The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Elasticity in dough

Janet Yang's picture
Janet Yang

Elasticity in dough

I recently made a wild-yeast sourdough starter. At feedings I just stir it a bit, not bothering to get it smooth. 

Whenever I use some of the starter (anywhere from four hours to four days after feeding), I notice that it is kind of rubbery or elastic, as if it had been kneaded. It puzzles me, because I don't do anything to develop the gluten.

Is this gluten development simply due to hydration and time?—or is there something in sourdough that stimulates it?


Maureen Farndell's picture
Maureen Farndell

I would like to know what the experienced bakers can say about this. My starter is more like a sticky paste and I only feed it 2X a week when I bake. Sometimes it has a bit of hooch that I just stir in. Maybe it's got to do with the amount of water you add when feeding. I use equal water and whole wheat and about the same amount as seed starter and only after I have taken off what I am going to use in my bake - this is then fed and developed for the loaf. 


golgi70's picture

Yes Janet, 

By stirring together flour and water and just letting it sit gluten will develop on its own hence part of the reason for an "autolyse".  But when you add yeast to this factor the rising will further develop the gluten as it slowly stretches the formed gluten.  A good levain or poolish will have a nice network of gluten development when it is doubled and ready for mixing.  PS this is why No-Knead Bread works.  Over the 18 hour rest in a container where it grows up the sides of the container a network of gluten is developed strong enough to create a fine loaf of bread. 

@ Maureen

The hooch is coming from not being fed for some time.  Albeit common place for the home baker to feed their starter less frequently and just pull from fridge and do a couple refreshings when preparing for bread, the healthiest way to maintain a starter is to feed it at least once a day.  Once its food is exhausted it will slowly break down and some of the culture will begin to die off.  Granted we all know plenty of yeast survives this and all it needs is a couple feedings to bring it back to a status where it can levain our loaves.  While this is true and for the home baker is a marvelous tool to not have to discard starter from daily feedings, it does make your starter less controlled as for flavor profile and PH.  

I like to keep a very small seed and refresh daily so I throw away just a tiny amount of starter when I'm not baking.  And when I know I plan to bake I build it up from the small seed being sure to save that small seed for stock.  If you do it this way you won't need the multiple feedings to get it back up to snuff for baking as it should be ready to go the following day after feeding.   

The way I look at it is I find a particular time that works for me every day of the week to do this (and if you miss 1 day every by and by so be it) but as long as you stay on a pretty regular schedule you will have much more control.  I feed daily at 10 am, let sit on the counter for 2-4 hours pending the temperature, then retard overnight.  Its ready for use the following morning.  The retarding does add a bit more sourness to your starter and if you don't like that you could just change your ratios so it can live at room temp overnight.  I feed at 1:2:2 (starter:flour:water) At room temp this would be ready in 8-12 hours pending temps.  So i give it a head start at room temp to start working followed by the retarding where it finishes ripening and cools down to stop it from over fermentation.  Again some sour notes come from this action.

 If I didn't want to add sourness but didn't want to refresh 3x a day I could lower my ratio to say .5:2:2 and then leave at room temp for 24 hours and then feed again. If your house temp varies by time of year you may have to adjust for the current temperatures of your home.  Example in the summer your seed to flour ratio may be lower while in the winter higher.  When you say equal I assume you mean by weight as that is how this whole thing works.  But a starter fed 1:1:1 will ripen pretty quickly and that is why you are seeing some hooch on top.  Your starter is running out of food early on in that 3 day rest period. If you don't change your routine, which is perfectly fine I might suggest lowering the innoculation, that is the amount of seed to flour when feeding.  1:2:2 might work a bit better.  .  

Sorry to ramble and I hope its helpful



Skibum's picture

Very helpful! I too have begun feeding m starter daily and baking with part and am getting improved rise and oven spring. Like you say if you miss the odd day no big deal.  Regards, Brian

Janet Yang's picture
Janet Yang

Suppose you won't be baking in the next few days, and just want to maintain the starter. After the daily feeding, do you put it into the refrigerator, or just leave it at room temperature?

Janet Yang's picture
Janet Yang

Ah, I was skeptical about no-knead bread, but that explains it. 

I'm going try your method of maintaining a smaller seed and more frequent feedings. It sounds more convenient, as I tend to "impulse" baking.