The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

oil vs flour

whoops's picture

oil vs flour

I have a question: why do some recipes call for placing the dough in a well greased/oiled bowl, turning it to coat the dough, and some call for dusting the dough with flour and placing in a bowl to rise? Does it make a difference if the recipe calls for one act, yet you do the other?


Yerffej's picture

Oiling a bowl keeps the dough from sticking but dough does not really stick too badly anyway.  Not oiling the bowl allows the dough to "grab" the sides of the bowl and some say that this is important in the rising phase.  This is largely a matter of preference as I have experienced little difference in the final product.  What is important is that the bowl be covered, with or without oil,  in dry weather so that the dough does not dry out.


ananda's picture

Hi Sandy,

Calling for a "well greased/oiled bowl" is incorrect to me.   Using a small amount of oil as lubrication is a good idea, as it stops the dough sticking to the bowl, and it conditions the dough as well.   Adding flour is something many of us try to avoid at this stage, as it just dries up the dough.   Jeff's call to keep the dough covered is important to this end too.

Best wishes


Grenage's picture

I asked the same question a little while ago; at the time, I was using oil in bowls and on the counter during folding.  I changed to no oil in the bowl, and light flouring during folding/shaping.  You tend to have to use a scraper to get the dough out of the bowl for the first fold or so, but it's easy enough.

If the recipe involves olive oil or the like, they may just incorporate some of it into the bread via the bowl and counter (I would), but otherwise not so much.  Personally think you get a better result without the oil coating.

MangoChutney's picture

I'm in the oil camp.  I was struggling with how little oil I could get away with when I accidentally spilled it into the bowl.  Not a huge amount, but definitely more than was needed to just coat the bowl.  I worked it into the dough and decided that I liked the effect that had on the final loaf.  Therefore, now I add 1 tbsp of olive oil when I am done kneading with my dough hook, and work it fully into the dough by hand after the dough has been coated thoroughly by the dough hook (about 30 seconds).  It doesn't take long to work it in, and I enjoy it as a good opportunity to feel the dough with my hands.  The bowl stays oiled, and the counter-top also is oiled and ready for the shaping later, unless the yeast dawdle and my husband cleans the counter before I can shape the dough.  I always keep the rising dough covered.  Otherwise, in the winter time it would dry out, and in the summer time the flies would land on it.

I've never liked coating the dough with flour because it felt like I was wasting the part that got "dirty" and had to be thrown away.  I feel even more this way now that I mill my own flour.

plevee's picture

I have found that a little oil in the bowl seems to change the consitency of my sourdough for the better. I make exclusively sourdough; I mix the ingredients much like Tartine and after the autolyse and the incorporation of salt and extra water I knead in the bowl for a few minutes the trickle 2 tsp of oil round the edge of the bowl and continue to knead in the bowl.

There is an instant change in the consistency of the dough - it feels more developed.

Am I imagining things or is there an explanation for this?


All at Sea's picture
All at Sea

... or bread for tomorrow?

If I'm baking bread for consumption that same day - or within 24 hours - then I may leave out the oil. Particularly if I want a lean dough with a good flakey, brittle crust. But for any bread that will be eaten for several days - I usually add oil - about 50-60g for 500 of flour - 10% in other words.

The reason being oil conditions dough and keeps it softer, stops it from drying out and staling quite so fast as dough without.

Oil is also a good flavour carrier and enhancer.

I always oil the proofing bowl even with lean doughs -  but only very, very lightly. It's just simpler. No sticking whatsoever. It also helps stop the surface of the dough from drying out as it proves. I'm afraid, I'm just not purist enough to flour, but again, must stress, the oil smear on the proofing bowl is miniscule - just enough to do the job.

That said, Bertinet, I notice, never oils the proofing bowl except for very high hydration doughs like ciabatta. Otherwise, he advocates flour every time.

All at Sea