The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Help with stickyness after first fermentation

littlegrasshopper's picture

Help with stickyness after first fermentation

Hello people


Someone offered a job as an artisan baker in a pastisserie and I (in spite of my very little professional experiencie) decided to accept. The issue is that I am on my own. Nobody can help me and I can not ask anybody if I had any problem. The job consist in design of breads, setting up the bread working schedule, and everything, from scratch. I have to coordinate as well my schedule with the one of my workmate. (a young pastry chef).

So, I have begun two months ago. I started with 3 kinds of bread. Everything I bake is with only sourdough and it was going fairly good, until I had a big problem with the consistence of two of my doughs. The situation is as it goes:

I start to mixe the ingredients for my spelt bread. Turn on the mixer, and observe the process. I start with 5 minutes on first speed, without salt, then a short autolyse period of half an hour, after that I go on again in the mixer (adding the salt) for 3 minutes in second speed. The dough seems with a good extensibility and gluten formation. Is soft and doesn't sticks to the mixer bowl when I picki it up and put it inside the container. But... after a period of say... 3 hours and a half and two folds, when I continue with the stage of weight, divide and shape, the dough becomes soo sticky, and the dividing and shaping is really difficult. From that point everything is a mess, because all the schedule changes too much and the times for the other breads overlap, and I am suffering, fearing overfermentation, and other posible problems.

I tried to correct the hydration percentage. But I can not add too much flour because this bread is meant to be a rustic one, one of thouse that have a big oven spring with steam, open crumb texture and all that stuff. So... sometimes still happens to me. Is it normal this so big change of texture after the first fermentation period?

This is the formula I have used:

- flour ---100%

- water---66,3%

- sourdough--26%

- salt-------2%

The sourdough is approximately 90-100% hydration and is fed twice the day before. When I add it to the main dough, it contains bubbles and is not so sour. The loaves tend to rise almost three times its volume so I do not think by the moment that there is a problem with my starter. Last thursday I made two kinds of bread, and I had this problem with my two doughs, the other one being wheat 80% extraction.

(I normally work with whole grain flours)

Can anyone help me?

Today I have reduced the hydration, but I am disoriented, and am worried because I have people waiting for my breads and last thursday I had to throw some kilos of dough to the garbage. When everything goes well all the loafes are sold in a day.

Thank you and sorry about the too long explanation.

have a nice day.





Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

It sounds to me like the fermentation is too fast.   Maybe try some ways to slow down fermentation to schedule the dough.  I'm just a home baker but certainly those bakers having experience will chime in.   Some of the ideas I've read include:

  •  mixing with cold water or adding ice into the liquids
  •  using less starter in the recipe
  • adding salt to the starter   
  • mix in salt right away onto the dough (not after autolyse) 
wally's picture

Your levain may be overripe.  What you describe is a typical reaction when there is too much protease activity which breaks down the gluten structure of the dough.  Coming out of the mixer everything may seem ok.  But during and after the primary fermentation the dough gets sticky and may be seem to be sweating.  Everything goes downhill from there.

Try reducing either the amount of starter, or easier, using colder water when building it so as to tamp down its ripening time.  Or, mix your starter later so that it doesn't ripen as much.

I  doubt hydation is the problem.

Good luck! (from one who knows....)


grind's picture

Do you have a Certificate of Analysis for the current batch?  If so, check the falling number as it may be too low.  It could also be excessive starch damage caused at the mill.  If either are the case, it's a tough haul.  Maybe some ascorbic acid could help.  Sometimes I mix flours with different batch codes and falling number with some success.  Good luck.

kolobezka's picture

And how does the final proof and the baked bread look like?

I've experience similar problems with sourdough some time ago, see if THIS can help you. My mother had the same problem later but to a lesser extent - the dough was just very sticky after the first fermentation and her bread a little flatter (it still tasted great!). Regular feeding for a week without refrigerating helped.

You can do an experiment: try adding some commercial yeast to your formula ( 1/2 - 1 tsp instant / 500 g flour or 1-2% fresh). If the dough is OK then the problem is definitely in sourdough microflora.

nicodvb's picture

Hi, did you observe this effect only with spelt? if so it's pretty normal, as spelt is high in amylase activity and it tends to make the dough get slack and sticky after a short while. It's quite rye-ish in this respect, but unfortunately only in this respect (I tend to consider spelt as wheat's stupid brother, but shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh:-) ).

littlegrasshopper's picture


Thank all of you for your fast comments.

The result and look in the oven was very good. I use a high temperature (250 º C) during the first 20 min. more or less, and then reduce to 230 º C. the rest of the time. The loaves rises almost the triple. And the look is pretty good, when I manage to do a proper shaping in spite the stickyness. (Sorry, but I have no camera, so no photos this time)

Because of that and by the fact the crust gets a nice golden-brown colour, I did not thought about the overripen possibility. I am not sure of it anyways, and I will check it. I normally do a little cheking simply by the way of tasting a bit, looking, smelling... and did not notice anything strange. But I am not an expert, hahaha. I can make mistakes.

I think one of the important factors is the features of the flour, as grind suggests. The provider usually works in a way that produces flours with low strenght. Less than 200 W in wheat. When that happens, use to be more often with spelt. But the last time happened with spelt AND wheat. That was the reason that made me ask for some help. On monday I adjusted a little bit hydration and reduced a little the speed of spet fermentation (I read spelt usally ferments a little bit faster than wheat) throughout temperature. I have a small fermentation chamber. Is not a good one, it has no humidity control and the temperature does not maintain exact in a degree but inside a range of 4 numbers. I. e. between 20 and 24 º C. I think the proportion of starter is not too much 26 % of the flour content in the formula. I normally use 30 to 40. The result was good, but I am still aware and felt a bit insecure. BUT now I feel much better, because of this forum and the wonderful people here. Thanks to all of you. I will check everything you suggested and I am sure I will learn useful things.

See you