It’s something I see happen during every bread making class I run. Doughs are mixed and turned out onto the work surface. Class attendees roll up their sleeves and prepare to knead. Dough sticks to hands, scrapers and the worktop. Suddenly, a hand shoots out – towards the open bag of flour nearby. Stop right there! Don’t knead bread dough on a floured surface! But why? And what can you do instead to help you knead sticky bread dough? Watch this video or read on to find out more:

Embrace the stickiness

Bread dough should be sticky and wet when you begin kneading it. I encourage everyone in my classes to embrace the stickiness! When water is first added to flour, the flour takes a while to fully absorb it all, making that dough even more sticky.

If you’re not used to having dough all over your hands, your first reaction can be to reach for the bag of flour and start flinging it all over your dough. Resist that urge! I can understand why you might do that. As well as making your dough easier to handle, read any bread recipe you have to hand and you’re likely to see the instructions ‘Knead your dough on a lightly floured surface’. But stop right there!

Don’t dry out your dough

As well as adding to the mess you’ll need to clear up later, adding in more flour only dries out your dough. Flour is like a sponge, soaking up the water in your dough. Adding in more flour once your dough is mixed is like adding in more sponges, removing the water and drying out your dough.

You’ll then leave your dough to rise before shaping it and eventually placing it in a very hot oven to bake. If your dough starts this process already quite dry, it will only get drier and drier as you rise and bake it. A drier dough can be tight and less stretchy – it won’t rise as much as the yeast produce gas inside it. Plus, the hot oven will remove any remaining moisture. If you start with a dry dough, it’s likely your bread will come out of the oven resembling more a brick than bread.

Do this instead

So what can you do to help you knead sticky dough? A simple solution is to make your hands a little wet – the dough wil stick much less to them and you’ll have the added benefit of adding a little more moisture into the dough as you knead.

Alternatively, you could rub a tiny amount of vegetable or olive oil onto the surface you’re kneading on. A small smear is enough, you don’t want to lose control of a slippery dough!

Lastly, use a dough scraper if you have one to scrape the dough off the surface as you knead. Dough will stick much less to a scraper than to your hands. You could even use the scraper to stretch and fold your dough if it’s very sticky – see how in this video.

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