The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

REALLY sticky bread dough!

T4tigger's picture

REALLY sticky bread dough!

I've tried making the basic sourdough bread recipe from The Bread Bible a couple of times with questionable results. The book says that the dough will be sticky.....major understatement! I keep ending up with a completely uncontrollable mess that refuses to stiffen up even with a considerable amount of added flour. I am using all-purpose flour instead of bread flour and am wondering if that would be the cause for the dismal dough.

I'm also trying to find a good, basic sourdough bread recipe that doesn't have any added yeast (feels like I'm cheating when I add it). Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

JMonkey's picture

The sticky stuff is hard to handle, but it will give you better bread: larger holes, more open crumb, more intense flavor.To handle it, here's a few things you can do:

  • Dampen your hands: Just dip them in a bit of water, and then shake most of it off. Wet dough won't stick to wet hands.
  • Generously sprinkle flour over the board and your hands:Make sure to brush it off the loaf as much as possible so you don't incorporate too much raw flour into the dough, but while handling, flour is a big help.
  • Fold the dough during the bulk rise: If you stretch and fold (see tip No. 5 for illustration on stretch and fold) a time or two during the bulk rise, the dough will strengthen quite a bit and make it much easier to handle.

    As for recipes, here's a great Basic Sourdough Loaf from SourdoLady. If you're into whole wheat, here's my own Sourdough Sandwich Bread , though these days I make it a bit differently. I omit the honey, add at least 3 more ounces water and substitute 2 Tbs butter for the 2 Tbs oil.

    Good luck!

  • breadnut's picture

    Dan Lepard suggests in his book - The Handmade Loaf - to slightly oil the work surface instead of flouring it (when you knead or fold between rises). I found this method to be more efficient than adding flouring and also easier, and it does not dilute the hydration level of your dough. However, when it comes to shaping the loaf, do so on a floured surface.

    T4tigger's picture

    Thanks for the help!    I'm seeing lots of posts about folding the dough.   Do you knead and then fold, fold and then knead or just fold and not knead at all?      The method I've been using so far hasn't been too effective.  I've ended up with dough that never really stiffens up enough to hold shape.

    breadnut's picture

    I don't knead a wet dough, just fold it. When you Autolyse, there is no need to Knead. Depending on the total initial fermentation time that you do after mixing a dough, plan for intervals of folding. What I do after mixing is let the dough autolyse for 20-30 minutes, then turn it out and fold it, return to the bowl for 90 minutes and do a second fold, back in the bowl and so on.. until I fermented for about 8 hours with around 5 folds at 90 minute intervals. But I think a more effective method is to do folds every hour instead of 90 minutes and get as many folds as you can (but that all depends on how wet your dough is). Here are a couple of pictures of a wet dough that was folded a few times.

    This is the dough after mixing and autolyse

     Here is the dough after the 4th fold


    As you fold the dough gets stiffer and you are able to handle it easier. In the pictures I was using flour to fold. I now use oil on the surface and I keep my hands wet with water to be able to fold it (no longer flour).

    Farzana's picture

    Hi everyone!  I have tried twice now to bake a whole wheat 1.5 lb loaf bread.  Both times, the loaf sunk in the middle.  I use my bread machine to mix/knead, then I place in my oven to bake.  here is the recipe:

    3 cups flour 100% whole wheat flour

    1 cup water/milk (I usually use half, half)

    2 TBSP honey ( I usually do 1 TBSP honey, 1 TBSP molasses)

    3 TBSP oil

    1 TSP salt

    2 TSP active dry yeast

    1/4 tsp ginger powder

    1 TBSP lemon juice


    I take the 1 cup liquid, ginger pwdr, yeast and 1 TBSP sweetner and half of the flour (so 1.5 cup flour) and let it sit for approximately 30 - 45 minutes until double and bubbly.  Then everything else to mix/knead in my machine.  It looks a little sticky but still in a nice ball . . . THE WEIRD THING . . . when it has finished kneading (apx 25 minutes), its so gooey and wet and has no shape. . . it was a nice ball in the beginning though. 

    Can someone please, pretty please tell me what I am doing wrong or what I should try.  Last night I tried this and added maybe about 1/4 cup more flour but still it was quite sticky and wet and as I mention, it sunk in the middle slightly.  I only let it rise for about 30 min in a warm oven and baked it for 30 minutes.  I turned on my oven to the lowest setting (170) preheated it, then turned it off.  I probably waited about 10 minutes before putting my bread in the oven.  I have made spelt bread with success and also multigrain bread with the EXACT recipe as above and it turned out AWSOME!  Probably one of my best breads I have made.  I am thinking to start off using maybe 3/4 cup liquid instead of 1 cup, but this sounds so unusual, no?