How to Handle Bread Dough Too Sticky after Rising?

As a baker who specializes in cakes and other sweet treats, I have so much respect for bakers who make bread because it really is such a big commitment.

I remember being more than a little intimidated by bread making. One mistake and you can end up with a dough that looks nothing like the recipe’s.

If your bread dough is stickier than usual, all you need to do is dust a bit of extra flour on it, wet your hands, use a scraper and keep kneading until it’s at workable consistency. These tricks have saved too many brain cells of mine from dying over panicking. 

I’m Angie, I have been baking for over 10 years. In this article, I will show you how you can handle bread dough that is too sticky after rising so that you too, can save your dough and instead of getting intimidated by it!

Bready, set, go!

Things to Consider

A few things to think about before you try to handle your sticky dough.

What kind of bread are you making?

Before panicking and looking up how to make your dough less sticky, I suggest you look up how this specific type of dough should look like. This is also why I always prefer recipes that include video instructions because then I can see exactly what to look for after each step.

Bread like baguettes, ciabattas focaccias, and sourdoughs are made from a high hydration dough. With a water content of around 80%, it’s expected that the dough will be wet. If this is the case, you can chillax and work with the dough as it is without the addition of any extra ingredients.

Have you kneaded your dough for long enough?

After your dough rises, it is necessary to knead your dough regardless of its texture. Every dough starts off kind of ugly with pores all over. It’s going to take some kneading for all the ingredients in your dough to smoothen out and incorporate evenly. 

Only if your dough is so wet that it can’t be handled at all, or it’s taking much longer to reach your desired stiffness, that you should consider the following methods. 

When in doubt, look at pictures for reference and use your baker’s instinct 😉

How to Handle Sticky Bread Dough?

Here are four tips I have for handling sticky bread dough.

Tip #1: Dust of flour

Prepare a bit of flour on the edge of your kneading surface for easy access. Dust flour on top of your dough, you can use a sieve or a flour sifter to dispense your flour for a more even coating. Start kneading your dough and dust flour on the surface you are working on to prevent sticking. 

As your dough becomes sticky again, gradually add more flour to absorb the extra moisture. Remember to do this slowly and avoid adding too much flour all at once. I recommend you go teaspoon by teaspoon. Make sure the flour is well incorporated before adding more.

Tip #2: Wet your hands

Sounds a bit counterintuitive, doesn’t it? But lightly wetting our hands can actually prevent dough from sticking to our hands, making it easier to shape and knead the dough. What we are doing is essentially creating a barrier between our hands and the dough. 

Some people suggest using oil, but I would only recommend doing so if you’re working with enriched dough. The lean dough has little to no fat in them so using oil can alter the texture of it.

With this method, you just need to make sure you’re not adding too much water because it can get absorbed into your dough and make it even wetter. 

Tip #3: Use a scraper 

If your dough is so sticky that you can’t even remove it from your workspace without it breaking and leaving residue on your fingers, try using a dough scraper. 

You can find dough scrapers made of different materials. I personally prefer a plastic one because it can double up as icing smoother for my cakes. 

With a dough scraper, you can scrape your dough off easily leaving no residue and it will make cleaning up a lot quicker as well. You can also shape, turn, flip and fold your dough with your scraper. 

Tip #4: Just keep kneading

You can combine this with any of the methods you choose to try out above. As I said, it’s dough and it’s going to need kneading anyway, so just keep going. It can be a workout I know! But during the kneading process, the wetness you see initially will be evenly distributed throughout the dough and absorbed by the flour. 

As you keep kneading, gluten that is formed in the dough will stretch, making the dough smoother in appearance. Kneading is a necessary part of making most bread regardless of how hydrated the dough might be so get those biceps ready and knead away. 

Just a note before I wrap up though in case you got a little too excited there. Do not over-knead your dough! 

It should only take around five to six minutes for your dough to become smooth. Kneading much longer than that can result in your dough tearing easily and becoming too dense and stiff.

Conclusion

Bread-making is full of surprises. Part of becoming a good baker is learning to respond to the surprises and the spontaneity of bread. Learning how to handle sticky dough is a great start. 

I hope this article has helped and if you have any questions regarding handling sticky bread dough, don’t hesitate to ask.

About Angie
I am a self-taught baker. I’ve been baking for over 10 years and started my own home baking business as a side hustle. I was born in Hong Kong and spent a pretty big chunk of my life in Canada. If you’re ever looking for me, I am probably there whisking vigorously away in the kitchen.

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