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james 03-17-2007 04:34 AM

Hand kneading wet dough
Hi Jim,

Can I ask a question about working with wet dough. I don't have a stand mixer at our rental house, and have been hand kneading my dough all year. When I am making a very moist dough (anything over 65%), I have trouble keeping the dough from sticking to my board when I knead. So, I use extra flour to keep it from sticking, which eventually must be altering my recipe.

After about 3 minutes of kneading, the glutin seems to develop where the dough holds together, and doesn't just make a sticky mess. But before that, I need a lot of flour.

I am using a wooden board to knead, and am letting my dough sit for at least 10 minutes before I start to knead.

Any tips on how to do this without adding so much flour.

maver 03-17-2007 05:59 AM

Re: Hand kneading wet dough
Buy one of those fancy italian mixers:D

I'm certainly not the expert, but I'd just keep a bench scraper handy and work it with less flour - you could find out whether it will still firm up. The only high hydration dough I make without a mixer is the no knead bread dough. I just mix that in the bowl with a spoon. Maybe you could reserve some of the flour from the recipe you are using, mix the dough "overwet" in a bowl with a spoon, then pour it onto your reserved flour on your board for a final knead. You probably have a Nona next door who can answer this better than any of us.

CanuckJim 03-17-2007 07:10 AM

Re: Hand kneading wet dough
James, Maver,

I've done really wet doughs by hand fairly often, particularly when my schedule gets very hectic and the SP5 is full up. Here's what I do, and it might work for you.

Rather than turning the dough out onto a floured surface, mix it in a large bowl (stainless, glass, ceramic) and keep it there for a while for a rest. Have a bowl of cool water handy. Dip your hand in the water, then form your fingers into a claw and use them as a sort of dough fork (fancy Italian:rolleyes: ) on the dough: dip in, twist, stretch up, dip in, twist, stretch up, then reverse direction (clockwise, counter clockwise). Spin the bowl occasionally to make sure you're getting at it all evenly. Repeatedly dip you hand in the water to prevent sticking to you! Keep at it until you've got enough gluten development to turn the dough onto your floured surface to continue kneading (knowing when takes some practice, but I'd say about four minutes). This technique prevents adding too much flour to the formula, gives you superior gluten development at the early stages and even adds hydration rather than reducing it. When you do turn the dough out, use a wet a bowl scraper; same technique I used in the no knead bread clip.

Give it a try and let me know how it goes.


carioca 03-19-2007 05:31 PM

Re: Hand kneading wet dough
Hello CanuckJim, yours is a technique I've stumbled on during my breadmaking in the past decade, particularly the 'clawing' at the dough. I dispense with the 'dip in water' bit though, and at the end just go outside with my hands still nicely covered in dough - and let our hens have a go at cleaing my hands! Some are very delicate, but others fairly tear at the underlying flesh :-)


james 03-20-2007 09:30 AM

Re: Hand kneading wet dough
I used your technique to make a schiacciata today, and it worked perfectly. I was able to keep the dough moist and not add all that flour, and I didn't make a huge mess. The dough is also soft and delicate, and still windowpanes -- I am guessing it liked not being beat up quite so much.

Thanks again for the tip -- it's great having a pro to ask questions.

Carioca, no chickens, so I used a pasta spoon (the long handled one with 10 fingers and a hole in the middle) to do the hand mixing. It was OK -- but not as good as having my hands cleaned by a feathered friend.

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