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I am new to producing and using a sourdough starter at home. While mixing a dough that incorporates a starter using a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment, I have observed the resulting dough looking much less smooth than a standard yeast dough. My question is if and how using a sourdough starter has an impact on mixing (kneading) speed and time.

bumpy surface of kneaded dough

The image above shows the surface of the dough is not smooth. It is quite elastic, though.

For context, I converted a standard yeast recipe (Italian bread) to allow incorporating the starter. The primary purpose of this is for additional flavor. This recipe is by weight and I used the ratio of the starter's flour and water to formulate the converted recipe. Base recipe mixing time calls for 8 - 10 minutes at second speed.

I have tried two methods of mixing when incorporating a starter (both are variants of the straight dough method). First I tried adding all ingredients at once, including the starter, and mixing. The second method I tried was adding all ingredients except the starter, mixing until a rough dough was formed, then adding the starter and finishing the mixing. Both methods produced a similar dough with a bumpy exterior. Compared to the base recipe, the dough is much more elastic and more sticky (though I'm not sure if it is more "wet" or just the norm when a preferment is added).

I should mention the resulting loaf had good flavor and form but the texture was more dense than I desire. There are still a number of factors I will work on tweaking and improving but I'd like to rule out over (or under) kneading as a factor. I have significant experience with yeast breads but am lacking accurate knowledge of how a sourdough starter impacts various aspects (mixing, fermentation, proofing) of bread making. I did some Googling and also searched Cooking SE but am not finding an answer to this specific question.

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  • I have continued to try different methods of mixing. So far I have found that mixing all components except the starter first using a stand mixer, then incorporating the starter until just combined, then kneading by hand provides the best feeling dough. But I don't yet know how mixing timing is influenced. I am also finding the dough is very slack and difficult to work with and the resulting product has inferior structure. Sep 29, 2020 at 14:23
  • That texture and your description of the bread being more dense looks to me as if you're not fully developing the gluten. I've seen the same when converting recipes to starter-based, and have found that kneading longer, keeping temp below 77 oF (25 oC) by using icewater rather than room-temp to extend needing time while keeping temps down, develops the tight, smooth dough ball you'd expect, and reduces the density. Reducing hydration a few percentage points helps as well -- when it's too wet, you get more of a stirring effect instead of the stretching that's needed to form the gluten network.
    – stevegt
    Nov 21, 2021 at 21:09

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