Lumpy dough


I have been slowly progressing but my loaves have reached a plateau. They generally taste fine, but look lumpy and misshapen. I use a preferment (Fred Bread), then autolyse. After that I have experimented with 4 stretch and folds spaced by 20-60 mins and also with fewer S&Fs. The end result is always a lumpy dough. 

I'm wondering what to do to try and fix this. Is it just a limitation with taking the shortcut method of not kneading for an extended period?

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farinam's picture
farinam 2012 March 1

Hello redrich,

Welcome back - long time no hear.

Seems you have been busy.  What you are describing sound fine as far as process goes.. Are the lumps in the dough or in the finished loaf?   How big are these lumps?  Do they have any texture?  Can you take a photo?

Hope we can help eventually.


redrich2000 2012 March 1

The lumps are in the dough and the finished loaf. They are about 1-2cm I'd say. I'm not sure about the texture, I'll have to have a closer look next time, but my feeling is they are not airbubles.

Polenta 2012 March 9

 Hey Redrich

I'm NOT a fan of no knead doughs. I believe the gluten is there for a purpose and gives a good result in a kneaded dough / loaf.

That being said, I have tasted and even made no knead doughs. I've had sucess and many failures.

It has got it's place and some people will swear by it and defend it to the death ;-))

Your dough will be lumpy if it's not mixed ! Thats it ! 

Why don't you just spend 5 min mixing your dough a bit longer. Get to enjoy the feel and texture while you are mixing.

You will notice how the gluten elastises the dough. It binds. 

So it's a little hard sweat for a few minutes.  Just think of it as all that wrist action and circulating of stagnent blood.

All it will do is make you enjoy you fruits of your labor a little more. 

Go for it. 5 min of kneading and I'll guarentee you a better tasting and much handsomer loking loaf.

Let's know how you prosper..... Okay  ?

Happy baking.


redrich2000 2012 March 11

I have some health issues that have made me resist kneading. But I am thinking that is problem, so I might give it a try. I got the beautiful Bourke St Bakery book for my birthday and they suggest kneading too.

farinam's picture
farinam 2012 March 11

Hello redrich,

Many of my loaves are made using only stretch and fold so, if this is a persisting problem (that is it occurs every loaf), I would wonder if there is not something else going on.

I will describe what I do in some detail, perhaps it will help.

I prepare 180g of 100% starter by mixing 90g of my stock with 45g flour and 45g water - usually the night before to be ready to prepare dough the next morning.

Weigh 500g flour into a basin and make a well in the centre.  Empty the starter into the well.  Then weigh in 320g water.  The starter being full of bubbles will very often float to the top.

I then use a chopstick to mix the water and starter to form a thin slurry and this starts to incorporate some of the flour from around the sides of the well.  Once the starter and water is well mixed, I progressively drag in more flour until the mix starts to come together and form a ragged mass.

I then use my bowl scraper to clean down the sides and bottom of the bowl and to incorporate the last of the dry flour into the dough.  Then it is left to autolyse - sometimes up to an hour - but however long you think is appropriate.  About ten minutes before the end of the chosen autolyse period, I sprinkle the salt (10g) over the top of the dough.

At the end of the autolyse, I use my bowl scraper again to mix in the salt (which has pretty much dissolved by this stage).  Once that is reasonably well mixed, I turn the dough out onto the bench and stretch it out into a rough rectangle almost the size of an A3 sheet of paper.  Fold the top long edge down one third and then the bottom long edge up over the double layer so created.  Then the same from right and left.

Put the dough back in the bowl, cover with GladWrap and leave to rest for your selected time (1 hour).  Then repeat the stretch and fold and return to the bowl.

After another rest period, do another stretch and fold.  By this time, the dough should be noticeably different and stretching easily into thin strong layers and trappping big air bubbles in the folds.  Rest again.

For the fourth stretch and fold, the dough should be very elastic and will positively resist stretching and will even tend to spring back to a smaller size after you let it go.  This is a sign that the gluten is fully developed and the dough is ready for shaping.

Let the dough rest for ten minutes and you can do your pre-shaping and shaping by whatever method you prefer for the loaf that you are making.

Let us know how you go.


redrich2000 2012 March 12

Farinam, I'd be interested to see your final doughs. I don't have photos but I worked my latest loaf a bit at the shaping stage and got it a bit smoother and more even, but after the final proof one end is bigger than the other and the side facing up in the banneton is very uneven.

Another chracteristic of my final doughs is that they are soft, moist and spongey. Trying to slash them drags them out of shape. The doughs in the Bourke St book look much drier, denser and firmer than mine.

redrich2000 2012 March 27

Just updating this thread... I have made some progress with this. I have been doing more kneading of my doughs. This is difficult because I can't knead for long periods very easily and also because my doughs seem to tighten a lot with kneading, to the point where after a minute or two they tear with the slightest stretching. But I still think even a few minutes of working the dough has improved its texture. Still no window but closer.

The other thing that has helped is spending a bit more time on shaping. To start I was concerned to minimise handling during shaping. But lately, after shaping the batard I roll it around on the board a bit to try to even and smooth it out. That has been very helpful. It produces a smoother more even loaf. It also means the shaping sets better and never opens during the final proof or bake.

They other thing I want to try is to very gently roll the dough out with a rolling pin before shaping. Up till now I have been flattening it out with my hands but I think that the indentations from my fingers introduce lumps in the shaped loaf. So I want to try using a rolling pin, very gently, to keep the dough smooth.

One more thing I have picked up from the Bourke St recipe book is deeper slashes. Previously I was slashing about half a cm deep. But they suggest an inch. I am finding that the deeper slashes open better.



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