The Fresh Loaf

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Dough gets stickier when kneading

Jochem's picture
Jochem

Dough gets stickier when kneading

Hi all! First time posting ✌ I really need some help with my kneading of "quick" doughs (between 60-65% hydration and 0.01-0.014% dry yeast). Kneading should make a dough smooth and coherent. But when I knead, it gets stickier after about 7-10 minutes, up to the point where it sticks everywhere, to my hands and the countertop, and loses all coherence. 

I know that some background info is always needed. So here we go: 

I'm not a fully inexperienced baker (not nearly a pro at all). I've made dozens of sourdough and yeasted breads from a range of recipes online and in books. For example, I've worked through all the recipes from Flour Water Salt Yeast without any problems I could not solve with my understanding of the baking process. I've baked with different kinds of flour (all-purpose, whole wheat, rye, spelt) and with hydrations between 65% and 90%, and all this without major problems. These were all long-fermentation breads that developed with stretch and folds and little kneading except for sometimes some slap and fold-kneading. 

However, as soon as I try to make a quick bread with dry yeast, that needs proper kneading instead of stretch and folds, I run into trouble. 

I have made several attempts making quick, yeasted breads, using different recipes. I tried recipes from a book by Levine van Doorne (popular in the Netherlands), online recipes, and today a recipe from a book by the Dutch miller's guild. These recipes for quick breads recommend kneading between 15 and 30 minutes. I've looked up videos demonstrating kneading techniques, and I think I know how to do it. Just stretch it gently on the countertop, roll it back, quarter turn, repeat. But these quick breads always get stickier after 7-10 minutes of kneading, instead of more smooth and coherent. 

As an example, the recipe I used today (from the miller's guild booklet): 

250 gr wheat white flour, 250 gr whole wheat flour, 295 water (59%), 5 dry yeast (1%), 9 salt (1.8%), 10 butter (2%), 10 sugar (2%). Instructions: knead for 15 minutes, 25 minutes rise, pre-shape, 15 minutes rise, shape, 45 minutes rise, score, 10 minutes rise, bake. 

At the start of kneading, everything is fine. I can stretch the dough, roll it back again and it is a little sticky yet possible to form into a ball. After about 8 minutes of kneading it seems to get wetter somehow. It sticks to the countertop (I think granite?), sticks to my hands, and it gets so slack that I can actually perform proper slap and folds, while it is a 60%-hydration dough! No matter how much longer I kneaded, the dough did not come together anymore - I continued until 30 minutes of kneading, hoping to see some results. Pulling a window pane was not possible - quick tearing. Later on, I was barely able to pre-shape and shape it. It was really under-kneaded. I've had some over-proofed sourdoughs before, and it somehow looked like that: a kind of weak, torn webbing at the surface. Even the just-mixed dough looked better. 

I'm 100% sure that I'm properly following all these recipes. I weigh everything twice (once in a cup, then in the mixing bowl). I do all the temperature measurements (room, dough, ingrediënts), check both the ingredient weights ánd bakers formulae, etc. These things can't be the problem. 

I tried to make a quick bread with minimal kneading twice before. It was 65% hydration and 0.02% dry yeast. I kneaded for only 4-5 minutes and resulted in a decent volume bread with somewhat evenly distributed air pockets. But the crumb was kind of grainy and the volume could have been bigger. That's why I want to improve the kneading and thereby the gluten development. But these breads were still better than those with longer kneading. So I'm convinced the kneading is the problem. 

I know that over-kneading by hand is nearly impossible. I also found this thread, which did not really provided an answer: http://www.thefreshloaf.com/forums/general/challenges

I'm absolutely at a loss. I don't know what I'm doing wrong. It is infuriating, really. 

I truly hope that someone knows what I'm doing wrong. Could it be that I get somewhat sweaty palms when kneading...? It's a desperate guess, but the only thing I can think of. 

Thanks in advance for the help! And apologies for the overload of information. But I hope that helps. 

- Jochem 

Ilya Flyamer's picture
Ilya Flyamer

I don't have experience with such breads, but my thought was, perhaps your flour is weak? What protein % are the flours? But I hope someone more experienced will chime in.

Jochem's picture
Jochem

I use local biological flours: both the whole wheat and white flour are 11.4% protein. I've baked decent sourdough and yeasted long-fermentation-breads with these same flours, but can it be that these work less well for shorter fermentation...?

Ilya Flyamer's picture
Ilya Flyamer

11.4% is not high, but not low either, I would have thought it would be fine, hydration is quite low too.

With long fermentation, in particular sourdough, weaker flours can gain strength just through time, and thanks to acidity. But maybe with quicker ferments you could have problems with them. Let's see what others make of this info.

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Do you think your flour may be the problem. (I was writing this post while Ilya replied. We are thinking the same

BTW - the information you provided is excellent and helpful.

Abe's picture
Abe

"250 gr wheat white flour, 250 gr whole wheat flour, 295 water (59%), 5 dry yeast (0.01%), 9 salt (0.018%), 10 butter (0.02%), 10 sugar (0.02%)".

  • 500g flour 100% (50:50)
  • 295g water 59%
  • 9g salt 1.8%
  • 10g butter 2%
  • 10g sugar 2%
  • 5g yeast 1%

That's very low hydration for a 50% wholewheat. I'd increase the hydration to atleast 60% for bread flour and 80% for whole wheat. So increase the water to 350g. Believe it or not I think it'll be easier to handle. Then start to knead without butter and once the dough is string knead in the butter. It will begin to appear to breakdown somewhat but before long the strength will build back up. 

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Abe, this is what is confusing to me.

 It sticks to the countertop (I think granite?), sticks to my hands, and it gets so slack that I can actually perform proper slap and folds, while it is a 60%-hydration dough!

Abe's picture
Abe

Too low very dry. Low and it's sticky. Right amount it handles well. Too high and it's sticky again. 

Strange I know but whole wheat there seems to be a stage where it's not low enough to be dry but not high enough where it's nice to handle. 

That in-between stage seems to be sticky too. 

Assuming the poster is using bread flour and regular whole wheat that is. 

Jochem's picture
Jochem

Thanks for your advice! Never heard about that with whole wheat too low hydration can also be sticky. Would explain the matter though! But what I don't understand is how a booklet from the Dutch miller's guild could recommend this low hydration. What is especially surprising: in the recipe from the booklet, they provide a schedule with white/whole what ratio's, and how to adapt the hydration. I chose a 50/50 white/whole wheat ratio, and that schedule suggests 295 water for that. Lower for more white flour, higher for more whole wheat flour. So you'd think that they properly correct for the flour used. 

I did not use bread flour with higher protein content. I used biological flours from a local mill, both with 11.4% protein.

Problem is though, I've had the same problem before with 65-68% hydration doughs. Could it help if I used bread flour? Or add wheat gluten? 

Abe's picture
Abe

When too low had been difficult to handle and upping the hydration for whole wheat made it behave. Can't comment on the recipe not their recommendations on how to work out the best hydration. 

What you can do is try different flours and the very same recipe. Or technique and knead the butter in later. And/or trying to experiment with altering the hydration. 

Jochem's picture
Jochem

Thank you for your help! I have to work through 10 kg of flour from this mill first, before I'll order new flour, but meanwhile I can try increasing the hydration and kneading the butter in later. I'll keep you updated on the results. 

As a response to your other comment: I don't have a mechanical kneading machine, unfortunately. My baking tools consist of a Dutch oven, a proofing basket and a cheap microwave-combination oven that has a maximum of 230 degrees C temp. But I've managed so far and am confident in being able put in the elbow grease you mentioned 💪

Thanks to the others for their input too! 

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

How do you explain the dough is too dry when the Jochem writes this?

 and it gets so slack that I can actually perform proper slap and folds”

Abe's picture
Abe

Whole wheat starters in the past this is exactly what I've experienced. Seems at first to handle well but then it gets quite sticky. Yet an 80% hydrated whole wheat dough is much nicer to handle. 

Jochem's picture
Jochem

Ah, forgot to x100 the percentages. I've corrected them, thanks! 

I will try your tip about kneading in the butter later in the kneading process. All the recipes state that all ingredients can simply be mixed right in, but I can imagine that the butter may interfere with the binding of the other ingredients. 

Thanks! 

Abe's picture
Abe

Then fine. Can be done by hand but takes a bit more effort. The reason you have suggested is correct but just be warned it might appear to go backwards at first but it'll re-form again with a bit of elbow grease. 

Your flours are quite low in protein but not too low it can't be done. 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

What temp is the dough and surface you are kneading on?  And just for information, what is the kneading surface? How is it prepared?

Are you a very warm handed person?  Do you radiate a lot of heat thru your hands?  If so try cooling the ingredients before combining.  Or use ice water.

Buy some modeling clay, or play dough, or borrow some for a little while.  So you dont have to think about yeast.  Or make up a flour dough with the salt but without yeast or leavening.  It should give you lots of fun time.  Does the same thing happen?  Play around with how your fingers touch the dough, if they rub or twist while kneading?  Try to touch the dough with as little surface contact as possible being quick to let the dough go and retouch it.

Kneading dough, touching it and keeping from being stuck to it takes practice.  I was an Art teacher and playing with clay takes time to learn too.  But you can learn it.  Learn how clay behaves and how to make it bend, roll out, tear off little pieces, makes balls or get it to stick to itself to clean up surfaces like your hands, table, etc.   It is a "hands on" learning experience.  Have some fun and give your fingers a work out.  Some of what you learn can be transferred to bread dough.  Sort of train your brain to react to dough.  Don't think too hard about it and just play.

Jochem's picture
Jochem

Thanks for all your considerations and suggestions. Regarding your tips about getting a feel for kneading: I will practice some more mindfulness when kneading next time. I always try to put a lot of speed into it, because I like the workout, but I always have a hard time concentrating and am quite quickly distracted when kneading. Maybe some more relaxed, focused kneading might help. 

Regarding the first questions: I always use the standard formula for calculating the water temperature, so that the dough becomes approximately 26*C: 2x desired temp - flour temp = water temp. I do measure it at the start though, because I did not assume that my hands could make it more than 1 degree warmer. But I am quite hot- and sweaty-handed. I run hot throughout the year, especially when physically active (kneading). So perhaps I should measure after kneading, to check if I should correct for the temperature of my hands. 

The kneading surface is a stone countertop, I think something like granite. Not sure; rental apartment. I usually lightly spray some water on it before kneading, or sometimes a little sunflower oil when a recipe says to. 

Thanks again for your suggestions! I'll post soon about a new attempt I made - the tips from the others already brought me a slight improvement in a new bread. But I have some more changes in mind that might help with making better bread. After trying those, I'll post some pictures.