The Fresh Loaf

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Dough still stiff even after 5-10 tablespoon of milk/water?

breadman's picture

Dough still stiff even after 5-10 tablespoon of milk/water?

type of bread that i'm making : Milk Buns
video tutorial:
250 g (2 cup +/- 1 tbsp) bread flour (protein 11.5 - 12.5%)
35 g (2.5 tbsp) caster sugar
2 g (1/2 tsp) salt
5 g (1.5 tsp) instant yeast
130 ml (1/2 cup + 2 tsp) milk
25 g (2 tbsp) egg (lightly beat 1 egg, get 25 g, save the rest for egg wash)
42 g (3 tbs) unsalted butter - melted

so here's whats happening, I'm trying to make Milk buns but it seems the dough never gets smooth and elastic, its just stiff, hard-to-knead dough...even though I added about 2-5 tbsp of milk to it already, the stiffness never disappears...

this happened both on my first and second attempt.nevertheless, both first and second attempt, the taste and softness was still good so I didnt mind the annoying stiffness of the dough. but i'm curious to know as to why its not getting elastic and smooth..
on my first attempt, after kneading about 8-10mins the dough became too stiff so added 1 tablespoon of milk....after 5 more minutes of kneading, still the same so I added another tablespoon and still the same stiffness..I try doing windowpane test but it just keeps tearing even tho its not even thin enough. so at this point i just simply gave up and baked it as it still turned out great....

now for my second attempt I try to make my own adjustments (basically I was experimenting at this point). Instead of using 130ml of milk, I made it 140ml...and yep, STILL THE SAME RESULT = stiff dough after kneading for 9-12 slowly I try adding 1 tablespoon of milk up until the dough becomes less stiff (I knead it for a couple of minutes before i add the next tablespoon of milk....but even after adding about 10 tbsp of milk, the dough is still stiff...not so sticky but simply stiff but not elastic nor smooth..
so what am i doing wrong here? yes I measured the ingredients EXACTLY as recipe says..the only time I changed it was on my second attempt..which still confuses me even after all those liquid, the dough doesnt get any better...
I also wanna say that I'm using AP flour only.....
with all that being said, any suggestion to this problem?
the image above is the dough  my second attempt after the 8tbsp of milk and more than 25 mins of kneading...its stiff and looks sad....just like me lmao

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

to figure hydration roughly in this recipe (since the problem seems to be related to fluids) uses the formula water weight divided by flour weight x 100 to get %.  

AP flour dough runs roughly between 50% and 65% hydration,

bread flour 65% to 75%.  

Milk is aboout 10% milk solids so one needs more of it compared to water and it also contains fat from skim to whole at 3% fat.  

So... first step is to take the milk weight and reduce by 10 to 14% depending on type of milk used.

Example:  130g milk - 13%= leaves about 93g.     93g /250 flour =0.37 ...x 100 = 37% hydration. Wow. Compare to the above hydrations.  No wonder!   Ok, granted there is a tiny bit in the egg and the sugar will act like a liquid, and there might be a teeny tiny bit of water in the butter, still, way too low a hydration for bread flour.  Try again with a higher level of milk.  

I would at least raise the milk content until you reach water content of 60% and then see if you want to add more.

Ok, right.

Let's see how to reverse the math without going crazy... We want to know how much milk is needed...  let's take the flour amount of 250 and multiply by 0.6 to get 60% water....  that gives 150g water and let's add back the milk solids and fat (plus 13%) and we get... 169.5g. Or round up to 170g of milk.  That is where I would start with round no 3. 

breadman's picture

oh my god thank you for that was only 37% O_o

I'll definitely try 170g this time....

although sorry for being retarded, but i didnt quite get the math part for the milk lol
"So... first step is to take the milk weight and reduce by 10 to 14% depending on type of milk used."
" Example:  130g milk - 13%= leaves about 93g. "
whats the 13%?
and also how do you get the - % of something? ( I simply searched "130 - 13% ="...but i got a different answer so obviously i was wrong lmao)
I wanna clearly know this math cause it seems really convenient since i usually bake bread that involves milk
if it'll helps, here's the milk that I used

Doc.Dough's picture

@Mini - Go take a look at the video. If that formulation is made with bread flour I would guess that it is ~70% hydration, maybe a little higher (and from the gluten development it could easily be bread flour - though while it appears to be fully developed it is not overly tight).  I agree with your analysis so there has to be more going on behind the curtain than we understand which results in adding liquid somewhere along the way (which is consistent with your recommendation).

sayersbrock's picture

Putting all of the intricate math aside, I think you should simply try kneading more.  Enriched dough takes a long time to develop the gluten structure, and unfortunately when you kept adding more milk you probably destroyed the structure and started from scratch.

For me, I rigorously knead for ten minutes with standard bread dough, and it becomes smooth and elastic.  But I knead for nearly 30 minutes with enriched dough before it really comes together.

Just my thoughts!

Good luck and keep trying!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I thought that 130g minus 13% seemed low...sorry, can't explain what happened but it should read 113g  the trick is to use a calculator with a % button and not hit it twice.  130 - 13%=.  Should work.  Ah! More info on the milk.

Anyway... Doc, the dough in the video does look about right.  

So let me run thru this again.  Milk contains 10% milk solids and the milk package posted contains 3.4g fat (far right column under 100g breakdown.)  Which is already 3.4% (part of 100.)  Add 10% to 3.4% and you now have 13.4%, the rest is water.  Nice whole milk, gut stuff!   :)   Now let's take 130g milk minus 13.4% to get water weight.  (We could get picky and add the milk solids to the flour weight but heck, this is a rough calculation.) Still come out with 113g water after rounding off.   Now divide 113 by 250 flour x 100 = 45% hydration. Still too dry.

Let's see where did you get lost? the %

Figuring out the amount of milk...  let's start with the flour... 

Flour amount multiplied by 0.60  (.6) gives the amount of water needed for a 60% hydration dough.  Flour amount multiplied by 0.70 would give the water amount for a 70% hydration dough.  Let's do both.

250g x .6 =150g             250g x .7=175g      

(I'm already quessing the 130 g milk in the recipe as a typo. Perhaps water for a 52% with AP flour or just a typo, note the number of thumbs down before the comments on the recipe video.)

That works fine with water but we're using milk.  So we need more liquid.  Take the water amount and add 13.4% to it. Can do this calculation several ways...  

  • the easiest is with a calculator with a % button.  With some calculators the % shows up first before hitting the "=" button.  Can be handy when writing out the calculations.
  • If you do it in your head you can see that 150 is equal to 1.5 x 100 so if you multiply 1.5 x13:4 you will also come out with 20g.  Add 150 + 20 = 170. (I'm rounding off 20.1 to 20.)
  • Or take 150g x 0.134=20g  (moving the decimal in 13.4 left two spaces, the same as dividing 13.4 by 100.  Dividing a number by 100 changes it from %.  Because % means "a part of 100."   Add 20g to 150g to get 170g.

150g + 13.4% = 170g.           175g + 13.4%= 198g.            198-170=28

If you start with 60% hydration and eventually need more liquid for a 70% hydration dough. The additional milk will be 28g or just under 2 Tablespoons of milk.  


breadman's picture

thank you so much...I got confused previously cause you said the answer was 93g....and i got 113g haha....I thought i was making a wrong calculation....

anyway thank you for this explanation :)

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

to figure out where I made my mistake.  Lol!   But figuring from the flour end is pretty sound.  Doc has a gentle way of telling me I screwed up somewhere.  Such a gentleman.  When reading over a new recipe, one of the first things I do is check for the hydration. The next is examine the country of origin and how the flour is packaged if possible.  The flour can hydrate very differently depending on relative humidity, plastic or paper bagged.  Plastic bagged is dryer and will need more liquids to properly hydrate.  A dry climate means protecting the dough and keeping it covered to prevent evaporation, same as with high elevations.  Lots a variables to consider.  Asian flours are especially variable and in the tropics it's mostly a mix and see what happens.  Seasons also impact the dough so be sure to take notes using date, season, temp and flour & how it's bagged, etc..  

 Those tips on working the dough are great and getting closer to the correct amount of milk in the beginning is important too.  You might also want to try kneading with wet hands, dipped lightly in water if your flour seems more absorbent than average.  Try to use little if no bench flour.