The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Gluten strands having troubles forming

dsidwell's picture

Gluten strands having troubles forming


The last few times I've baked sourdough bread, gluten strands have had a difficult time forming, and they seem weak. I knead it in my Bosch first, and had better luck by hand just today. At first I thought I might be overkneading it in the Bosch, but the last time, I'm sure that's not the case. When the dough rises, the gluten strands that had formed are very weak and the dough falls apart easily. When baked, the crust is lumpy since the skin on the dough is weak and breaks while rising.

Any ideas?


pmccool's picture

1. Your recipe

2. The ingredients you are using, especially the flour type or brand.

3. Temperatures of ingredients, dough, room

4. What you do with the dough (mixing, kneading, rise times, etc.)

If you provide that kind of information, folks can give you some ideas to work with.


dsidwell's picture

Thanks, Paul. Those are indeed helpful hints!

I use sourdough to make pancakes (adding only sugar and salt 1 hour before the pancakes hit the griddle --1 tsp of salt & 1 T of brown sugar per cup of liquid in the batter), and such was the purpose these last few times. With the leftover batter, I simply add flour to make a bread.

I have used a variety of flours, but the flour I have used most lately is Western Family unbleached all purpose flour.

When beginning the bread process, I take the leftover pancake batter, which is now at room temperature, and add enough flour to make a bread dough that is more on the gooey side than on the stiff side, though I've leaned toward stiff the last two times.

I've been mixing and kneading the dough in my Bosch mixer for up to 15 minutes, experimenting with different kneading times. At first, I thought I was over kneading the dough. The time before last, I only kneaded for five minutes with the same result.

This last time, culminating in this morning, I hand kneaded for 15 minutes AFTER I used the Bosch for 10 minutes and after a rise of about two hours. After this rise, when I tugged on the dough, it simply pulled off like biscuit dough. The hand kneading seemed to help a lot with making a stretchier dough. 

After hand kneading, it rose again for 2 hours, and once again, the dough pulled off like biscuit dough rather than being stretchy like bread dough. I kneaded some more after dividing and was again working with stretchier dough, though I could not form a gluten window without tearing.

I could also not form boules without the skin tearing, but I made the attempt and let them rise for three hours. I baked some then after the three hours, but had some still sitting around, which had flattened considerably. I remade the boules and let them rise all night long (8 hours). IN the morning, they had indeed risen, but were a bit flat, and the tops were not smooth at all, but showed signs of the skin tearing. I call that "rustic" to my friends!

I hope that's enough information. Thanks for your help!


Ford's picture

Two thoughts,  (1) the dough has been maturing too long and the acid in the sour dough has distroyed some of the gluten and (2) you are using a flour that has too little gluten, perhaps using an "unbleached bread flour" will help.

dsidwell's picture

This may be true, Ford, since on several of these occasions, I have been making sourdough for many people and have started several days in advance to get a good five gallons of pancake batter.

Certainly, I'd like to use bread flour more often, and will do that next. So my next experiments: (1) try a fresher sourdough culture and (2) I'll use a more protein richer flour.

gavinc's picture


Hi dsidwell,

You may have misunderstood what Paul was asking.  If you provide some detail about your ingredients and process, we may be able to provide you with feedback to obtain good consistent results.

For instance: when I make sourdough (every weekend), to make sure I get good results every time and within the limited time I have, I have to apply all I’ve learned;

  1. Choice of flour – protein content around 12%.
  2. Dough final temperature of 24 – 25 C after mixing.  There’s a few ways to calculate that found on TFL if you search.  You need a digital thermometer.  I measure the room temperature, flour temperature and the levain temperature and apply a formula to give me the water temperature I have to use that day (it varies).
  3. Dough hydration – my favourite sourdough is 65% hydration.  You need a reliable digital scale.  Read up on baker’s percentage.
  4. Method – once again there’s plenty of opinions and options that will be put forward.  What works for me is a process that involves autolyse of 30 mins, mixing in my dough mixer for 2 minutes:30 seconds.  Bulk fermentation of 2 hours 30 minutes that include 2 dough folds at 50 minute intervals.
  5. Shaping and final fermentation (some call this proofing).  If baking the same day, I give it 2 hours 30 minutes.  Score, then into a steamed oven 230 C for 40 minutes.  If I want to retard the dough, I give the dough 1 hour floor time and then into the refrigerator for 8 to 18 hours.  Score and then into the oven.

 Hope this helps.  Oh, I forgot the most important thing - starter maintenance.  Read Debra Wink's posts here on TFL.