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Whenever I try to knead (by hand) or move after kneading, a high hydration dough like ciabatta, it sticks to my hands terribly and often seems ruin any shaping I try. I've tried flour on my hands, but it comes off so quick - what can I do to keep it from sticking so badly?

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enough already, what book do you want, I'll buy it! Tip, don't knead by hand, use a food processor – TFD Feb 23 '12 at 4:54
Pizza dough is perfect after kneading with a machine like this on high speed. High hydration dough doesn't need a lot of kneading, just lots of time – TFD Feb 23 '12 at 6:08
@TFD - Indeed, but the question also applies to shaping the dough. And not everybody has a food processor (although I do). – rfusca Feb 23 '12 at 6:19
That's why I didn't put it as an answer! Also shaping is just dump it out and use a silicone or steel bakers scraper. High hydration shaping isn't exactly an art form – TFD Feb 24 '12 at 0:15
up vote 8 down vote accepted

Let the dough rest in the bowl for a while after mixing. Time will not only improve the flavor (insert autolyse proselytism here) but will also give the flour time to hydrate, making the dough somewhat easier to handle.

Dough will become less sticky as you work it -- witness the way dough kneaded in a mixer or food processor initially sticks to the sides but eventually forms a ball and leaves the bowl clean. So, one option is to work it a bit with a mixer first, or just with a wooden spoon in the bowl.

Anil's suggestion to oil your hands is a good one. If the kind of dough you're making allows it, add some oil or butter to the dough during mixing, too.

Flour helps, of course. Instead of trying to coat your hands in flour, throw a bit on the kneading surface and on the top of the dough.

For very sticky dough, a dough knife can help you scrape the dough off the surface and fold it over onto itself until it becomes easier to handle. This is easiest if you're working on a hard, smooth kneading surface like marble.

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My suggestion is to try it with grease or oil, similar to oiling utensils. This is what you can do when you prepare dough. If you are concerned about the amount of oil in the bread, you can try flour.

Apart from this, the dough consistency plays a major role. If you make your dough a little harder, the stickiness will decrease. If it is too loose, it will stick a lot.

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I agree about the oil suggestion. But the second part of the answer makes me think you didn't pay attention to the question: he is intentionally making a very soft dough, because some types of bread require it. – rumtscho Feb 23 '12 at 13:18

There are two main ways this is accomplished, and one condition which will cause stickiness.

To mitigate sticking:

  1. Use flour
  2. Use water

I usually knead by hand, and keeping my hands generously moist is often enough to prevent sticking (I knead in a bowl). This causes the dough to be a little wetter than I aim for.

Then, while shaping, I will use flour on the surface, since I won't be knead it anymore.

I will put some oil on the baking parchment when baking, to prevent sticking.

What causes dough to stick overly much is not sufficient hydration (time) and gluten formation (time & kneading)

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Yes to moist hands to prevent sticking. It absolutely works. – justkt Feb 23 '12 at 14:28

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