The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Sticky, sticky dough

TheBrickLayer's picture

Sticky, sticky dough

I've been making bread several loaves a week for over a year now. I flatter myself that I've become pretty good at it, at least so much so that I've got a few "customers," i.e. one paying customer and a couple of local farmers with whom I barter for pork and raw milk. This is how my bread empire begins.

But I'm having a lot of trouble with the stickiness of the dough. This gets in the way of effective shaping. Actually, I can almost always get a nice, round shape out of the dough. But I can only do it with considerable difficulty, because the loaves are just so sticky. 

I've tried dusting my hands (and the loaves) with flour, and also rubbing my hands with a bit of water. The flour doesn't help much at all; the water does, but only for a bit before the stickiness sets in again.

My APF flour is at around 13% protein. I'm working at about 75% hydration. 

Leaven goes overnight; then I mix leaven, flour and water and let rest for an hour; then I let rise for another 5 hours, with turns every 1/2 hour for two hours then every hour for the remaining three hours. 

Generally it's just sticky as all getup. Messy and frustrating. Again, I can shape them---but it's just a pain in the neck. 

Any advice?


DanAyo's picture

Have you considered reducing the hydration?

what about a super thin coating of oil on your hands, bench, and tools? A little dab will do ya...

Are you sure your formula is correct? Maybe too much water.

Does your dough use any add ins?

Just a few thoughts that come to mind.


sayersbrock's picture

Dan is on the money. I think a thin coat of oil will solve your problem. However, I think sticky dough and some difficulty shaping comes with the territory when getting close to 80% hydration. 

Sometimes we get too caught up with working with higher and higher hydration. 

Lazy Loafer's picture
Lazy Loafer

I make ciabatta at 80% hydration and shape it very gently with a good coating of flour. Anything else, I usually keep the hydration around 72% or less. The bread and crumb still turn out just fine and it's much easier to deal with. Is your final dough 75% hydration, or is that the dough hydration not counting the levain hydration? Sometimes it makes a stronger dough if you keep the overall hydration the same but put more of the flour into the levain to make it stiff.

'Sticky' usually indicates something like over-fermentation, oxidation or insufficient gluten development. How do you develop the gluten before bulk ferment (and the four stretch & folds)? Do you mix by hand or machine? Do you use any method like slap & fold, Rubaud, or another? Do you get a good strong, stretchy windowpane?


DanAyo's picture

Lazy Loafer said something that made me think. Are you counting the flour and the water of your starter in with your hydration?  If your starter is wet,say 100% it will affect the hydration calculations of the dough.


Hotfishy's picture

What I usually do with high hydration dough (85%) is usually putting some water on the bowl scraper and use it during shaping, i find that's less sticking than hand :)