The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Confusion over "straight dough"

Yumarama's picture

Confusion over "straight dough"

I've been doing a bit of looking around and I'm running into contradictory information on what is meant by the term "straight dough"

In some instances, this is said to refer to the "flour, water, salt and leavening agent" mixture, i.e. NOT enriched bread.

In other instances, it is claimed to be the term for commercial yeast bread as opposed to sourdough bread.

Then you run into terms like "standard dough" which muck things up even more.

So, if I said "I made a straight dough", what would YOU presume this to be? 

This detail isn't addressed in the Handbook's glossary section.

alabubba's picture

My understanding is that a "Straight Dough" is one that uses commercial yeast, As opposed to sourdough.

pmccool's picture

to the process of mixing all of the ingredients for a dough in a single operation. The leavening agent may be commercial yeast or a starter. 

A straight dough does not involve the use of a pre-ferment in a two-step process that requires mixing a portion of the flour and water with the yeast/starter for an initial ferment, followed by a second mixing to incorporate the remaining ingredients.  

Enriched dough is a term that typically refers to a dough containing either fats or sweeteners or both.  Lean dough typically refers to a dough that contains neither fats or sweeteners.

Hope that helps to clarify rather than to cloud matters.


subfuscpersona's picture

As I've always understood it, a straight dough is a method of making bread dough, usually used for bread baked in a loaf pan (or for rolls baked in a pan). The hallmark of the straight dough method is it's simplicity.

There are only 4 steps to a straight dough:

1> combine all ingredients at once to make the dough and knead

2> one bulk ferment until doubled (at room temperature)

3> shape, let rise in the pan (at room temperature)

4> bake

You'll notice there are no multiple risings during the bulk fermentation stage, no preliminary autolyse, no intermittent stretch-and-folds.

A straight dough is leavened with commercial yeast. It does not incorporate any prefermented dough - it doesn't use sourdough nor does it include any kind of preferment (biga / pate fermentee / poolish); a straight dough is intended to be a simple method, so it does not include the task of making a preferment or building a sourdough levain.

In keeping with the simplicty of a straight dough, the method typically  has the dough rise at room temperature - no overnight refrigeration or retardation techniques are used either for bulk fermentation or the final rise before baking.

Straight dough recipes I've seen can be enriched - milk or buttermilk  (rather than water) can be the primary liquid and ingredients can include oil or butter, sweetener - even eggs. So, again, it not the ingredients but the method that defines a straight dough.

==== edit ====

Hmmmm, I notice that, while I was laboriously composing my reply, PMcCool was expeditiously posting his. I think, however, that we basically agree. - cheers - SF

nbicomputers's picture

everybody seems to get this part right and then go off to left field so with that in mind

1  yes it is a mixing method

2 it does not have to do with the ingredients used

3 it does not have anything to do with retarding in a fridge or laminating butter or fat into a dough (Danish is a straight dough)

Their are only two ways to mix a dough that's it there are no more and there will never be any more unless someone develops something new that I am not aware

the first in the straight dough in which everiy thing is put in to one bowl and mixed to a dough.  it can be yeast or a chemical to leavin or as in the case of matzo no leavening at all.

The second is the sponge and dough. that is when a part of the dough (flour yeast commercial or natural, and water or some other liquid is added and the dough is allowed to rise and ferment.  This is the sponge. it could be a sour starter as in rye sour or a SF sour dough or not sour where the sponge is allowed to rise to get a very active yeast culture so the final dough will rise well as in the case of very rich dough's like babka or panatone where the yeast must be very active so the yeast will not die out during fermenting and proofing.

A sponge must be alive and rise. pre soaking grains or flour as in an autoalase(sp) is not a sponge it just a part of a dough  straight or sponge and dough. A sponge looks like a sponge. meaning that it looks spongy like a kitchen sponge it will have holes and strands and a structure like the inside of any bread you have seen.

the sponge is then added to the rest of the ingred. along with more flour to make the final dough.

all of the popular terms biga, pre ferment, starter, sour starter, ect. are sponges and products that are made from them fall into the category of sponge and dough.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I think of a straight dough as one with commercial yeast.  I will have to be more careful.  Ouch! 


yozzause's picture

And then there is instant where modern commercial baking mixes divides/scales shapes and only one rise ferments in the pan and bakes all in about and hour. No wonder the taste has been lost.

LindyD's picture

I figured Dan DiMuzio would have commented on this thread, but since he hasn't, quoting from his book:

"A straight dough is a dough mixed using no preferments or starters."

See page 32 as well as the glossary to "Bread Baking, an Artisan's Perspective."

Jeffrey Hamelman also covers the topic in"Bread," at page 232 where he writes:

"Straight doughs are simply doughs in which all the ingredients are mixed at once.  None of the flour is prefermented; in other words, there is no sourdough or levain build, nor is there any sort of sponge, and no pate fermentee, biga, or poolish is used.  This saves time of course, but it also means the breads lack the benefits of preferments."


copyu's picture

I've always understood (at least since switching from reading 'recipes' to reading books by professional bakers) that 'straight' dough means 'make it and then bake it', after a suitable rising/proving period...Kind-of like 'bread-machine' doughs.

That actually supports, indirectly, what MiniOven says, however...

Using a teaspoon [YIKES!] of commercial yeast and a "U.S. pinch" (1/8 teasp?) of diastatic malt powder is the way to go when you're very rushed. (i.e., Don't worry about the actual flavor of the bread, just get it on the table when needed!)



LindyD's picture

I chuckled when I read Hamelman's chapter on straight doughs because he pulled no punches in stating:  "Many straight-dough breads are bland, insipid, and boring: bread that serves little purpose other than holding some meat or sopping up soup."

I've not heard bread described as insipid before, but that's a pretty good label for some of what's mass marketed....and what I baked a couple of months ago, using just AP flour, water, salt, and yeast.  It tasted like -- nothing.

He does go on to say that you can make "very respectable" breads using the straight-dough method.  Challah and oatmeal bread with cinnamon and raisins are a couple of the formulas noted.


longhorn's picture

I had thought that straight dough was simply flour, water, salt, leaven (commercial or sourdough) and allowed preferment... Glad this popped up!


Yumarama's picture

Longhorn's post now brings up this question:

What IS the official term for dough made strictly with water, flour, salt and leavening?

I would think there's a term for this "holy" combination since it's the basis of French and Italian breads.

I'm suspecting it's not "Lean". This term seems to refer specifically to "dough with no 'additions'" , i.e. without fat, milk, egg, sugars, etc., as opposed to "enriched". I get the impression "lean" is more about what it NOT in the dough than what is. The way Norm has defined it, Lean could refer to water and flour, water, flour & leaven, water flour & salt...


nbicomputers's picture

right any dough can be lean or rich

lean has little fat and sugar like sour dough or plain white bread

while rich dough have things that make them rich eggs, butter, sugar,milk, and others

there are still only two ways to mix

striaght or sponge and dough

ether one of thouse two can be rich or lean

some one elcs posted something about instant ...well there is no such thing as an instant dough

there is a way to make a very quick dough called the no time dough but the no time dough is a dough that fermenates very quickly and is used when you need bread or other dough fast

it is still a striaght dough but with changes to the formula so the dough can be used as soon as it comes out of the mixer

the bottom line is...

striaght or sponge and dough for mixing method

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

"...well there is no such thing as an instant dough."

I've been thinking a while on exceptions.   You are thinking in terms of yeast?  Doughs that leaven without yeast:  buttermilk & soda, baking powder, injected gas, soda water, addition of beaten egg white, etc.  Many doughs mixed straight up without fermenting and resulting in a product with a crumb might be called instant.

A sourdough that's slow in rising and instant yeast is added cannot by the above Hamelman definition be a straight dough.  It contains pre-fermented dough, so using commercial yeast does not define a straight dough.  >check<  Must be the method of mixing then.

Yeast water and active fermenting beer can be simply added into a recipe without mixing with flour first.  They are no different than other yeast products in that they are handled before we use them added at once to make a dough.  I prefer to mix them with flour first, making them a pre-ferment but they could be used straight.

Just mixing the basics, flour and water can result in bread.   We have a new poster from Greece who shares a time honored bread making method for her geographic location.    Just mixing flour & water together at one time is a straight method.   The mixture takes time but it does ferment.  Some cultures bake this early bread but in her culture she chooses not to bake at this time but increase it's size adding more flour & water developing flavour and leavening power.  This would no longer be considered a "straight" dough making method and refered to as using a build of fermented dough or "sponge" method.  



nbicomputers's picture

It does not make a diference what is used io leven the dough ou in fact even if nothing is used to leven at all.

if the dough is mixed in one stage it is striaght dough.

if a pre-ferment is used it is sponge and dough.

that goes for all bread products  bread, biscuts crackers ect

cookies and cakes have there own mixing methods that go by other names

as i stated in an example above matzo there is no leven at all and the dough is a striaght dough


bassopotamus's picture

All references I've seen indicate it is one with no pre ferment. Just mix it all up and let it rise.

rayel's picture

rainbowz, for a simple french bread, "straight dough" can still apply, A long dough is a term to describe a straight dough method, with increased or long slow rises, depending on temparature,  up to 24 hours. Deflating every 8 hrs. With simple ingredients, flour,water yeast, & salt, the long slow rise maximizes flavor. Ray