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I make bread/pizza quite often, up to a few times per week. I work on a wooden surface for forming the dough and use a flour dredge to spread about 1 cup of flour per session on my surface. I would like to use more flour but don't like wasting the fairly expensive 00 flour I work with. When I'm done making the pizza, I usually just scrape all of the leftover bench flour into the trash.

I would like to know if I can consider reusing the bench flour after it has come into contact with my dough, hands, and work surface. Would I be introducing bacteria or other unpleasant things into my flour bag if I put the flour back into it? Is there a different method I should use to keep the bench flour around for the next session?

Bench flour and flour dredge

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    Start a sour dough and start throwing your extras in there. – Doug May 29 '16 at 21:03
  • @Doug Can you throw that into an answer so I can vote up? – dpollitt May 30 '16 at 3:58
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The main problem I see is humidity - the bench flour can be lumpy, have bits of dough in it and will be partly moist. I would therefore not put it back in the main bag of flour.

If you use it like flour, it might leave dry lumps, so it depends on your technique whether it will work or not.
But there are techniques in bread baking that use leftover dough or even dry ground and soaked bread in new loaves - that's where I'd put it.

It can go into pre-ferments (even without yeast or starter), improving gluten development and dough texture. Unless it's absolutely dry, I recommend storing it in the freezer until your next baking day.

Apart from that: unless you are actively working the bench flour into your dough (vs. using just a bit to prevent sticking), have you considered using a "cheaper" flour?

  • Yeah I could use a cheaper dough but I would prefer to use 4-5 cups per session and that would still add up to $1/per in decent King Arthur flour. Thanks for the answer! – dpollitt May 28 '16 at 16:09
  • @dpollitt, completely off-topic but out of curiosity: How much is a kg (or whatever unit it's sold in) of King Arthur flour? – Stephie May 28 '16 at 16:13
  • You could also sift it and reuse it as bench flour. – SourDoh May 28 '16 at 16:54
  • @Stephie - I buy a 5pound bag for $6USD. That is why I mentioned about $1/per session if I just throw it away each time. Its not a ton of money when working with the cheaper dough but it can add up. The 00 flour I use is twice the cost so adds up even faster. The cost is only one factor. I'm a newbie breadmaker so I'm trying to learn best practices and wasn't sure if I just was missing out on common knowledge here or not. – dpollitt May 29 '16 at 3:23
  • @dpollitt, wow. I pay 2.50€ for 2.5 kg at my lokal mill and they have excellent quality. (Our best bakery in the area uses their flour, too.) 6USD would have me thinking twice as well. – Stephie May 29 '16 at 11:17
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Your flour is already contaminated with bacteria, even before touching it with your hands. If flour was a perishable food, you would have had to keep it in the fridge and use up within 3-5 days.

As it is not perishable, you can use the bench-contaminated flour just as the flour which was contaminated before the bench, no food safety concerns there.

While this doesn't seem to be the main point of your question, you can very simply get rid of the lumps Stephie mentions by sifting the flour before putting it back into the container. That way you have no real dough pieces stuck in it, and the additional moisture isn't sufficient to make it clump, etc.

  • The flour is already contaminated, but should have too little moisture for anything to grow. Once it's been on the bench, it can pick up a lot more water which could lead to problems. – SourDoh May 28 '16 at 16:57

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