Why is my sourdough bread gummy

Why Is My Sourdough Bread Gummy?

Why is my sourdough bread gummy
Updated on
November 26, 2023
Gareth Busby
Gareth Busby

Is your sourdough bread gummy? The severity can make a gummy crumb an inedible disaster or a slight annoyance.

Either way, gummy sourdough bread is not perfection, and you want to be proud of your bread, right?!

So, to stop your sourdough bread being gummy, here are the ten reasons bread is gummy.

With each fault, you’ll also find out how to fix the issue. So you can bake perfect loaves going forward.

Does that sound good? If so, let’s get started!

Bread is gummy when too much moisture remains after baking. Causes of this include an overly wet dough, not baking for long enough or a proof issue. A fully active starter is essential to avoiding a gummy crumb when making sourdough bread.

#1 The Starter Was Not Ripe Enough

A weak starter is the most common cause of sourdough bread problems!

If there are not enough healthy wild yeast and bacteria to raise the dough, the dough takes a long time to rise.

Faults this problem leads to include:

  1. The gluten structure deteriorates
  2. Starch continues to be broken dough into sugars
  3. The excess sugars are unused and retain water (osmosis)
  4. Gas produced (via respiration and fermentation) escapes
  5. A dense and gummy crumb remains after baking

How to tell if your starter is ripe

A ripe sourdough starter should double in size. It should contain bubbles in various sizes and smell beautifully fragranced.

Do I need to add rye flour to my starter?

Any simple starter recipe will form a culture of wild yeasts and bacteria. Many bakers insist on using rye flour to “boost” the properties of the starter.

While it is scientifically proven that rye flour makes a more powerful and robust starter, it’s not essential.

You can achieve an excellent starter using just white flour and water.

How to fix an immature starter

If your starter is not fully ripe, store it in a warm place and refresh it when it reaches its peak rise. Repeat 3-4 times over 2-3 days.

If there is no improvement, see my sourdough starter troubleshooting guide.

#2 You Are Not Baking Your Bread For Long Enough

One of the most popular solutions I’ve heard to fix gummy sourdough is turning the oven off and leaving the bread inside to cool.

But it’s not the perfect solution!

This method has some merits but can be detrimental in many cases.

When bread cools in the oven, high pressure and a lack of cool air flowing around it prevent moisture from escaping.

The result is gummier bread!

The most common way to fix gummy bread is to bake your bread for longer.

If you notice midway through your baking duration that your crust is already well-coloured, drop your baking temperature around 20 degrees.

How to tell when bread has finished baking

To check crusty bread is baked thoroughly, remove it from the oven and tap the base. If it sounds hollow, it’s ready. If not, return it to the range.

Use a temperature probe to find the loaves’ core temperature more accurately.

Look for a reading between 90-100C (190-210F) for most sourdough bread styles. The lower the temperature, the more moisture remains.

#3 The Dough Was Over-Hydrated

A “wet dough” is superior in many sourdough baking circles. 

Water is essential to hydrate the gluten strands. It allows them to unwind and take on elastic and extensibility properties.

However, adding lots of water to your dough isn’t always best. Unnecessary water gets in the way of the gluten strands. It leads to a weak dough structure that struggles to retain gas effectively.

Poor gas retention leads to a weaker rise during the proofing and oven spring stages.

There is another problem when baking high-hydration bread.

Because of the extra amount of water, more moisture is likely to remain after baking, making the bread dense and gummy.

How to bake high-hydration sourdough

A high-hydration loaf of bread requires a longer time in the oven.

Once your bread sounds baked, drop the temperature to 200C (370F) and open the oven door slightly. The airflow helps moisture to escape the bread.

Leave the bread in the oven for 5-10 minutes to dry.

When is there too much water in sourdough bread dough?

When a dough is so sticky that it’s too hard to handle or knead, you added too much water.

Return to the bowl and add some flour. Reduce the water in the recipe for future use.

For more help with sticky dough, read my guide on how to make your dough less sticky.

#4 Not measuring the salt Accurately

Salt is vital in bread dough. It absorbs water, strengthens the gluten structure, creates tension in the crust, regulates yeast activity, adds flavour and more.

It’s best to weigh the salt in your recipe. You’ll need a set of accurate scales, just like the KD8000 from MyWeigh.

MyWeigh scales

MyWeigh KD8000 Digital Food Scale

If you want to take your bread baking to the next level, a decent set of scales is a must!

The My Weigh KD-8000 Digital Food Scale is the perfect scale for bakers. It’s durable, fast to turn on, VERY responsive, and most importantly, has chunky buttons that are easily pressable when you’ve got dough on the go.

The My Weigh KD-8000 is a new version of My Weigh’s top-selling kitchen scale, updated with baker’s math and percentage weighing.

#5 The Flour Was Not Right For The Recipe

Different wheat varieties suit particular styles of bread.

After a long bulk fermentation period of over 4 hours, weaker flours that cannot undergo prolonged stress force the dough to collapse.

NOTE: Flours unsuitable for sourdough bread are usually low-protein varieties. However, the protein quality (w-value) significantly impacts gluten strength in a long-fermented sourdough bread recipe.

A white flour high in protein (above 13%) is best for quickly made yeast bread and high-hydration sourdough.

High-protein bread flour produces tough and sometimes gummy bread without fat or dough improvers.

What is the best flour to make sourdough bread?

Most sourdough bread recipes use flour containing 10.5-12.5% protein content.

However, other protein strengths can work depending on the wheat quality and the recipe used.

How to avoid gummy whole wheat sourdough bread

Sourdough bread made with whole wheat flour is often gummy.

The protein in whole wheat flour is more complex to develop into a robust gluten structure.

It results in a dough that does not rise sufficiently, so the interior remains compact, dense and overly moist. This effect is especially noticeable when the wheat is high-extraction.

If you are a beginner, I recommend avoiding 100% whole wheat until you have more experience with the sourdough fermentation process.

Switching half of your flour works incredibly well. I often use 50% white bread flour and 50% whole wheat flour to make whole wheat sourdough, which tastes incredible!!

#6 Your Sourdough Was Underproofed

A gummy crumb is common when sourdough is underproofed or fermented.

Knowing when the dough is ready for the next stage when making sourdough is hard to pick up at first.

In fact, it’s probably the hardest thing to get right! Often, a fermentation or proofing problem is not so. It’s actually caused by an immature starter!!

Return to your starter and ensure it is fully ripe first.

By underfermented, I mean the first rising stage (often called bulk fermentation) needed to be longer.

Most recipes call for this stage to last at least 3 hours in warm conditions. A much longer first rising stage is required if the room temperature is cool.

The trick is to allow the dough to rise around 50-70% of its original size.

During bulk fermentation sourdough should increase by 50% of its original size.

When under-fermented, the shaped dough will take longer to rise, have little flavour and contain a gummy compact crumb.

Why under proofing causes a gummy crumb

Moisture struggles to escape if the gluten structure is compact. The restrictive environment retains extra water molecules, making the bread gummy and unenjoyable.

How do you tell when sourdough is correctly proofed?

The bottom of under-proofed loaves curves upwards at the edges, whereas the base of an over-proofed loaf is flat.

Proofing levels of sourdough

Use the poke test to test when your dough is ready to bake

Press the dough down gently with a wet finger. If it springs back right away, give it longer to rise before trying again.

It’s ready when it slowly bounces back over around 3 seconds.

Poke test
Folding Proofer & Slow Cooker

Brod and Taylor Home Proofing Box

The problem with proofing bread at home is that kitchen temperatures are often too cold and fluctuate a lot!

Fortunately, the Brod and Taylor home proofer fixes these issues!! With one of these, you can select the perfect proofing temperature and create humidity. Never have a slow-rising loaf again!

#7 The Oven Was Too Cool

A sourdough loaf can become gummy if baked at the wrong temperature. For the perfect open crumb, we want the crust to set quickly.

Once set, moisture passes through the crust as it evaporates into vapour. As the bread cools outside the oven, water continues escaping.

The crust must be thin for water molecules to pass.

Issues baking in a cool oven

When baking bread in a cool oven, the baking time has to be extended to colour the crust.

A longer bake forms a thicker crust, preventing moisture from exiting the core of the bread.

Issues baking in a hot oven

A hotter oven increases the amount of oven spring! Yet, if the oven is too hot, the outside browns, leaving the crumb section underbaked and excessively moist.

What is the ideal oven setting for bread?

Preheat your oven to 240C (465F), then drop the temperature to 230C (450F) as the bread goes in.

After 15 minutes, lower the temperature to 210C (410F) and bake for another 15 minutes until the bread sounds “hollow” when tapped.

#8 There Was Too Much Steam In The Oven

When baking crusty bread, water is added to the oven to create steam.

The water quickly evaporates into water vapour, condensing on the bread’s outside. Water molecules latch onto the crust area, preventing it from hardening and insulating the bread from heat.

After 15 minutes, the steam is released by removing the water bath and opening the door.

Baking with steam improves the amount of rise bread undergoes in the oven and forms a crisp crust and drier crumb.

How to add steam to an oven

The most common way to add steam to a domestic oven oven is using a “spritzer” to spray water.

Another method is with a water bath, a deep-lipped tray of water sitting in the bottom of the oven. The bath continuously vents water vapour.

Why is too much steam a problem?

Adding too much water or spritzing directly on the crust surface weakens the rise and causes a discoloured, soft, thick crust.

Over-steamed bread

Another issue is (you’ve guessed it!) a dense and gummy sourdough bread.

How to use a Dutch oven to bake sourdough

Instead of a loaf pan, many home sourdough bakers find a Dutch oven is the perfect vessel for baking bread. The lid creates a well-sealed mini-oven inside the range. 

You can see my recommended Dutch oven, The Challenger:

Challenger Bread Pan

Challenger Bread Pan®

A revolutionary cast iron bread pan designed by bakers for bakers. The shallow base makes loading dough easy. Its shape fits a variety of shapes and sizes of bread, and the sealed environment retains the perfect amount of steam.

Made in the USA, the Challenger is the easiest way to make beautiful bread at home. It’s pretty simple: You won’t regret getting one of these if you aim to bake regularly.

#9 There Was Too Much Sugar In The Recipe

Sugar absorbs water, which creates osmotic pressure in the dough, decreasing the yeast’s ability to function.

Due to the extra water absorbed, excessive sugar levels in bread produce a sticky crumb texture.

#10 Too Much Malt Flour Was Used

Activated malt flour breaks down starch in the flour to produce an abundance of simple sugars.

If fermenting yeast or lactic acid bacteria do not consume all of the sugars, they absorb water.

Like adding extra sugar to the recipe, too much malt flour results in bread with a sticky and gummy texture.

#11 Fully Cool Your Bread Before Slicing

Moisture escapes bread during the baking process and as the bread cools.

To cool sourdough bread effectively, you need plenty of airflow. Always let your bread cool down to blood temperature (37C or 100F) before slicing it.

Bread not cooled for long enough traps water in the bread, making it more gummy.

I leave mine on a cooling rack for at least 1½ hours before tucking in!

How Do You Fix Gummy Sourdough Bread? – Conclusion

Work through the steps to ensure your bread develops to retain enough gas, rises to the perfect level and has a fast, effective bake.

Follow these steps, and you will enjoy gummy-free bread going forward!

What do you think your issue is? Let me know in the comments below.

If you’ve enjoyed this article and wish to treat me to a coffee, you can by following the link below – Thanks x

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Comments (20)

  • I am wendy from Malaysia. My weather here was summer whole year range above 33’C
    I did not change my flour or anything i did a BF of 6-7 hours from the time i add in my starter ( mostly consist of 2 set of S&F, 3 sets of CF ) then i CR for 12 hours in the fridge. I baked at 250 (last 2 rack of my oven for 25min then 30 min at 230’C (lid off) .. i cut my bread after 3 hours most of the time. So m i over-proofing or under proofing my dough?

    • Hard to tell without seeing your dough. I’d say 6-7 hours of bulk fermentation at 33C is a bit long, but depends on how much starter you used in your recipe. How much rise did you get before shaping? I aim for around 50%. It might need some time to rise at room temperature once it comes out of the fridge so it’s fully proofed.

  • Wow! I love your disposition to answer everyone. I can tell you are passionate of baking! ❤️. I’m also new to sourdough baking and have been at the fringe of giving up because of the gummy issues. I wonder how when back when people made bread without all these tips. I’m in the states and I think like you said… Flour here is give or take. Thank you!

    • Thanks for writing! My last sourdough loaves at work were gummy, so we all have these issues from time to time! Yes, I believe that bakers should treat flour like a winemaker treats grapes. There can be a big difference between packets, even if the protein content is the same. Let me know if you would like any further help with your gummy sourdough.

  • I am new to sourdough bread and I am so frustrated with this issue. I have baked 5 loaves with every single one being so gummy that I’ve had to throw them away. I used the Tartine recipe for the first 4 and they all but the first one had great oven spring, great ears and internal temp was 212, I reduced water to 65% and still gummy. The last one was Elaine Boddy white bread and the same happened. My starter was active (it is a month and half old. Rises within 4 hours) I use King Arthur Bread flour, (I bought a fresh bag thinking that might be it) I use a cast iron dutch oven and preheat it tell it is 500° then add bread, 20 mins. With lid on 25 with lid off. I just want to make a sourdough bread that is not gummy, please help.

    • I think we can fix this. There are two possible routes:

      1) Reduce the initial temp to 475, then drop it to 430 once you load the bread and bake a little longer to draw out more moisture.


      2) The flour you are using could be an issue. Hard wheat with high protein content from North America notoriously contains a lot of damaged starch which means there is more enzymatic activity. As your particular flour contains added malt flour or amylase, starch breaks down into sugar very rapidly. This makes the flour ideal for quickly risen bread, but not for a long rise (despite what the marketing might say) as the extra sugars soak up water, leaving the bread crumb gummy. Many bakers have success making sourdough with King Arthur bread flour, though. Try more stretch and folds and reduce the bulk fermentation time to a maximum of 4 hours, and then proof at room temperature for another 3-4 hours. Increase the amount of starter used in the recipe for a faster rise if these timings don’t seem achievable. Alternatively, try a 11-12% protein flour.

      Hope these tips help.

  • I did as you said on the previous message. I shaped right after shape and fold, and put already in the fridge for cold retard, in the morning i took from the fridge and let the breads outside for 1h30 and baked. Much better result. Way better. I could see much clear the fermentation and it was slower, considering the temperature i have here. Thank you so much for the advice!

    • Ah fantastic Fernanda! Great to hear that it’s not collapsing and gummy any more. By shortening the rise we’ve avoided the gluten from becoming tired from the extended stress of supporting the structure, which was making the dough collapse (and ruining your oven spring). You’ll be able to tweak the routine slightly with longer/shorter rises and more or less stretch and folds to suit your taste, but don’t push it as long as you were doing. Happy to help 🙂

  • Thank you so much for the reply, no worries 🙂
    I made some progress, i realized the flour was too humid, and i was overdeveloping like you said.
    I will do this way your saying this week and see.
    Last week i did almost this way but i still did one more stretch and fold 3x. I’m also realizing i need to add more steam during baking.
    Thank you so much for those tips and this week will do exactly like your saying and come back for the results!

    • No worries, this should prevent it from collapsing. Yes, steam will help your oven spring which is something that has likely worsened since moving away from using a Dutch oven. You can then push fermentation & gluten development in subsequent attempts to achieve your perfect loaf. Let me know how it goes!

  • Thank you so much for the reply 🙂
    The structure is not okay, is collapsing, some breads get good oven spring (not amazing but get) but also from the same batch others don’t get oven spring. I live in Brazil and where i live is not that easy to find good organic flour, so the one i’m using is now the best we have for long fermented breads. Before when i was using the dutch oven i feel it was better compared the new oven i got. Here now is summer so room temperature is around 29°C, but this could manage to lower the temperature of the dough. Its was everything okay until the last two weeks where nothing much changed, or that i’m aware. So i’m a bit confused what it can be. Although from everything you said i’ll look today on those elements and write to keep track.
    One thing you said is that i may be overdeveloping the gluten, i’ve been feeling the dough different so maybe can be this. Today i lower the hydration to start observe what is different. I’ll keep track and see what is causing this. Thank you so much for your help!

    • Hi, sorry I’m so long to reply! Have you made any progress? I would do this:

      Mix the dough with a stand mixer for 2 minutes, or until just combined.
      Stretch and fold twice every 45 minutes.
      Once risen 50% and the gluten is stretchy ( see windowpane test), shape and proof overnight in the fridge. This should take 3-5 hours
      Take out the fridge for 2-3 hours in the morning, and allow it to rise until fully proofed.

      Bake at 220 – 230°C, adding steam to enhance the oven spring and let it cool

  • Hi! My bread lately is been super gummy, not quite sure what is the problem. The starter is fine, been feeding everyday, my hydration is 63% for a 310w flour, i mix the dough with a stand mixer for 4 minutes, then stretch and fold for 3h 3x every 45 minutes. Then 2 hours of bulk fermentation. Shape and proof for min 12h in the fridge. Bake with a temperature around 210°C and let it cool in a hack for at least one hour before cut or pack. From his process not sure where i’m making a mistake 🙁
    I would appreciate some light on the process. Thank you so much

    • Hiya, your method seems good. The best thing to consider is “what has changed?” Have you used a new bag of flour? Is it warmer/cooler in your kitchen than previous?

      I’m thinking you could be overdeveloping the gluten a little and/or the flour you are using is not suitable for longer fermented doughs. It could also be a baking issue. Can tell me, if the structure of the crumb is ok, or is it collapsing? Are you getting a good oven spring?

  • I just returned to my sourdough after 10 hour rise and it feels sticky and gummy. The starter seemed fine. It rose well over doubling size after several (8?) hours and just as it began falling I made the mixture following directions exactly. I did my stretch and folds. 2 x. Now I expected a firmer dough ready to bake. Any thoughts? Amy I making a mistake letting it rise in stainless vs. glass bowl?

    • Hi Wendy, the type of bowl won’t make a difference. Was the dough sticky and wet when you kneaded it or did it get progressively wetter as it rose? What recipe are you following?

  • The gummiest bread crust is what I get. One thing I did was to shut off the oven and leave my bread in for several hours. Could that be my problem?

    • Yes! There could be other reasons for a gummy loaf too but leaving it in the oven will trap the moisture inside the loaf and make it gummy.

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