I'm relatively new to using a levain, but not new to bread baking. I used to use a bread machine for kneading (I have wonky wrists), but recently started using a stand mixer. I searched using the word "stiff", but couldn't find an answer. I successfully used Ed Wood's starter with his recipe for World Bread. Today I wanted to try the French Bread recipe, because that's more like what I want, but my dough came out too stiff. I'm using a stand mixer, and I'm wondering if perhaps I put the flour in too quickly? He says to put it in 1 C at a time, but I didn't allow it to completely knead in each cup before adding the second. I'm trying to rescue the dough by kneading in a little water then letting it rest. I thought I'd pop in and see if there were any other ideas in between kneadings.
Adding water a little at a time and kneading it in should work out just fine. Can be a bit on the messy side but you get there eventually.
In fact, bakers often hold back some of the water from a recipe as it is better to add water than to add flour. Adding flour to a developing dough runs the risk of having unfinished flour left and also the flour takes time to absorb water and it is much easier to over-add flour.
Hopefully, you have it sorted by this but let us know how you go.
Thank you. It baked ok, then I tried again with a bit more water. This batch looks much better.