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 - 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! 😆

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