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Sep 28, 2012 08:07 AM

Question from a bread newb

I've been attempting to teach myself how to make bread for the last few weeks and I've come a long way but there is still one part that I have not been able to figure out. How do I know how much flour is enough?

I know when I'm first mixing the ingredients it has enough flour when it pulls away from the bowl etc but it gets stickier and stickier as I knead it and I have to add more flour. It feels like this process could go on forever. It gets sticky, I add flour and knead some more, gets sticky again, add more flour and so on. I never know when enough is enough! When I attempt to research it I mostly find answers like "You'll know you have enough flour when the texture feels right." But I don't know what "right" feels like! Is there any way to communicate this?

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  1. The best way is using a scale. Then, it's 5 parts flour and 3 parts water by weight to make 'sandwich' bread.

    1 Reply
    1. re: j8715

      5:3 by weight works really good in my experience. A.k.a. 60% hydration.

      One major caveat though. If you use a certain kind of all-purpose flour, it may keep on being sticky and runny almost to where you go below 50% hydration. Basically due to weak gluten from my limited understanding. Happened to me with Kroger brand unbleached all-purpose, which is the cheapest unbleached I can get hold of easily. That kind of flour is only useful for feeding the sourdough when not using it or baking cakes and stuff.

      So try with a better-for-bread kind of flour. Any of the common ones should work, but if in doubt just go with King Arthur, even Walmart has it nowadays.

    2. In general wetter dough makes for better flavor. Add just enough flour that you can make a workable dough.

      A coat of vegetable oil on your hands helps make handling wetter dough a less sticky situation.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Brandon Nelson

        Water is adding flavor? Interesting blanket statement. . .

        1. re: j8715

          Context my friend. The post reads; "wetter dough".

          Wetter bread doughs tend to yield better tasting bread. I am paraphrasing from the book "The Bread Builders", and a Cooks Illustrated issue that had a section on rustic Italian bread. A wetter environment allows for greater yeast activity. It is the by products of that yeast activity that make for a greater flavor profile.

          1. re: Brandon Nelson

            Water isn't adding flavor the yeasts are.

            You don't need unworkable slop dough, just time.

            1. re: j8715

              Reading comprehension is apparently not your strong suit.

              From my first post "workable dough".

              From my second post "A wetter environment allows for greater yeast activity. It is the by products of that yeast activity that make for a greater flavor profile."

              At no point did credit water as "adding flavor" or building an "unworkable slop dough".

              Are you planning on adding anything to this conversation or is you next post going to enlighten us all with the sage words like "water is wet"?

      2. It depends on what kind of bread you're making, some do have much wetter dough. If you're making one that doesn't have wetter dough, it shouldn't be sticky but kind of spongy (the picture in the link might help). It can help to walk away from the dough, let it sit and come back in 10-15 minutes to give the flour a chance to absorb the water. This describes it, plus the advantage of a wet dough. I do it after I've mixed everything together, including the yeast and salt.

        1. Thanks so much for your replies. Dough is rising now. We'll see how it turns out!

          1. While I believe this board can be very helpful in answering some of your bread making questions,
            you will undoubtedly find a wider range of experienced bread makers on:
            I've been a member there for the past five years and find it very friendly and quite helpful.
            My advice would be to purchase a good bread making book that will take you from the basics to some intermediate processes (I happen to recommend Peter Reinhart's "The Baker's Apprentice")
            later, perhaps one of Reinhart's advanced books:
            or Dan DeMuzio's:
            If you learn early that bread making relies on formulas and not "recipes" as such, and how a formula works when blending flour/water/yeast/salt you'll have a lot more fun with the process.
            Best of luck ............................