The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

"Sticky" vs "Tacky"

SulaBlue's picture

"Sticky" vs "Tacky"

Where is the line between "sticky" and "tacky." I really haven't found this yet. I thought I had, but apparently not so much. I'm working with KAF's White Whole Wheat for the first time and using Reinhart's instructions for whole wheat pizza dough. He said that it should be "tacky." What I got was, in my mind, way more than tacky, but I also didn't want to add flour for adjustment in the pre-dough. This stuff was like fighting the blob! I know I didn't get my hand wet enough, but goodness! It wasn't quite sticking to the bowl, but it was quickly trying to make a dough-glove out of my hand and, when I would push down and then lift up with each knead, it would pull back with my hand. Obviously still "sticky" and not "tacky." But what is really the defining line between the two - when it would rather stay with itself rather than your hand but still has a bit of cling rather than being silky to the touch like white bread dough?

suave's picture

Tacky dough will adhere to you finger, but will release it without leaving much of a trace. Sticky dough will leave a residue on your hand.

merrybaker's picture

Tacky is like a Post-It note.

BNLeuck's picture

I think that's the best two-word description of tacky dough ever. I never even thought of a post-it note, but you're so right.

SulaBlue's picture

Not just tacky, not "bordering on sticky" as Reinhart suggests, but outright -sticky-. Every time I added a bit of flour and kneaded it went right back to sticking to my hands like clay slurry within a couple of turns. Possibly due to the fact we had a HUGE rainstorm here today.

The pizza turned out AWESOME though!

100% whole wheat crust, deli-sliced pepperoni, genoa salami, canadian bacon, fresh mozzarella and homemade pizza sauce made with tomato sauce, garlic, home-grown basil, oregano and thyme, cracked Tellicherry peppercorns, fennel seed and sea salt.

louiscohen's picture

I usually think of whole grain breads for their superior nurtitional qualities (all the vitamin and minerals without supplements, plus the fiber).  Of course, when you top it with pepperoni, salami, bacon, and mozzarella you still get the nutrients and the fiber, and a very tasty large amount of saturated fat as well.  It's sort of like ordering a double burger, large fries, and a diet coke.  

But I bet it tastes great.

SulaBlue's picture

I'm diabetic and 100% whole wheat has less of a 'hit' to my blood sugars than refined white flour :) Canadian bacon, unlike sliced bacon, is actually fairly healthy. The package lists a 2oz portion as being 70 calories with only 3 grams of fat. I'd have to agree with the pepperoni, salami and mozzarella though ;) Thus why I used very, very little of each! Buying pepperoni at the deli you can get it sliced on a '1', which is paper thin. You can manage to "cover" a personal-sized pizza like this with only three sheet-thin slices. In hopes of keeping the pizza from getting TOO overloaded with 'wet' ingredients I took the mozzerella and sliced each 80-calorie disc into 2-3 pieces. The added advantage to having all your toppings so thin is also that toppings and crust manage to cook at the same time.

Patch's picture

I had the light-bulb moment a few weeks ago, when the dough went from sticky to tacky. The best way for me to describe it, is when the dough is sticky, it is very adhesive. It sticks to anything and everything it touches. At the transition point, the dough becomes cohesive, and has more of a tendency to stick to itself than other things.

My dough never  seemed to develope during the winter months, due to cool ambiant temperatures (cold house).  Now that Spring is here, suddenly the dough is acting like the books say it should (warm house).


SulaBlue's picture

I think the weather has been a big part of my problem. It's like Seattle here right now - cool and wet. Not to mention unpredictable from day to day it seems. Last week say 80+F days with very little humidity. Today it's 68 and raining.

dghdctr's picture

I think that the distinction between the two terms is very well presented above, although only Peter R. can tell you precisely what he meant.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that sometimes you feel uneasy about proceeding with a formula because you're unfamiliar with it and you don't want to make a mistake.  Everybody -- literally everybody -- feels that way while they're learning almost anything.  All of my bread students would practically freeze up on the first day of class for fear of making a mistake.  I told them that making mistakes at that point was part of their job.

So whether Peter meant just barely sticky or somewhat stickier, you might just want to go ahead and bake it, and THEN ask questions.  Do it by yourself, as if it were a vacation for one and you're just kicking around, instead of a tightly-scheduled tour where things move so quickly that you see a lot but learn very little andyouhavetokeepupandnotfallbehind.  Relax, risk taking the occasional wrong turn, and who cares if you do?  You'll learn a lot and flour isn't nearly as expensive as plane fare.

Then, if you want to expand your knowledge and take things more seriously, try mastering one formula at a time by making that bread over and over until you're happy with it and you feel as if you've become very familiar with every stage of its preparation.  I'm guessing this is the baking equivalent of taking piano lessons. 

Worry less about the variety of things you've baked (or the number of composers you've studied)  and focus more on familiarity with your product.  The repetition may seem boring at first, but after only three tries or so you'll be close to what you want, and you'll be more confident about moving into unfamiliar stuff.  Try these unfamiliar doughs well ahead of any day where you actually need them to turn out correctly.  Then your mistakes will just add to your education instead of your frustration.

--Dan DiMuzio

SulaBlue's picture

I don't really "worry" about it as much as it sometimes sounds. I've found that even the biggest flop makes great croutons - and if I've got too many croutons there's a huge host of birds outside. Flour and water is cheap! I do tend to err on the side of 'too sticky' rather than adding too much flour. I can always bake more water out of the dough, after all!

It's more that I really don't like messing with dough that's clinging to my hands and I'm not sure how much I can really add during "adjustments" without compromising the bread's texture.