The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

when is dough sufficiently worked? when overworked?

hsmum's picture

when is dough sufficiently worked? when overworked?

Hi there; I've just joined the list, having just started baking bread from scratch using Richard Bertinet's method. I'm afraid I have a very basic question that I'm hoping someone will have the patience to answer for me.  As I'm kneading or working the dough, how can I tell when it's ready to set to rise?  For that matter, how can I tell when I've overworked it?  I'm just using basic white bread dough (flour, yeast, salt, water).  Sometimes it turns out beautifully after working the dough for just a few minutes; other times after 45 minutes of working the dough (!!!) it's still VERY sticky (and seems to be getting stickier, if possible!) When I've had the stickiness, the dough is certainly responsive and feels alive in my hands -- it's just impossibly sticky.  After 45 minutes of working it, I've given up and set it to rise and it does double within roughly an hour.  But on baking, seems more doughy than usual.  What gives?  I'm being very careful about weighing the ingredients.  All the yeast I've used is from the same jar (active dry yeast).  If any of you can help me out I would really appreciate it -- thank you!


fancypantalons's picture

That's just evidence that your hydration is varying a little from batch to batch.  Are you measuring your dry ingredients using a scale?

Anyway, it's not a problem.  If the dough is feeling stickier than you'd like, just throw some flour on the counter, dust your hands, and keep kneading.  Then repeat the process until you get the consistency you want.  And if possible, err on the side of a little wet (adding flour to a wet dough is easy... adding water to a dry dough is a lot harder).  And note: implicit here is the point that kneading dough won't make it less sticky!  Stickiness is not a product of under-developed dough.  It's purely a matter of hydration.  In fact, I find the exact opposite is true... the dough often gets a little stickier in my hands as the flour hydrates during the kneading process (hence why I regularly dust the counter with flour).

As for overworking... the simple answer is, you probably can't (assuming you're kneading by hand, which it sounds like you are).  Your arms will likely tire out before you overdevelop the dough.

Finally, on baking, the answer is simple: for a lean dough, bake until the center of the loaf is around 205F.  For an enriched dough, shoot for 195F.  Yes, I'm saying you should use a thermometer. :)  And *never* cut into a hot loaf.  Period.  If you follow this advice, you should never get a "doughy" end product.

mrosen814's picture

What kind of thermometer do you use when getting the internal temperature of your bread?  Thanks!

gaaarp's picture

One like this.

fancypantalons's picture

I actually prefer a digital thermometer over an analog model.  Mine isn't an instant read (I wish!), but it does the job.  Anything with a decent length metal probe will do.