The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

uh oh - over-hydrated dough

metropical's picture

uh oh - over-hydrated dough

what to do?

I used my starter that had grayed a bit.  I've done this before with no problem.

I stirred in the grey liquid (it didn't smell any more off then usual).

But the starter never "woke" up even after 3 feeds.  

I started the dough using the usual proportions and I have a very wet dough that will in no way hold a "slicing" loaf shape.

It is currently in autolyse.  Any suggestions to fix, or just go ahead as normal?


mrfrost's picture

Add instant yeast.

Add flour as necessary for desired consistency.

sam-sam's picture

I think mrfrost is referring to adding instant yeast to your dough not to your starter.

I had a similar issue with my original starter. From what I've read on these forums there is a particular bacteria can take hold and will break down the gluten in your dough. The starter will be all wet and sloppy and the bread dough will end up the same. The result is poor rise due to poor gluten structure.

There are suggestions about using lemon juice to combat this. The other suggestion I have seen is to really mix the starter hard to get some air into it. Apparently the bacteria doesn't like too much oxygen. Also, steralise your containers before putting away your saved starter and seal it well when you leave it in the fridge.

I found out a lot of this info *after* I failed at reviving my original starter by just discarding and feeding. I could have saved a whole lot of flour if I'd done a bit more research.

Have a look around at the threads that refer to lemon juice and bacteria and low rise.


pmccool's picture

and I've used them to successfully rehabilitate a starter that was heading down the road to perdition.  You can also search for the topic of "washing" a starter (primarily feeding tiny quantities of starter with large quantities of flour).  Try those techniques before throwing in the towel with your starter.

And then, as in my case recently, I found that the bad bugs never entirely go away.  I had been out of the country for a little over three weeks and when I got back, my starter had relapsed into its bad boy ways and it was just easier to chuck the whole thing and start fresh.  Now I have a new starter that has none of the bad traits that its predecessor exhibited from the get-go.  True, it doesn't have the flavor yet that it will have but it raises my bread instead of dissolving it.

As a side note, bottled or canned pineapple juice without preservatives is difficult to find locally, so I used juice from a freshly cut pineapple.  It worked better than any of my previous starts.  Dunno of there is a cause and effect relationship, or if it was just coincidence.


tssaweber's picture

So you will have a real South African starter then with no US bugs in it. I think that's pretty cool......

Thomas (co-trainee)

metropical's picture

thanks for these

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

To me it sounds like the started had enough abuse to go into sleep mode, the organisms prepared themselves for a long sleep.  Not waking up after 3 feeds would not be unusual but without knowing how you feed your beasties, I'm guessing in the dark.   Many times the acid and hooch they produce to protect themselves is also too acid to wake them up.  A simple doubling of water and food is not enough to dilute the acid so they sleep on or work so minimal, there is no sign of activity. 

Suggestion:  taste the stuff, how sour is it?  (do spit it out)  If not sour, let it stand until it gets there.  Then take a small amount like a level tablespoon or half that (off the bottom) and combine with 4 Tbs of water and enough flour to make a sloppy paste.  Let stand and observe.  If it gets sour... your beasties are waking up, it may take up to 24 hours.  Then you should reduce to a tablespoon and repeat. 

Now if your flour is starting out normal and then turning to a pool of liquid dough and no series of stretch & folds seems to help, that is another problem, a build up of thiol compounds that you can get rid of in about 10 days.  Look under Debra Wink's comment under "Thiol" in the search box. 

Or if you just have a wet dough (and ran out of flour) and want to know the best way to firm it up quickly, try mixing in oat flakes, they work like little sponges and so do dried bread crumbs.


metropical's picture


I managed to eek out a descent bread, but I'll have to try these revive techniques when I'm back from work trip.

Starter is not very sour at all right now.


Actually, the bread has rolled oats in it.