Sticky! Shaping Sticky Dough or When is it too Sticky?
I'm talking about the state of the dough right before shaping, not in any of the steps prior to that.
I completely understand that sourdough is going to be sticky. I also understand that the amount of sickness depends on all sorts of things: What kind of flour, how much water, etc. But there should be a way for a novice bread maker to tell if their beginner's dough has gone very wrong or is close to right. (I'm guessing here that if the dough comes out as a super sticky mess that it can't be right...but maybe I'm wrong?).
Yet even with basic sourdough recipes that look very similar, bakers and books are contradictory about this.
Some say: "The dough will be very sticky. Use water and the bench scraper."
Others say: "It should hardly be sticky at all! Just a bit tacky. You'll have no trouble handling it."
And a few say: "It should stick to your finger, but then snap back."
And then, just to make this all the more confusing, half say: "Use plenty of flour. Flour good," while others say, "use as little flour as possible! Flour bad!"
I'd really like to know your thoughts on how sticky is too sticky (meaning—something is wrong), and how sticky is okay. To make things easier, let's imagine a dough that's 80% white bread flour, 20% Wheat and 72% hydration. To measure your thoughts on proper stickiness, we'll go for a 1-5 "sticky" scale 1 for barely sticky and 5 for super sticky.
Imagine you've just transferred the dough from container to board for pre-shape. You touch it with your finger:
1 = Barely sticky. Like scotch tape that has lost most of its stick. No flour needed.
2 = tacky, but not sticky. Kind of like touching the back of post-it note. The dough doesn't hold to your finger when you pull away and releases clean. You might be able to manage with no flour.
3 = sticks but snaps back. The dough sticks to your finger, pulls out like chewing gum, then releases and rubberbands back into itself. Sometimes your finger will come away clean, sometimes you end up with a bit still sticking. A little flour is all you need.
4 = Sticks like an octopus's tentacle. You have to scrape it off. It's leaving smears on your board and tools. Four is definitely needed.
5 = Wet glue. It sticks to your tools, it sticks to your hands, it leaves smears on your board which you have to scrape up, then you have to scrape that off the scraper. A sticky mess that you need to wash off. If you try to shape it, the part you fold over (if you can unstick it from the scraper) melts into itself. It's so sticky it is literally sticking to itself. The only way to save this mess is to coat it in lots of flour.
Which of these: would you love to get? Which would you consider as being "good to go?" Which would you find problematic or unacceptable?
And on the ones that are problematic or unacceptable...is there any way to save them? If so, what steps would you take?