The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

dough stays resolutely sticky

tmck's picture

dough stays resolutely sticky

Hi to Everyone

I've been an avid seeker of knowledge on this site for a while; I appreciate the input and advice shared in this forum.

This is my first post, however.

I've been making sourdough loaves 2-3 times a week for about 6 months.

The interesting (infuriating) thing is the inconsistency I experience. Probably the only consistent thing is that my dough seems to stay resolutely sticky regardless of the recipes or processes I use.

I started off using Patrick Ryan's recipe (from YouTube) which is:

  • 800g strong white flour
  • 10g salt
  • 460ml water
  • 320g sourdough starter

The first loaf turned out OK with decent spring (but with nearly 30 mins of kneading and slap/folds). From there on, however, the results seemed to vary.

I typically default to a daily starter feed of 1:1:1. I've experimented with 1:3:3 and 1:5:5 but all that seems to happen is the starter maturity slows down (I guess it's got more to eat/process) and the starter is stiffer.

PR's recipe uses quite a high ratio of starter - 320g to 800g flour.

I've settled on quantities:

  • 650g extra strong white flour
  • 150g wholewheat Rye
  • 14g salt
  • 500ml water
  • 160g sourdough starter

This should, I think, give me a hydration of only 62% - so it shouldn't be too challenging a dough.

The dough stays sticky, no matter how long I knead it for or which method of kneading I employ (I've tried "traditional", machine, stretch and fold and Richard Bertinet's Slap and fold. Stretch and fold has, without fail, been a disaster. No strength and dough that sticks to the bannetons.

My method is:

  • mix flour and water and autolyse for ~1hr
  • add salt then mix
  • add sourdough, then knead for 10-20 minutes
  • perform windowpane test
  • 1st proof for 2-4 hrs depending on temperature (I live in Scotland - it varies a lot, always between cool and cold)
  • Shape and tension into x2 loaves then into bannetons coated in rice flour
  • 2nd proof in fridge overnight
  • Bake in dutch oven - covered at 230c for 25 mins then uncovered at 210c for 20 mins

This results in a tasty loaf but rather flat with very little spring.

I'm trying to improve the spring and texture of my loaves.

Another observation is that the inside can sometimes be a bit gummy and I'm not sure if it's undercooking or something else.

I understand that this is a lot of info to absorb and that there are a lot of variables at play.

Any pointers would be very much appreciated

Thanks, in advance


Ilya Flyamer's picture
Ilya Flyamer

Hi from a fellow Scotlander (I'm not Scottish, but live in Scotland too).

How do you determine when to finish bulk ferment? Could you share a picture of one of the loaves?

Have you tried using whole wheat instead of rye? Rye flour really increases stickiness, and at this percentage it should be fine to handle, it'll definitely make your dough handling more difficult.

And can you explain more about your starter maintenance? You feed it daily 1:1:1 and keep on the counter? If so, your starter is probably hungry, a lot of the time, and too acidic, which will not be helpful.

tmck's picture

Hi Ilya

Thanks for your thoughts. 

I use wholemeal rye from a local farm/mill - Mungoswells. I try to keep the eye content quite low. 

The 1:1:1 starter may be the issue. I can sometimes miss feeds and I think the starter can get quite acidic. Since your response I’ve moved to a 1:2:2 mix and I think that it may be a move in the right direction. I’ll keep increasing to see what effect this has. I did jump from 1:1:1 directly to 1:5:5 but the starter was like a paste. 

ive also moved to 1 loaf every other day in an attempt to keep the starter healthy and active rather than 2 loaves and 2 days in between. 

Thanks again. 

Ilya Flyamer's picture
Ilya Flyamer

Sounds good. Better feed your starter even higher ratio, and put in the fridge between feedings (after letting it double), imo, rather than feeding low ratios frequently... At least using the fridge you can avoid having any discard.

Do you feed your starter rye?

I also use Mungoswells flour! Are you in Edinburgh?

clazar123's picture

The stickiness is the rye flour. No amount of extra flour will change that. You also might be using more bench flour to keep from sticking. Use damp (not wet) hands and bench when kneading. Some prefer oil but that changes the loaf too much for my taste.

As for the density of the crumb, it could be that with rye flour, the dough is overfermented. Natural levain burns through rye flour pretty fast. 

Another suggestion is to check the temp in your refrigerator-it may be warmer than you think. Or it could be cycling higher than you think, though that is harder to spot when you check the temps. You need a constant readout to see the temp as the compressor cycles. I am finding that modern thermostats "average" temps over time but an average is composed of highs and lows. So the refrig may be ranging 30F -50F.

A few ideas to play with. Happy baking!

tmck's picture

Hi clazar1

i hadn’t thought to check the temperature of the fridge. I’ll do that shortly and amend times as required. 

I’d rather that the bread completed its 2nd proof slowly so I’ll stick with the fridge. 


JimmyB's picture

This might sound counter intuitive but may I suggest changing the flour. Try an all purpose flour instead, better yet try to find some winter wheat. I would also try upping the salt to 2% in bakers formula. Why don't you give it a try and tell me what happens.