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I am a home artisan baker, and am looking to build a table for myself to do folding/dividing/shaping of my bread doughs. I usually work with wet doughs (78%-95% hydration) that stick to the surfaces I have in my house unless I use a gross amount of flour.

I would like to use less flour during the folding and shaping processes. I would like to be able to leave doughs on the surface for some time without them fusing with the table!

  • What surfaces are used in professional bread making?
  • What features should I look for in an ideal surface?
  • I've been known to knead on top of a silpat sheet. It might work for what you're asking for, if it's of sufficient size for you ... you just don't want to cut and such on it. – Joe Jun 14 '16 at 1:07
  • @Joe is there a way that you keep your sheet from moving across the counter? I will post this comment on your answer if you choose to submit it as an answer. – Seth Jun 14 '16 at 3:20
  • @Seth - The Silpat "Roul'Pat" addresses the concern of silicone mat slipping specifically. See my answer for a link to the product. – dpollitt Jun 14 '16 at 3:29
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A vast array of surfaces exist but most people end up with either butcher block, stainless steel, or a natural stone such as marble.

People choose stainless steel for its ease of cleaning and it's sanitary properties. People choose natural stone because it is typically colder (great for pastries), dough tends not to stick to it, and it looks great. People choose butcher block because they want to prep/cut directly on it and because of the cost.

In your particular situation, for dough work the best general recommendation I have is to use natural stone. You really can't go wrong with it.

If you aren't replacing or installing a brand new countertop, there are many options such as the very typical pastry/kneading board with a built in lip(example), by purchasing "scrap" marble pieces, or a silicone mat such as the Silpat or Roul'Pat(example 1, 2, 3).

Finally, the surface matters somewhat, but far and away the key to working with high hydration dough is your technique. Make sure you nail that down and you should be relying very little on the surface itself.

  • Ocean state job lot sells what they call a marble dough surface, it's not really marble. It actually looks like polished keystone, but I also highly doubt that's what it is because that stuff is highly porous. I think this stone is made from a synthetic marble. However, it works really well. It's not great for making pie crust without using loads of flour so it can stretch without sticking, but wet doughs for things like Dutch oven kneadless bread (a very wet dough), it works great. But also at the same time, you pick up this dough with dough scrapers, not your hands. – Escoce Jun 14 '16 at 18:15
  • Natural stone is not "colder" - temperature is an extrinsic property. Volcano lava is natural stone. So is the moon. They are not the same temperature. – J... Dec 23 '18 at 9:59
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Much of bread baking is not about surface but technique. A good surface is an asset but it's really convenience. When I am working with wet dough I don't even try to stop it sticking, I use the stickiness to stretch the dough. I find that I get very fast, good quality gluten development in about half the time as traditional kneading. I use a dough scraper to get it off the surface and into the proofing bowl. If I want to knead without flour I use oil instead.

The best surface for bread is one that is smooth and that could be stone, metal, or synthetic. A smooth wood can do just as well.

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I use a silpat sheet (silicone with some sort of fiber reinforcement in it).

As it's silicone on both sides, it grips the countertop well, but the bread dough doesn't stick to it too much. The only drawback is that you don't want to use metal tools with it, as you might damage the surface. (I avoid bench scrapers, and definitely no cutting on it)

I don't have much trouble with it, but I don't know if the dough that you're working with is significantly stickier than what I'm using.

In the past, I've also used various plastic mats and boards**.... some specifically have measurements and circles on them so you can make sure you're rolling out pie crusts to the right size ... but those tended to be for less sticky stuff.

** Although shortly after I bought a big huge pastry board, my brother stayed with me ... and used it as a cutting board, gouging it up, as he found that before he found the cutting boards.

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