The Fresh Loaf

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My Bread Doughs Won't Come Together! Help!

samdaman93's picture

My Bread Doughs Won't Come Together! Help!


I'm just getting into bread making and while there have been some successes (Kenji Lopez-Alt's no knead loaf), I've mostly had trouble kneading my doughs into cohesive balls. I don't use a stand mixer, I've been using active dry yeast and the flour I've been using is a New Zealand flour call "High Quality" flour with a protein content of 11%. I'll list my latest attempts below, hopefully some smart cookie can stare me in the right direction.

Josh Weismann's hokkaido dinner rolls - Dough too sticky, did my best, lost a lot off my fingers and on the bench. Still baked it but couldn't form into rolls, so it was more a large flat loaf 

Tangzhong: 2 tablespoons (20g) bread flour 2 tablespoons (27g) water 4 tablespoons (60g) whole milk Bread Dough: 2.5 cups (320g) bread flour 1 tablespoon (9g) active dry yeast (instant works as well) 3/4 teaspoon (3g) fine sea salt 1/2 cup (120g) whole milk 1/4 cup (56g) granulated sugar 3 tablespoons (42g) unsalted butter, softened 1 whole egg, room temperature

Adam Regusea's Pizza Base - Too sticky to knead, tried in a bowl and would not come together

2 1/4 cups (530 ml) warm water 1 tbsp sugar (12g) sugar 1 tbsp (9g) active dry yeast 2 tbsp (30 ml) olive oil 1 tbsp (18 g) kosher salt 5 cups (600g) bread flour, plus more for working the dough

 Ethan Chlebowski's Hoagie Rolls - Dough came together, however wouldn't pass the "window test", these were ok

olive oil20g

These breads were nothing stand out and its starting to feel a little depressing, anything over the 60%ish seems to not become to sticky to knead, and these guys are doing it by hand so I don't know what I'm doing wrong here.

All help is welcomed.


idaveindy's picture

the hydration % is a guideline, not fixed in stone.

If your dough is too sticky, use less water, or more flour. It's that simple.  

Some brands of flour can not handle as much water as other flour.

And sometimes you just have to change to a different/better flour.

I'm pretty sure Josh Weissman and Adam Ragusea did not use New Zealand flour. So you have to adjust the water, or else keep trying other brands of flour. And if you try other brands of New Zealand/Australian flour, you will still need to adjust hydration to more or less.

Or else follow Youtube cooks who use New Zealand flour.

I am not familiar with New Zealand flour, but I have read an Australian bread web site, and Australian flour is different from American flour, and needs extra ingredients.   I forget the name of the web site, but try a web search on "australian baking" or "australian bread" or "australian flour".

There was one Australian lady here early this year, and her Australian flour would just not work with American recipes. Wheat and flour is very different country to country.

Ilya Flyamer's picture
Ilya Flyamer

I'm not a very advanced baker, but my guess is they are probably using stronger flour than you are. 11% protein is OK, but not bread flour strength. Try to stick to lower hydration, at least until you get more confidence and skill.

You can also try autolyse - just mix the flour with water and wait. It'll develop the gluten on its own quite well, if wait long enough can get a windowpane even. A good technique is developing the gluten with lower hydration that you can still handle, and then adding a little more water and mixing it in (it's called bassinage).

Just believe you are not alone: starting on the bread journey can be tricky and challenging, but with a bit of patience (and advice from the more knowledgeable than me people here), you can get through it and enjoy wonderful homemade bread!

samdaman93's picture

thanks! I'll keep doing my best, I'll try finding some bread flour here but it doesn't seem to be a thing. can I add protein somehow another way?

Ilya Flyamer's picture
Ilya Flyamer

If you can procure some vital wheat gluten, that can be used to strengthen the dough. 

bottleny's picture

In NZ/AU, high grade or strong flour means bread flour. However, it is made from semi-hard wheat, so it's not as "strong" as US bread flour. It's more like the all purpose flour in US. Need to use less water in US recipes.

Vital wheat gluten here is very expansive in NZ

suave's picture

Don't jump from recipe to recipe.  Select one, the simpler the better, preferrably just flour-water-yeast-salt, and master it.  Get a digital scale if you don't yet have one.  Adjust hydration (% of total water in relation to total flour) as needed.  65% is a reasonable place to start.  If you mix by hand - opt for recipes with relatively slow fermentation, something like 3 hours at room temperature and learn about folding.  Forget windowpane.  For example, look up Hamelman's 6-fold baguette, cut back on water, and make it as a single loaf.

BXMurphy's picture

Hey, samdaman93!

Glad you're here! I'm new-ish,  too!

May I suggest using a bench scraper with a focus on building "strength?"

Just take that flat piece of stainless steel with a handle on it and keep rounding up the dough. Dig under the dough by about an inch or so and guide the dough around in a circular motion until the dough stretches onto and into itself.

You will "develop" gluten. You will discover stretchy bands of dough get tighter and tighter. As you go round and round, the dough becomes stronger and stronger.. A "skin" of tight dough forms around your dough.

That skin holds the wetter stuff inside. That wetter stuff proofs while the skin stretches and holds it all together.

Yep! The first few times around will be a complete mess. (Good luck with that!) But keep at it and you will amaze and amuse your friends. You will be astounded at your new-found skill!


G. Marie's picture
G. Marie

Tangzhong dough's are sticker. I'd suggest getting the stretch and fold technique under your belt first. It's a good way to feel how the dough changes as it develops.  I always point people to Mike ( but there are many different videos/ect out there. 

gerhard's picture

pulling down and spinning it on a surface with almost no dusting flour builds good surface tension.  Before shaping good gluten development is important, I do at least 3 stretch and folds.

ws.hicks's picture

Hi there,

I'm still a newbie also but I did try Josh's dinner roll a few times and I also only do hand kneading so I thought maybe me sharing the experience I had at the time might be a good reference for comparison? BUT, the thing is, it was among my first few attempts at bread making though, sooo, it wasn't really a smooth sail at all. Anyway:

The first time I tried this recipe was also my very first attempt at bread making and it was very rough, a disaster you may call it. I went in blind, not knowing a darn thing about bread making, equipped with only over-confidence. The dough was really sticky and I ended up adding way more flour than anyone really should, my guesstimate was I probably added about 100 gram more before I started to feel that I could handle it. I even kneaded it straight for more than an hour, I kind of certain it was about two. And I was even planned to bake it in an air fryer because I wasn't able to use oven at the time. Sooo, let's just say the result was in fact not good; but it was edible and I was sooo proud of it and thought it was soooo delicious lol.

My second attempt went way better than the first. My oven was back in service. I had gone and learned quite a few things about handling the dough by hand and even belted a few success before returning to this recipe. I'd say this recipe was still sticky; I ended up having to add more flour to be able to handle it, but it was in an acceptable amount now. And the result was a totally different product. It was so light, soft and fluffy. I'd definitely make it again someday when I have enough free time since it requires relatively a lot of active time compare to high hydration lean dough.

Since you seem to be researching from YouTube a lot like me, here are channels I think have helped me: Bake with Jack - basics and how to handle dough with hands, particularly his very old videos; The Bread Code - he shows a technique to see how much water can your flour take a few times but not sure if it applies to enriched bread, though.