I have a lot to learn about bread baking and, more specifically, sourdough bread baking. One thing I learned about a while ago is autolyse.
Autolyse is a fancy word for the stage in the bread-making process where you combine the flour with the liquids (water, milk, etc.) and then let it rest for twenty minutes or a half hour. This lets the flour fully absorb the liquid, so dough is less sticky when kneaded (if you knead, that is. :)) It allows the gluten to more fully develop with a lot less kneading.
In some recipes, salt, oil, and sourdough starter are added after the autolyse stage. Oil, from what I’ve read, will coat the flour, preventing the flour from absorbing the liquid, and will in turn inhibit gluten from doing its thing. We want gluten to do its thing. 🙂
The next time you make bread, why not allow the dough to autolyse – that is, set the dough aside for 20-30 minutes – and see how much kneading (if you knead) your dough requires compared to how much the dough requires when you don’t autolyse. Let me know your results. 🙂