A Tale of Two Dough Balls

How much water needed to wash?

Here’s another one that comes up a lot. Some people don’t like to wash flour because they find it’s a waste of water. I use the thickest of the leftover starch water in recipes like these, and typically use the water on top for my house plants. However, I understand those options don’t work well for everyone. 

So again I’m starting with two dough balls made from 450g of 12.7% bread flour, and 236mL water. I added a few drops of vegan red food coloring to each, partly because I wanted a red dough for my next meal, but also because it helps you see the starch that’s leftover. (The color doesn’t adhere to the starch as well as it does the gluten.) 

I formed my dough balls, kneading just until uniform, about 3-4 minutes each. The dough balls were slightly off weight from each other, so I evened them out to 672g each. For the sake of water conservation, I covered them with only a damp cloth. I let them rest this way for about 2 hours.

I washed them both as I usually do, with 9 minutes on the clock. There were 3 total washes for the first, and only 1 for the second, both using lukewarm water. As it turns out, I use about 3 gallons of water for my standard wash of a dough ball this size, because one gallon is what fits in my bowl. For the second I measured out exactly 1 gallon for the single wash.

After washing, visually they didn’t look very different from each other. They had a similar-looking amount of white, starchy streaks, however, they felt very different. The dough washed only once felt softer and more slimy than the first, which felt more squeaky. I let them both drain on a cutting board for 20 minutes. The puddle from the first was mostly clear, while the puddle from the second was much more opaque.

I suppose that much is to be expected when there was so much starch in the wash. So how did they measure up? The first, normal wash weighed in at 214g, while the second, one-wash dough came in at 221g. I believe that even though there was not much difference in weight, the second dough ball likely weighed more from the remaining starch.

CONCLUSION:By look and weight these dough balls didn’t seem much different, but by texture and feel there was a significant difference to me. If you are going for the Not That Washed (NTW) method, or a slightly softer result, I think one, longer wash should be enough for you to achieve that texture, even with a larger dough ball size. However, if you are aiming for something a bit more chewy, or to keep your carb count down, you may want wash at least twice, but probably closer to three times for larger dough balls.

Personal note: I prefer more thoroughly washed seitan and tend to wash larger dough balls about 5 times, for about 3 minutes with each wash. I believe I can try decreasing that to 3 washes, going longer on the first 2. Then I’m going to try using the third, final wash as a quick rinse to remove extra remaining starch, which I’m hoping cuts my water usage in half.

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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