The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Confused on the Amount of Flour

naples2tulsa's picture

Confused on the Amount of Flour

Hi Everybody,

I am a newbie at bread making. A transplant from Southwest Florida. I am a little confused about the amount of flour needed to knead dough by hand. I followed the recipe that I had, but I kept needing to add flour and then I ran out of flour. The recipe called for 4-4 1/2 cups of flour, but I know that I added about 6 cups and it was still sticking to the counter well as my hands. When I ran out of flour, I just threw it in a bowl and now I am hoping for the best. I read in one book that kneading by hand will take more flour than if using a mixer. I wonder if someone could confirm this for me. And......if the dough is still sticking to the counter top and your hands, do you continue to add flour until it is no longer sticking to anything?......even if you end up using WAY more flour than the recipe calls for?

Thanks for the help.......looking forward to spending time with you all.


ericb's picture


Would you mind telling us what kind of flour and how much water you used? Depending on the recipe, the dough might be intentionally very wet and sticky.


naples2tulsa's picture

It was whole wheat flour that I milled.....I am definitely better at pushing the button to mill the flour....than to bake the bread, and it was 1 1/2 cups of water. I also put in 1/3 cups of oil and honey for liquids.

fancypantalons's picture

Really, it all depends on the recipe.  Most recipes include a description of the desired texture of the dough... some are meant to be sticky, others tacky, and others neither (a typical bread dough is tacky, but not sticky, and nicely workable without being overly stiff).  So you should really shoot for the right feel (this is where bread baking is less science and more art)... 'course, you can only figure that out with practice and experience, both with bread baking in general, as well as with the specific recipes you use.

As for me, around these parts, with the Canadian flour I have access to and the very low average humidity we have around here, I find I need much *less* flour than a recipe typically calls for.

Oh, and one last thing.  You'd be surprised how dough will transform from sticky to tacky to not at all just by kneading, as the flour slowly absorbs the moisture.  As such, I tend to err on the side of a wetter dough, knead it for a few minutes, then let it sit for 10-15 minutes to let the flour hydrate and the gluten develop.  Then I go back and knead for a few more minutes, at which point the dough is invariably much easier to work with.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Lets back up a few steps here.  If you are a newbie, then get yourself some bread flour and follow the directions in Lesson one, click on the Lessons at the top of the page.   Before you get started on milling your own flour it might be a good idea to understand the process first.  How about starting in the beginning? 


ericb's picture


Something doesn't add up. Assuming a weight of 4.5oz/cup, you started with around 18 oz of flour. A cup and a half of water weighs about 12 oz. So, you're essentially dealing with what should be a fairly stiff dough at 67% hydration.

On top of that, home-milled flour would typically be quite stiff at this hydration. 

Is it possible that you under-measured the flour? Beyond that, I can't think of why a dough at this hydration would be so wet.

I agree with Mini on this. If you have access to unbleached all-purpose flour, you might want to start with the Lessons on this website. Home-milled flour can be difficult to work with. It's not impossible, of course. Many people on this website use home-milled flour every day. As you work through the lessons, you can begin substituting some of your flour for the AP flour, perhaps 1/3 cup at a time.

Good luck, and keep us posted on your progress.


Nim's picture

I think it is okay to start with whole wheat flour, I did that 4 years ago and continue to make mostly whole grain breads. Yes, I did have Laurel's Whole Grain Bread as my guide for the journey.I really think she makes it very easy to start with whole grains.


I have now moved on to sourdough and this site is just amazing for the expertise and wealth of information, so I keep referring here when I have issues.

Erzsebet Gilbert's picture
Erzsebet Gilbert

I've found that a major, major difference is made by measuring everything out with a kitchen scale (I find grams to be most exact).  I don't know if you have tried it or not - but before I got a scale I had trouble, when sometimes the flour would be extremely hard-packed or otherwise too light, and likewise the water.  I'm not sure if it will help you, but here's hoping, and good luck!


clazar123's picture

It would be helpful to post the recipe.That gives everyone a good place to start troubleshooting.Also, include some info on the type/brand of flour,or the type of wheat you ground (hard or soft wheat?Winter or spring wheat?)and maybe a comment on how fine it ground for you and whether or not you used a machine to grind it.

Starting from the lessons here is a marvelous idea.You can start your learning curve on the whichever specialty floats your boat-whole wheat,all white,rye,sourdough,etc but realize that they are all specialties with unique knowledge that needs to be acquired.If you want to do the whole wheat thing,start there and stay the course until you have acquired some expertise.There are some commonalities,of course,but get good at one thing first.I started with whole wheat. Get some basic experience and then start trying different recipes within the specialty.Then branch out.

Meantime,post your recipe and other info so you can get some meaningful feedback.