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

    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

      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

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

    • Jen November 3, 2021 at 11:44 pm

      Awesome! Happy to have helped. 😊

  3. Simon January 30, 2022 at 5:57 am

    How do you dispose the starchy water if you’re not using it for anything else? I used to do the WTF method when vital wheat gluten was hard to find where I live and it clogged our house sink. However, to this day I think seitan from the WTF method is much tastier and would like to do it at least occasionally or having it as a resource for example when travelling and not having vital wheat gluten at hand. The starchy water is the problem.

    • Jen January 30, 2022 at 9:02 am

      You can compost it, it’s high in nitrogen. If it’s too much starch for your compost (often the case for me since I just have a small composter) or that’s not possible, you can freeze it and throw it in the trash in garbage day (my preferred method) or microwave it till it gets stiff and toss it that way. Finally you can dehydrate it – I pour it in thin layers on sheet pans and put it in my oven with the light on for 24-48 hours, breaking it up as it dries to help it along. Hope that helps!

      • Mike February 19, 2023 at 5:52 pm

        Legend. Thanks for this series. I’ve been meaning to do something similar but never found the time.
        So many mysteries solved!

  4. Ana Salazar September 4, 2022 at 5:28 pm

    What are the reasons why people would prefer creating Seitan using the WTF method vs Vital Wheat Gluten?

    • Jen September 4, 2022 at 7:04 pm

      I personally prefer it for making certain types of mock meats like chicken, beef, and pork styles because I find the texture easier to achieve without adding several other ingredients like tofu or beans, etc. It also shreds much more easily in my opinion without having to knead for a long time, run through a food processor or wait to autolyse. There is also a noticeable “gluteny” flavor in vital wheat gluten that I can detect and my husband despises, which is much less prevalent in WTF. However, for more heavily-seasoned dishes that can get away with a less smooth texture like sausages or for use as a burger binder, etc, I prefer using VWG.

  5. Lem90 September 10, 2023 at 10:42 pm

    Have you tried washing the flour in a stand mixer using the dough hook?
    I have seen people have had success, and less of a workout doing it this way 🙂
    I have previously only made one batch of Seitan using VWG and it turned out extremely well. Yesterday I tried WTF method for the first time and used my stand mixer to wash it with. My Seitan is resting so won’t know the result for a few days. I was very shocked at my small yield though compared to the VWG.

    • Jen September 11, 2023 at 7:39 am

      I attempted to make the dough ball in my stand mixer and it destroyed it, so unfortunately, I haven’t had the chance, but I don’t think I’d recommend it. I had a KitchenAid professional.

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