Final dough oozes and spreads, hard to slash


My latest problem... I am using the beginners recipe 500/330 with a 60% hydration starter (I feed it with 100:60 flour:water, that makes it 60% right?). When I turn the dough out onto the peel ready for the oven it spreads a bit losing its ball shape. It's also very hard to slash, even with a stanley knife (razor knife) the knife pulls and tears the dough, leaving it mishapen.

I am currently doing my final proof in a towel-lined colander or bowl. Using Farinams hydration chart it comes out at 65%. What sort of range of hydrations do people work with. I am wondering whether a bit less water might help?

Also, this current loaf has stuck to the oven stone

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farinam's picture
farinam 2012 January 8

Hello redrich,

I assume that 500 os flour and 330 is water.  That works out that, if your starter is 60% and it should be if the proportions that you have given are correct), you have 300g (or thereabouts) of that to get a 65% dough using my spreadsheet. 

The Pane Francesa recipe from SourDom (180g 100% starter, 500g flour and 320g water) works out at 69%.  So at 65% you should be having no trouble at all, I would have thought.

However, I seem to recall that you were using spelt flour and I have no experience with that.  Perhaps somebody who regularly works with spelt might be able to comment.

Also can't comment on the Stanley knife for slashing, I use a razor blade with a thick bamboo skewer threaded through the central perforations that gives the blade a nice curve and it seems to work just fine.  There is a bit of a technique to doing the slash.  It should be done quite quickly with a wrist action.  I think if you move too slowly and too straight you can get catching and dragging.  There are some videos out there.

The loaf will generally 'flatten' to some degree when you turn it out and slash it but the oven spring generally takes care of that.

Let us know how it goes.


farinam's picture
farinam 2012 January 8

HI again redrich,

If you are more comfortable working at lower hydration, by all means do so.

There is no 'right' or' wrong' hydration to work at - the bread will have different characteristics but will invariably be good to eat.

Keep on bakin'.


redrich2000 2012 January 8

I have stopped using spelt for now. This loaf had 10% wholemeal.

I have uploaded some pictures. I'm still not happy with the result. The bread and crust are very soft and a bit moist, a little bit like Turkish bread. The loaf squashes quit a lot when I try to cut it. This I one I baked for 50 mins at 450/425. I sprayed water on the loaf and in the oven at the start. I was going to cover it like the NorthWest site suggests but it had spread too much for the pot to fit over it.

farinam's picture
farinam 2012 January 8

Hi redrich,

I don't think you are too far away.  I'd make that recipe a few times more and you might find that it comes good as you get practice with handling the dough and loaf.

You say you sprayed water onto the loaf.  In my reading, this is not recommended.  I think just onto the walls of the oven is the way to go.

If you go to the link above and navigate to the tips and tricks, there is a comprehensive article on managing your oven that might help for you to read.

You haven't said what sort of oven you use (gas or electric) but even so, I'd have thought that amount of time and temperature would have resulted in a much thicker/darker crust than you are showing.  Are the oven door seals in good condition?

Hang in there.


Laurae2u 2012 January 10

In SourDom's last beginner's tutorial final crucial steps, he does recommend spraying the loaf before slashing or putting on any seeds, etc.

farinam's picture
farinam 2012 January 8

Sorry folks - in the item above I said "with a wrist action" - it should have been "with no wrist action" - a whole arm movement.


redrich2000 2012 January 8

Its a gas oven. The seals are okay as far as I know, but I don't really know how to tell. I have an oven thermometer now and am using that to guide me now. I sprayed on the loaf following the NorthWest sourdough technique, she sprays on the loaf before putting the lid over it and gets an excellent crust. I will read up try just spraying on the walls.

farinam's picture
farinam 2012 January 9

Hi redrich,

The first thing to do would be just to inspect the seals to see if they are hard, cracked, pieces missing etc.

The second would be to observe during heating/baking to get an idea if there is excessive amounts of heat issuing from around the oven door.

The third would be to take a sheet of paper and close it into the door and see how easy it is to pull out.  If it comes out easily then there is a good chance that your seals/door closure needs attention.  You would repeat this test at each side of the door (four) if possible.

If the seals are poor, even if it doesn't improve your baking, fixing the problem will save you a lot of energy (and expense).

If your oven is not 'new' and has never had a new set of seals, it could be worth getting them changed anyway.


redrich2000 2012 January 9

Had a look at the seals. They look fine, except that there are only seals along the top and and down the two sides, not along the bottom of the door. However, it looks like that's how its meant to be, as in the seal itself doesn't look broken and ends at the bottom of each side cleanly and at the same level.

yeastbite 2012 September 13
Hi What you need is a quick, dramatic heating of the dough. Don't change your recipe and make the dough stiffer-you need a well hydrated dough. Use the iron pot method-about 15 minutes before baking put an iron pot with a lid in the oven, (at the hottest temp you can) with a sheet of baking paper in the bottom. Heavy pots are best I use a french one "Le Creuset?" Dont overwork your dough -just tuck the loose ends underneath and cup it into a round compact shape-carry it over to the oven and place the dough in the pot, then slash it with a stanley or craft knife from your local cheap stuff shop, then put the lid on. Bake it at flat out maximum temp for 30 mins-then reduce to around 200 degrees centrgrade and bake for a further 15-30 mins (lid off) or until it looks right. You will get a stunning looking loaf with a beautiful crust, big bubbled open textured soft interior. please try it.
Hugo's picture
Hugo 2013 April 26

I’m familiar with spelt, and I’ve baked breads with spelt accounting for 10% to 100% flour weight.

I wouldn’t bake 100% spelt anymore, unless I use a cooking vessel (bread pan). Spelt is very silky and soft and it seems that the bacteria are very good at undermining its gluten fibers. Yes, it spreads easily... but it also rises a LOT during the oven spring! I’d underproof the loaf a bit to see if it helps. You can also see what happens if you don’t slash at all, or slash a smaller area on the top (perhaps a small cross at the center)? Try folding the dough one last time before baking to create some tension.

I usually use spelt at a 10-25% level to alter the loaf’s texture. Spelt is wonderful when combined with kamut, which seems to yield a much harder crust than whole wheat or white flour. So I use 10% spelt, 20% kamut and 70% white flour to make a very balanced loaf in terms of taste and texture. All-around bread that’s equally good for sandwiches, toasting, soup croutons, or eating as-is with butter.


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