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.