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When you're working a dough (kneading or rolling out), instructions often say to flour the surface you're working on and your rolling pin or hands. This helps the dough to stick less. However, I always am very careful that I don't use too much flour, because I'm afraid this will change the recipe. Is this fear irrational or would I need to use a lot to have an effect on the result? Is there a certain percentage of original amount of flour that you can't surpass?

I'm particularly asking about bread dough, but I think this will also apply to other doughs. I guess it would have more rapidly an effect on wetter doughs in general, but I'm not sure. So feel free to include broader answers.

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

Don't worry too much about it.

Be careful that some doughs are wet (high hydration - look at my question here), so they tend to stick more and are harder to manage.

If a dough is hard to manage, just let it sit in the fridge for a couple of hours. It will become tougher and easier to handle.

If you keep on adding flour, this will alter the bread formula (affecting the salt content and hydration), an additional percent or two flour won't make much of a difference.

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50 or 100g will make quite a difference depending on how much dough you're working with. If you're only doing 500g of flour, 100g would take you from from 60% to 50% hydration. This will still make bread, but it will be different than what you wanted. OTOH, dusting with 100g of flour, that's a pretty large work surface! –  derobert Feb 22 '12 at 1:13
    
@derobert I often work with 350 g flour only, and seeing that a heaped tablespoon of flour is over 25 gr, I can easily go to 100 g added in the course of 10 minutes of hand kneading and repeatedly adding flour when the dough starts to stick. So yes, with a wet dough, it is easy to change the hydration a lot. –  rumtscho Feb 22 '12 at 8:55
    
@derobert, of course it will make a huge difference depending on the amount of flour you start with. The point I'm trying to make is not to be too careful about it, which is what the OP was asking. –  BaffledCook Feb 22 '12 at 11:27
    
@BaffledCook: well, then I've edited your last paragraph to clarify that it doesn't matter much, as long as its small relative to the amount in the dough. Naturally, feel free to revert if you don't like my change. –  derobert Feb 22 '12 at 18:55
    
@derobert, be my guest, I always welcome improvements :-) –  BaffledCook Feb 22 '12 at 20:13
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At the end of the day, you need to use as much flour as necessary to ensure the dough is not sticking. It's a lot worse to deal with a dough that is stuck to a pin or that is stuck to the table. The only time I've ever been told to watch how much flour to use for dusting was when I went to school, and that is because my teacher was a cheap old bugger (or so I thought at the time). Throughout the day, we would scrape this excess dusting flour into a container, and always reuse it into new doughs. As I said, at the time I thought it was cheap, but when i started running my own shops, I always did this too, any bit to help the old G.P.

However, realistically, you needn't worry about using too much dusting flour.

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