The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Lumpy dough

A_W's picture

Lumpy dough

Well I am quite new to this but I have been doing enough reading that my brain might pop any monent now.  Despite all my research I have yet to come across any mention on my problem(s). I could really use some help so thanks in advance.


I am having trouble incorperating my 100% hydration preferment into my autolysed flour.  My flour/water is autolysing quite nicely, almost passing the windowpane on its own.  I then try to add my preferment and it is like oil and water they just don't want to mix. I mix as best I can and eventually just pour then out together and start my kneading.  Any suggestions as to how to get them together a little better or is this normal?  I find this leads to my real problem, lumpy dough.  Even after quite a long process of kneading (I am learning the french fold) I have small, some up to pea sized, lumps of the autolysed flour that will not go away unless I pinch them into the dough.  What do I do about this? 


One other real quick question. What would you consider "good" oven spring? An extra 10%, 50% 100%?


Thanks so much for your help.

xaipete's picture

I think it depends on the type of bread. I get about 25% on my sprouted wheat bread, but much less on a whole wheat sourdough. I think the goal here is not so much the percentage of spring, but attaining the proper spring to produce the right crumb structure for the particular bread.


clazar123's picture

Post your recipe-it will help troubleshoot.

If your autolyse is very thick,can you just reduce the amount of flour you put in the autolyse and add it later? Sounds like the autolyse is pretty thick.


Do you have a mixer to mix it in?

A_W's picture

My recipe is:

600g flour

420g water

I have been playing with the amounts salt and yeast 

I have 200g of flour and water in my poolish. With 1/8 or 1/4 tsp yeast.

400g flour and 220g water in my autolyse.

Do these seem right? I kind of made up my recipe but this seems like it should be 70%.


I really like mixing by hand I don't want to use a mixer, though I have been tempted with some of my lumpier attempts.

Ford's picture

The viscosity of the two flour water mixtures is very different and this makes for the problem.  This is like trying to add more water to a dough.  It is very difficult.  Clazar123 is on the right track.  Reduce the flour in the autolyse and add it later after mixing.  You do not say you have any salt in the dough, but I am sure you must, for the sake of flavor.  Don't be discougaged, making bread takes patience.

proth5's picture

I don't often quote, but here goes.  This is from "Bread- A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes" by Jeffrey Hamelman.

Pre-ferments are generally not added because of the presence of both yeast activity and acidity.  The exceptions to this are when a liquid levain or a poolish is used.  In these cases, the high percentage of water that is present in the pre-ferment is high enough that, if the remaining flour and water were mixed without including the pre-ferment, there would be insufficient water to hydrate the flour;small pebbles of unhydrated flour would persist in the dough, right through to the end of the bake.

He goes on to explain that the small amount of leaven does not negate the benefits of the autolyse.

Your 100% hydration pre-ferment is popularly called a poolish.

Frankly, if adding the pre-ferment is good enough for Mr. Hamelman, it is good enough for me. 

Hope this helps...

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Throw the whole mess onto the counter top and proceed.  I know there is a good video with Julia Child and Danielle Forestier showing frissage in making baguettes. 


Using the heel of your hand, start with the egde of the dough farthest away from you.  Smear a thin part of the dough away from you using the strength in your outstretched arm and shoulder for good pressure.  Smear a little bit more, making skid marks on the table, working left and right taking a little dough at a time until the entire dough has been worked and smear mixed in this manner.  Scrape together into a nice ball and lightly knead.  That should do it!  :)