very wet dough,


I have increased the hydration of my dough to improve oven spring, which as a result gives me a VERY sticky dough. I don't have a machine, so it's all by hand, and of course very difficult to deal with. Is there a  technique to work with such dough, taking into account that my work bench is tiny to small?


thank you!



161 users have voted.


farinam's picture
farinam 2012 July 24

Hi Olivier,

There are any number of videos out there that show doing stretch and fold (probably better for high hydration doughs) in a storage box/oven tray without putting the dough onto the bench.  Once it is developed, you can scale it and shape it on your limited bench space.

As a matter of interest, what hydration have you moved to and why do you expect to get more oven spring by doing so?  Not saying you won't though!

Good luck with your projects


Thraundil 2012 July 24

 You can try the technique Chad Robertson describes to bake his Tartine bread. He mixes the rather wet dough, lets it set in the bowl for a half hour, then works salt into his dough along with slightly more water (as salt binds water - "dries" the dough slightly, so to speak). Then he will put it in a clean container (bowl or the like), and every half hour for 3-4 hours, make your hand wet, stick it down the side of the bowl to the bottom, grab the dough, pull it all the way up to the top and pull it to the other side of the bowl. Turn bowl by onethird, repeat. Turn by one third again and repeat. Then let it rest for another half hour. This is done in place of kneading the dough, as the stretching will develop the gluten, and the bacteria and yeast within the dough will also work to "tigthen" the dough up all nicely. There is a nice 'short' description of the method in this video recorded in Denmark by danish chef Claus Meyer;

He demonstrates the "turning" in his kinda big container there, and shows how the loaves can be shaped. 

Olivier 2012 July 25

I went from 65% hydration to 70%. In a previous entry, I was asking about how to get better oven rise. The answers I had included dutch oven, which I now use very happily, removing the dough before it's completely proved, and using a wet dough.

As I only started 3 months ago, I wanted to get used to one type of flour before moving on to the next. So I worked with wholemeal, which is my favourite from the bakeries. After a few attempts I started to get decent results, which even my wife ate with pleasure (she is fussy with her bread - I sometimes think I live with Matt Preston hehe).

I have now moved on to rye, have just made my first loaves and am thouroughly enjoying those. My wife this time said it was the best bread she had ever eaten. Maybe I will get the immunity pin.

I have now seen a few vids on how to handle a wet dough, and each have their difficluties. The stretch and slap way will inevitably wake my son up during his naps. Chad Robertson's way will also get in the way of my looking after my son as I am bound to forget the dough if I am reading the Mr Men to him. Maybe my problem is not with the dough, but with my son! (just a joke).

There are still other things I need to look into, one of them being that I don't really know how different flours behave. I have seen in passing that wholemeal flour is more "hungry" than rye or plain - don't really know what that means yet. Also, my understading about retardation is to put the dough in the fridge instead of letting it rise at room temp, but I don't know why this would make a difference.

Anyway, I will continue to expreriment and find out about what everyone is doing. Thank you for your advice and your time!



gongoozler 2012 July 25

 Hi Olivier


I'm no scientist but, as I understand it, there are two reasons for retarding fermentation by putting dough in the fridge:


1. Slower fermentation allows more complex flavours to develop

2. Slowing down fermentation allows you to manipluate your baking more easily to suit your daily schedule.


Happy baking!




Olivier 2012 July 26

thank you all, that's fantastic. I will be making my next loaf in a couple of days, and have decided to follow Chad Robertson's technique, and will also retard the dough in the fridge. Can't wait!



Mr_Punchy's picture
Mr_Punchy 2012 July 26
Chad Robertsons book "Tartine Bread" is an amazing reference and gives flawless techniques for high hydration Dough (80%+) using a Dutch oven. I highly recommend his book. It's not much over $30 at and is free delivery.
Thraundil 2012 July 29

 Some additional thoughts upon seeing your comments. 


1. Wholemeal flour is more "water hungry" than white flour. This is because wholemeal flour includes the shell of the grain, whereas this is removed in the milling process for white flour. The grain shells are designed to protect the grain seed, and can absorb a great deal more water than the insides of the seed which is what white flour consists entirely of. 


2. Keep a lookout for rye doughs. Rye cant form gluten strings like wheat flour can, so the folding technique wont be as good for this type of dough; I recommend a baking tin. And keep an eye out for the next few days I am planning to share my rye bread recipe - its a bread with a lot of authority though :p 


3. The rising and fermentation of bread is carried out by yeast and bacteria cultures. When you cool them down, you make them work less efficiently. So its really as simple as that, when you retard the fermentation by fridgeing it. 

Olivier 2012 August 1

thanks thraundil, it makes things a bit clearer. I am going to have a look now at your rye with authority!

chazzone 2012 September 10

Not only does cold proofing allow the bacteria and yeast to work longer, it also allows more of the starch to convert to sugar, thus getting more food for the beasties, and more complex flavors.

I think that high hydration doughs are easier to handle when they are cold, and I can do folds whenever I think of it, and it's not on a tight schedule.

I regularly cold proof loaves for 3 days in cold storage, and this has become a standard procedure for all my holiday sourdough cinnamon rolls.

Olivier 2012 September 10

well, it's been a few weeks now that I have been using the fridge for proofing and not only have I increased the hydration of my loaves to a really nice 78%, the taste is, as promised by so many bloggers, more complex. Also, the bread stays fresh longer (I am not entirely sure why, but I am assuming it's to do with the hydration). Finally, the air bubbles are larger and better dispersed.

Also, I have ordered Tartine Bread, which should arrive in a week. I can't wait to read it, and to keep improving my technique.


Thank you all for your help and advice!




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