The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Yet another person with sticky dough problems

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digitig's picture
digitig

Yet another person with sticky dough problems

I've finally managed to get a sourdough starter working nicely, and my next problem is the sticky dough.

The initial dough starts out sticky, of course, but when I knead it it turns nicely tacky and springy. That seems right, so I let it prove. It doubles (fine), and it sticks to the bowl, but I expected that too. I punch it down and fold it a couple of times, and I'm back to tacky and springy. Good, that's what I expected too. So I put it in a bowl lined with a cotton tea towel coated with loads of flour and let it ptove again. The result is a sticky mess that I just can't separate from the tea towel. Failure.

So what did I do wrong? How do I get a loaf that will separate from the improvised banneton?

kenlklaser's picture
kenlklaser

Try using shorter rising times, or increasing the amount of dough you refresh with.  Accelerate the time intervals, make them shorter.  Perhaps your starter has too much lactobacillus and not enough yeast (fungi).

grind's picture
grind

change your flour.

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

Flour your tea towels with rice flour [long grain rice] - no more stick...,

Wild-Yeast

SpoonandSparrow's picture
SpoonandSparrow

I have just started working with sourdough, for a few weeks now. I also used an improvised banneton (colander with floured towel) and my dough stuck. Thought maybe I made a poor choice for towel. The information you all share is helpful, thank you. Is there a best type of towel to use? cotton?linen? tight weave? course weave? Do we want it to "breathe" I used a light weight, smooth, tightly woven towel. Or does it simply not matter if using correct flours etc...

isand66's picture
isand66

Use the rice flour.  You want to use a lint free towel for sure probably a cotten or linen one that has a tight weave.  I'm not sure where you live, but if you hunt around you can find some inexpensive baskets that you can use in the future or you can buy basket liners that slip over different size bowls etc.

Davo's picture
Davo

Agree with rice flour but I use as 1/3 or 1/4 rice with wholemeal rye, as i like the rye character. What are your times, sounds like you are possibly overproofing. Also, don't punch down, maybe you are needing to wait too long for the rise because you punched it down, which you don't do with Sourdough. You should be ready to bake while it is still rising, not when it has gotten as big as it can get (and runny/soupy to boot), as big as it can get is way overproofed...

While it is proving, you can take preventative steps re sticking: at half way through your proof, tip the bowl on its side a little and "peel' the dough off the cloth on one side, rotate and repeat. This little bit of separation early on helps later on when you get the cloth off finally. With rice flour in the mix you will quite possibly not notice any stickiness at all anyway...

Pioneer Foodie's picture
Pioneer Foodie

Are usually lightweight cotton. In commercial bakeries they use heavy weight linen. The wicking rates of cotton and linen are different. Linen can be bought at fabric stores or online from SFBI. People only use tea towels because they don't know better.

at the bakery where I worked we didn't use any banneton or otherwise to form sourdough boules or batards. I think people use these often because they are not confident and proficient in their shaping technique. We formed our loaves on the bench and then raised them on a linen couche on top of a board. They jumped just fine into nice, high round boules.

get some linen. It doesn't stick. Forget about the brotform.

digitig's picture
digitig

Drat, I just ordered a banneton oniine :-\

Well, tomorrow or Friday I'll try with rice flour and shorter proving. I've also heard of people using semolina because it's not as absorbant as flour. Any good?

Pioneer Foodie's picture
Pioneer Foodie

I just hunted the local thrift shop to find wicker baskets, then lined them with unwashed muslin covers that I made myself. They work fine, but I still like the linen canvas better. Rolling the formed loaves in semolina, or rye flour, works.

digitig's picture
digitig

Muslin seems remarkably coarse for the job, when others are telling me I need a denser fabric! Doesn't it stick?

Pioneer Foodie's picture
Pioneer Foodie

I rubbed a lot of flour into it, and it does okay, but only until I discovered the joys of linen.

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Knowing the formula you are using would help. If you are working with a high-hydration dough, it is going to be stickier. If the formula is lower-hydration, it may be it is sticky for another reason such as insufficient gluten development.

I have to disagree with Pioneer Foodie's global dismissal of bannetons. They are extremely useful for high-hydration doughs and for high-% rye breads which don't have enough gluten to support the shape of the loaf while it is proofing. For most other breads, proofing en couche works wonderfully well.

Unbleached natural linen, whether as a couche or the lining of a banneton is superior to any cotton fabric. It absorbs moisture better and is inherently less sticky, although in the case of a banneton lining, a dusting with a mix of AP and rice flour will still be strongly advised.

David

digitig's picture
digitig

The sourdough culture I'm using is based on one on the back of the packet of bread flour I'm using. It says 70g flour to 70ml water everyday until it is doubling every day. I found that was too wet to retain a structure, so I changed to 70g flour to 50ml water. Following an idea my daughter found I threw in a couple of chopped green grapes, and it's comfortably doubling overnight now.

The bread recipe I'm using is Paul Hollywood's, at http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/classic_sourdough_21029

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

The instructions calls for starter made with equal weights of flour and water. That is a 100% hydration starter. This would be a typical "liquid starter." It should not have "structure." You have changed it to a firmer starter. Not a problem, except it changes the overall final dough hydration. I suggest you read up on sourdough starters here on TFL.

The formula you are using is:

375 g strong white flour

250 g sourdough starter (Note this is supposed to be 100% hydration or 125 g flour + 125 water, I'm guessing. The recipe doesn't state the starter hydration.)

7.5 g salt

130-175 ml water

So, if you used the starter the instructions call for and 130 to 175 g of water, the dough hydration would be between 51 and 60 percent. However, your starter is only 71% hydration rather than 100%. This means the final dough will be even lower hydration.

Also, if you are indeed using a strong flour, it will absorb more water than an all purpose flour. This is a pretty low-hydration dough. I would not expect it to be sticky at all but rather smooth and only barely tacky, if at all. 

Conclusion: If your dough is quite sticky, you haven't developed the gluten enough. 

David

 

digitig's picture
digitig

There's a link on the recipe page which gives the author's starter recipe, and yes, it's equal quantities flour and water. I'd missed that. When I say it had no structure, the issue was that I couldn't tell if the starter had started. My check is that the volume doubles in 24 hours, but the gas was just bubbling off the top of the slurry so it didn't increase in volume at all. The low hydration would explain why I had to go to the very max of the range of water the recipe suggested.

Anyway, I'm now confident that the culture is alive, so I've increased the hydration to 100% and I'll use that for the next attempt.

digitig's picture
digitig

I've just noticed that you suggest AP (equivalent to UK "plain flour", I think) rather than bread flour (UK "strong flour", ie, high gluten). Does that make a difference for dusting?

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

No. Use whichever you have or what's less costly.

David

isand66's picture
isand66

i agree 100% with David and was going to say the same thing.  The bread I just made couldn't have been made without some type of basket.

Pioneer Foodie's picture
Pioneer Foodie

Brotform and banneton may have their limited place. But I think they are over-used, and their use prevents people from recognizing and fixing problems that come from poor shaping. Even so, tea towels may be on hand in the drawer, but if you're serious about baking, $8 for linen is a pretty small investment for a huge return.

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

$8 for linen is a pretty small investment for a huge return.

David

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Have no fear about ordering a basket.  i use them because i like the pattern they leave on my breads.  To me it just makes them look nicer.  I don't have to use a linen liner in them.  I just dust with a mixture of rice flour and ww flour and most doughs plop right out without any problem.  If they do stick patience allows them to un-stick themselves.

I do have linen cloths that others above have mentioned and I even have ones made out of hemp which work really well too.

Hope you find a solution that works for you.  Given time all these things do seem to work themselves out.

Take Care,

Janet

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

They've been in use for a while and have been washed and hung to dry a few times, the weave is tight and they've been ironed flat.  No gauze, terry or loose weaves, no fabric softener or tumble drying.  Sometimes even doubled for extra absorbency.  

The idea is to absorb moisture without absorbing dough.  If the weave is too open, dough gets into the threads.  That's where the flour comes in.  Crumbs can also be used and so can seeds or even bran, it makes a barrier between the towel or banneton yet still lets the moisture be wicked away from the dough surface.  Make sure all surfaces absorb equally, meaning that if using a colander and towel, set it up off the counter on a rack for good air circulation underneath.  

Don't expect anything to stick to the dough surface after turning or flipping out of banneton or cloth without wetting first.  

Mukoseev's picture
Mukoseev

This may be sacrilegious around here but I use Bounty paper towels to line my proofing baskets.  They absorb liquid better than any cloth and no dough.  I've been using the same towels over and over for more than three months and I bake no-knead bread (79% hydration) three times a week.  I tried is once out of necessity and have never gone back to linen.  They work great and the price is right.

isand66's picture
isand66

I think  you need to be hung at dawn :) !  Hey....whatever works.  Would never have thought to try that but I don't see why it wouldn't work.

Can't beat the price....

digitig's picture
digitig

Ok, second attempt was much better. Nice crust, density and flavour. Thanks all.

The rise in the oven was a little uneven so it was higher on one side than the other, and I would have liked it a little more crumbly rather than springy. So, you're advice so far has been good -- what do I do to fix those? For the texure I note that there's no shortning of any sort in the recipe I follow, and I wonder whether mixing some plain (AP) flour in with the strong (bread) flour would help (or would that just make it harder?)