The Fresh Loaf

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65% sourdough sticky as glue

kapoosht's picture

65% sourdough sticky as glue

Hello all,

I've been lurking about on this site and been reading lots of different posts that have helped me to finally cultivate my own starter (which strangely enough, took about 3 weeks instead of the usual 5-7 days which i've come to see so often).

I thought the difficult part was over, but boy was I wrong!

I've made a few loaves with the starter I have, and they've come out with varying differences that I'm quite unable to explain. So far, I've had the usual under-developed sloping loaf, dense crumb but good oven-spring loaves, and on one occasion even managed to make a pretty decent loaf (though since tried replicating that to no avail).

Recently, I decided to try out Trevor J Wilson's 65% hydration sourdough recipe, which seemed "beginner-level", but my dough is once again looking nothing like his videos.

I did a 11 hours pre-mix (autolyse but with salt added), and the dough still came out incredibly tacky and sticky. This was nothing compared to what I see in Trevor's videos where it's smooth and comes away easily from the bowl as a ball. Unfortunately I didn't manage to capture a picture of the pre-mix before I started working the starter in, but I have a picture of the dough after 3 rounds of gentle folding with 10-min intervals between them to fully incorporate the starter.


As you can see, the dough is still pretty tacky at this point. The starter I used was 100% hydration.

The flour I use is unbleached bread flour, but where I live, it's only easy to source unbleached bread flour which I believe (though not 100% sure) that the protein content is about 13%. Unfortunately, there's also only 1 brand that is easily available to me, so it's not like I can change the flour out for a different brand and test my theory.

So my question is - could the low protein content be the reason why i'm facing this constant problem of having tacky dough?

Another thought that came up was that I live in a sub-tropical country and humidity averages out at 80-90% everyday, so that could be a reason why my dough always comes out wetter than it looks in videos. 

I'm a completely new baker who just really enjoys good bread and loves making things on my own, but am getting increasingly frustrated by the lack of understanding on what's causing the wet therefore unmanageable (in my unexperienced hands) dough.

Love to hear your thoughts!

bikeprof's picture

A few thoughts:

- 13% protein is pretty high (on the N. American standard for measuring...and that = 11% as they typically measure in France, and 11% is just fine for making bread).  It could still be an issue with the flour, but I wouldn't call that low protein. (see:

- Are you refrigerating during the 11hr premix?

- If your dough is too wet...cut the hydration...yes, it can be that simple.  If there is one generalization that is true in bread baking is that you can't go by your dough and not what someone in a completely different context says (and I think Trevor would agree with that)...formulas are a general starting point...change the flour, the environment, the starter, the baker, and the kitchen, and you should expect to make some changes to your measurements and process...

suave's picture

1. Your flour may not need that much water.

2. Your flour may be no good.

3. You may have made an error in your calculations.

mutantspace's picture

one thing to add. All flours have different hydration points. For example, I live in Ireland and if i read an American recipe that says 65% hydration I generally take 5% off that as American flours generally absorb more water than equivalent European flours. So as @bikeprof said you have to tailor to your conditions. Trevors process is fantastic but you have to adapt it to your space and time. Bottom line is try it with 60% and try doing an 30 - 60 minute autolyse. See where you get with that.  


DesigningWoman's picture

Trevor's premix has you combine flour, water and salt and then refrigerate until you go to bed, at which point you're to take it out and let it rest at room temperature overnight. 

A couple of people, myself included, have found that that overnight at room temperature just makes for a very, very slack dough. If you live in a sub-tropical clime and followed Trevor's method, that may be the key to your problem. 

I've gotten around it by leaving the premix in the fridge overnight, and letting it come to room temp the next morning. 

And 13% protein should be largely sufficient. 

Hope his helps. 

Keep on baking! 



Joyofgluten's picture


It's quite common for commercial (non organic) flour to be treated (improved) with malt, perhaps the flour you used is well pepped up with it, which could cause a big problem when doing an 11 hour autolyse. The extra amylase from the malt would have plenty of time there to break the starch down and leave you with a very sticky over ripe dough. 

Such a long autolyse would be better done with untreated organic flour (no ascorbic acid, no malt).



albacore's picture

In my opinion, long autolyses are fraught with danger, because of the risk of dough degradation. OK lots of bakers do use them successfully, but do yourself a favour and start with a 20 minute autolyse. This can't be wrong.

Once you start producing loaves you are happy with, then you can play around with long autolyses.

Have a search on this site for the 1-2-3 loaf that was originally devised by Flo Makanai and recently revived by DanAyo.

I think it's unlikely that any bread flour would contain so much malt that you end up with mush.


kapoosht's picture

Hi all,

Thank you so much for your advice - i'll definitely source for other types of flour and try cutting the hydration and autolyse down.

So because I was unwilling to give in, I made another dough using the exact same proportion, ingredients and method last night, and this dough came out much smoother and a million times easier to handle. It wasn't as wet as the previous dough (which i'm now just leaving to let proof in a banneton in the hopes that it won't come out like flatbread since there was no way i could do a proper tension pull). 

The only possible difference I could think of was that the flour I used for the second dough was from a newly opened bag of flour. This flour was bought from the same brand and the same shop even, but I really cannot think of what else could be affecting the stickiness/water absorption. Once I open a bag of flour, i usually keep it in an air tight jar since I live in a really humid country that is prone to having bugs of all sorts. 

Once again, thanks to all for your advice!


MonkeyDaddy's picture

played with your variables for a while and start getting close to a loaf you like, you should consider buying Trevor's e-book.  If you like his techniques and recipes, the book is a great next step.  It's not really written for beginners, but he gives fantastic background info and descriptions for the reasons why certain steps are taken; such as why he does his autolyse with salt when everybody else leaves the salt out, and the need for the tensioning step that you said you had trouble with.  Also, one thing that helped me with my technique was watching his videos over and over.  Sounds kind of obsessive, I know, but when I finally did one of his recipes I found that by mimicking his hand movements I had similar results, i.e., the dough, despite its hydration level, did not stick to my hands.

Good luck and have fun!


treesparrow's picture

...why not try your freshly graduated starter on this recipe

this post not only gives you the recipe but also loads of nice examples, with and without variations.