The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Sourdough Consistency

goose13's picture

Sourdough Consistency

Having conquered my previous problem, with the help of this forum, I bring to you all my next question. Basically it's about the consistency of the sourdough dough itself. 

From what the book says(The Bread Baker's Apprentice) the dough should be firm but tacky. Mine is always very firm, but not at all tacky. I use a combination of mixer and hand kneading, and the dough gives me a workout, but is very soft and I usually don't need any flour on the counter. Could this just be the character of the dough due to the starter, and some other elements in my particular environment, or perhaps I should use a little less flour and more water, vice versa? Maybe it's something I don't even need to be worrying about.

Also, my previous batch came out a little dense, and heavy. Is this something that is a result of the dough, as I described above?



jcking's picture

During your hand kneading keep a spray bottle handy to adjust for the tack. As to dense and heavy; it has more to do with the rising/proofing and shaping/handling.


dwcoleman's picture

Too much flour, use less, any sourdough that I've worked with is always tacky.  I like to use olive oil sometimes to create a non stick surface on my counter top/hands rather than adding more flour.

clazar123's picture

When you make a recipe, there is always some variation in how the dough will turn out. It can be because of a different brand of flour, a different season's flour having slightly less or more moisture, how compacted the flour was when measuring (measuring by weight helps with this),temp and humidity of the kitchen it is being made in,etc,etc. If the original recipe author describes the dough as "tacky but not sticky" and your is drier than that, either add a little less flour at the end or a little more water. This will just be the fine tuning that most recipes will need to have so it is important that the baker knows how to adapt to it.

The density is often a result of not rising or proofing it long enough. Let it go a little longer.

Chuck's picture

Sounds like the same issue I had. My initial doughs never felt quite like the recipe described. I eventually learned two things:

  1. Measuring everything on the same digital scale by weight is critical. Just the "supposedly very small" errors of using a spring scale for flour and a different scale for water were enough to throw off the feel of the dough completely. I finally realized this was what was happening when I made exactly the "same" dough three times in a row and it felt different every time. (Measuring by volume can work  ...if you're so good at judging the feel of the dough that you automatically and correctly make small adjustments by adding a little more flour or a little more water. If you're not that good yet, then IMHO a digital scale is the only way to go.)
  2. Different flours absorb slightly different amounts of water. A recipe that's "just right" for a particular brand of "All Purpose" flour will turn out a little too dry with "Bread" flour and need just a bit more water. I like the idea of using a spray bottle, as the needed additional amounts of water can be very small and as incorporating a little more water into a dough that's already come together is hard enough that spreading the water out all over the dough is a significant help. (If you try mixing in a bit of extra water right from the start, write down what you did so next time you can either do the exact same thing or do something different as appropriate.)
MarieH's picture

Hi Ryan,
I'll add my voice to those who have commented on knowing and understanding all the factors in bread making. Hamelman's book, Bread, discusses the importance of knowing room, flour, and levain temperature in order to adjust water temp to achieve proper dough temp. Weighing ingredients with a digital scale is equally important. I live in Florida and humidity plays a role in my baking. I always start with less water - about 2 TBS - rather than starting with the recipe amount and adding flour if my dough is too wet. So let the dough talk to you and add a bit more water as you develop the dough.
A wetter dough and proper proofing will give you a lighter loaf with a creamier crumb. Hope this helps.