One of the biggest challenges beginning bakers face is handling sticky bread dough. Your first impulse is to reach for the flour, but it’s not always the right solution.
You want sticky dough, even if it’s a pain to knead. Sticky dough creates excellent loaves of bread with crumbly crusts. But what happens when the bread dough is too wet and sticky? Can you still use the dough?
Why Is My Bread Dough Too Wet and Sticky?
Sometimes, your dough is too wet and sticky, and it can ruin the bread. Adding too much water, the type of flour and high humidity in the kitchen can all cause your dough to become over-hydrated.
Before deciding whether the dough is too sticky, think about the kind of bread you are making. Doughs with higher moisture contents are ideal for most types of bread. Dryer doughs create bread with plenty of bubbles.
You want most doughs slightly sticky, but some types of bread have a higher moisture requirement. Known as high-hydration doughs, they are incredibly sticky. It’s the same with low-gluten doughs, but kneading makes it easier to handle.
How to Make Bread Dough Less Sticky
Handling too sticky bread dough can be a problem for experienced bakers. The dough sticks to hands and kitchen tools.
The next time your bread dough is too sticky, try using one of these tips.
Use a Low-Hydration Dough
Beginners will face less frustration using a low-hydration dough. It’s less sticky and easier to knead. You can use a lower moisture dough in most bread recipes. The only difference you might notice is the bubbles. Some bread may also be denser, but the taste remains the same.
It’s easy to create a low-hydration dough by keeping the water content no higher than 60% of the total ingredients. You can go a little lower, but not by much. You don’t want to serve dry bread.
As you get more comfortable handling the dough, gradually increase the water content to the recipe’s recommended amount.
Keep Kneading Your Bread Dough
Kneading bread dough is a crucial step you don’t want to skip. But, unfortunately, you only have one opportunity before the first rise.
Great bread dough needs strong glutens, which is what prevents your dough from turning into a wet and sticky mess.
Most bakers knead their dough for around 10 to 15 minutes until it is smooth and soft. You don’t want any lumps or bubbles in the dough before the first rise.
Don’t forget to continue kneading for an additional five minutes if you add flour.
Don’t Use Cold Water
Bread doughs call for water, and the temperature matters. Therefore, you want to use warm water in the recipe. The warmth activates the yeast necessary for the dough to rise.
Cold water also stops gluten from developing. Without gluten, you get a sticky ball of dough. Your bread will also be chewy and dense.
Add Some Flour
Too sticky bread dough can benefit from a small amount of flour. Don’t go overboard. You don’t want dense bread.
When you add the flour is critical for a great loaf of bread. You should only add the flour before kneading because adding flour after you have started kneading dries out the dough.
Kneading helps gluten develop naturally, making the dough less sticky.
Use Dough Scrapers
Professional bakers are rarely found without a pair of dough scrapers. The kitchen tool makes it easier to work with sticky dough.
Dough scrapers come in metal or plastic, and both are great for kneading dough in home kitchens. Metal and plastic dough scrapers are great for cutting and shaping bread dough.
Add Some Oil
A teaspoon or so of oil works wonders on sticky bread. Try to use virgin olive oil since the liquid will get worked into the bread.
The oil keeps the bread dough from sticking to the bowl or flat surface, making it easier to knead. You can also coat the sides of the bowl the dough rises in to keep it from sticking.
Dip Your Hands in Water
You don’t want to add water to the sticky dough, especially if it is too wet. Dipping your hands in water prevents the dough from sticking without adding excess moisture.
How to Keep Your Bread Dough From Getting Too Wet and Sticky
Keeping your bread dough from getting too wet and sticky starts with following the recipe. It means weighing the ingredients. Making quality bread dough starts with the right amount of ingredients.
You can play around with the amount of water. It’s the most common reason your bread dough is too sticky to knead easily. It’s okay to remove between 2%-5% of the recommended water from a bread dough recipe. If the dough feels too dry, you can always add more water.
The type of flour used can affect the dough’s stickiness. Look for whole-grain or wholemeal flours. These flours keep the dough slightly drier during kneading.
What If the Bread Dough Is Too Sticky After Rising?
Did you know you can still salvage too sticky bread dough after the first rise? You can still bake a gorgeous and delicious loaf of bread with tacky risen dough.
Kneading the bread dough releases the gluten, and it usually removes some of the stickiness. However, there’s a simple trick if you can’t remove the dough from the bowl for the second rise.
You want to grab some flour to coat the surface, your fingers, and the dough scrapers. Using your bread dough scrapers, remove all of the dough from the bowl. Place the dough ball on the flat surface and gently start pressing down. The goal is to deflate the ball and get it ready for the second rise.
Kneading the dough before the second rise is never a good idea. It can weaken the gluten particles, creating an extremely dense bread. The bread also won’t have any moisture.
How to Handle Sticky Bread Dough After the Second Rise
Before you cover the dough for the second rise, don’t forget to fold it. You can use a little more flour during folding. It helps minimize the dough’s stickiness before the second rise. After the second rise, you can’t salvage sticky bread dough.
Use a little flour on your fingers, and make sure you coat the surface. You don’t want the bread dough sticking to the table or counter during folding.
Sticky bread dough after the second rise may still be workable. You may not have the prettiest loaf of bread, but it should be light and moist.
It’s slightly easier to get sticky bread dough into a loaf pan. The pan also helps the sticky dough keep its shape. So you spend less time trying to shape sticky dough with a loaf pan.
How Do I Handle Sticky Pizza Dough?
Anyone baking bread is probably trying their hand at homemade pizza dough. Walk into almost any pizzeria, and someone is skillfully tossing uncooked pizza dough. It looks easy, but your pizza dough can also be too wet and sticky.
Pizza dough is high in water and doesn’t develop a lot of gluten. The combination makes for a sticky dough that’s hard to knead and twist.
Kneading the dough for around ten minutes will help the gluten develop faster, reducing its sticky feeling. If the dough is still sticking to your fingers and surfaces, it’s time to add a little flour. Don’t add the flour until after kneading to ensure the gluten develops. Without gluten, the pizza dough won’t rise.
Adding between one or two tablespoons of flour to the dough will make it less sticky. Kneading the dough for an additional five minutes ensures the extra flour doesn’t halt the glutens’ development.
Keeping the pizza dough overnight in the refrigerator also makes it easier to knead and stretch.
How Do I Handle Sticky Cookie Dough
Too sticky cookie dough can ruin your day, especially if you are craving a sweet treat. Most cookie recipes call for eggs and butter, and the two ingredients can turn your dough into a sticky mess. Even though cookie dough is delicious, the sweets are better baked.
The main reason cookie dough gets too sticky to shape is temperature. Warm cookie dough creates a mess that sticks to almost everything. The easiest way to handle sticky cookie dough is by storing it in the fridge. After a couple of hours, the dough will harden and be easier to shape.
Sticky dough makes delicious bread, but sometimes it’s too wet and tacky to knead. You can save the bread dough, even after the first rise.
While flour and water are the main reason bread dough gets too wet and sticky, it’s also pretty easy to fix. With a bit of patience and practice, you will be able to handle sticky bread dough like a pro before long.