Worth Repeating – Discussions on Bread Baking


Hello fellow bakers,

Sometimes my students will ask me questions and the answers get buried in time. So I thought I would repeat some of the following on dough development and hydration conversion:

The stages of Dough Development

Unripe Dough: (the gluten bonds become strong but are not stretchable enough yet (too strong))
An unripe dough feels slack, is too strong and too elastic. It resists being manipulated. It doesn’t feel lively or full of bubbles, but might have some bubbles which will increase with time.It doesn’t have much of a smell yet or a very slight yeasty smell. If you poke an unripe dough, it doesn’t keep the indent or it is very slight, it bounces back right away. When pushing on the dough, you will feel a lot of resistance.


Ripe Dough: (the gluten bonds are strong but stretchable)

A ripe dough feels spongy, soft, easily stretches, will pull a window pane almost translucent without tearing easily, is strong but stretchable, is full of life, bubbles and you can see the strands of gluten if you pull it open before folding. It smells yeasty in a nice fruity sort of way. If you poke it, the dough will make an indentation, but will spring back slowly and not cause the rest of the dough to sag. When pushing on the dough you will feel a give and gentle resistance but it will feel bouncy and springy.

Over-ripe Dough: (The gluten bonds have become very weak (are too digested by the enzymes) and/or are breaking apart, the sugars are all used up).

A weak or over-ripe dough starts to smell a bit stronger or vinegary with an acidic whiff, is too soft, the dough no longer feels lively and bouncy but begins to sag, stretch way to easily and will deflate easily when you work it. When you poke it, the dough makes a hole that doesn’t spring back and poking it can make the rest of the dough sag. When you push on over-fermented dough it is very weak, slack has old bubbles without much strength, there is very little resistance to your push. It will also tear easily.

When is Dough Done Proofing?

Over fermentation during bulk Ferment means you’ve depleted the food for your microorganisms, so you don’t want to do that. During final proof, you want your loaf not to double, more like 1.5 – 1.75 . The finger poke test helps, but is just one of the signs that tells you when it’s time to bake.

When you finger poke, if the dough has a lot of resistance(feels firm) when you push in and it fills out quickly, it is under-proofed. If there is a bubbly, moderate resistance and the dough fills out slowly, but still feels strong and bouncy, it is ready to bake. If you poke it and the dough sort slumps, the poke hole does not fill back out and the dough feels saggy with little or no resistance left, it is over-fermented.

Don’t just poke, pay attention to how the dough looks, feel the surface of the dough with your hand or tips of several fingers to see how firm/resistant it feels. See this video: https://youtu.be/vFakPswlQrY

How to make a 60% hydration motherdough

Dough Hydration

See here for how to make a 60% motherdough.

See here for a formula for a 60% motherdough bread.

Starter Hydration Conversions

How to convert a 100% starter to a 166% starter

Most of the formulas in my books, “Discovering Sourdough,” are based off one cup of 166% sourdough starter which equals 9 ounces/254 grams of starter (at 166%).
Convert your 100% hydration starter to 166% easily by:
Combine 191 grams of starter at 100%hydration and 63 grams of water, you will have approximately 1 cup/ 9oz of starter at 166%.
191 grams (100% starter) plus 63 grams of water = 1 cup/ 9 ounces/254 grams (of starter at 166% hydration).


How to convert a 60% motherdough to a 100% starter

I’ve had students with a 60% motherdough try to use their motherdough (active hopefully) instead of a 100% starter or change it to a 100% starter (of course you can just start feeding it equal weights of water and flour).

So here is an idea of how to substitute the 60% starter in a formula that calls for a 100% starter:
A 100% starter has (for instance) 100 grams of water and 100 grams of flour. A 60% starter has (for instance) 60 grams of water and 100 grams of flour. So a 60% starter has less water.

If you want to substitute a 60% starter in a formula that calls for a 100% starter you would need to add (for instance): 80 grams of 60% starter and 20 grams of water.

80 grams (60%) + 20 (water)= 100 grams starter at 100% hydration
40 grams of 60% +10 grams of water = 50 grams 100% starter
20 grams of 60% + 5 grams of water = 25 grams 100% starter

If you want to change it over to a 100% altogether, just use one of the above and begin to feed it the same weight of water and flour.

So if you need 200 grams of 100% starter you would add how much 60% motherdough and how much water? (Can you figure out the answer?) Psst see below.

Answer: See where I wrote: 80 grams (60%) + 20 (water)= 100 grams starter at 100% hydration? Just double it.
160 grams of 60% motherdough and 40 grams of water = 200 grams of 100% starter.

Happy Baking Everyone!  Teresa


Teresa L Greenway - Sourdough bread baker, author, teacher, entrepreneur. Join my baking classes at: https://tinyurl.com/nbe3ejd

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