Why Isn’t My Dough Smooth After Kneading?

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If you’re making your own bread, you’ll probably have to spend quite a bit of time learning to troubleshoot the recipe before you start getting amazing loaves. A lot of things can go wrong, and if your dough won’t turn smooth, you might be feeling pretty frustrated.

The commonest causes of lumpy or cracked dough are failure to knead the dough properly, or using the wrong kind of flour. If your flour doesn’t contain enough protein, the dough will not turn smooth. You may also not be handling the dough properly, which could result in lumpiness or cracking.

In this article, we’re going to take a look at the top issues you might run into with getting smooth dough. It’s important to perfect your dough’s texture so that you get a great loaf at the end of the baking process.

dough kneading

What Causes Ragged Dough & How To Solve It?

There are three main issues that can cause your dough to be ragged, so let’s work through each one, and look at some top solutions for this issue. This should put you in a good position to solve it and get your bread back on track. The problems that tend to cause rough dough are:

  1. Failing to knead the dough correctly
  2. Not using protein-rich flour
  3. Handling the dough improperly

Let’s check each of these out, find out where you’re going wrong, and look at what you can do to solve it!

1. Failing To Knead The Dough Correctly

Kneading dough is a lot of work – often far more than beginners expect it to be. Many people who make bread for the first time simply don’t knead the dough enough, and this prevents it from turning smooth.

Even if you knead the dough for the amount of time the recipe suggests, you won’t have mastered an efficient technique, and this will mean your dough stays ragged. The gluten won’t have developed sufficiently.

To check whether you have kneaded your dough sufficiently, you should do a poke test and a windowpane test.

The poke test simply involves rolling your dough into a ball and prodding your finger to about an inch deep in it. Take your finger out and see how quickly the dough springs back. If the dent remains, more kneading is required.

The windowpane test means taking a small piece of your dough and pressing it thin. You should then gently pull and stretch the dough until it’s as thin as you can get it without it tearing. It should get so thin you can see light coming through it if you hold it up.

If it tears before this point, you need to knead the dough more.

2. Not Using Protein-Rich Flour

Most people find that strong white bread flour is the best way to get smooth bread dough. It’s got lots of protein in it, which means long strands of gluten will develop and the dough will have lots of elasticity.

If you use a flour with less protein, such as rye flour or just all-purpose flour, your dough will not become as smooth and you’ll have to do more kneading. Even with extra work, you might not be able to get really smooth dough.

Beginners should generally practice making loaves with strong white bread flour before moving on to more challenging flours.

3. Handling The Dough Improperly

Again, this is usually a problem that inexperienced bakers run into. As you get used to handling dough, you’ll improve your confidence and your technique.

When you’re shaping dough, you need to create surface tension to create a smooth exterior and make the loaf rise upward, rather than spreading when you put it in the oven. You might know that your dough needs to form a ball when you’re done with it – but it also needs a tense surface.

If you just roll the dough into a ball and you don’t spend any time tensioning it, you’ll end up with ragged dough. It’s a good idea to watch some online videos to show you the technique for making the surface of the dough taut, as this is a bit of a tricky maneuver.

You should thoroughly flour your hands and then pull the dough in toward the center and press it down on itself. The idea is to gather up the outside and create something of a skin around the ball of dough. This will support it and make it smooth.

Some people find a dough scraper is useful when they’re learning how to do this, because the dough won’t stick to it too much.

FAQs

Should you add more flour to sticky dough?

If your dough is persistently sticky, adding a little more flour to it may help. Be careful, though; adding too much flour will make your bread chewy and unpleasant.

How long should you knead bread dough?

There’s no set amount of time for kneading bread dough; use the tests mentioned above to see whether your dough has developed enough elasticity, and continue kneading it if not.

Do you need to flour the surface?

Dusting your counter with flour will prevent the bread from sticking too much while you’re kneading it.

Conclusion

Bread dough that isn’t smooth may require more kneading or a better tensioning technique, or it might be lacking in protein. Use strong white bread flour, watch some online videos, and test its elasticity with the poke test and window pane test.

2 Comments

  1. Hello…
    I have a question, will the bread dough not rise perfectly if we over knead it? I use medium protein wheat flour and that’s a bit difficult to make it smooth.

    • Laura Ritterman

      Yes, over-kneading can affect your bread dough rise. Kneading is important because it develops the gluten in the flour, which gives bread its structure and texture. However, if you knead the dough too much:

      – It will become tough and elastic, which can make it difficult to shape.
      – It can cause the dough to become too tight and prevent it from rising properly.

      When it comes to kneading, it’s essential to strike a balance.

      Here’s a simple tip to avoid over-kneading:

      The Windowpane Test: Stretch a small piece of dough thin enough that you can see light through it, like a windowpane. If it tears, it’s under-kneaded. If it forms a thin membrane, it’s properly kneaded. If it’s very tough and hard to stretch, it’s over-kneaded.

      Regarding your use of medium protein wheat flour, it’s generally a good choice for bread as it has enough protein to form gluten, but not so much that it becomes too tough. However, the exact characteristics can vary depending on the specific type of wheat and the milling process.

      To make the dough smooth, you might need to adjust the hydration level. Sometimes, a higher hydration can make the dough smoother and easier to handle. But remember, this can also make the dough stickier, so you might want to experiment to find the right balance.

      I hope this helps and happy baking!

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