The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Too much gluten development?

Grenage's picture

Too much gluten development?

There's one recipe I normally use, which is very simple, and around 71% hydration (150 starter, 300 water, 450 flour).  I never have any problems, so I thought I'd move onto something new, which naturally leads to this post.  I didn't follow a recipe, which might make this a little tricky, but hopefully my descriptions will be indicative.

I created a soaker, which I've not done before; it contained most of the flour (90%+) and left it for 24 hours.  I added a stiff starter, and proceeded to knead what was a very soggy pile of dough.  I've never worked with such hydration, so I thought I'd see what happened if I kept kneading - around 20 minutes.   The end result was stringy pieces of dough when I took my hands away from it.  Not particularly hopeful, but curious, I contined with 2 folds at 1 hour intervals, and a preshape/shape on the third.  After a couple of hours on the counter, it went into the fridge for 20 hours.  It proofed well.

Baking resulted in a small amount of bloom, and a pleasing distribution of air pockets.  The actual bread, between the dough pockets is a little tacky/gummy - not ideal.  This leads me to:

A long soak, with that much of the flour, plus 20 minutes hand kneading - is that the sort of point one would encounter over-development? Are the strong strands that appeared an indicator that this has happened?

pmccool's picture

Did you include any salt in the soaker?  If not, enzymes in the flour (white? whole wheat?) may have converted enough of the starches, or gluten, or both, into other things to damage the dough during the lengthy soak.  I don't recall seeing any hard and fast rules about use of salt relative to duration of soaking but I would probably want to salt the soaker if it wasn't going to be used in, oh, 6 hours or so.  I should point out that I'm more concerned about the flour in this context, not things like seeds or cracked grains.

You didn't mention the condition of your starter, except to say that it was a stiff one, so I don't know whether it was taken at the optimum time or if it had also begun to degrade.

It is difficult to mix a stiff starter or biga into a softer dough by hand.  You may have been seeing stringy bits of still-unincorporated starter, too.

Not much definite here to hang your hat on but perhaps it can pique your thinking.


longhorn's picture

I think you had excessively degraded flour from the long autolyse. The degraded flour is typically no more than 30% or so of the final dough. (just as in normal sourdough formulas) It is hard to be sure though given the fuzziness of the process you followed...

I also agree with Paul on the challenges of hand mixing stiff dough into wet dough.... A mixer will typically do better.

Good Luck!


Grenage's picture

Hi guys, thank you kindly for your replies.  That sounds like a good explanation, there were a couple of bubbles in the soaker (where were they when I was making my first sourdough!?) so it had probably been rather ruined.  Perhaps next time I will soak only the rye and wholegrain, and for a much shorter period of time.

Thanks again!