The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Handling wet dough breads

lennyk's picture

Handling wet dough breads

I have been attempting the Reinhard Pain L'ancienne with good results except for the cosmetics.

I am having problems handling it since it is a wet dough and end up have to dust lots of flour on it and my hands

also  moving it reults in a lot of ugly  twists and contortions

The excess flour dusted on causes the surface to have an ugly speckled finish with puddles of raw flour here and there.

Any suggestions on how to get a nice clean looking piece of bread ?



PaddyL's picture

You could try moving the dough with wet hands, or, as has been suggested by someone can't remember who, grease your hands.

Dwu3193's picture

If you have time, you could put in the refridgerator after mixing for 1-2 hours to firm it up so it's not as sticky, then take it out and knead it. If you're having trouble shaping the dough, etc. I would recommend doing all that right after the fermentation in the refridgerator. In addition to it not being as sticky, you'll end up degassing it less.

LindyD's picture

Dwu31293, the dough for Pain a l'Ancienne is immediately refrigerated after it is mixed and retarded overnight. The baguettes are not cut until the dough has been out of the refrigerator and fully fermented. The cold temps offer no advantage in working with this very wet dough.

L, wetting your hands will help. So does keeping your dough scraper wet. The more I made, the easier it became....but you have to work fast.

I don't think these baguettes are supposed to be perfectly formed. If you look at the photo on page 190 of the BBA, you'll see bumps and some twists. I think it adds to the charm.

I baked these every weekend over the winter. The ones below are sitting on a 16-inch plate.

While not the cutest kids on the block, they sure taste wonderful.

ETA: these were baked on a round pizza stone, which is why the ends are curled.  Now that I have a larger stone, that no longer happens. 


ClimbHi's picture

That's a great recipe -- my favorite so far. I don't have much trouble shaping that dough, since I usually just make 2 batards out of that recipe -- not too hard to shape a long, irregular, lump of dough! ;-)

A light dusting of flour over the surface of the dough helps, but because the dough is so wet, your window of opportunity with this method is short since the flour hydrates pretty quickly. Using a dough scraper to unstick the loaf from the counter helps too. I often use several pieces of floured wood, 1X2X18, to place between and at the outside edges of the loaves as they rise, in place of a couche, to help them hold their shape since it's easier to unstick the dough from these with the scraper than to get them to release from the couche.

But moving the loaf is a whole 'nother thing. Disaster lurks if you plan to move the risen loaf onto the peal, or off the peal and into the oven. I've pretty much given up and just put the shaped loaves on parchment paper to rise and bake (at least for the first several minutes in the oven until the crust starts to develop.) Problem solved.

Pittsburgh, PA

holds99's picture


If you're accurately weighing your ingredients don't fall into the trap of adding flour to what you may consider a sticky dough.  Here's a video of Richard Bertinet mixing a sweet dough using his "way" or technique.  If you haven't seen it before it will give you an entirely new perspective on mixing dough.  The same principle applies to just about any bread dough.

Good luck with your bread baking.

Howard - St. Augustine, FL