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Sometimes when baking the dough will quickly climb up one or both dough hooks of my handheld mixer and even end up in the machine if I'm not careful. Why is this? Is the dough too sticky, are the dough hooks turning too fast, is it something else?

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Sticky dough has the tendency to climb the dough hook. This is actually expected behavior and might only indicate that the dough has been kneaded properly and is done.

Whether the dough needs to be sticky or not does not correlate with its tendency to climb up the hook. Adding more flour to make the dough less sticky might create a dry product at the end.

Overall, kneading with a machine tends to need less time than with a hand, so if your recipe calls for a certain time and your dough starts to climb sometime in between, it just might indicate that you can stop kneading. The recipe should tell what the consistency of the dough should be.

Professional and semi-professional dough mixers have a mechanical baffle to prevent the climbing of the dough.

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