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How to Handle Bread Dough That Is Too Sticky After Rising

How to Handle Bread Dough That Is Too Sticky After Rising

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One of the main challenges of baking bread is having dough that’s too sticky. Yet, most of the time, this stickiness isn’t a flaw in the recipe!

Experienced bakers will tell you that the wetter the dough, the better the bread. The problem is that there’s a bit of a learning curve when it comes to handling wet dough.

Today, I’ll teach you what to do when your bread dough is too sticky. Buckle up for pro tips that can help you bake the best bread you’ve ever had!

What Makes Bread Dough Too Sticky?

Kneading Dough

Several factors play into how much water your flour will absorb.

If you live in a location with high humidity, your flour could already have a higher moisture content. You may want to review how to bake in high humidity.

Another reason for the stickiness stems from not mixing the dough long enough. Make sure that you mix your dough until it’s smooth and springy, and you can avoid this problem.

Using the wrong type of flour is also a cause of stickiness. Some flour types can’t absorb as much water compared to others. It’s vital to use the type of flour that the recipe calls for.

Lastly, your dough can become too sticky if you use cold water instead of warm water in the recipe. Cold water can hinder the development of gluten, and this will make your dough sticky!

How to Handle Sticky Bread Dough

Sticky Bread Dough

Below are five pro tips for handling sticky bread dough.

1. Hold Back on Water

The first thing you want to do is to make sure that when you mix your ingredients, you hold back on the water.

Try using only 60% of what the recipe calls for. While kneading, slowly add the remaining water until the dough is the consistency you want.

This extra step gives you better control over the dough.

2. Add Flour

If your dough is so sticky that you can’t knead it properly, you may add a little flour.

Ensure that your hands and work surface are coated in a light dusting of flour, and add a few teaspoons at a time.

Do note that there’s a limit to how much flour you can use. Avoid adding more than ¼ cup of flour, or you may end up with a tough and dense bread!

3. Add Fat

Olive oil or butter is a great substitute for flour when kneading dough.

Fat works just as well as flour in preventing dough from sticking to surfaces. They don’t dry the dough out, and they can give your bread extra flavor!

I recommend coating your hands and the work surface with a thin layer of oil. Knead as usual, and recoat your hands once you feel even the slightest stickiness.

4. Wet Your Hands

It may sound counterintuitive, but wetting your hands is a great trick to prevent dough from sticking.

Bread dough doesn’t absorb water readily. Because of this, water on your hands creates a barrier that allows the dough to slide right off.

If you decide to wet your hands, you’ll mainly use the slap-and-fold method. Here, you only hold the dough briefly and slap it over the work surface instead of kneading it.

5. Don’t Press Too Hard

Sometimes you can prevent a sticky mess simply by having the right kneading techniques.

When kneading bread, it’s important to do it lightly and quickly. Use the palms of your hands to press the dough against the surface. Fold the dough into itself without getting it stuck on your fingers.

If you feel a slight stickiness, stop kneading! Coat your hands with flour, water, or oil once more before proceeding.

It’ll become harder to handle dough once you allow it to stick to your fingers. You’ll find that the more you knead the dough, the less sticky it becomes.

How to Handle Sticky Bread Dough After the First Rise

Sometimes, you knead your dough with a mixer, and you fail to realize that it’s too sticky. If this happens, don’t worry. You can still salvage dough that’s too sticky even after the first rise!

To do it, coat your fingertips and the work surface with flour. After this, gently punch the dough down.

You don’t want to knead the dough after the first rise since doing so will knock all the air out. It may even cause the bread to collapse.

Instead, press and stretch the dough, adding flour a little at a time. Doing so makes the dough less sticky before setting it for its second rise.

How to Handle Sticky Bread Dough After the Second Rise

Working Bread Dough

If you find that your bread dough is still too sticky after the second rise, don’t knead it or punch it down. You can dust the dough and your hands with flour and shape it the best you can.

This makes the outside of the dough more workable, but there’s no going back at this point. It’s better to get it into the oven, even if a little bit does stick to your hands.

Fortunately, even though sticky bread dough is difficult to handle, it’ll still bake into a good loaf of bread. Sticky dough is full of moisture, and the result will be bread that is moist and light.

Using a loaf pan can help your bread dough maintain its shape. If you don’t have one, you can use casseroles or other baking dishes!

Final Thoughts

Bread dough can become too sticky when you add too much water or use the wrong flour. Being in a high-humidity area also brings more moisture into your ingredients, resulting in a sticky dough.

To better handle bread dough that’s too sticky, you may coat your hands with flour, water, or fat. Doing so creates a layer between the dough and your hands, preventing sticking.

On top of this, it’s also best to have the right techniques for handling dough. Avoid pressing too hard, and use loaf pans to help maintain the shape of your bread.

Lastly, don’t worry if your dough is too sticky. Just form it to the best of your ability and bake it anyway. I promise you’ll still have a deliciously moist bread roll to share with your family!

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Sunday 5th of February 2023

Hi Sarah. I am trying to learn how to make 100% whole wheat bread, and I emphasize the word “trying!” I’ve tried three times now and every time the dough is sticky. It’s so sticky that it sticks to everything. I understand that it needs more flour but the recipes I’ve tried all say not to add too much flour. I am so frustrated with this, I don’t know what to do. Please help 😵‍💫.

Chet brewer

Monday 28th of June 2021

3the easiest way to handle a high hydration dough is to chill it before the second rise. It will be much easier to handle. Also wet your hands with a little water, it will keep the dough from sticking

Lynn A Mitchell

Thursday 4th of February 2021

I have a bread recipe that I have been trying to unlock. It starts with a bread sponge with warm water, equal parts wheat flour, lard, sugar, salt, part of yeast. It has been in our family for over 100 years. Sometimes it it isn't sticky at first mix and sometimes it is so sticky. The process is all the same. Use the above rules always. I have given the recipe to a couple of other people they have had the same problems as well we're thinking it's a change in the type of flower. Do you have any suggestions?


Sunday 2nd of April 2023

@Juju, This is really useful, thank you! I always seem to add too much water, even when following recipes!


Thursday 13th of May 2021

Hi, Lynn:

This reply may be too late since your question was posted three months ago.

Are you and others weighing the flour and liquid using a properly-calibrated food scale? Easy to calibrate, using a copper penny minted after 1983, which weighs exactly 2.5g.

If not, doing so provides accuracy in obtaining a guideline to percentage of liquid to flour ratio.

Is everyone using the same type of wheat flour? If not, protein content not only varies from one brand to the next, but even among same brands.

Check the wheat flour package label, which should provide how many grams are in 1 cup. Divide the liquid amount (in grams) used in the formula by the flour amount. This is using baker's math and reflects the percentage of dough hydration.

Each ingredient amount is a percentage based on flour amount. Therefore, best to adhere to flour amount and adjust liquid, accordingly. Typically, 60 - 65% hydration works well for a lean dough.

Keep in mind that lard, butter, and cooking oils also contain a percentage of water. Lard has between 12% - 18% water. All of this info may be found by googling,

Increasing hydration to 70% - 80% calls for methods such as an autolyse and stretch/folds at intervals.

Lastly, add flour to water, not water to flour, using ~60% watet, initially. Rest mixture ~30 minutes to allow flour to absorb water. You will see a marked difference. Add remaining water 1 TSP at a time, if after other ingredients are added.

A good description of well-hydrated, well-kneaded dough is that the dough's consistency should resemble play doh, soft, silky, supple, tacky -- but not sticky.

Hope this helps.


Saturday 11th of July 2020

Thank you so much for your tips! I just started baking during this pandemic and I always always get such sticky dough though I follow the recipes to a T. Must be because of super humid Florida! I used your tips and am currently waiting on my cinnamon roll dough to rise...fingers crossed that they still come out ok! Thanks again :)

nick cox

Wednesday 8th of July 2020

Great advice here. I've started making all kinds of bread recently but living in the Tropics always seem to get problems with the dough being sticky.Just life here I guess though the advice here certainly helps.