The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Dough sticks and frustrated.

frajasago's picture

Dough sticks and frustrated.


I am so frustrated. I've been baking for several months, so I'm new at this...I've been progressively working wetter doughs, longer fermentations, but there is something I just can't seem to solve:

Whenever I take the bulk fermented dough from the container to the table for preshaping, the dough tears and some of it sticks to the bowl, so the rest loses structure and air.

I've tried wetting my hands, flour my hands, olive oil into the bowl, even just fliping it and let the gravity do the job...but everytime the same happens.

Usually I just divide the dough and I shape it right away into the proofing baskets; but I've seen so many videos of people taking the whole dough without effort from the bowl for pre shaping that I just can't let it go.

Any advices?

jimbtv's picture

Yes, this can be exasperating but there are things you can try.

First I recommend a plastic scraper to assist you in working with sticky dough. If you employ long fermentation times and a series of stretch and fold procedures, the dough should go from sticky/hard to handle (scraper is handy at this stage) to elastic and much more manageable. Gluten will build if the chemistry is right but it is up to you to build tension. Your stretch and fold process should work towards building tension, eventually enough tension that the dough will (usually) slide out of the bowl.

I recommend watching some of the videos on Trevor Wilson's site:   He does a good job of building tension before returning the dough to the bowl but he doesn't always present it as such. In the end you will see his dough slip out of the bowl when he is ready to divide or shape, and it was the creation of tension in the previous handling that made this possible.


Filomatic's picture

I also recall that Trevor and/or Tartine recommend one final set of folds before removing the dough.  That way you're more lifting out the dough as a cohesive mass than spilling it out.  If I don't do that, I wet my hands and a rounded, flexible dough scraper and ease the dough out onto the bench.

Contra that, though, Tartine has photos of very wet dough spilling out of their bowls, and I've seen the same in passing in at least one of their videos.  Somehow they manage to deal with dough much wetter than most of us would know what to do with.  So proper shaping and handling of warm, wet dough takes most people a long time to learn.  Consider whether AP flour in the 11-12% range is adequate to build your dough's structure, or whether higher gluten in the 12-13% range is better.  KA Bread Flour is 12.7%; their AP flour is 11.7%.


frajasago's picture

I'll give that a try. And it looks so easy in the videos...thanks!

Filomatic's picture

Yes, Trevor is a pro.  I think his videos and blog posts are very instructive, but they're not for the beginner.

I've had some real difficulties with Tartine/high hydration dough.  He ferments quite warm, so it's a double-whammy of wet and sticky.  My best success has been with Hamelman recipes.  They are in the 65-75% hydration range, and when I am starting to up the hydration in those recipes with good results.  I think unless your'e baking several times a week or doing a lot of shaping, it just takes a long time to get good.  The problem is there's so little bench time with two loaves on the weekend.

That's why I sought out a guy locally who has a small bread business out of his garage.  I've helped him out a couple times and will keep doing so, getting more experience and sharing ideas.

MichaelLily's picture

Funny, I was just thinking about this as I was shaping croissants today.  I am so enthralled by practice and repetition, and I feel that if I don't keep practicing, I will forget everything.  But I have made so many loaves and croissants now that I feel I could drop it altogether for a decade and still be just as good as I am today.  But that's after about 15000 loaves of bread and maybe 10000 croissants.

Filomatic's picture

What a wonderful state to be in!  I hope I can get there someday. 

hreik's picture

look up slap and fold videos



pmccool's picture

In most cases, some degassing of the dough between bulk ferment and shaping is recommended.  I agree that tearing isn't wonderful but it isn't so much of a problem here as it would be when you tip the risen loaf out of a brotform or banneton. 

One trick I learned from Mark Sinclair is to lightly dust the dough with flour around the perimeter of the bowl before using a bowl scraper or fingers to loosen the dough from the bowl.  The flour slides down the gap between dough and bowl, helping the lower portions release more easily.