Breadmaking: How to check the dough ball

How to check the dough ball

Baking bread is a time-honoured tradition that requires precision, patience, and a keen understanding of dough. One fundamental aspect of baking bread is knowing how to check the dough ball. The dough ball is the heart of the bread-making process, and its consistency and texture can make or break the final product. A good dough ball will be elastic, supple, and easy to work with, while a poorly prepared dough ball will be tough, dense, and difficult to shape. You should know how to check the dough ball to avoid having a bad surprise. It is essential to adjust the dough accordingly so it’s not too wet or too dry. To do this, after mixing the ingredients, open the bread machine lid, check the dough and ensure that your bread turns out perfectly every time.

» It’s essential for a successful bread. «


Why do I always have to check the dough ball?

The most important thing you should do when using a bread machine is to check the dough ball after all ingredients have been mixed for a while. The dough can be affected by the type of flour and humidity. You may have to use more or less flour or liquid to get the right consistency. Different brands of flour may need different amounts than the recipe says. Be careful to add more flour or liquid until the dough feels right, like when making bread by hand.


What you should do

You can tell if your dough is too dry or too wet by opening the lid 7-10 minutes after the kneading cycle starts. You can set a timer to help you remember. If the dough needs fixing, adjust it and recheck it every few minutes until the machine beeps when it’s done. Remember that the dough will change as it’s kneaded, and only open the lid when you need to check or fix it to avoid losing heat.

If nothing is happening

Some bread machines have a “preheat” phase before baking which can take up to 30 minutes. The bread pan won’t move during this time, but this is normal. Some machines have the preheat phase as an option on the “Whole wheat” or “Jam” setting.
If the bread pan is not moving, but it is on the “knead” cycle, it may be because the blade is missing or not functioning properly.


Learn to read your dough

Open the lid. If you cannot judge your dough by looking, touch it with your finger (but don’t touch the kneading blade).

If there is flour on the sides of the pan

If you notice some parts of the dough stuck to the bottom of the pan while other parts are still moist, don’t worry. Just use a silicone spatula to push the dry parts toward the centre. It would assist the dough in picking them up as it moves around the pan. This is especially vital when making gluten-free or non-yeast bread that rises quickly.

The dough is just right

Right Dough Fast2eat

When making dough for bread, it should be round, soft, and slightly sticky to the touch, with a smooth texture and shiny appearance. Your fingers should have a slight residue after touching the dough, but the bread pan should be clean of dough residue. The dough should form a nice ball and not be too wet, dry, stiff, or gnarly.
If you’re using gluten-free dough, it will be wetter and more like a thick, sticky batter, while yeast-free bread dough will look like cake batter.
Some doughs, like brioche or ciabatta, need to be quite wet, so it’s best to avoid those recipes if you’re a beginner.

No adjustment is necessary if the dough feels a little sticky, pulling away cleanly as it kneads.

The dough ball too wet

Wet Dough Fast2eat
Batter like dough Fast2eat

If it’s too gooey and sloppy or looks like pancake batter, it’s too wet. To fix it, sprinkle flour into the pan and let the dough ball pick it up. Add one tablespoon of flour at a time and watch until the ball looks smooth and round. Wait for a couple of minutes, then sprinkle more flour on if needed. Keep adding flour until the dough sticks to the sides of the pan and then pulls away cleanly. You can add more flour until it beeps at the end of the kneading cycle.

Keep in mind that the dough will absorb more flour while it rises.

The dough ball is too dry and gnarly

Dry Dough Fast2eat

If the dough is dry, it will look and feel stiff and make a loud noise when it hits the pan.

To fix it:

  • Add lukewarm (27-32°C/80-90°F) liquid, ½-1 tablespoon at a time, and let it mix for a few minutes.
  • Check again, adding more until the dough looks smooth and circles nicely in the pan. 

Keep the lid closed to keep the heat in.

You can add more liquid until the kneading cycle is complete.
Be careful not to add too much liquid.


Is it okay to open the bread machine lid while it’s running?

Yes, I highly recommend checking your dough when using a bread machine. Looking through the small window on the bread machine isn’t helpful, so it’s better to open the lid to make necessary adjustments.

It’s okay to open the lid during the mixing cycle and adjust the dough, but only while the machine is kneading and without removing the pan or turning off the machine. Just check it quickly and close it back up.

When you should avoid opening the lid?

Don’t open the cover during the preheating, proofing, or baking cycle. If your kitchen is cold, this will let the heat out. However, for some recipes, you may need to open the lid to glaze and add nuts, fruits, or other ingredients.


This article is part of “How to bake awesome bread


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