A Tale of Two Dough Balls

Does washing in cool or warm water affect the gluten?

The way I learned to wash flour was to alternate between cool and lukewarm water with each wash. The mindset behind this, as far as I understand it, is that the cooler water tightens and strengthens the gluten, while the warmer water loosens it and makes it easier to wash out the starch. When washing, I can actually feel this process happening, so it’s not something I ever questioned.

I began again with two 450g bowls of 12.7% protein bread flour, and hydrated each with 236g of water. I matched each weight to 671g before washing. This time I set the timer for a straight 9 minutes. For both dough balls I changed the water twice. The first one I washed was using only cool, almost cold water. The second was using only lukewarm.

I noticed myself struggling to really break up the starch with the cold water. The clumps wanted to stay clumpy. When washing with lukewarm, the process felt much easier to breakdown the starches and I got to my desired water clarity more quickly. Once again I let them drain and I wrang out as much excess water as possible. While wringing them out, I could see how much more starch was left in the dough ball that was washed with cold water.

This also proved to be the case on the scale. The cold water dough ball weighed in at 250g, and the lukewarm water at 220g. I really do believe that the cold water ball was weighed down by more starch, not by more gluten. The lukewarm dough ball weighed in right line with my first washing experiment, and was achieved in the same amount of time.

CONCLUSION: While I am 100% certain I will never again wash with just cool water, I think this needs to be a 2-part experiment. I’d like try to see if there are any distinguishable differences in the texture of the seitan when alternating, or when just using lukewarm water. For now I find it safe to say that if you are familiar with the flour you are using and have had good results, you may just want to wash in lukewarm and save your hands from getting cold. To be continued…

About the Author:

I created this website hoping to make it easier for people interested in seitan to be able to find, share, and rate recipes. Through both research and my own experimentation, I hope to answer some commonly asked questions in the "Learn More About Seitan" section, and you’ll find some of my own recipes here, too. Happy cooking!


  1. Mara April 19, 2021 at 2:32 pm - Reply

    How about covering the dough ball with a plastic bag, and giving it some room? I do that with my sour dough so a crust does not form. I think I read somewhere to submerge the doughball in water and place it in the fridge. Then taking it out, wouldn’t that make it harder to work with, to get the stretch and the knots? Not sure, a newbie here.

    • Jen April 19, 2021 at 2:43 pm - Reply

      I was taught that a cloth and allowing the dough to “breath” was better, but testing out a plastic bag sounds like another worthy experiment! I still prefer the cover-with-water method, though. I just leave it on the counter to rest like that. It really made no difference to me in ease of being able to wash out the starch, and since I’m washing with water, anyway, I just start with the water that’s in my bowl. No need to add laundry to the equation! 😆

  2. erica dawson November 3, 2021 at 11:13 pm - Reply

    Hi thankyou for this it has answerd so many questions for me ✌

    • Jen November 3, 2021 at 11:44 pm - Reply

      Awesome! Happy to have helped. 😊

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