The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Wet Dough

Steve H's picture
Steve H

Wet Dough

Hey all,

I just tried to make the 100% whole what challah detailed in Reinhart's book and the dough is coming out super wet. So much so that I cant' really knead it as much as stir it, or work it like ciabatta bread. It will pass a windowpane test but just ended up a bit limp and flat. I've noticed this as a pattern with all the Reinhart recipes (whole wheat) that I have tried and was wondering if anyone else has had this?  Could it be that the flour is picking up moisture in the freezer? Or maybe it is just DC where I live is humid, causing my weight measurements to be off (if there is water in the flour)?  Are his recipes wrong? Am I doing something wrong?

I've been very successful making recipes out of Hamelman's book so this is a surprise to me. Any thoughts? 


Here is a previous thread on the subject:

 Update: Out of the oven, the bread looks reasonable. It seems to have risen alright, although it is bulged out on one side (probably my fault).  Still curious what people's experiences are here, and if there is a way to fix it.

 Update2: Taste is good. The only complaint I really have is that it the braids are kind of flat due to the dough not really being able to hold its shape against gravity.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

um... please explain...

Is it possible you forgot to tare before adding flour?  That might give you a lot less flour.  What is the total weight of your dough?

Steve H's picture
Steve H

What is "to tare"?

The final weight of the dough was ~1kg.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

or can you link to an online copy?  Does the dough weight and the recipe weight add up?  Did you forget the salt?

Tare is the function on a scale when used brings the scale to 00.  That way one can measure the liquid, tare, measure the flour, tare, measure salt, tare measure eggs etc, all without adding the weight of the previous ingredients into the measure but still use the same bowl.

I'll be back later, beauty sleep time.  :)

Steve H's picture
Steve H


227 g whole wheat flour
4 g salt
170 g water
Total: 401 g

  1. Mix all of the soaker ingredients together in a bowl for about 1 minute, until all of the flour is hydrated and the ingredients form a ball of dough.
  2. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours.


227 g whole wheat flour
1 g instant yeast
113 g water
28.5 g vegetable oil
47 g egg, slightly beaten
56 g egg yolks
Total: 472.5 g

  1. Mix all of the biga ingredients together in a bowl to form a ball of dough. Using wet hands, knead the dough for 2 minutes to ensure all of the ingredients are evenly distributed and the flour is fully hydrated. The dough should feel very tacky. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes, then knead it again with wet hands for 1 minute. The dough will become smoother but still be tacky.
  2. Transfer the dough to a clean bowl, cover lightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to 3 days.
  3. About 2 hours before mixing the final dough, remove the biga from the refrigerator to take off the chill.

Final Dough

401 g soaker
472.5 g biga
56.5 g whole wheat flour
5 g salt
7 g instant yeast
28.5 g sugar, brown sugar, honey, or agave nectar
28.5 g vegetable oil
extra whole wheat flour for adjustments
999 g

  1. Using a metal pastry scraper, chop the soaker and the biga into 12 smaller pieces each.
  2. Put the pre-dough pieces in the bowl along with the flour and salt, yeast, sugar, and oil. Mix on slow speed for 1 minute, then 2-3 minutes on medium speed. Add more flour or water as needed until the dough is soft and slightly sticky.
  3. Dust a work surface with flour, then roll the dough in flour to coat, knead for one minute, let rise for 45-60 minutes.
  4. Braid/shape dough, let rest for 30 minutes.
  5. Apply egg wash, pop in preheated 325F oven for 20 minutes, rotate, then 10-15 minutes.

I have paraphrased some of this. I remember adding the salt; I don't think I forgot this. In fact, I added a gram or two too much if I recall. I do a pretty good job of zeroing the scale--I do it before adding any additional ingredient (unless its easy math, like for 7 g salt, then I might just add it and keep track in the noggin')

The biga, soaker, everything was very wet and while gluten did develop the dough really wanted to spread out and didn't hold its shape too well. I added a fairly significant amount of flour (Step 2) but was worried about adding too much so I stopped. I did not weigh the amount of flour I added, but I would guess it was in the 20-30 g range. Comparing to the dough pictured in the book, there is no comparison. His dough looks quite a bit stiffer.


pmccool's picture

I ask because you have the liberty to adjust as needed.  Note that Step 2 for the final dough says "Add more flour or water as needed until the dough is soft and slightly sticky."

From the quantities and instructions given for the biga and soaker, it is reasonable to expect that those components will be very soft and sticky.  The "knead..with wet hands" bit is something that is usually advised for notoriously sticky rye doughs.

It sounds as though the flour that you are using might not be quite as absorptive as the flour used by Mr. Reinhart.  If so, that might require you to add some more flour to get to a similar consistency.

You are right that fluctuations in air humidity can also lead to fluctuations in the moisture content of flour, unless the flour is stored in an air-tight container.  Freezing, however, is more likely to force moisture out of foods than it is to add moisture to them.

Best of luck with your future bakes.


Petek's picture

I've had the same results following the recipes in Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads: The final dough is very wet, especially when compared with similar recipes from other books. I weigh my ingredients and allow the biga and soaker to rest for the appropriate times. I've made several dozen loaves from Reinhart's formulas so I don't think that I'm omitting any of the ingredients.

I decided to compare Reihart's recipe for 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread to the recipe for Basic Whole Wheat Bread in The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book. (I've made many recipes from Laurel's book and have never noticed those recipes being particularly wet.)

Reinhart's recipe makes one loaf and the basic ingredients are

WW flour - 454 grams, plus an optional 56.5 grams as needed

Water - 368 g

Sweetener and fat/oil -- 56.5 g (The amount of liquid in these ingredients varies.)


Laurel's recipe (makes two loaves)

WW flour - 900 g

Water - 655 mL

Sweetener and fat/oil - 60 mL

(Other ingredients such as yeast and salt are similar and are disregarded. I'm also disregarding the sweetener/fat/oil since the amounts are similar and the liquid content is unclear.)

(Reinhart uses grams for liquid measurements and Laurel uses mLs. However, I measured 100 mL of water into a container on my scale and then converted the scale to grams, resulting in 100 g.)


So, the ratio of liquid to flour in the Reinhart recipe (including the optional flour) is 368/510.5 = 0.72. In the Laurel recipe the ratio is 655/900 = 0.73. These ratios are very close, yet the Reinhart method (biga + soaker) consistently yields a wetter dough. Any ideas why this might be so?

jcking's picture

I need to hold back water with most of Reinhart's formulas, especially the whole wheat ones.


dabrownman's picture

I too find that holding back some wet is always appropriate for new recipes ( and especially those from Reinhart.)  He can handle dough others can't so it is best not to try sometimes.

fancy4baking's picture

Same thing happened here, until i discovered that it's my flour that has absorbed too much humidity. At that point, i remembered an old advice from an old lady to tackle this problem, and ever since i adopted that advice i have never had this problem again.

And my flours are very happy, looking so normal under "most' weather condistions.

Steve H's picture
Steve H

What was the advice?

Stuart Borken's picture
Stuart Borken

fancy4baking left me hanging..........

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Keeping the flour in an air tight container?

thihal123's picture

I too have played around with some of Reinhardt's recipes in his whole grain book. As one who actually loves dough wet, I did not find Reinhardt's dought wet enough! I like to knead using the French method (the slap, stretch, and fold technique) rather than the push-knead technique. The French method is much easier to handle with wet dough rather than the stiffer dough more common in the Anglophile world, I guess.

To me, the French method is also soulfully more satisfying because I get to lift up the whole dough and slap it down, rather than just push the dough around :)