Your Best Defense for Cleaning Up Sticky Dough

Your Best Defense for Cleaning Up Sticky Dough

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

I'm not a huge baker (Christmas cookies are my one exception), so my mother and I have gone back and forth on the virtues of making your own pie crust versus buying the ready-made kind. In case there's any confusion: She likes to make it, and I tend to buy it.

Even though the recipe for making pie crusts is fairly simple and definitely more delicious, I find the cleanup to be annoying — all that flour everywhere, not to mention the sticky dough that gets on your mixing bowl, cooking utensils, and countertops. It just seems to cling, and tackling it with my usual sponge and hot, soapy water only seems to spread it (and gum up the sponge, too).

Well, turns out I've been doing it wrong. The best defense for cleaning up sticky dough is actually the opposite of my instinct: cold water, not hot.

Now, this is counterintuitive, because most kitchen cleanups call for warm water. But seasoned bread-makers know that warm water is the worst when you're cleaning dough off of the utensils and bowls you used to bake bread or cookies. Hot water will make any leftover dough extra-tacky and hard to remove, while cold water helps the dough stick to itself, making it easier to scrape off of your cookware. Why? Because hot water strengthens the gluten in the dough and makes it even tackier — as if we needed another reason to hate gluten!

Ideally, you should scrape off as much dough as possible with a pastry scraper or other flat-edged tool before starting to clean your utensils, as dough debris can clog your sink if too much gets in there. Then wipe your surfaces and wash all your cookware as you normally would, just with cold water instead of warm.

Soak the inside of a bowl with cool water and dish soap for a little bit, then apply fresh cool water and soap with your scrubby sponge to loosen up more dough. Once all the dough is off your cookware, you can then do your usual hot water and soap combo, but there's no advantage until those dough-y lumps are gone.

What do you do to make the cleanup after a holiday baking session easier?

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