The Fresh Loaf

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Recently can no longer get good Gluten Development in KA 600

GeekGuhlFoodie's picture

Recently can no longer get good Gluten Development in KA 600

Hello all.

While I am by no means a sourdough expert, I have been a bread-baking hobbyist for about 10 years now.  For the past 8 years, I have had a foolproof recipe for sourdough sandwich bread that never ever failed me.  However, over the past 6-8 months, I can no longer get gluten to develop like it used to.  I have used the exact same flour in the exact same quantities, but now all I get in my KA after the 10 minutes on #4 is a big bowl of goop. I then started doing only S&F's with less than optimal results, but still a respectable gluten network.  When I make my standard sourdough, my S&F's do the trick marvelously, but my sandwich bread recipe has me stumped.

FTR, I weigh all my ingredients, my starter is crazy healthy, and as I said, I have had success with this same recipe/method for years.

Although I have lurked this site for years, today I registered just to aks you guys because this is truly driving me crazy.

Thanks in advance for any words of wisdom. 

clevins's picture

A basic tenet is that if the output has changed, something upstream must have changed. Even if you consciously didnt change anything, *something* must be different to consistently get a different result. 

So, thinking this through: 
1) Hydration. This is the same and water, (within limits) is water unless you moved houses etc. If so, that's something to consider. 

2) Formula. Sounds like this hasn't varied. 

3) Process. Ditto

4) Starter. Seems like it's as healthy as always. 

that leaves...

5) Flour. Could this have changed? IF you're using the same flour as always, what is it? Could the mill be doing something different - source or type of flour, etc?

Obviously, if any of the other things have changed, let us know.

GaryBishop's picture

Years ago, I kept an aquarium with awesome plants. After years of success they started fading, then dying. Nothing changed, I controlled every input to this system (I thought). After weeks of searching I found that our municipal water system had changed their treatment plan. Now our water was loaded with hexa-meta-phosphate (or some such) intended to reduce corrosion. 

My point is, if you're on a municipal water system, that may be the culprit.

Ming's picture

I am not sure about your problems, but I have a similar problem in the last few weeks when my kitchen went from 70 F to 85 F with twice the amount of humility, and my "winter" high hydration recipes no longer work, the dough would just fall apart and would not come together. I had to end up dropping a preferment and hydration by 10%. Have fun!

Benito's picture

Despite your flour being the "same" the quality of the gluten from year to year may change with weather conditions.  What you're describing sounds like the gluten potential in your flour has decreased.  Simple enough to trouble shoot, just reduce the hydration by 5% and try again.  If the dough is firmer like you used to get then it is likely that the protein in the flour is somewhat worse in your recent batches and just adjusting the hydration down should help immensely.


GeekGuhlFoodie's picture

Here is my exact recipe. My starter is always either King Arthur Bread Flour or Texas Pure Unbleached Bread Flour.  The starter is always 50% flour to 50% water. 

When it works, this recipe makes the most incredible sandwich bread ever.  I found the base of the recipe online and have just tweaked it over the years.  Unfortunately, I can no longer find the site, but here's the gist of it.

These measurements are for one loaf. 

I first make a levain using::

  • 20g Ripe Starter
  • 33g Whole Milk
  • 62g Bread Flour

I let the levain sit overnight until it has doubled.

The next day, I add these ingredients.  (I allow all of the cold ingredients to come to room temperature)

I combine all of the ingredients by hand and then knead in my Kitchen Aid 600 between 12-15 minutes. Once it's mixed, I do four (4) S&F's over two (2) hours then allow it to bulk proof for approximately 6 hours. After the bulk proof, I punch it down, do one last S&F then put it in the fridge overnight.  Lastly, I take it out of the fridge, shape and place in an oiled loaf pan, cover it with a shower cap I purchase just for bread-making that's oiled on the inside, then allow it to rise until it's doubled. 

About an hour before the final rise is complete, I preheat my convection oven to 475 then insert bread and pour boiling water over the pre-heated lava rocks.  After about 10 minutes, I lower the temperature to 350 and bake for about 30 minutes.

In the past, I would have an absolutely brilliant windowpane, so the S&F's were just to beef the gluten structure up a bit.  As I said, this has never failed me and I would have the most beautiful loaves that I either gave away to family or sold to a few friends for the cost of ingredients.

The first picture is what my loaves used to look like. Now, they look like dense, midget banana bread.  The taste is still fantastic, but I no longer get the tall final rise.


Sourdough Sandwich


clevins's picture

Does it look the same as it used to at the end of bulk? Jiggly, some bubbles, etc? What about after final proof? 

PS: If my math is right that formula is about 74%. Maybe drop the milks just a little so it comes out to  70% per Benny's suggestion?

GeekGuhlFoodie's picture

Last night, I started a levain.  I will take out the ingredients today to let them come to room temperature and will take pictures as I go.  I will also decrease the amount of liquid as suggested.  I really appreciate you the suggestions because I have come to tears many times over the last few months.

clevins's picture

Try to control as many things as possible and vary only one. For bulk, don't go by time but by how it looks and feels, especially if temps vary where you're keeping the dough. 



idaveindy's picture

Welcome to TFL.  Thanks for taking the plunge and officially joining.

I've had problems when using buttermilk that has carageenan and other gums, thickeners,  and starches added.  Those things basically act as glue when added to flour.

Did you switch brands of buttermilk?  If so, check the ingredient list on the label. Not all brands of buttermilk are equal.

Also see discussion at

Good luck, and bon appétit.

GeekGuhlFoodie's picture

Same brand.  Thanks though!  I will still take a look at the ingredients.

idaveindy's picture

Sometimes, organic AP flour is unmalted.  Check the ingredients list on your packages of your two types of TP flour.  If you don't see malted barley flour, malted wheat flour, or amylase, then it's going to perform differently than KA regular AP.  Did the performance of the sandwich loaves change when you switched from KA to TP ?

I had problems when using Arrowhead Mills Organic AP flour. It was once on sale cheaper than regular flour, so I bought some to feed my starter. My starter didn't thrive on it. I checked the ingredients and saw that it wasn't malted. When I switched back to my regular Gold Medal bread flour, then the starter was happy.


Also, I concur with Gary Bishop's comment about tap water changing. If you are on "city water", go to their web site and contact them and ask if anything changed in the time frame that your bread started to change.

Even if you are on well water, something may have gotten into the ground water.

If you want to rule out water as a culprit, try bottled spring water, not bottled filtered water.  My starter and loaves perform well with "Crystal Geyser" brand spring water from Big Lots.

wonner's picture

King Arthur AP and Pure Milling Organic AP appear to be two very different flours.

King Arthur contains Malted Barley Flour but Texas Pure Organic does not.

Texas Pure does not list the protein content on the label or on their website that I can find, but based on the product label Texas Pure contains 3g protein per 1/4 cup whereas KA contains 4g  protein per 1/4 cup.

So you have a 25% difference in protein, a difference in ingredients, and an unknown difference in protein.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Milk in the levain strikes me as a posible source for problems.  This is actually the first recipe I've seen using milk instead of water in the levain.  Perhaps scalding or bringing the milk temp up to 90°C might solve the problem.

What do you think?