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I have tried to make pizza dough by hand a couple of times now but every time after mixing the ingredients the dough is far too sticky to knead, it is more like a batter than dough. I have watched videos on youtube of people making it and it is nothing like how mine turns out.

The ingredients I am using are:

  • 225g Bread Flour
  • 140ml Water
  • 1 tsp Dried Active Yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

I have tried just mixing everything together at once, and I have also tried mixing the water, yeast and sugar together first then adding.

Can anyone see anything wrong with the quantities I am using in this recipe or is there something else that I should be doing to actually get dough that I can knead? As I said, it is so sticky that it will just stick to everything it touches unless I constantly add flour (on my hands and board).

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I find it helpful to flour my hands and the surfaces I'll be working on as well. But if the dough is too tacky to start with, this can be a lost cause –  Brian Aug 13 '11 at 18:03
    
Working with heavily hydrated dough was always very frustrating for me as well. –  rfusca Aug 13 '11 at 18:59
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Have you tried a different brand of flour? There are types of dough where this can happen, but at the ratio posted here (140*100/225=62, so in baker's lingo "62% hydration") this shouldn't be happening, especially with bread flour. Or do you live somewhere so humid that the flour is practically sucking humidity out of the air? –  rumtscho Aug 14 '11 at 8:07
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Its more like batter?! As @rumtscho says, that's 62% hydration, and getting bread flour like batter would be far higher than that—closer to 100%. Assuming you're not storing your flour in the sauna, you either (a) have cake or pastry flour, not bread flour; (b) are measuring wrong. (b) may be caused by faulty equipment, of course; are you sure your scale works? Does your 140mL water weigh 140g? Are you sure you've mixed in all the flour—there isn't a bunch of dry flour still needing to soak some water up? –  derobert Aug 16 '11 at 19:15
    
The flour I am using is allinsonflour.co.uk/products/strong-white-bread-flour.html and I live in Scotland, so not exactly a humid climate. –  DaveJohnston Aug 24 '11 at 8:55

9 Answers 9

up vote 9 down vote accepted

I am an Indian and we make dough for everyday bread at home. It's easy to knead dough; you just have to take care while adding water. Do not add all the water you have, and add water slowly and steadily. For pizza dough I follow these steps:

  • Mix yeast in warm water, add sugar to this water. Observe this mixture - as soon as you see bubbles, it is ready to be used for kneading dough.
  • Add oil and salt to flour along with the yeast you have prepared.
  • I use a spoon to keep mixing the flour and add spoonfuls of water, I keep some flour handy in case I have accidentally added too much water.

I keep kneading the dough gently and add water or flour as needed. This does require some practice.

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Thanks for that, I guess I am too much of an engineer, I expect to be able to just take a recipe and add the exact amounts specified and it will work every time. I guess I'll hold off on some of the water next time. –  DaveJohnston Aug 13 '11 at 17:19
    
Dave, am a code monkey, and "cooking good food is a scientific art", don't google the quote, I made it myself –  Kumar Aug 13 '11 at 18:09
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You don't need to add all the water slowly. You should be able to add 1/2 to 3/4 right away, and then add the remainder more slowly. –  BobMcGee Aug 14 '11 at 6:11
    
At 62% hydration, you should just be able to add all the water. Mixing may be a little worse, and it'll be a tacky when hand-kneading, but doable. And, @DaveJohnston: if your flour is stored in fairly consistent humidity, that should work. –  derobert Aug 16 '11 at 19:19
    
how do find that hydration is 62%? –  Kumar Aug 17 '11 at 8:59

If you're working manually with a heavily hydrated dough, its just going to require a lot of flour if you're going to knead manually. Sometimes that's even anticipated in the recipe - that extra flour will be incorporated into the recipe during manual kneading. If that's the route you want to go, it just takes lots of flour and patience. Putting the dough fridge for a couple of hours will also help, it will fully hydrate the flour and generally make it a bit easier to work with.

That said - its also possible you could be using a different flour (even brand matters!) than your recipe is intending for and you're over hydrating that recipe. The proportions in recipe seem on par (at least the flour to water ratio) for a pizza dough - at least the ones I do (I checked in BBA just to double check and its about the same as well). If its too slack to work with at all, try reducing the water a bit. It may take a little experimenting, but once you figure out what works for the taste/texture you want and the ingredients you use - you'll get a 'feel' for the dough. Just by looking at and handling the dough, you'll immediately know if you've got the right amount of water. Its takes a bit of time to develop that - but not much.

Additionally, if you find you like the texture of that recipe, but the extra hydration makes it difficult to knead, then just don't. If its that hydrated, just give it time like a 'No Knead Bread' and the dough will form the gluten for you. Reduce the yeast in the recipe and give it time. Googling 'No Knead Bread' will elaborate, but generally its just letting it sit for an extending period on the counter (or a bit longer in the fridge).

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This advice is generally sound, and good to know by beginners. But I must add that it isn't the case here. The OP includes the recipe, which works out to a 62% hydration. This is nowhere near high, and in fact should be nicely kneadable even with a low gluten flour (AP or pastry flour). –  rumtscho Aug 14 '11 at 8:03
    
@rumtscho - Perhaps there's a climate difference then (I do live in a rather humid place) because I often find myself in the same boat as the OP - 60%+ hydration yields a rather wet dough. –  rfusca Aug 14 '11 at 18:35

The moisture content of flour varies with the environment you store it in. Hence the amount of water you need to put in your dough also varies.

If it is too sticky: add more flour.

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The dough is probably too wet for kneading to develop the gluten and give it structure. The solution is a trick called "double hydration" which is used in professional baking.

Hold back about 1/4 of the water, allow the dough to be kneaded easily. When the dough is fully kneaded, you can gradually mix in the remaining water until you get the consistency you desire. This bypasses the problems of trying to knead a very wet ("slack") dough.

Note that pizza dough should still be somewhat wet and stretchy.

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So far, I have noticed that the way that you knead the dough makes a big difference. I think there seems to be 2 basic approaches, one is to keep all the surfaces/hands/tools dry using extra flour to prevent sticking, the other is to keep all the surfaces/hands/tools wet (I usually use a bit of olive oil) to avoid sticking.

For your roughly 60% hydration pizza doughs: in both approaches what you end up with is the outside of the dough being different to the inside (either because it is covered in flour or oil). Adding too much additional flour or oil to a recipe will potentially damage it. What I try to do is to knead the dough so that the outside stays on the outside as much as possible. I do this by rolling, squashing and stretching the dough rather than folding or tearing it. Trying to keep the inside on the inside and the outside on the outside.

For very wet doughs: neither of these approaches will really work if you use your hands. For these doughs I use a small amount of oil on the surface and repeatedly fold the dough into thirds using a tool such as a dough scrapper or similar. You can hold back and use a small amount of the water to keep your dough scrapper wet during this process to avoid the dough sticking to the scrapper.

After the initial part of the kneading process, the dough will be more developed and hold together without sticking so much. And you can change to other kneading techniques as you like. Generally though, if you want to keep your dough wet, the solution seem to me to be not to just keep adding flour.

You might also try looking at incorporating an autolysis phase into your dough preparation, this can help reduce the amount you have to touch the dough.

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best so far. wet kneading can really incorporate good amounts of air which make for those iconic pizza crust bubbles! Also, easier with dough cold (long slow fridge rise) to wet knead. –  Pat Sommer May 16 '12 at 9:21

Not all flour can absorb the same amount of water, you should always add water up to the point when the dough is properly hydrated, don't pour the whole amount of specified water into the dough. The pizza dough recipe that I use calls for 3 1/4 cups of water, but I never use more than 3 cups. A friend of mine also noticed that when he switched from normal supermarket bread flour to a bread flour from Italy, it needed more water to get the dough to the same consistency.

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I appreciate the responses shared; because I was looking to solve this same problem when I came upon this site. I was about to take the advice to add more flour; however, before doing so, I was so determined to fix my dilemma of tacky and sticky dough that I placed it in the freezer for a few minutes and it worked! My dough's sticky and tacky texture was gone. I Whether this would work without compromising on the outcome is something that would depend upon each and everyone's recipe. I made biscuits and the texture was far better than I expected considering I had over handled the dough looking to solve this problem.

The short answer: Try putting the dough in the freezer for a few minutes for over tacky, sticky, or moist dough in an air tight container.

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Freezing yeast dough sounds counterproductive. –  Jay May 16 '12 at 5:28
    
biscuit dough yes, yeast no. –  Pat Sommer May 16 '12 at 9:17
    
You might find that just leaving it on the bench for the same amount of time also works? –  Highly Irregular Jun 8 '12 at 20:49

I always start my dough sticky, gradually dust flour top and bottom and knead until it's sticky again. When it no longer adhere's to your hands, but feels as if it might your where you want to be. It's better and easier adding flour to dry it up than it is to try adding water into the mixture.

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If you are doing this by hand then let the dough autolyse; meaning let dough rest so the flour an fully hydrate. Just mix the water, flour and olive oil until the dough just comes together. Cover with a damp towel or plastic and let the dough sit at room temp for 1 hour. Just incorporate the remaining ingredients when fully hydrated. There is no need to refrigerate in this process because there is no yeast in the autolyse mix that needs to be controlled. Plus you want your dough to be warm and at good working temperature. This process will also start a good process in the development of gluten. Good luck.

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This tends to work really well for difficult doughs. It's amazing how much gluten you can develop just by letting the dough sit. –  sourd'oh Oct 19 '13 at 18:44

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