Why Is My Sourdough Sticky & How To Stop It From Sticking To Everything?

Have you ever spent hours lovingly preparing a batch of sourdough only to have it stick to everything in sight? As frustrating as it may be, the good news is that you’re not alone. 

Sourdough can be a tricky beast to tame, but with the right techniques and a little patience, you can keep your dough from sticking to your hands, your board, and your bowl. 

After all, there’s nothing quite like the taste and aroma of a perfectly baked loaf of sourdough bread, and with our tips and tricks, you’ll be well on your way to bread-making success. 

What Is Too Wet For Sourdough?

There is no such thing as too wet because you can make 100% hydration (or even higher). To make sure you can handle it, make sure it’s not too wet.

For beginners, a lower hydration level (70% is good) is best. If you wish, you can increase your hydration.

Dough strength determines whether the wet dough is successful or sloppy. As you stretch and fold your dough, its strength should increase. When this doesn’t happen, problems start to arise.

To work with really wet dough, you’ll need the following:

  • You will need a small dish of water to wet your hands.
  • Make sure the counter is not sticky by using rice flour.
  • Metal dough scrapers.

Why Is My Sourdough So Wet & Sticky?

Sourdough can become wet and sticky at high temperatures due to premature overfermentation. Keep your kitchen between 24C and 28C (75F and 82F). 

It may also be necessary to adjust the amount of starter in your dough in accordance with the kitchen’s temperature.

There are a few reasons why dough becomes sticky and wet. Identifying which of these is affecting your dough will help you fix it or change your formula in the future. Also, the sourdough can get wet and sticky for a variety of reasons:

1. Over Fermentation

Wet, sticky dough is caused by overfermentation. You won’t have this problem until you’ve done bulk fermentation and are trying to shape your dough.

With over fermented dough, there’s not much you can do.

 Adding extra flour will affect the texture of the finished product (which won’t be very good).

You can work with wet, sticky over fermented sourdough in a variety of ways.

  • Try shaping it into a batard or boule using wet hands if it’s only a little over fermented. You will also need rice flour here (just don’t get it on the inside of the dough or it won’t stay together).
  • To prevent the banneton from sticking, flour it heavily. You should freeze it for 30 – 45 minutes while preheating the oven before baking it.
  • When the mixture is too wet and sticky to shape with your hands, pour it into a buttered loaf pan and bake it.
  • You can use it to make focaccia. Put parchment paper on a baking tray and pour the mixture over it. Make indents in the dough with your fingers after dressing it with olive oil. Salt and rosemary should be sprinkled on top.

2. Insufficient Gluten Development

To make sure you don’t end up with a wet and sticky mess, you need to develop gluten in your sourdough.

Gluten is developed in sourdough bread by stretching and folding the dough. In addition to kneading and coil folding, you might also consider using other methods.

You will end up with a wet, sticky, and unstructured dough if you don’t develop a sufficient gluten network.

You get strength and structure from the gluten chains in your dough. You will have a hard time handling it without these. Add salt to your dough to strengthen gluten development.

By performing a window pane test on your dough, you can determine whether or not your dough has developed sufficient gluten.

It’s okay to set aside the dough for bulk fermentation once it doesn’t tear when stretched between your fingers.

3. Choice Of Flour

Throughout the whole sourdough process, the type of flour you choose can affect how your dough feels. Choose flour with a higher protein content, such as bread flour.

It is ok to use all-purpose flour, but it generally lacks the protein necessary to form a strong gluten network. Consequently, your dough may feel wetter and stickier than usual.

You might want to consider adding some vital wheat gluten to your all-purpose flour if you are using it. Your dough will need to be reduced in hydration if you use all-purpose flour.

4. Using Too Much Water In Your Dough

Using too much water in the dough is one of the most obvious causes of wet dough. It can take a while for the flour to absorb the water during the autolyze process in sourdough. Humidity makes this particularly challenging.

It might seem dry when you mix it and add extra water at first. The flour will become fully hydrated if you leave the flour, water, starter and salt for autolyze.

If you use too much water for your flour, your dough will be very wet and difficult to handle. It is possible to end up with a super wet dough if your sourdough starter is too runny.

Adjusting your dough’s water content or finding a solution to thicken it if your starter is watery will be necessary.

5. Sourdough Starter Too Young

It is always possible that a young sourdough starter is not quite ready to bake with and will make your dough sticky and wet. The yeast colonies needed to raise bread do not exist in a young sourdough starter.

The dough won’t develop if it’s made with a young sourdough starter. Stretching and folding will not strengthen it; it will stay wet and sticky instead.

You can leave it to ferment for as long as you like, but the yeast and bacteria will never grow or change. The sourdough starter needs strengthening and maturing.

So, toss your dough and work on strengthening and maturing it. You will reap the rewards of a strong, mature sourdough starter at your next baking session.

How Can You Make Sourdough Less Sticky?

Whether you’re used to sticky dough or not, you can change a few things to make it easier. It is possible to make the dough less sticky while still getting a fantastic result.

To make sourdough less sticky, lower the hydration and/or maximize the gluten development. Here are two ways to go about it:

1. Maximizing Gluten Development

Gluten is the only ingredient in the flour that makes the dough sticky. Gluten makes it sticky, but without gluten, it wouldn’t form a dough.

The dough is sticky when it has just been mixed with flour and water. Due to the relatively short, undeveloped gluten strands, they stick to everything. Gluten strands become longer and stick less as they develop (with time or by kneading).

By shaping the dough after the gluten has completely developed, the gluten strands will be stretched across the dough, decreasing the likelihood of it sticking together.

By maximizing gluten development, you want the dough to rise well and not be too sticky. Physical kneading, time, or both can be used to achieve this.

2. Lowering The Hydration

A dough of lower hydration is less sticky and, therefore, easier to knead and clean. You might be better off avoiding high-hydration dough at first and opt for sourdough that is 65% hydrated or less (65g of water for 100g of flour).

When the dough reaches this hydration level, it will likely be somewhat sticky, but not too sticky. To increase your chances of success, you could lower the hydration level to a minimum of 60%. Hydration can gradually increase as you become more comfortable handling the dough.

After a few tries, you can make high hydration sourdough with relative ease as your technique changes. Don’t expect an airy loaf if you lower hydration because you’re also tightening the crumb.

How Do You Stop Sourdough From Sticking To Your Dutch Oven?

There is definitely something wrong if your sourdough sticks to your Dutch oven. It would be terrible if you tried lifting your bread out of the Dutch oven only to find that it would not come out.

It’s stuck, so you have to pry it out, but the bottom tears, so you end up with ugly bread. You don’t want this to happen once you’ve taken it out of the oven.

Even though it’s very frustrating, you must learn from your mistake, so it doesn’t recur. The good news is that you can easily prevent it from sticking.

Adding a layer of oil or a good amount of semolina to your Dutch oven before adding sourdough to it will prevent it from sticking to it. By using all three methods, you create an effective barrier between the dough and the Dutch oven.

To prevent the dough and Dutch oven from touching too much, you only need something in between them. You can use parchment paper, semolina, and oil, but they aren’t your only options.

Regular flour can be used if you don’t have oil, semolina, or parchment paper. However, remember that it can burn fairly easily, especially when placed on a hot surface like a baking stone.

Using parchment paper is the most effective way to prevent sticking. As a result, there is no chance of the dough sticking to the bottom of the Dutch oven.

How Do You Stop Sourdough From Sticking To Cloth/Tea Towel?

In the same way as with bannetons, moisture in the dough exterior can cause the flour to hydrate and form gluten. The goal is to keep the dough from becoming sticky by limiting how wet it gets on the exterior.

The best way to prevent sticking is to keep the surface dry. You can either use plenty of coarse flour to prevent your sourdough from sticking to your tea towel, or you can use a linen cloth that is less likely to stick.

When you use coarser flour, you create a little more space between the dough and the cloth/tea towel, so it sticks less easily. It’s up to you to experiment and decide what works for you, but I recommend mixing coarse flour with white flour 50:50.

Using a linen cloth, you should be able to separate the dough from the cloth much easier. Just dust the linen cloth with flour and place your dough in it. Hopefully it will just slide out when you’re ready to turn it out.

How Do You Stop Sourdough From Sticking To Your Hands?

Sourdough can be sticky, but until you touch it for the first time, you don’t realize just how sticky it is. It can stick to you when you knead, shape, or handle it unless you’re careful. 

It’s common for inexperienced bakers to add more flour to their dough, but you shouldn’t do this unless you’re shaping the dough. Adding extra flour to the dough during kneading can result in a denser and dryer loaf.

If you dip your hands in water before touching sourdough, you can prevent it from sticking to your hands. When you touch the dough, the water creates a barrier between your skin so that it won’t stick to you.

Rewetting your hands often may be necessary to stop the sticking completely. It is also possible to use oil instead of water.

I’ve found that oil works the same way as water in creating a barrier between dough and hands, but it is also much harder to clean (it can’t be wiped away easily).

The first thing you should do when kneading the dough is to use water (or oil). The stretch-and-fold method works well when combined with rub and kneading.

Alternatively, you can knead the dough or slap and fold, which can cause more mess and include too much moisture or oil. It is okay to use water (or oil) at any time if the dough has not yet been shaped.

You should use flour to shape it. For shaping, flour the bottom side of the dough to prevent it from sticking, and leave the sticky side to keep it from sticking back onto itself.

Always remember these methods when making sourdough; you’ll have much easier time and better results.

How To Stop Sourdough Sticking To Banneton?

The best sourdough can take a lot of time and effort to make, but it can be disappointing when it sticks to the banneton.

This might cause the dough to tear or lose its nice appearance. Regardless, you don’t want it to happen to you, so here are some steps to prevent it.

It is important to season your banneton properly to prevent your sourdough from sticking to it. In this case, the seasoning consists of a flour layer preventing the dough from sticking.

When sourdough is well-seasoned and has enough flour, it will not stick. People recommend using different types of flour to prevent sticking, but you shouldn’t think much about the type of flour you’re using.

It is usually the bannetons and the way the dough is handled that account for the success of bakers who have used a variety of flours with great success. A good banneton is the first requirement. In other words, it’s seasoning-rich and flour-coated.

A professional baker knows how to handle their sourdough, regardless of its hydration level. It’s more likely to stick if it has a high hydration, since more water can cause damp, glutenous (sticky) flour around it.

Low hydration is generally more convenient to work with since it’s a lot easier to handle and won’t stick very well to the banneton.

A dry dough surface is essential when making sourdough, whether it has high or low hydration. Drying the dough surfaces prevents the flour on the outside from becoming sticky and wet.

When you put the dough into the banneton, you can dry the surface by coating it in flour. I prefer reshaping the dough, coating it in flour, letting it rest, shaping it, coating it in flour again, and then putting it in the banneton.

It allows the dough to dry out on the surface longer, making it easier to remove from the basket.

It is important to maintain a dry surface while the dough proofs as well. While most bannisters do absorb excess water from the dough, they can still become damp and stick.

Placing your banneton inside a plastic bag to proof may make it wetter on the surface since the bag traps moisture from escaping. Obviously, this won’t apply to everyone, but it’s worth considering if you’re doing it.

A heavy coating of flour might help you avoid sticking by coating the basket and the dough before proofing. It doesn’t matter if you use a lot of flour; excess flour can easily be brushed off after the sourdough is turned out.

Conclusion

Baking sourdough bread can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience, but it can also be frustrating when your dough sticks to your hands, counter, and bowls.

Thankfully, by taking a few simple steps, you can easily prevent this from happening and enjoy perfect loaves of sourdough bread every time. 

From properly preparing your work surface and tools, to adjusting the hydration of your dough, there are many techniques you can implement to ensure your sourdough turns out perfectly each time you bake. 

So, the next time you’re feeling frustrated with sticky dough, remember our tips and fearlessly get back to baking your delicious sourdough creations without any reservations. Happy baking!

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