Adding too much flour to bread dough is a dilemma that pops up from time to time whenever you make bread at home. It’s an easy thing to do, but hopefully, after reading this article you’ll know if you have added too much flour, what to do if you add too much flour and just what to do to prevent adding too much flour to bread dough in the first place. So whether your hands are deep in dough at the moment or you’re looking for future reference, read on to find the answer to these questions.
So, what happens if you put too much flour in bread dough? Well, first off, expect a dry dough that is hard to knead. By continuing to knead it you’ll likely damage the gluten and the resulting bread can be, dry, crumbly and unpleasant. As water is used to pass molecules between cells, expect it to rise very slowly, or not at all if your dough is too dry.
Likely scenarios if too much flour is added to bread:
All in all, too much flour in bread dough is never a good thing. So where does it go wrong? Let’s find out…
There are three reasons why too much flour is added; 1) not measuring correctly, 2) the type used is especially absorbent, or 3) adding extra when kneading. We’ll cover the first one, first.
If you are measuring ingredients with cups and spoons it’s easy to add too much flour, or not enough wet ingredients, resulting in an under-hydrated dough. For accurate results every time, it makes sense to use scales to weigh everything in grams. It’s what pro bakers do, and you’ll find you get much more consistent results if you make the switch. Here are the KD7000’s from MyWeigh that I recommend for bread bakers, but any decent set will do.
Not all flours are the same. If you use a different bag from the one you used last time, or that the recipe author used, expect it to behave differently. One of the most noticeable features is the amount of liquid that flour can soak up. Higher quantities of bran and protein will require more water to hydrate. This is why whole wheat and high protein flour require more water than ordinary plain or all-purpose varieties.
Many bakers will add flour to the table as they knead. This is not advisable and, I know that many recipe books and websites suggest doing so, there are more and more that say not to add flour. In modern times the message is slowly filtering through that flour added to the table when kneading just gets absorbed into the recipe. This means that you are adding an extra unmeasured handful of flour to the dough that shouldn’t be there. The extra flour bonds to the dough and runs the risk of making it dry.
Aside from not adding extra flour when kneading, unless the dough really needs it (see how to fix a sticky dough) you should weigh all ingredients using scales and be prepared when using a new recipe or flour to adjust the amount of water as you make it. The best way to do this is to hold back a small amount of the water (5%) when making your dough, adding it and being prepared to add more if you need to. You make the adjustments early on when kneading and if you’re smart you’ll write down how much water is required so you don’t have to faff about next time!
Dough, especially one made with whole grains doesn’t absorb all of its water right away. During the first rise, the flour will soak up more and more moisture. So next time you have a wet dough, instead of grabbing the flour right away, try just leaving it for a while.
Another reason people miscalculate their ingredients is by doubling or halving recipes in their heads. I used to be guilty of this one quite often! The way I stopped this from happening was to always write the updated recipe out by hand so I didn’t make a mistake and add double the amount of flour!
Prevention is better than the fix, but if you do add too much flour into your dough the best thing you can do is add some more water right away. As mentioned, it’s best to make a note of how much water you add so you don’t have the same problem next time. The best way to do this is to weigh some water in a jug without zeroing the weight of the container. After using some of the water, weigh the jug and water again and the difference between the two figures will be how much was added.
Considerations for when bread dough is too dry and more water is added:
One of the sayings I was taught as a new baker was “you can always add water to a dough to make it wetter, but you can’t add flour”. If you have to add more flour then you’ve done something wrong. What you especially should avoid is adding more water, then finding it’s too wet, add more flour, then too dry so you add more water. This will dilute the remaining ingredients and you’ll have a mash-up of over and underdeveloped flour in the dough!
It’s always better to hold back a bit of the water when making a bread recipe for the first time and be prepared to add it (and more) if there isn’t enough.
Well, I hope you now understand how to prevent and fix adding too much flour to bread dough. Let me know in the comments what you will be doing differently next time you bake.