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Oil Before You Knead

By Cook's Illustrated Published July 2011

As it turns out, flour might not be the best solution for sticky dough.

Most recipes for hand-kneaded bread call for dusting the countertop with flour to prevent sticking. But depending on the type of bread and how heavily you flour the surface, the dough can absorb the flour and become dry and stiff, or it can take up the flour without absorbing it, leaving pockets of raw flour in the finished loaf.

We prefer a less common approach that replaces the flour with vegetable oil. Rubbing a teaspoon of the neutral-flavored fat onto the countertop works just as well as flour does to minimize sticking, and the dough readily absorbs excess oil without any negative effect on its consistency when either raw or baked. Note: When swapping flour for oil, it’s still necessary to reapply the oil if kneading multiple portions of dough.