The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Fairly new and need advice on Forkish methods - where to post for help?

sjungdahl's picture

Fairly new and need advice on Forkish methods - where to post for help?

I'm having issues with very sticky dough. I also cannot get a decent dough ball made. I follow instructions in the book but it seems the dough is too wet or too sticky or both. Sometimes it comes out nice other times it's almost a flat bread. I also have problems with sticking to proofing baskets although I flour them.

WatertownNewbie's picture

First, welcome to this site.  You are in the right place.  Most of us who have used the Forkish book (FWSY) have had to make some adjustments.

You write that you "follow instructions in the book" and that might include the time frames.  One thing you will often read on the TFL site is to watch the dough, not the clock.  Forkish is notorious for having times that are far too long for most kitchens.  Most of us have found that the amount of time needed for bulk fermentation is about half of what he states in his book, and likewise for the final proofing time.

You also write that you "cannot get a decent dough ball made" and that might tie in to an excessive bulk fermentation (i.e., over-fermented dough is difficult to shape because it has begun to degrade).  If the dough is sticky (and dough with a hydration of 75-78% can be expected to be a bit sticky), it can be a normal thing, or it can also be an indication of dough in need of more gluten (which means better development either during the initial mixing or during the stretch-and-fold stages) or over-fermentation (if that phase goes too long).

Flat bread is definitely a sign of over-fermentation or over-proofing or both.  It can also stem from not having enough gluten structure to support good oven spring, but from what you have said I suspect that it is the first cause.

One thing that would help all of us help you is to have more detail, both in words and pictures.  Please include more detail about your process, including the recipe, what you do during the various stages, and so forth.  Photos along the way can help too, although some inferences can often be made purely from photos of the final product.

Keep posting and asking questions.

Happy baking.


BreadLee's picture

Hello, and I'm sorry you're encountering issues.  

If you want to get some good breadmaking under your belt,  there's another way to try it.  This is just how it worked for myself and I suspect many others. 

Use a no knead method and let time do the job for you.  Then you can expand to other techniques from there. You'll recognize when dough is too wet,  ready or not ready,  etc. That's just my thought.   Good luck!

Levaineer's picture

This is the book I learned on, and I was very happy with the results. I live in a climate similar to the author so I suspect I may have had more success than people in warmer areas. It's probably best to start out with the straight doughs before doing recipes with preferments or levains. The Saturday white is the best place to start, but if you're having trouble with it I would drop the hydration to 70%. I think the obsession with high hydration, while fun to play around with, is detrimental to the beginner baker. Even 65% hydration is good. Can you give more info on the recipes you're having trouble with? Pictures help a lot too. 

Dulcilo's picture

I had trouble with all the recipes in the Forkish book. Even though so many people say that this book got them started on bread baking, as a new baker myself, I had very poor results. I assumed some of the problem to be climate differences, so I’m glad to see someone else suggesting the same. I believe Forkish is in the Pacific Northwest, with a rather cool climate. Even though it may rain a lot there, in the summer there is not much humidity. I live in the southeastern US, with a lot of heat and humidity. In addition, flour sources and the hydration of the stored flour may make a difference. I did not try cutting back on the water in his recipes. The timing for proofing also seemed all wrong for my dough and climate. So I just gave up on it and donated my copy of the book to the library. I relied on Reinhart’s books and online videos instead.

ifs201's picture

I just got the Ken Forkish cookbook as well. I first made the 40% whole wheat with biga and was really pleasantly surprised with how it came out. This weekend I made the white bread with poolish and had a more difficult time (photos attached). I am thinking that I didn't do enough folding of the dough even though I folded more than suggested. The dough was too sticky to do the finger dent test (it just kept sticking to my finger). I also wasn't able to flip the dough over to seam-side down during the folding stage because it wasn't firm enough. I think the final thing came out pretty well, but I have the feeling it would have been better if the dough had been firmer - I had to just plop it into the dutch oven. It had a decent rise so I am not sure what I did wrong, whether it was over proofing or maybe my water was too warm since the kitchen was also warm. Also, do people using the Ken Forkish method really not cut vents in the bread?