The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Dough too tough to knead

webber_ja's picture

Dough too tough to knead

I'm a very new to bread baking, and am having issues with the consistency of the dough. I was attempting to make an Artisan Wheat Bread, and my dough turned into a complete crumbly disaster. After slowly mixing in the flour by hand, the doughbecame very dry and crumbly. So I tried adding water, which didn't help.I ended up adding about 1/2 c of water, then the dough started to stay together, but still cracked. I tried to keep mixing, but it became to tough and to even handle. I seem to have this problem fairly often. What am I missing? 



KansasGirlStuckInMaryland's picture

Can you post the recipe you are using?  It sounds like you just don't have enough liquid.  Did you substitute WW flour for bread or AP flour?  WW flour sucks up a lot more liquid than bread or AP flour.

I made that mistake when I converted my white sandwich bread to a wheat sandwich bread.  I swapped out 1 cup bread flour for 1 cup WW flour and ended up with a very stiff dough.  Next time I upped the liquid and got a much more pliable dough.

Also, when a recipe gives you a range of flour to put in (7-8 cups) always start with the least amount or even a bit less.  Flour needs can vary widely depending on the weather, the time of year, your location, even how accurately you measure your liquids.  I generally go for 1/4 - 1/2 cup less flour than the least amount recommended when mixing and add as needed while kneading. 


jj1109's picture

In WholeGrain Breads, Peter Reinhart recommends adding about 1-2 tsp per oz of braed flour that you change to WW flour.


jeremiahwasabullfrog's picture

if you want to be sure you have enough water, weigh things.

start by weighing the flour. Then take the weight of the flour, and multiply by 0.65. That is how much water to add. It gives what bakers call 65% hydration, and it should be enough to make a good starting point for even whole wheat flour (you can adjust the water and flour, but you at least should get something manageable with this hydration).

Also, straight after mixing your ingredients together, cover and leave for 30 minutes before you knead it. It gives the flour time to absorb water and makes it much easier to handle.

All the best


Dragonbones's picture

 webber_ja, are you measuring your flour by jamming a measuring cup into the flour? Like brown sugar, flour packs, so if you do this you are adding way too much flour. If you measure, sift the flour into the cup then draw a flat object like a ruler or the back of a straight knife across it to level it. Then, as  KansasGirlStuck... suggests, add only 7/8 of this at first, to see if you really need all of it.

Better yet, as  jeremiahwasabullfrog suggests, switch to weighing (and also only use 7/8 of the flour called for, at first).

Anyway, next time something like that happens, don't just keep mixing. Add more water first, and work it in by poking your fingers deeply into the dough, repeatedly, wetting your hands over and over and over and over, but not yet kneading the dough, until it becomes very soft and workable. Then continue.

webber_ja's picture

Thanks all, your comments were helpful. I think part of the problem was I was trying to add water while kneading. And I'll be sure to double check measurements. 

jeremiahwasabullfrog's picture

That could certainly be a problem.

It would make an amazing difference to rest 30 minutes between wetting the flour and kneading.