.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

helps control fermentation.  A dough that doesn't contain salt will act different each time it is made even if all variable seem identical.  Fermentation can be too fast and hard to predict.  The slightest variation in temp. or humidity or time can be greatly exaggerated resulting in various outcomes.  Salt tightens the protein bonds in the dough matrix.  Think of salt like telling the little molecules to hold hands.  They become stronger as you push and pull against them when kneading.   If you look up "salt-free bread dough" or "forgot the salt" in the site search machine, you might find something.  Too low a salt amount can also throw off a formula that is formulated for more salt.  Something to think about.  

Careful about changing too many variables when trouble shooting.  One change at a time!  

Often, when dough becomes sticky, that should be your first clue to re-check to see if you forgot the salt.  Taste the dough or check your memory.

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

I always tell myself I will do everything right next time. But, alas, if it isn't the same mistake, it will be a new one. My poor brain has a hard time remembering everything, especially in the right order.

Kitchen Barbarian's picture
Kitchen Barbarian

I've actually never seen "Whole Wheat Bread flour" - my first guess would be that such a thing has additives, but according to this thread:

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/7075/bread-flour-vs-whole-wheat-bread-flour

it means it is 100% hard red wheat - though that doesn't make much sense either, does that mean it is spring wheat, winter wheat, or a blend? 

In short, I don't think the term means all that much as it likely varies depending on who is packaging the "whole wheat bread flour".

From your posting it seems like you feel that using VWG is "cheating" - but many people who want more loft in a WW loaf add a bit of vital wheat gluten - you should be able to find some in the baking section of a halfway decent grocery store.  I think it only takes a Tablespoon or so?  Check the specific VWG you will use, but I think it's generally one T of VWG per 3 c (or roughly 12 oz) of whole grain flour.

However I honestly think the problem is with the recipe and not with you or your handling of the dough.  Unless you know exactly what flour she was using - brand, protein content, what blend of wheat it was milled from - you are unlikely to be able to repeat her results.  I'm going to chime in on the side of folks on the thread I listed above, to check out Peter Reinhart's "Artisan Breads Every Day" and "Whole Grain Breads".

But really, that's about as good as I've ever seen for a home baked 100% whole wheat loaf with no dough enhancers or VWG.  A lot of the loaves people have posted pics of from that recipe don't look nearly as good, and some were obviously way overproofed because they clearly collapsed in the oven.  I think you've gleaned all you can from that recipe, given you can't identify the flour she used, and you should move on to something a bit more ... flexible.

In fact, here's a link to one of Reinhart's whole wheat recipes on googlebooks (scroll down a little, the link shows the 50% WW recipe first, then the 100%)

Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day 50% and 100% Whole Wheat Bread/pizza dough

 

Kitchen Barbarian's picture
Kitchen Barbarian

I just noticed you said she equates 1 cup of flour to 150g - that seems rather high.  I usually go by what's on the side of the bag, where it lists nutritional information - for flour that's 1/4c, and they give a weight measure as well.

King Arthur says their WW weighs 112g per cup.  They pin their AP at about 120g.  Which seems counterintuitive - you think of WW as being heavier - but maybe the bran in the flour is actually less dense, I don't know. 

On the other hand, maybe HER 1 c of that whole wheat flour really does average out at 150g.  That's the problem with by volume measuring - one person's 1 c of flour might way 3.5 oz (about 100g), and somebody else's might weigh 7 (about 200g) !!!  I'm not kidding, people have tested this in class environments and have found variations that wide.

So another way to help stabilize your product is to switch to something that's in proper baker's percentages or at least by weight measures to start with - you may still end up modifying it, but when you start from the same stable starting point every time, such modifications will be minimal at worst.  Another reason to go check out Peter Reinhart, and I would suggest taking a look at Jeffrey Hamelton's "Bread" as well.

You can get them through your local library and see what you think before shelling out the dough... >:D

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

My 2 cents worth…

I bake using 100% whole grains that I mill myself so bran etc are included.  I always autolyze for 60 minutes or longer prior to kneading with my DLX using my whole grains.  

I agree with all that it is pretty darn impossible to over knead when kneading by hand.  I always use my DLX and I will knead for 10 minutes or more without any problems.  

At the HL of Laurel's loaf the dough should be somewhat stiff and not at all sticky since it has no sticky ingredients in it so I am stumped about what is giving yours that stickiness.

From the pictures you have posted it looks like it was a very nice loaf despite the stickiness.  If you want it to have more flavor just cut down on the IY she recommends so that it has to ferment longer.

One of the posters here Khalid - mebake - bakes a lot of Laurel's breads so you might check his blog out and see if he ever mentions stickiness.

Have Fun,

Janet

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

Kitchen Barbarian, the reason I've been working with that recipe is because it is specifically labeled A Loaf For Learning, and supposedly the writers of the book have put a lot of research into it, and it is the starting point for everything one is to learn from the book. One of the major premises of the book is that you can get a soft, light, well risen loaf from whole wheat flour without adding any VWG or white bread flour. I don't have any personal preference for or against VWG. I'm just trying to follow the recipe. I know I could probably find a better recipe, but I'm trying to use the one in the book for now.

However, the stickiness of that recipe isn't too bad, and it isn't really what this thread is about. My real concern is that whatever recipe I use, the dough gets slacker and stickier while kneading than it was to begin with. I just had another one of those episodes just now, with my sourdough. It does start out sticky, but that is expected, I've been told. The problem is that it gets stickier after a while of kneading. Just now, it became a goopy mess, and I gave up, rolled it around in a little flour, and left it to rise, hoping it makes a decent loaf anyway. It literally becomes impossible to knead, because it squishes in my hands and sticks to every surface it touches.

Janetcook, at the hydration level of the Laurel's loaf, based on cups, which is the way the recipe is meant to be used, it is very slack and could use a little more flour. But, at the hydration level I got by weighing out the flour to the amount the book says it should weigh, it was indeed very tough and wouldn't stick to anything. It does have honey in it, by the way. But then, it has oil in it as well. The second loaf (the one I pictured) was the stiff one, and rose better than the first loaf, which was slack. Neither of them had any oven spring. I'm hoping to try again with the slacker dough, and add flour up to the amount needed to get a little more substance, as the book suggests. But, my kneading is still a problem, no matter what. Even the stiff dough I made was beginning to become sticky after kneading a while.

FlourChild's picture
FlourChild

My real concern is that whatever recipe I use, the dough gets slacker and stickier while kneading than it was to begin with. I just had another one of those episodes just now, with my sourdough. It does start out sticky, but that is expected, I've been told. The problem is that it gets stickier after a while of kneading. Just now, it became a goopy mess, and I gave up, rolled it around in a little flour, and left it to rise, hoping it makes a decent loaf anyway. It literally becomes impossible to knead, because it squishes in my hands and sticks to every surface it touches.

I really think it's possible that what you are describing is normal for a high hydration dough.  Try reducing hydration or if that doesn't seem appealing, perhaps look up the Bertinet slap and fold method and give it a try, using a bench scraper to help gather the dough.  It is designed for ultra sticky, high hydration or highly enriched doughs.  Some doughs are just sticky and there is no way around it.  You can also skip kneading entirely and do stretch and folds instead.

The only other thought I had was to check that you aren't tearing the dough while kneading.  Stretching is good, but stretching so much that the dough tears will prevent the dough from developing a proper structure.

footsie57's picture
footsie57

I am having the same issue  with the wet sticky dough, I followed the recipe to the tee(Chad Robertson's Tartine Country Bread), and tried to use the pull and fold method and it did get puffy and full of air, until I turned it out onto the baking tray and parchment paper and then it just spread like a glop......I probably should of let it rest but I too the scraper and tried to scoop it and pull it into a round but it would hold a bit of the shape and then spread again........I wondered if the salt and last water amount was necessary? Maybe as you said to reduce the hydration? Water is 750 grams, maybe reduce to 650?

FlourChild's picture
FlourChild

High hydration doughs are difficult to handle, no doubt about it.  Keep the salt, but there's nothing wrong with reducing water by 50g or so to make life a little easier.  You may not get holes as big as in the photo, but if that's fine with you then go for it. :)

footsie57's picture
footsie57

Thanks FlourChild....I will give it a shot....and post the pic/results when I am done....Thanks all for your insights and recommendations!

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

Last night I tried kneading with three different lumps of dough. The first was dough that had been mixed a couple of days ago, and was sitting in the fridge. I took some out, played around with it, and had the experience I wrote about above. Next, I took some of the dough, mixed about the same amount of new flour/water/salt to make 50/50 old/new and kneaded it. It fell apart on me too. Then, I took a very small lump of old dough, mixed with a much larger amount of new flour/water/salt and tried again. I stopped well ahead of it ever falling apart, but then I think I may have underkneaded it. I really was hoping that the change from not-kneaded-enough to well-kneaded would be an obvious thing that a person couldn't miss. Unfortunately, that is not the case with me for some reason.

Flourchild, I don't know how it could be normal for dough to fall apart like mine seems to do. Maybe, as you say, I'm tearing the dough. All I know is that everything I've seen says that the dough should become smoother and less sticky with kneading, even slack dough. The slap and fold is not a replacement for kneading, it is a style of kneading, and every video I've seen shows the dough pulling together and becoming smooth. Mine doesn't do that, it falls apart and becomes stickier than at the beginning. My dough isn't even as slack at first as the dough they are using in the slap and fold videos. If I'm tearing the dough, what can I do to stop doing that? I don't think I'm being any more rough with my dough than any of the videos I've seen. I'm just completely stumped.

So, I formed those three dough lumps into boules and baked them. I folded the edges into the center, let them rise a while, folded into center again, let them proof and baked them. I was trying to get the dough pulled into itself so it would form a tight boule. The first two never did feel like they were tightening up as I folded them in. The third one did. I baked them in a 500F oven with steam. The first one I forgot to remove the steam pan, so it was there through the whole bake, and I also overbaked it a little. It was just about the best bread I've ever baked. The other two, I baked together, but I realized that the third one didn't have enough rise, because of the lower amount of old dough plus the slightly shorter fermentation time, too, since it was mixed up last. I was just in a hurry, and didn't care, since my main concern was the kneading, and it was getting late. So, it has a huge bubble in the top crust, and is probably very dense in the bottom. I'm gonna cut into it today. The moral of the story is that I know my lack of kneading skill isn't keeping me back from great bread, but I still want to develop the skill anyway, because I want to be technically correct with whatever I'm doing. I have other issues, obviously, but kneading is the one I'm working on for now.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Do take photos of the crumb (cross sections) and compare them.  Write down your observations.

Not to get too confusing here but dough does deteriorate with time and fermentation.  If the dough in the refrigerator is there long enough. it becomes a sourdough starter maybe even an exhausted one.  All of it. The yeast and bacteria will break it down and enzymes will turn it to liquid and if too little fresh flour is mixed in, it remains so.  It just doesn't have the elasticity to trap gasses anymore.  Fresh flour introduces new gluten.  Your description of a little bit of starter to lots of flour sounds like the path to follow.  Try it again and let the shaped dough rise longer before baking.  Use plenty of steam too.  

Exhausted dough becomes more liquid, stringy, and smells stronger of beer (yeasty.)  Taste your refrigerated dough for about 5 seconds (spit it out)  and describe it for us.  Also without folding or mixing it, try to stretch a spoonful as thin as possible in the middle with the thickness on the outer edges.  Use wet hands to avoid sticking.  

Try only touching the dough with finger tips keeping the rest of the hand free of contact. 

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

Mini, my dough in the fridge was just mixed up a couple days ago, and is not deteriorating yet. I do know what you mean, though, as it has happened to me before. The first of the three loaves I baked was all dough from the fridge, and even with my failure at kneading it, plus the fact of it being cold from being in the fridge, it still baked up a very nice boule! I tried loaf three today at lunch. If I had just baked it a couple hours longer, it could have passed for hardtack. It was so dense, it still felt like clay to the touch inside. Not dry, but dense. Boule number two is still waiting to be explored. I did use lots of steam. I put a small cast iron skillet in the bottom of my oven, preheated the oven at 500F for over an hour, with the skillet in there, and dumped a coffee mug full of boiling hot water into it just after loading the loaves, then closed the door quickly. When I opened the door to get the skillet out, there was still some water boiling in it.

I will try your suggestion tonight about stretching my refrigerated dough. I may also taste it, but I'm not expecting anything to come of that. Even the boule that turned out so well in baking was not very well fermented yet. Its flavor was mostly from the baking. My dough usually develops the best flavor after at least 5 days in the fridge. It makes amazing pizza at that point. I've never yet had my dough or even my starter to the point of smelling like beer.

Sorry, I didn't take pictures of the boules. There is one left, maybe I will get a picture of it.

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

I tasted the dough, it had a pleasant sour taste. I stretched it, and here is a picture of that. Also, here is a picture of my boule number two from Sunday. I may try to mix up a simple dough sometime this week, if I get a chance, in order to practice my kneading. I'll use commercial yeast, and make it a lower hydration than what I've been working with.

It actually looked a little bit smoother, until I fiddled around trying to get my camera to take a picture.

This picture was taken today. The bread was baked a couple days ago. See the plastic knife I used to cut it? This boule was just a little more dense than it should have been, but it was a couple days old, plus it had been in my lunch cooler. It went well with some chicken salad.

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

Footsie57, I'm not sure your problem is the same as mine. I'm not familiar with that recipe, but it seems to me that you may be under-developing the gluten, or else it really is a very slack dough. Maybe try folding a couple more times before you form your loaf. Or try the slap and fold. My dough, for all its problems, doesn't fall out into a puddle after I've kneaded it. It pretty much stays where I put it. Now, it does sometimes "rise" more horizontally than vertically, but that's not really a problem, just something dough does. Are you letter-folding yours? That's where you pull it out into a rough rectangle, fold one side one third of the way in, fold the opposite side over it, like a letter. Then, you do it again, with the other two sides, so you end up with a rectangle of a much smaller length and width, but taller and tighter. If you do that complete process several times, it should become noticeably tighter after a while.

footsie57's picture
footsie57

Thanks DavidEF,

I was responding to the "Maybe this is Normal" post...and the issue I am running up against is the it's actually to sticky to even fold, I end up using a rubber spatula and turning and flipping it, I have tried turning it out on a flat surface and trying to fold it but it spreads even though it's elastic...and it just doesn't get that state of semi-firmness just a step beyond the sticky glop.....I tried adding a little flour and letting it rest but not anything so I took a pinch of it and tossed the rest and .......took the pinch and added it to my starter and then fed it again this morning.....will feed it again when I get home and if you want the recipe I can send you the link.  It's actually on Martha Stewart's webpage... anyway thanks for your input

 

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

Apparently, I need to get some kneading practice with as few variables as possible. Can anyone recommend to me a simple formula, maybe just flour:water:starter:salt (or even commercial yeast, to eliminate the starter), that is a good hydration for me to practice kneading? I may try to spend some time on it tonight, if I get a chance.

FlourChild's picture
FlourChild

If you really want to isolate just the effects of kneading on dough, then I don't recommend using starters, refrigerated dough or whole grains because they will complicate matters with enzyme activity.  My suggestion would be to mix up a small amount of dough that is all unbleached AP flour, with 65% hydration and 2% each salt and commercial yeast. If possible, weigh the ingredients (or at least measure carefully) so that you know exactly what you have.  It is hard to advise on whether your experience is normal or not if we don't know the details of your formula or the consistency of your dough.  

Here's a sample formula:

Unbleached AP flour - 182 grams or 1.5 cups, measured by dipping the cup into a bin of flour and then leveling top with the flat side of a knife.

Water- 118 grams or 1/2 cup

Salt- 5/8 tsp

Commercial yeast 1 1/8 tsp

Note degree of smoothness and ability to stretch a small bit of dough into a windowpane at each of several points of the process.  If you're unfamiliar with a windowpane test, you can find pictures of one through a search.  Windowpane tests won't work well with whole grain flours.  

When to note changes in dough:

  • After mixing all ingredients until no dry spots remain (should be rough/not smooth at all, and will just pull apart into clumps rather than stretching into a windowpane)
  • Cover and autolyse for 30 minutes, then fold dough so that you can see how it has improved in smoothness, and check  windowpane again to see if there is any discernible stretch yet.
  • Set the timer and knead for three minutes.  Note any changes in texture of dough and check windowpane again.
  • Set timer again and knead for another three minutes (6 minutes total), note changes in texture and check windowpane.
  • Repeat two more times, checking texture and windowpane after 9 minutes total kneading and 12 minutes total kneading, then stop.

Doing this will take you through a normal process of dough development.  By twelve minutes of kneading, the dough will seem softer and silkier than it did at three or six minutes- I think it's possible that this normal move towards silkiness is what you're perceiving as increasing stickiness when you knead the dough for a long time. 

After that, if you like you can rise the dough to double in volume, then shape, proof to double size and bake.  It will be a plain loaf.

After that, to gain experience with wetter doughs, repeat the process but use a higher amount of water- add one tablespoon of water to the 1/2 cup and you'll have a dough with 73% hydration.  

good luck

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Here is a simple formula to follow.  Scroll down his post until you find the formula.  His method follows the formula.

Have Fun,

Janet

footsie57's picture
footsie57

I've seen this same process but without the kneading on (http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/33735/home-bread-fighting-gravity)

(and I am going to give this a shot)

  1. Mill flour and allow to cool to room temperature before mixing with water (hold back 100 grams of water) and autolyse for a one hour.
  2. Add starter to autolyse then knead (French fold) 5 mins. Return the dough to a bowl and add salt and remaining 100 grams of water and squeeze through bread to incorporate (dough will separate then come back together smoothly) then knead a further 10 mins.
  3. Bulk ferment for one hour at room temperature. Stretch-and-fold after one hour and place in a fridge at 4°C for 12 hours.
  4. Remove from fridge. Divide. Preshape.
  5. Bench rest 30 mins. Shape.
  6. Final proof was for 1.5 hours at 22°C
  7. Bake in a preheated oven at 250°C for 10 mins with steam then bake for a further 40 mins.
DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

FlourChild, you've been very helpful. Thanks for the simple formula. I may get a chance to try it this week. Funny you said the windowpane test won't work well with whole grain flours. The Laurel's book calls for a windowpane test for the 100% whole wheat recipe I've tried twice. I think my windowpane there was the closest to working of any I've done. I couldn't see alot through the dough, but it did seem to stretch fairly thin before breaking. However, I'm not so much interested in whole grains right now, although the flavor is good. I'm pretty sure white bread flour will make for a better kneading practice.

FlourChild's picture
FlourChild

Interesting about those recipes using windowpane tests for whole wheat- I've read that the bran flakes interfere with a good windowpane, but now perhaps I should test that myself :)

Your photo of a windowpane, above, tells me that your dough is high-hydration and reinforces my thinking that what you are describing is normal.  

Kitchen Barbarian's picture
Kitchen Barbarian

"Kitchen Barbarian, the reason I've been working with that recipe is because it is specifically labeled A Loaf For Learning, and supposedly the writers of the book have put a lot of research into it, and it is the starting point for everything one is to learn from the book. One of the major premises of the book is that you can get a soft, light, well risen loaf from whole wheat flour without adding any VWG or white bread flour. I don't have any personal preference for or against VWG. I'm just trying to follow the recipe."

Honestly I think you've learned all you can from that loaf.  Just because it's CALLED "A Loaf for Learning" doesn't mean it is, LOL!  On the other hand it's a darn fine looking loaf for 100% whole wheat, so ... I'd say you have, in fact, learned from it.  The premise may very well be true, but the fact is that you don't know what flour she was using, so... recreating the exact results claimed in the book is going to be an exercise in frustration - and perhaps futility.  Honestly I don't think you've much more to learn from repeating that recipe, but of course that is up to you.  I do think you are being too hard on yourself though - that's a pretty darn good looking 100% whole wheat loaf already!

The picture you've published of the dough itself just looks like a high hydration dough.  These doughs ARE sticky, and do benefit from stretch and fold techniques.

BTW the "4 g in 30 g" doesn't even get close to telling you what the protein content is in that flour.  There is HUGE rounding error because of the small amount used on the packaging label.  4g could be anywhere from 3.55g to 4.54 g of protein in that 30 g, which translates to somewhere between 11.8% to 15.1%.  Should be fine for bread in any case, but in general you can't rely on the packaging information to tell you what the protein content is of the flour.  It's probably around 13%.  That's fairly typical for WW flour (except pastry flour)

The only way to be sure of the hydration of your dough is to stick to weighing your ingredients.  If you don't have a scale, get one - they are inexpensive and pretty accurate these days.  The Escali was on sale on Amazon recently for $18, but even when it's "regular" price its only about $25.  There's a Polder I like as well, and many bakers like the MyWeigh scales a lot.

Sourdough doughs are tough to pin down because the sourdough process itself changes the dough and sort of throws standard hydration formulas right out the window.  But looking at the pic you posted, I just think you are working with high hydration doughs and they are behaving pretty typically for that class of dough.  Your baking results ALWAYS look good - I just think you may be focusing on details looking for errors where there really aren't any, and missing the big picture.  If it tastes good and it looks good, you are ALREADY successful.

Here is a reinterpretation of Peter Reinhart's interpretation of "pain l'ancienne" - its a lean straight (eg no perferment) dough which could help you to work with a dough of known hydration - it is a 75% hydration dough, so pretty wet:

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/8524/philippe-gosselin039s-pain-%C3%A0-l039ancienne-according-peter-reinhart-interpretted-dmsnyder-m

@footsie - "to sticky to fold" - do your folds in a bowl with the help of a dough scraper

here are some examples

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KhmY1lgr694

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZnxiawZoL4A&feature=endscreen&NR=1

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ugJmRvqA3bQ&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UKdNmbp1s5w&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9UC0dnGBK4

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

I do own a scale, and I use it almost every time. Once or twice, I've just thrown some stuff together in a bowl to see what the outcome might be. The dough in the picture is about 67% hydration. It got a little wetter while I was fumbling with it with wet hands. How low should I go with hydration in order to get a good kneading practice without the complication of a wet dough? I don't want it to be too stiff, either, right?

Pan a L'ancienne is already on my list of breads I want to learn how to make. Thanks for the link. My baking results don't always look good, I just haven't posted any pictures of my really bad failures!

Thanks, everyone for all your help. I hope I get a chance to try again this week. I really want to get it. Plus, I love eating bread, and we're almost out! I've been playing around with small boules, and haven't had the time to make a loaf for my family.

FlourChild's picture
FlourChild

As Mini commented, the dough in your windowpane photo doesn't look like 67% hydration, it looks quite a bit higher than that.  Hope we are calculating hydration the same way :)

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

The dough in my container was about 67% hydration, but in the picture, I'm sure it's much higher, because I fiddled with it too much (with wet hands) trying to get a picture of it. To me, it looks almost like my 100% hydration starter, in that picture. But it didn't look that way before I pulled it out of the bowl. I'm pretty sure we're calculating the same way ;)

I did mix up some more dough last night at a lower hydration, about 58% total. It was easier to knead, not really sticking to anything. I still would like to be able to knead at 70% hydration. I did say I'm a perfectionist, right? I want to get the technical side right, even if it only improves my bread by a small amount.

FlourChild's picture
FlourChild

You can definitely knead a 70% hydration dough, just don't expect it to act like a 58% hydration dough.  If it has a medium amount of protein, and 70% hydration, it will be always be a bit sticky.  When you kneaded the 58% dough, did you notice how the texture changed as you kneaded?

The classic saying that bread doughs get less sticky as you knead them is true for the first five or maybe seven minutes of kneading, especially if you didn't autolyse.  But after that point, they stop getting less sticky and become smoother, softer and silkier with additional kneading.  At higher hydrations I can see how that might feel like the dough is getting stickier.  

You mentioned that you use water on your hands to prevent sticking- was that just for that photo?  That wouldn't be the source of your increasing stickiness, would it?

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

FlourChild,

Yes, I wet my hands to pull a piece of dough out of the container to do a windowpane test. Apparently, my hands were a little too wet. I guess I shouldn't have posted that photo, and instead should have pulled out another piece. Sorry everybody, for causing "confusion and delay" as Sir Topham Hatt would put it.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

your flour.  AP wheat flour can start at 50% hydration or 50g flour to 25g water, a teaspoon is 5g of water so if you add half a teaspoon water you jump to 55% hydration, half a tsp more is 60% hydration etc.  Line up small dishes and play around kneading with your finger tips.  

Just mix flour with water until all the dried flour is moist, then cover for 20 to 30 minutes and then knead each one.  Find the hydration that is easiest for you to manipulate.  You can easily lump them all together when done and add 2% salt and 2% yeast (on the total flour amount) and knead until it is an even lump wetting your hands (or adding 1/2 tsps of water) to raise hydration or adding a little flour to lower it.   

The test window pane is a wet dough like the others have said, I would even call it close to wallpaper paste consistency.  (Not bad for strudel if the dough is then stretched & beaten vigorously for the next 20 minutes allowing some of the moisture to evaporate.  Not making strudel? ... never mind. )  

The roll crumb looks a little bit wet in a few spots.  With a dark crust color, the oven might be too hot for the dough.  Might try again with a slightly lower oven temp.  Play around.  :)