Flour In Bread Dough: Why, When & How Much (Complete Guide)

Making a bread dough without flour is (almost) impossible. Knowing when and how much flour to add to bread dough is really important to make good bread. So do you know why is important to add flour to bread dough?

Flour is used in bread dough to provide structure to the bread loaf. When mixed with water, the proteins found in flour are responsible for the formation of gluten. The amount of flour required in bread dough can vary depending on the recipe and ultimately the desired size of the bread loaf.

Anyone with a passion for baking and experimenting in the kitchen will understand the importance of each ingredient needed for their recipe. When it comes to bread dough, flour is one of the essential ingredients necessary to bake the perfect loaf. It is vital to have a thorough understanding of its role, how much to use, and when to add it.

Why Put Flour In Bread Dough?

Why Put Flour In Bread Dough
Why Put Flour In Bread Dough

The use of flour in bread dough is essential to provide structure to the bread loaf. Any other ingredients used are simply for added flavor, nutrition, color alteration, or even to alter the character of the crumb. These four ingredients serve as the foundation of any good bread dough recipe.

In any traditional bread dough recipe, there are four essential ingredients needed to get you started. These four ingredients are:

  • Water
  • Yeast
  • Salt
  • Flour

There are various types of flour that can be used or mixed together to create unique textures, densities, and flavors.

Aside from the traditional all-purpose flour or bread flour, there are many alternatives that are growing in popularity, like almond flour, chickpea flour, coconut flour, or quinoa flour, to name a few. 

It will be helpful to note that some of these flours may not perform exactly like all-purpose flour or bread flour. So, if you are using any of these as a substitute for a more traditional flour, you may need to add a few additional ingredients to reach the desired effect.

Functions Of Flour In Bread Dough

As previously mentioned, flour is an essential ingredient in the making of bread dough. When flour is mixed with one of the other vital ingredients, namely water, a reaction occurs between two proteins found in flour called Gliadin and Glutenin. When these two proteins are combined, it causes gluten to be formed in the dough. 

Gluten is an essential ingredient in making bread dough. It is responsible for ensuring that the dough has an elasticity to it, making it easy to stretch. Once gluten is stretched, it creates room for the gasses that cause the leavening of the dough. 

Ultimately, gluten is responsible for giving bread the shape and texture we have all come to know and love. Gluten plays a vital role in the kneading or mixing, rising, and baking stage of bread dough.

However, flour comes in handy in a few other ways too. If you have ever worked with dough before, you will know that it can get quite sticky.

If the dough you are working with is too sticky, it can be rather challenging to work with. Sprinkling a little bit of extra flour over your dough will reduce its sticky-ness and ultimately make it easier to work with.

With that exact principle in mind, it can also be a good idea to sprinkle the surface that you are working on as well as your hands with some flour to make sure that your bread dough does not stick to the counter or your hands when trying to pick it up off of the counter or move it around.

When To Add Flour To Bread Dough

Make sure that you do not add the flour first, otherwise, when the water is added on top of the flour, it can cause the flour to stick to the bottom of the mixing bowl, as well as cause it to form clumps which will ultimately cause your bread to be somewhat lumpy if it is not adequately mixed.

Now, this is where we get to the fun part, where, if you do not have an electric mixer, your hands will get a little dirty.

The mixing process is where all of your ingredients get thrown in together (after they have been carefully measured out), and you are one step closer to your kitchen, beginning to smell like heaven. 

Once your key ingredients have been gathered and carefully measured out, namely your water, flour, salt, and yeast, it is time to mix them all together to make some bread dough.

This may seem like a relatively straightforward process, but the order in which you do things will determine how much of an ease or a struggle the process is for you. 

Before adding your flour, start by first pouring the water into the mixing bowl. Once your water is added, now would be an excellent time to add in the flour, followed by the rest of your ingredients. 

TIP: Not sure if you have all the necessary bread baking equipment at home? Check out my recommended picks below (Amazon links):

TIP: You might be interested in reading this article too:

Water In Bread Dough: Why, When & How Much (Complete Guide)

How Much Flour To Add To Bread Dough

How Much and When To Add Flour To Bread Dough
How Much and When To Add Flour To Bread Dough

In most traditional bread dough recipes, a safe ratio that is commonly used is 5:3 flour to water. When it comes to the quantity of each ingredient required for bread dough, this can, of course, differ slightly from recipe to recipe, especially when altering the size of the bread loaf. 

When measuring out your flour, it is highly recommended that you use a digital kitchen scale. They are relatively inexpensive and will go a long way in making sure that your bread dough experience is so much more enjoyable. 

When compared to standard measuring cups, a digital scale is far more accurate.

If you are only using a cup to measure the flour, the weight and the overall amount can change drastically with each cup depending on how tightly compacted the flour is. This will ultimately cause inaccuracies that will negatively affect the final result. 

How Do I Know If I Added Enough Flour To Bread Dough?

Baking is considered by some to be a fine art, and for a good reason. When it comes to baking bread dough or baking anything for that matter, there are so many variables involved that even the slightest alteration can affect the overall outcome, whether positively or negatively.

To know whether or not you have added a sufficient amount of flour, you will need to pay close attention to the bread dough, and, as previously mentioned, you will definitely need to get your hands a little dirty. 

Adding too little flour to your dough or too much flour to your dough will negatively affect the final product and can easily make you feel like all your efforts in making the perfect loaf of bread have gone to waste. Here we will cover what to look out for and what you can do to ensure that that’s not the case.

If you have not added in enough flour, the bread dough will be very sticky. As previously mentioned, this will consequently make the dough much more challenging to work with.

Bread dough will definitely be quite sticky and wet at first, and that is entirely normal. Make sure not to add more flour too soon. First, give the kneading process some time.

However, after just a few minutes of kneading, it will become less sticky as the gluten causes the dough to form a glossy-like skin.

You will even find that the wet, sticky dough will be removed from your hands during this process. If, however, the sticky-ness of the dough does not disappear after a few minutes, it means that there is not enough flour. 

Simply add a little more, and the problem should be solved. Remember, it is a good idea only to add small amounts of flour at a time so that you do not end up creating the issue of too much flour.

It is pretty common for people to add in too much flour during the kneading process. Adding too much flour to your bread dough will cause the final product to be very crumbly, which is not ideal. 

Having too much flour will also cause the dough to be too dry. If there is too much flour and not enough water present in the bread dough, the yeast will not be able to ferment correctly, and, ultimately, the dough will not be able to rise properly. All you’ll need to do is to add just a touch more water to hydrate the dough a little and continue kneading.

Do your best to follow your bread dough recipe as closely as possible to reduce any issues along the way. And remember, having a digital kitchen scale will help ensure that your amounts of flour and water are as accurate as possible!

TIP: If you are looking for the best flour for your bread I recommend using flour produced by companies mentioned below (Amazon links):

Flour To Water Ratio For Bread In Cups

As we have previously mentioned, the amount of flour you need to add can differ from recipe to recipe. However, in most traditional bread dough recipes, a safe ratio that is commonly used is 5:3 flour to water. 

Here is a simple example to make that a little more practical. If you are going to use one cup of flour, which will weigh approximately 120 grams or 4,23 ounces, you would need to measure out 72 grams or 2,5 ounces of water to mix with it, which is just over half a cup. Most recipes, however, work with anywhere from two to six cups. 

So, as an in-between, using that same ratio, if you needed to use four cups of flour which would weigh approximately 480 grams or roughly 17 ounces, you would need to add about 288 grams or approximately 10 ounces of water, which is just under 2,5 cups.

If you are already starting to stress about how you are going to work out all of these calculations yourself, don’t worry! The internet is a great place to find free-to-use ratio calculators that will do all of the hard work for you. What a relief!

Flour To Salt Ratio For Bread

Salt is, of course, one of the four key ingredients needed in any traditional bread dough recipe. Although one of the more apparent reasons for the use of salt in bread dough is that it adds flavor, it also has a few other vital functions that it performs. These include:

  • Strengthening of gluten – the presence of salt causes gluten to tighten, which ultimately makes it more robust, enabling it to hold carbon dioxide effectively. (Carbon dioxide is released into the bread dough as a result of yeast fermentation). Failure to add salt can result in the volume of the bread loaf being underwhelming. 
  • Controlling the fermentation of yeast – through the process of osmosis, yeast releases water to salt, slowing down the process of fermentation. Without salt present, the yeast will start to ferment too quickly. Too much salt and the yeast will not ferment enough, resulting in a reduced bread loaf volume.
  • Salt can also work wonders in preserving the flavor of the flour that is being used.

The ratio between flour and salt can, of course, differ from recipe to recipe, as well as each person’s preference in taste. However, a good ratio that you can make use of for flour to salt is 120:2.

To put that in more understandable and practical terms, that means that for every 120 grams of flour that you use, you’ll need roughly 2 grams of salt. (Or, for approximately every 4,23 ounces of flour, you will need 0,07 ounces of salt.)

Once again, a free-to-use online ratio calculator will be of great help for these kinds of calculations. Don’t just wing it; follow the recipe as closely as possible and do the necessary calculations in order to be as accurate as possible. 


Diving into the nitty-gritty of each ingredient involved in making bread dough can be an overwhelming experience.

However, having a thorough understanding of each ingredient, how they work together, and the necessary amounts required is what separates the professionals from the amateurs! You’re all set to get started on the perfect loaf of bread!

TIP: Do you know what to do if you add too much flour to in bread dough? Check out this article:

Too Much Flour In Dough: What Happens And How To Fix It

Rachel Jones

Hi, I’m Rachel Jones, I’ve been baking bread for nearly 20 years now, and I’m excited to share my baking tricks with you at Loafy Bread. In the past, I baked on a professional level, but I no longer do that, because it’s physically exhausting! I still bake and cook all the time for my family and friends and to create new recipes for this site. Bread is in my genes, I was brought up on homemade bread and most of my close family are keen bakers, so my baking skills just happened naturally and have developed over time. Find more from Rachel Jones at weighschool.com where she helps visitors with food weights for cooking and calorie counting.

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