Are you finding your sourdough bread is too gummy? An inedible disaster or just a slight annoyance? Either way, it prevents perfection and I want you to make bread that you’re proud of. So, want to find out how to stop your sourdough bread being gummy? Well, good news I’ve compiled the reasons why your bread is gummy, and how to fix this unpopular defect.
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The overarching cause of gummy sourdough bread is too much moisture. This could be from an overly wet dough, an oven that’s too cool, or a proofing issue. Yet making sure the starter is fully active should be the first point of call when fixing an overly moist crumb – and just about every other sourdough issue!
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What causes a gummy crumb?
There are many common issues that can make a sourdough gummy. Here are the things to check for so the problem goes away.
The flour is not the right for the recipe
Different flours are better suited for certain situations. Some flours, when pushed too long during bulk fermentation will collapse before reaching the windowpane stage. Others can be so strong that they need to be used in fast breads made with yeast otherwise they become too harsh and gummy.
We generally base the suitability of flour on its protein content. Sourdough bread is generally made with flour with 10-12% protein. But it’s not just down to the quantity of the protein, but its quality as well. Flours can be tested with all sorts of modern equipment to determine its stress levels but, of course we don’t have access to them at home.
- Select a flour that you know other bakers have had success with in similar recipes.
- If you use a local mill (and you should), ask them for some guidelines or to be pointed in the direction of a bakery who uses their flour for sourdough.
- Whole wheat flour will come out gummy, regardless. Here, the protein is just too high. Switch 50% of the flour with a lighter flour and review the results.
The dough is too wet
A simple fix for gummy sourdough bread is to lower the amount of water used in the recipe. Excessive water makes it harder for the gluten to stretch and retain gas. This makes a dense bread that’s gummy. Try reducing the water if your dough is too hard to handle, or read this guide on how to make your dough less sticky.
Does the starter need feeding?
A weak starter is the cause of most sourdough bread fails so it’s important that you take good care of it. The sourdough should be actively rising at least double in size and smell beautifully fragranced before using it.
View the how my starter recipe if you need one.
Check that your sourdough is properly proofed
A gummy crumb is a common trait of over proofed sourdough. Basically, the gluten structure collapses as it bakes which makes it near impossible for moisture to escape.
Use the poke test to test when the dough is ready. Learning how to tell when the dough is ready for the next stage is key to making perfect sourdough consistently.
Baking for too long
If a loaf spends too long in the oven it can easily end up gummy. This is because the steam can’t escape as the crust becomes thick and hard. A stronger outer barrier crust prevents moisture from easily exiting its core.
To achieve a dryer crumb we want the crust and the gluten matrix to set quickly and moisture to pass easily through the crust as the bread cools.
A hotter oven is the solution. Oven spring is also more prolific at higher temperatures.
Should I leave the bread to cool in the oven to dry the bread out?
When the bread looks ready some bakers turn the oven off and leave it inside for 20 minutes, sometimes with the door slightly ajar. This is said to dry out the gumminess.
Should you do this? No, this will prevent moisture from escaping when water activity is at its highest. It is going to cause the bread to be more gummy.
What is the ideal oven setting for bread?
Instead, preheat the oven at a higher temperature 240C (465F) and then drop the temperature down to 230C (450F)as the bread goes in. Once it starts to brown (usually after 15-20 minutes) lower the temperature again to 200-210C (390-410F) depending on the colour of the bread.
There is a situation where opening the door slightly can also be helpful, I’ll explain next…
Too much steam!!
Bakers who leave a water bath in the oven for the duration of the bake as a way to add steam in the oven may have experienced too much steam in the oven. Signs of this are seen in cuts not opening up fully and a discoloured, soft crust.
Releasing the steam after the oven spring has finished allows the crust to set. And this can be a contributing factor to letting moisture escape the crumb.
This is typically done by releasing the damper in specialist bread ovens. The damper is a plug that covers a little hole at the back of the oven. Opening it up allows the steam to exit.
Ideally we want a small amount of airflow to continually remove the steam away from the bread. This is hard to do as the heat also disappears out the gap. Most home sourdough bakers find lifting the lid on their dutch ovens works in much the same way.
I’ve found opening the door for 5 seconds every 5 minutes once I get to 20 minutes of baking works well.
If you are using a dutch oven you should do this alongside lifting up the lid. Sometimes removing the bread out of the dutch oven and baking on the shelf for the last few minutes has a positive effect.
How to know if your bread has finished baking?
To check crusty bread is baked thoroughly, remove it carefully from the oven and tap the base. If it sounds hollow, it’s ready, if it’s dull, bake some more.
For more accuracy, test the core of the loafs temperature with a probe. A temperature between 90-100C (190-210F) is acceptable but experiment to suit your texture you desire. The warmer the temperature, the less moisture will exist in the baked loaf.
How long to cool bread?
Bread continues to let moisture escape from its core as it exits the oven so it is best to allow the bread to cool in an area with plenty of airflow.
I leave mine on a cooling rack for at least 1½ hours. After this, the bread can be cut and enjoyed!
How do you fix gummy sourdough bread?
Work through the steps to ensure your bread develops to retain enough gas, proves the perfect level and has a fast yet effective bake. Follow these steps with good quality flour and you’ll be assured of gummy free bread going forward.