The Fresh Loaf

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Classic White Bread, Sticky Dough, Please help!!

bengal101's picture

Classic White Bread, Sticky Dough, Please help!!

I use 3 cups of King Arthur bread flour, 1 package of Active dry yeast (1/4 cup of 110 F warm water, sugar, 10 mins), salt, sugar, 1/2 cup of milk mix in with 1/2 up of warm water, 3 tbsp butter. The dough came out very soft and sticky  and very hard to knead. I put in another cup of flour, still sticky, I freaked out and throw the dough away. The kitchen was hot, so about 1 and 1/2 hour later I saw the dough rise up in my trash can, I felt stupid for throwing it away. Please help!!! What is wrong with this receipe? Too much water? If it happen again, what should I do? Thanks very much.

MisterTT's picture

You should probably try to measure your ingredients by weight, if you have a kitchen scale. If you don't I really encourage you to buy one - for one thing, it makes for less cleanup, because you can just put your bowl on the scale and measure the ingredients into it using the 'tare' button.

However, far more importantly - the measurements will be consistent and fairly exact. That is not the case when using volume measurements - a cup of flour may have a different weight (ranging about 110 - 130 grams, if we're talking all-purpose or bread flour) each time you scoop one up.

Another thing is that, yes, at the beginning of kneading, dough should be sticky, but as you knead its consistency will change. I encourage you to try the "Lesson 1" loaf, from the Lessons bar here at thefreshloaf. It has helped many a beginning baker and it should help you as well.

And remember, take it easy and have fun! So what if you end up with a sticky mess, bake it anyway - chances are it might not look pretty, but taste pretty good.

proth5's picture

the source of your recipe, but a quick analysis tells me that at 3 cups of flour to about 1.25 cups of water/milk - you do have a fairly wet dough for what you seem to want to make (an enriched sandwich loaf baked in a pan???)

After you added the additional cup of flour - it would have been more in line with recipes that I use, but still  could be a bit sticky.

The "Lesson One" recipe is not for the kind of bread that you seem to be making, but my first suggestion would be to find a "tested" recipe from a reliable source (King Arthur Flour's website come to front of mind - but others exist...) and use that.

However bread dough is going to have some "stick to your hands" qualities.  You can diminsh these by flouring your hands and using quicker movements when kneading.  The "smooth and satiny" texture that cookbook authors write about comes as a result of the kneading process - not a precursor to it.  So the dough will stick to your hands in the beginning and as you knead the the dough it will gradually stick to your hands less and less.

You do not mention the amount of salt or sugar, but when professional bakers adjust recipes, they will decrease the liquids as the rest of the ingredients (such as salt) are measured against the flour. So, reduce the liquids.

The poster above recommends measuring by weight and that is certainly a sound recommendation, however, I am part of the generation that baked bread for many years using volume measurements and made good bread all the same. We practiced "how to measure" and I although I use weight measurements for many more reasons than those given above, I can still get a consistent 4.25 ounces per cup of flour.  I say this, because the first leap people make is to say "measure by weight" - and it really isn't the only way to go. 

But your recipe as you relate it to us seems to be at least partly to blame.

And yes, relax and have fun. 

Hope this helps.


Happy Baking!

wayne on FLUKE's picture
wayne on FLUKE

I generally use a scale, but the biggest problem I have with many volume recipes is that the author never tells you how they measure the flour or the approx weight per cup and that can vary dramatically so even if the user is consistent it may be far different than the author intended.

This is probably particularly true for recipes posted stand-alone, if you have the book it came from the author may cover measuring somewhere. Look for it.



proth5's picture

of a bug up my "ear" about volume measurements vs weight. 

I could tell you amusing stories about various rants on weight measure given by "my teacher" - who believe me has serious bread (and pastry) baking chops - but we haven't the time or space.  Needless to say, both "my teacher" and I use weight measures as they are the underpinning of baker's math and simply more efficient, but we do share the attitude that this is hardly the first thing required to be a good baker.

Of course, I am of an era when anyone with two X chromasomes was shuffled off to mandatory classes of "Home Economics" where we learned how to measure flour. And yes, we did pratice it.

The "stand alone" recipe is a child of the internet age.  I know that all of my treasured older cookbooks give instructions on how to measure flour.  Scoop and sweep.  Use measuring cups designed for dry ingredients with level tops. Always use the measure (1 cup, half cup, quarter cup, etc.) of the appropriate size. Stir the flour to make sure it is not compacted, scoop it lightly, do not tap or shake the cup, and sweep  the excess off with a straight edged instrument. There is still a bit of art to this process, but it will, with care and practice, give consistent measures.  That's the standard used for all "reputable" cookbooks and recipes.  If the author advocates another way, that person has lost all credibility with me.

And there is some art with a scale.  I  worked with a beginning baker who was fretting the tiny fractions on the scale.  I carefully weighed to .05 oz of flour that she was fretting over and had her gaze upon it.  "It isn't enough to matter, is it?" No.  As I do work with the bread machine and get ever more precise/accurate scales, I see that my old scales had substantial variation based on how fast I poured ingredients (is 10 grams really 10 grams/ or is it 10.455?).  Ok - enough with the bug.

There was a time when scales with any kind of accuracy or percision were not readily available to the home baker.  We did just fine with the above method.

But in the OP's case, the formula is the problem.  That was going to be sticky even given some variation in flour measurement.



MisterTT's picture

My mistake, I didn't see the butter in the ingredient list, just went with the "Classic white bread". More of a sandwich loaf

Not to hijack the thread or anything, but I think that weighing or not weighing is a bit of a cultural thing as well. I notice that many american baking recipes (well, the older and the more mainstream ones for sure) use volume measurements, however, I myself have never even seen a local (I live in Lithuania) bread recipe that uses volume measurements! Everybody has a kitchen scale and everybody uses it and not only for baking - making jams, compote, hell, pouring vodka even (okay, that was just the one time).

As a scientist I also have to reply to what you said in your post below - that high-precision scales were not available in the old days. That is absolutely untrue. If anything, the old balance scales are way more accurate than the electronic ones that dominate nowadays. If the weights are accurate (and factories did make them pretty good even back the soviet days) and the scales are well - balanced (easily corrected with two equal weights), the measurements are more or less perfect. I used to see my great-grandmother using those kind of scales on her farm and they worked like a charm!

proth5's picture

What I actually said "Were not readily available to the home baker" - and forgetting that this is a world wide web - I forgot to add "in the area of the USA when/where I grew up." 

When I finally busted out of that place and saw European recipes (There was a BBC program entitled "Life on Mars" that put forth that life in 1973 was almost unreconizable to someone from 2006 and I was baking long before then)- I was intrigued that they were "by weight."  Upon returning home, though, scales for the home baker were hard to find and/or expensive.

The availability/accuracy/precision of the balance scales is not in question - they werejust  hard to find and expensive given the qualification that I forgot to add.

And yes, it does seem to be regional/cultural. 

Just to add another amusing anecdote - I first saw parchment paper (for baking) in France.  It was unavailable (or very difficult to find or very expensive) to the home baker in the USA.  Now - totally different.

dabrownman's picture

using the average weights i get when using cups of 140 g for flour and 238 g  for water I come up with the original recipe of 75% hydration and with the extra cup of flour at 55%.  One would be a little sloppy for someone not used to high hydration dough and the latter would be a stiff dough like bagels,  Somewhere in the middle would be a good hydration for a new bread baker.

Rather than throw it away it is always better to do some simple stretch and folds to develop some gluten over a couple of hours and then bake it off after it has risen to double its original volume.  If it doesn't turn out well then at least the animals can have at it rather then the trash bin :-)

Happy baking

bengal101's picture

The dough was so sticky that I could not do anything with it even after the first rise. But the second time I stuck around, scoop the whole into a bread pan and baked it. ;-((

bengal101's picture

It turned  out I actually made the sandwich loaf. The recipe I used was the one on this website too. I did it again, still sticky and i almost cry (teary actually)  and felt so defeated. I guess Im not the patient kind lol. I took some photos of the product, I will post it asa I learn how. It have a lot of holes, and airy. It tasted hmm not that bad, a bit "yeasty". But thanks very much everyone.

Levin bred's picture
Levin bred

is the King Arthur website.  I know because I used it as a reference for my first loaf EVER, which, oddly enough is in the oven as we speak!


OP, I didn't use the butter or the sugar because my wife is a health freak, but I did dub in what thought would be an appropriate amount of skim milk and olive oil to compensate.  My dough was very sticky too, but as a first time baker I'm not sure that I can properly judge the "stickiness" of my dough.  

I did use a digital scale so that I could make a note of the baker's percentages in case the loaf turns out OK, and I can tell you that I was at about 70% hydration.  It was so sticky that I degassed and let it proof a second time before shaping and moving to pan.  It got a good spring and it has about 10 minutes left in the oven.  I'll let you know the results.

I would say to just try it again and get it into the pan as best you can, but I know absolutely nothing about baking bread.  AND I didn't stay at a Holiday Inn Express. 

bisquette's picture

I'm assuming that this is the recipe the original poster used, or at least one very close to it. I've made this bread 3 times now, and today's loaf turned out beautifully. It was a very sticky dough. I did the kneading on an oiled surface as the recipe suggests, and kneaded until the dough was very soft and stretchy. I added oil as needed. After allowing it to rise, I shaped the dough on an oiled surface also. I did make some modifications to the recipe since my previous attempts at this recipe came out a bit too crumbly and had little to no over spring. I use a larger pan than the recipe calls for, so I increased the recipe by a quarter, though I did not need the additional water. I ended up using 3 3/4 cups of flour, 1/2 cup skim milk, 1/2 cup water, 1 package active dry yeast dissolved in 2 tablespoons of water, and about 2 tablespoons sugar/honey, 1 1/4 teaspoons salt, and 3 tablespoons of butter. I try to go light on sugar and salt so I didn't really increase them, and I scaled back the butter a bit. 

I had never heard of kneading dough on an oiled surface when I first tried this recipe (since I got more interested in bread baking recently, I've done a lot of reading and now know it's not that strange an idea), so on my first two attempts, I kneaded on a floured surface, but I think this incorporated too much flour into the dough and the bread wasn't as good as it was today. I would encourage you, bengal101, to not be discouraged. The recipe really does produce a lovely loaf of sandwich bread, and I hope you try it again. I'm so glad I did!