I was really bad at handling the dough! Try as I might, it always seemed to be sticky.
It stuck to my surface, to my hands, to my fingers! It just stuck and there didn’t seem to be a solution in sight. If you are just beginning to work with dough, I can assure you that it can be quite challenging whether it be bread dough, pizza dough, or even cookie dough.
A common sticky dough fix is to just add more flour until the dough is no longer sticky. Ah, if it were that easy! In the meantime, you may have ruined your dough with all that added flour.
As I acquired more experience, it got easier. So, if you are in the beginning “sticky” stage, know that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
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My Dough is too Sticky
Well, it should be a bit tacky to the touch. If your dough isn’t at all tacky, you’ve probably already added too much flour. Sticky dough is not necessarily a negative.
Much will depend on the type of bread you hope to make. A stickier dough with higher water content can create a great loaf of bread, whereas a less sticky bread dough may end up having lots of bubbles in it.
Why is my Dough Sticky?
All dough is a bit sticky or tacky. Some dough may be tacky when you touch it while other doughs will literally seem glued to your fingers.
If the dough contains a high amount of water and is what is called a “high hydration” dough, and perhaps has not developed much gluten, it will most likely be incredibly sticky. However, with a good amount of kneading the gluten will develop and your dough will become easier to handle.
How Can I Make Dough Less Sticky?
Here are some great tips for helping you to make less sticky dough or for handling sticky dough.
- “Low hydration ” Dough. If you’re at the beginning f your dough baking adventure, start with low hydration. This will automatically make the dough less sticky and easier for you to knead. A beginning low hydration dough shouldn’t have more than approximately 60% of water in its content. This will allow you to acquire more experience kneading and shaping before moving onto the stickier dough. As you feel more comfortable, you can increase the water content.
- A little bit of flour. You can add a little bit of flour to help you shape the dough or to move it, but flour should not be added when kneading just because a dough feels sticky. This will most probably dry out your dough, and the end result won’t be what you hoped for. While you knead gluten will develop, helping the dough to leave the surface.
- Dough Scrapers. Bakers swear by dough scrapers in both metal, or flexible plastic. Depending on what you want to do you may choose to use one or the other. Both are great for cutting dough or shaping it. A plastic dough scraper will be more appropriate for scraping the bowl you mix your dough in or to help you remove the dough from the bowl. A metal scraper that will be flat is better for cutting the dough or scraping down the surface where you are kneading.
- Practice makes perfect. The more you bake, the better you’ll be at handling different types of dough, and the more you can watch others that have worked with dough for years, you’ll be able to pick up some tips. One often-cited kneading technique is the method that requires you to slap and then fold your dough. This is an often-used method for sticky wet doughs.
- A little bit of oil. When kneading your dough on a surface or in a bowl, a very light layer of oil will help you to knead it and it will stick less to the surface. Eventually, that little bit will be kneaded into your dough, but it will help you begin the kneading process. Oil is also rubbed onto a bowl surface when the dough is left to rise. This will help you remove the dough from the bowl when you are ready to work it.
- A little bit of water. You can try dipping your hands in water before picking up the dough. This will also help if the dough is sticking to your hands.
Sticky Pizza Dough
While pizza dough may seem that it should be easier, it isn’t. When the pizza dough is sticky, again it’s due to high water content and little gluten development. Keep on needing it for approximately ten minutes, and the gluten will develop making it easier to deal with.
If it continues to be sticky, you can knead in tiny amounts of flour but should do so only after you have kneaded. If the gluten does not develop, your pizza dough may not stretch sufficiently or rise.
If you add in a tablespoon or two of flour you will need to knead for at least another five minutes because the gluten must be developed with the newly added flour.
Another way to assist in the development of gluten is to allow your pizza dough to sit inside your refrigerator overnight. It will also be easier to handle. Before stretching your pizza dough, coat it with flour so your hands don’t stick to it and tear the dough.
Sticky Cookie Dough
Usually, sticky cookie dough is the result of the temperature of the dough. Remember that when you knead the dough, your body temperature will transfer heat to the dough.
To avoid this, especially when butter and eggs are in the dough recipe, keep your cookie dough in your refrigerator for a while to make sure that the dough cools down. You can also place the dough in parchment paper before placing it in the fridge. In this way, it will be easier for you to remove it when you prepare to bake your cookies.
Kneading your own dough can be utterly comforting, and while making your own bread, pizza or cookie dough is not quick, it is a labor of love.