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I am a rookie bread baker and I have been following some recipes that range in amounts of water and flour. I have a Kitchenaid artisan mixer that has been doing the hard work of kneading for me. My problem is knowing when to stop adding flour during mixing/kneading.

Some recipes say add flour until the dough is workable and then knead. My questions is, when they say use 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups of flour but no more. How do I know when to stop, I have ruined a few loaves as they came out heavy and dense.

How do I know when to stop adding flour and let the gluten take care of the stickiness? I often find myself adding flour until the dough balls up and pulls from the sides but by then it's too late.

On the other side, I have kneaded for 15 - 20 minutes waiting for the dough to pull sides of the bowl and it never happened.

When do I add flour and when do I just wait?

Any help or suggestions are greatly appreciated!

  • As my first head chef taught me. It's never to late to add a bit more flour, but you can't take it back out. This was for pasta but the same rule applies. – Doug Mar 19 '17 at 8:40
  • I agree wholeheartedly with Doug. If you're doing most of the kneading with your Kitchenaid, it shouldn't take much extra flour for your dough to ball up. If it seems like it has been too long, give your dough a half an hour rest before continuing. – Jolenealaska Mar 19 '17 at 9:16
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    Find recipes that use mass instead of volume. Invest in a kitchen scale. – moscafj Mar 19 '17 at 11:17
  • I did buy a scale, I also watched a few videos on King Arthur's website. I guess I'm sure sure how shaggy the shaggy mass should be – Drewdin Mar 19 '17 at 17:44
  • A kitchen Aid mixer is a jack of all trades but it is not a great dough mixer. Because it is inefficient it takes to long to get good gluten formation and as a result heats the dough to much.( especially with wet dough's ) In mine i use the autolyse method first and then mix it for 5 or 6 minutes and then finish it by hand. I am saving my penny's for a spiral mixer. Because the friction factor of KA is so hi you need very cold water. there is formula for water temp with friction factor calculated in, if you want to get serious about it. a – Alaska Man Mar 20 '17 at 4:54
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I'll convert my comment into an answer, based on your request for help or suggestions. Bread formulas are created using the "Baker's Percentage Method". It is expressed in the amount of liquid in ratio to the amount of flour. This percentage varies according to the style of bread, but within each style produces accurate results when using weight measurement.

Using volumetric measurement, especially for flour, is highly inaccurate because many variables can influence how much flour fits into a measuring cup (grind, humidity, compaction...etc). That is why these kinds of recipes often suggest a range, and put the baker in the position of guessing.

Using a scale, and weighing your ingredients according to the baker's percentage of a recipe, removes the guess work.

  • +1. I will add that many recipes are not even created from volumetric measurements. They are the result of a baker learning to make dough until it feels right, and then trying to communicate their method as a recipe - which is a disaster. An experienced baker can make great bread by the "until it feels right" method, but this method is not teachable in writing. – rumtscho Mar 19 '17 at 14:04
  • So first I mix everything together, using the minimum amount of flour. Then I keep mixing, adding the remainder of by hand in small amounts until it balls up, then I knead? – Drewdin Mar 19 '17 at 17:47
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    @Drewdin when baking by weight, add all of the flour. – moscafj Mar 19 '17 at 23:28
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    @Drewdin Until you get a feel for what you want to produce, find a recipe that specifies the amount of flour by weight. Some good on-line resources: The Fresh Loaf and The Perfect Loaf. You can google them. – moscafj Mar 20 '17 at 12:16
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    @Drewdin Bread making is a complex task. For the home baker, there are many variables to manage and challenges to overcome. I would suggest finding a formula, based on weight measurements, that you like. Then make it many times. In time, you will begin to understand how the dough behaves. Over time, you will get a "feel for it" and will know when things are going right and when things are going wrong. That is what I meant. – moscafj Mar 21 '17 at 23:24

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