Why Is My Sourdough Bread Gummy?

Why is my sourdough bread gummy
Published on
14 May 2021
Gareth Busby
Gareth Busby

Is your sourdough bread gummy? Whether an inedible disaster or a slight annoyance, a gummy crumb prevents perfection, and I want you to make bread that you’re proud of! If you want to find out how to stop your sourdough bread being gummy, I’ve listed the ten reasons your bread is gummy.

With each fault, you’ll also find out how to fix gummy sourdough bread, so you can note this period as a learning stage and bake perfect loaves going forward. Does that sound good? If so, let’s get started!

The overarching cause of your sourdough bread being gummy is too much moisture. This could be from an overly wet dough, an oven that’s too cool or a proofing issue. But before you make any changes to fix your gummy crumb, check that your starter is fully active first!

What causes a gummy crumb in sourdough bread?

Here are the things that can leave too much moisture in your sourdough bread (making it gummy) and how to make the problem go away:

#1 The flour was not right for the recipe

Different varieties of wheat suit various styles of breadmaking.

Sometimes dough collapses during a long bulk fermentation period of above 4 hours. The reason this happens is the flour is not suited to be fermented for this time period. These flours tend to be low-protein, however, the quality of the protein (w-value) contained in the flour has a bigger impact in a long-fermented sourdough recipe.

A flour high in protein (typically above 13%) is best used for quickly made yeast bread or super-high hydration sourdough. If you use very high-protein flour in a standard sourdough recipe, it will absorb lots of water and produce bread that is potentially break-your-jaw-tough and/or gummy.

Modern equipment will test the flour at the mill to determine its stress levels and protein quality. Of course, we don’t have access to these tools at home, and few mills publish these results, so we have to rely on protein content and brand reputation to select flour. Sourdough bread is usually made with 10.5-12.5% protein flour.

If you think your flour choice is making your bread gummy:

  1. Select flour with 10.5-12.5% protein, preferably one that other sourdough bakers enjoy success
  2. If you use a local mill (and you should), ask for some recipe guidelines
  3. Whole wheat flour often makes gummy bread, especially if it is high-extraction. Switch 50% of the whole wheat flour with white bread flour for a better crumb texture.

#2 The dough was over-hydrated

A common fix for gummy sourdough bread is simply to use less water in the recipe. Whilst a wet dough is often regarded as superior in sourdough baking circles, if excess water remains after your bread is baked and cooled, it remains in the crumb, making the bread dense and gummy.

Excessive water can also get in the way of the gluten, making it harder for the gluten to stretch and retain gas in a structure. The result of this can lead to less oven spring and a more-compact crumb.

If your dough is too wet to handle or knead, it’s a good sign that too much water was used. Quickly add some flour and amend the recipe so you add less water next time.

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

#3 The starter was not ripe enough

A weak starter is the cause of the majority of sourdough bread problems! It’s important to take good care of yours and ensure it is nice and active before baking with it.

A starter won’t have enough healthy yeast and bacteria to proof the dough if it is immature. When a sourdough dough takes a long time to rise because the starter is immature, the following steps occur:

  1. The gluten structure deteriorates
  2. Starch continues to be broken dough into sugars
  3. Unused sugars retain water (osmosis)
  4. A dense and gummy crumb remains after baking

A ripe sourdough starter should be at least doubling in size and beautifully fragranced before use. View my starter recipe for more tips on making a starter.

#4 Your sourdough was not properly proofed

A gummy crumb is a common trait of under or over-proofed sourdough. Learning to tell when the dough is ready for the next stage is key to making perfect sourdough.

It occurs where the gluten structure collapses (over-proofing) or remains compact (under-proofing), making it hard for moisture to escape.

When sourdough is under-proofed, it has a hard crust and tends to “blow” out in a section of the bread. When under-proofed, the crust is overly thin and lighter in colour. The bottom of under-proofed loaves often curves upwards at the edges.

Use the poke test to test when the dough is ready. Simply press the dough with your finger, if it’s ready it’ll bounce back slowly over 2-3 seconds. If it springs back right away, give it a longer proof before trying again.

Poke test

#5 The oven was too cool

A loaf can easily become gummy if baked in a cool oven. The bread bakes longer, making the crust thick and hard. The robust outer barrier prevents moisture from exiting the core of the bread.

For a dry 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 for sourdough baking. You should notice an improvement in the amount of oven spring too!

What is the ideal oven setting for bread?

Preheat the oven to 240C (465F) and then drop the temperature down to 230C (450F) as the bread goes in. Once it starts to brown (after 15-20 minutes), lower the temperature to 210C (410F) and bake for another 15 minutes or until ready.

How to tell when your 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 it sounds dull, bake it some more. For more accuracy, use a temperature probe to find the loaves’ core temperature. Look for a reading between 90-100C (190-210F) for most sourdough bread styles. The lower the temperature, the more moisture remains in the bread.

#6 Too much steam was added to the oven

In specialist bread ovens, steam is injected into the oven during the first few seconds of baking crusty bread. The water vapour condenses on the outside of the bread, preventing the crust from hardening right away. It also insulates the outside of the bread from the heat, extending the baking time. Baking with steam improves the oven spring and (by extending the baking time) leads to a less moist crumb.

Steam can also be added to a domestic oven. The most common way to add steam to the oven is by using a “spritzer” to spray water into the oven. If steam escapes from the oven rapidly, a popular method uses a water bath, a deep-lipped tray of water which sits in the bottom of the oven, venting water vapour around the baking chamber.

Over spritzing, spritzing the bread directly, adding too much water to a water bath or leaving a water bath for the whole bake lead to score marks in the bread not fully opening and a discoloured, soft and thick crust. Aside from these errors, another issue is (you’ve guessed it!) less oven spring and dense and gummy sourdough bread.

15 minutes into the bake, steam should be released from the oven by removing the water bath and opening the door for a few seconds every 5 minutes. Without steam, the crust can harden, making bread with a crisp crust and a light-textured crumb.

Home sourdough bakers find a Dutch oven the perfect vessel to bake bread as the lid creates a well-sealed mini-oven inside the oven. Spritz the dough lightly before baking your loaf and lift the lid after 15 minutes to harden the crust for the remainder of the bake. If you continue to struggle with gummy bread, remove it from the Dutch oven after 30 minutes and bake until done directly on the shelf.

#7 The bread cooled in the oven

When the bread looks ready, some bakers turn the oven off and leave it inside for 20 minutes to make their bread less gummy.

Should you let bread cool in the oven? No! Water activity is at its highest when the bread is hot. At this point, water vapour should be escaping from the bread. When bread cools in the oven, high pressure and a lack of cool airflow prevent moisture from escaping. Improper cooling and bread not cooled for long enough can trap water in the bread, making it more gummy.

#8 Too much sugar was used in the recipe

Sugar diverts water and creates osmotic pressure in the dough. This affects the yeast’s ability to function, leading to a slower rise and depleted oven spring. Excessive sugar levels produce a dense, compact crumb that’s sticky due to the extra water.

#9 Too much malt flour was used in the recipe

Activated malt flour produces an abundance of simple sugars. If not consumed by fermenting yeast and lactic acid bacteria the sugars absorb water and make the bread taste sticky and gummy. If using malt flour in your bread, omit it and notice the difference. It should only be used to enhance certain flours or in specialist recipes.

#10 The bread wasn’t cooled before slicing

Bread continues to let moisture escape from its core as it exits the oven. To do this effectively, you’ll need to cool sourdough bread with plenty of airflow. You should always let your bread cool down to blood temperature (37C or 100F) before slicing it. 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 with good-quality flour, and you’ll be assured of 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 (18)

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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?

  • 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

  • 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!

  • 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 🙂

  • 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.

  • 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.

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