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I am following along diligently to an online course taught by Richard Bertinet. The course deals with a lot of high hydration doughs, and his aim is to teach you how to handle sticky doughs and not be afraid of them.

He is using Wessex Strong Bread Flour from what I have gathered (his recipes all call for strong bread flour). I am using KA bread flour. The Wessex flour is 13% protein, and KA is 12.7% (my thinking is that’s pretty darn close).

Anyway, I measure everything to the exact gram, follow the steps and he ends up with a dough that is almost like goop after mixing, and I end up with a fairly strong dough.

He does all these fun stretch and folds, chases his goopy dough around with a scraper to give it some shape, my dough fights me to stretch even an inch and is far from goopy. I should say this is all mixed by hand. You combine ingredients in a bowl, mix them up with a dough scraper, and turn them out onto an un-floured surface to work with. So it’s not like I’ve kneaded my dough for an hour and am complaining that I can’t stretch it like his, I’ve just mixed it up for the same amount of time he has.

I should also say I tried using Bob’s Red Mill artisan bread flour, same story.

Any idea why my dough never gets sticky, and how I can make it sticky? Is this some kind of obvious thing like, “pshh, this noob doesn’t know you always add 2.678% more water for American bread flours,” or something like that?

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    Just a thought, my wife bakes bread and finds differences just like you describe. Sometimes it is different time of the season, sometimes it is just a different physical location. But it all boils down to relative humidity and how much moisture the flour has already absorbed. It sounds like your dough is drier than the instructor's dough. If you can ask him about this I would do so. Jan 14 at 19:15
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    Related to Steve’s comment, is this the first time you’ve tried this (or first few times all done fairly recently)? If it’s wintertime for you, the air is often noticeably drier, which may affect results. See this article from King Arthur Flour for some related reading. If this is a problem you have regardless of humidity, there may be another cause. Jan 14 at 21:28
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    Does he rest his dough? Letting it sit for a while changes how it behaves as the flour has a chance to hydrate and the yeast works. Likewise, the temperature is a huge factor… cold dough is less sticky, and many restaurant kitchens are quite warm
    – Joe
    Jan 14 at 23:30
  • Maybe your scale is the problem?
    – hodale
    Jan 15 at 15:09
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    Ancdotally, I find KA Bread Flour to result in significantly less sticky dough than AP, which can be good when you're starting out. But if you want a softer more sticky dough you might want to just try KA AP. Protein % is important but isn't the only factor; you also don't know how accurate the Wessex nutrition label is and a difference of 1% can be huge. Out of curiosity what is the hydration % in the recipe you're using? Jan 16 at 0:05

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I bake bread with high hydration doughs. When I first started doing this I was learning from a well-respected blogger. My following of his formulas never resulted in what I was seeing on the screen, and the result certainly was not the same as his. I was following the everything exactly. Over time, I learned that for bread baking small changes in the variables are very impactful. The environment of your kitchen, for starters. Then there are the flours, which (in their dry state) already have differing moisture contents (due to storage environment and type of flour). In addition, different flours absorb different amounts of water. It goes on and on.

Point being, I learned to stop following the blogger's instructions exactly, and I started paying more attention to my environment and how the dough (a living thing!) behaved in my environment.

If your dough is not sticky, there is not enough water. Add more...remember, your environment, your flour...different from his. High hydration doughs will stick to your fingers for the first two (at least) stretch and folds...stick to your fingers so that you actually have to wash them off. By the 3 set of stretch and folds, the dough should begin to smooth out and you should have less sticking. I separate my stretch and folds by 30 minutes and do 4 to 5 sets, depending on feel. The idea here is that you are aligning the gluten strands, so the dough has to be smooth and have the strength to hold its shape.

Keep at it. You will figure our how your ingredients respond in your environment. Don't worry about mistakes...they are almost always edible.

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  • Thanks for this answer. Based on the feedback I've gotten here I've started playing around with adjusting the hydration. I tried 80% and found that a bit too wet, 78% was closer, I'm betting my next attempt at 75% might be the sweet spot. Jan 16 at 18:27

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