The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Dough far too dry

Gene New's picture
Gene New

Dough far too dry


I am new to bread making so certainly still  at the learning stage.  One thing I really can't understand is that whether I use a 60% recipe (ie 500g flour to 300ml liquid) or one with much a higher hydration ( 420g flour to 305ml liquid so around 72%) when the ingredients are mixed together the dough always seems to be far too dry so there is no way I can slap it down on the work surface and lift, stretch and fold the dough over the way I see it done in so many online videos.  When the mix is 500g flour to 300ml liquid I never end up using all the flour but its still too dry as I would have to omit about 100g to get to a stickier mix like the one I see proper bakers achieve.  In addition I can knead by folding and turning the dough for as long as 30 minutes but when I try to stretch the dough it always tears so whatever I do so far my bread is always too dense.

I use a mix of Allinsons strong flour and organic plain flour, milk rather than water as we find water makes the bread too hard, active dried yeast and a teaspoon of sugar since I don't have instant or fresh yeast plus a small amount of butter and a teaspoon of salt. Also, in case it makes a difference,  I live in the Midlands Uk where the water is hard and my kitchen is pretty cold at this time of the year so I leave the bread to double sitting in the microwave in a bowl covered with a damp cloth since until the oven goes on that is the warmest draft free place - I don't switch it on its just for shelter. 

So why are my mixes so dry - Anyone got a possible  answer???

I do not have a bread maker other than me or a food mixer that can do the kneading for me nor can I spend all day baking as I have  work to do but if anyone can direct me to a method that produces nice soft white sandwich bread that can be created in only a couple of hours of my time ignoring resting/proving periods I would be most grateful.

Many thanks


cranbo's picture


Hard water can definitely affect dough tightness, see this article. You could try making your bread using the same recipes and bottled water and see if it behaves differently. 

To clarify terminology, when you say plain flour, do you mean wholemeal plain flour? I'm assuming this equates to whole wheat flour. 

If you are using a 50/50 blend of white bread flour and whole wheat (wholemeal) flour, then 60% hydration may actually be too dry, because wholemeal does tend to absorb more water. For such a flour blend, I would not go lower than 70% hydration. 

Finally, considering the cooler temperatures, perhaps using warmer liquid will help, if you haven't tried that already. 


Gene New's picture
Gene New



Thank you for your advice; sorry I wasn't clear enough in my first message hope this clarifies the matter.


I am new to bread making so still struggling to produce a respectable white loaf therefore all the flour I use is white. My current supply is Allinson’s Strong white and Dove Farm Organic white (White All purpose flour normally used for pastry if you are in America). Before that I was using Hovis strong white and Homepride plain (white all purpose processed flour) as that was all I had available but that seemed to produce a slightly better texture which was a surprise. Apparently all flours in the UK are unbleached.

Water Quality

The link about water affecting bread was interesting, I did not realise yeast was as sensitive to water quality as my tropical fish! I keep bottles of tap water which has been left to settle so the chemical content can dissipate both in and out of the fridge as I use it to do water changes for my fish and have a chilled version for tempura batter but I am not sure if the fact that it will contain less chlorine will change the Ph value so I will need to test it.

I can buy bottled water at the supermarket but since it tends to come from natural springs where it is sold for its mineral content I would have thought that would also affect the bread. I know you can buy bottled water in supermarkets that doesn’t come from a spring but often that is unrestricted bottled municipal water see so I would not have thought that would be any better than the water I set aside for my fish tank; perhaps there is something acidic that I could add to lower the Ph a little - any suggestions?

Heating my liquids

I know my home is cold especially at this time of year but I cant afford to have the heating on all day long so wear lots of layers and always heat liquids to 43c(109F) before using them in my bread making. I check the temperature with a thermometer because I don't want the heat to destroy the yeast.

The real problem

After reading various posts on this site I think much of my problem is inexperience and a general lack of understanding as it would appear that if I want to employ the slap and fold technique used by bread makers like Richard Bertinet I need to use a recipe with a high hydration whereas the current recipe I am using simple wasn’t designed for that sort of kneading as it produces a firm dough. 


Does anyone know if there is a recipe for a high hydration soft white loaf that can be made in a single day on here? I have looked but I haven’t been able to find one yet, they all seem to require far more time than I have available. What I need is a soft white equivalent to the Sweet dough Richard makes on his brilliant video. If there isn’t one anywhere the web has anyone bought Richards books and do they know if there is such a recipe in one of those as he has so many book's I don’t know where to start.

Many thanks in anticipation








AnnieT's picture

Gene, I have been making Wandering Bread's No Knead soft white bread which is delicious and very easy, but for some reason I can't find it in the search box. Try his site and scroll down on the left side. Hope this helps, A.

nicodvb's picture

Different flours absorb hugely different amounts of water. You are using a strong flour, thus a more thirsty one. Better raise hydratation closer to 70% to begin with. Those flours need more water the more you knead them, so don't be surprised if you end up closer to 75%.

A tight dough won't rise a lot. Better a slacker dough well developed and made elastic with a series of stretch and folds.

Gene New's picture
Gene New

Hi thanks on both counts 

Nicodvb that certainly explains why the first recipe I tried worked better as that was

210g Strong white flour,
210g plain/all purpose flour,
305ml liquid I used semi skimmed milk,
10ml Brown sugar, honey or golden syrup,
14gms  melted butte
4gm active dried yeast and
8gm ground sea salt.  

If I have done the math right, that had a 72.6 % hydration  all the same I thought it was too dry for the Slap and fold technique I watched online but I was just starting out so maybe I will try it again; and next time I wont be so afraid to add more water if it is too dry.

AnnieT I have only tried one no knead recipe and that was so very wet that I couldnt figure out how anyone managed to handle it.  I must admit we didn't like the bread it produced at all, I guess the texture was very alien to what we are used to eating and it made the insides of our mouths sore.  Perhaps when I get better with the traditional style of bread making I will give it a try again if I can find the recipe you mentioned.

nicodvb's picture

reduce the amount of strong flour. Bread  made with a lot of strong flour in a 12-hour period tends to be gummy, or chewey as it's often qualified. Strong flour should be a fortifier for weak flours when making plain bread, not the main ingredient. I know that UK plain flours are generally weak, but 50% of strong flours may be a bit eccessive. Maybe reduced to a percentage of 25-30% will give better results and a softer crumb, but I'm afraid that to know for sure there's only one method: trial, errors and corrections.

AnnieT's picture

Gene, this isn't anything like the "no knead" bread you didn't care for! I think he called it that because the dough is actually "turned" in the bowl every 15 minutes for an hour. I should also have mentioned that it is a sandwich loaf, baked in a pan. The recipe calls for all purpose flour - I have used both King Arthur and Wheat Montana which are quite strong flours. I hope I didn't put you off by mentioning the no knead term and that you will give it a try, A.

Gene New's picture
Gene New


Well today I found a recipe that gives at least 70% hydration and works with my particular mix of  cooker, temperature and flours etc. 

It's the one provided by Michael Roux Jnr on the Great British Food revival and it works great with Richard Bertinets slap and fold technique

This is the result

Soft, nice crumb, great aroma and tastes delicious brilliant.

They are the first decent loaves I have managed to create, I am so chuffed.

 Now lets see if I can do the same next time!

AnnieT  I couldnt find that recipe you mentioned by Wandering Bread, is it still on here as my searches havent turned it up yet instead I have found Sourdough Ruchbrot, a nice looking Spelt bread and another sour dough am I looking in the wrong place??