Gray color and liquid on my dough: Is there something wrong?

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As your dough stores in the refrigerator, it might develop a uniform gray discoloration and liquid on its surface or at the bottom of the bucket.  This is not mold* and can be safely ignored. Here are ways to deal with this dough.

If your dough has a leathery gray top and liquid on the bottom:

Old Dough | Breadin5 01

If you have a bucket of dough that was untouched for several days, it may develop a gray cast to it. As we mentioned this is safe to consume, but it may have a tough, almost leathery texture. If the dough has become hard and leathery, that suggests that there’s too much air-space in your container (or that it isn’t sealed well enough).  You can decrease the effect of air that gets into the container by transferring into smaller containers as the dough is getting used up.

Old Dough 2 | Breadin5 06

Another way to prevent too much air from getting into your bucket is to poke a small hole in the lid, that way you can snap it shut, but still let the gases escape.

Old Dough | Breadin5 02

You can simply ignore the gray portion of the dough and form it into a loaf, but you will likely end up with a streak of gray in your dough and that area may be dense. If you’d prefer not to use the gray part, the dough underneath will be creamy in color and full of flavor, so you’ll want to use it. Just peel off or scoop up, depending on the texture, the gray portion of the dough.

Old Dough | Breadin5 03

If you find liquid under the dough, which can happen if your dough has sat untouched for several days, just add enough flour to absorb that liquid and get your dough back to the consistency of the original dough.

Old Dough | Breadin5 04

Mix in the flour and let it sit until the new flour absorbs all the liquid.

Old Dough | Breadin5 05

It is now ready to use to make bread. Click here to see Fresh Bread made from Older Dough. The dough may spread more than usual, but you will get a lovely loaf that is full of flavor.

If you only have a tiny bit of dough left, even if it is gray and liquidy, you can incorporate it into your next batch of dough to jump-start the flavor in your next batch: Click here to find out how.

*If you see patchy light or dark areas on your dough, whether smooth or fuzzy, that could be mold and the dough should be discarded. You are not likely to see mold if you follow our directions for maximum storage life, and keep the dough in the refrigerator.

More in The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, and our other books.

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147 thoughts on “Gray color and liquid on my dough: Is there something wrong?

  1. Can I do something to revitalize “older than two weeks old dough” and still be able to use it? I used 3+ weeks old dough, and it did not rise very well. Good flavor, though.

    • Hi Phillip,

      How much dough is left? Best thing to do is to add the “old” dough to a new batch to jump start the flavor of the new. Just mix the water with the old dough and then make the dough as normal. Blending the old dough and water with an immersion blender is the fastest way.

      Thanks, Zoë

      • Hello, Ma’am.

        Thank you for your note back to me. I had exactly enough dough left over to make one loaf.

        I am more grateful for your guidance. It sounds like a “winner” to me.

        I have enjoyed your book very much. I have read it through three times. Good stuff!

        Thank you.

        I was stationed in Sicily for 3 years recently, and travelled throughout Europe. I got so used to their breads. Yum.


  2. I make my dough for noodles one day, wrap in saran wrap, put it in the fridge and the next day when I go to use it, it has turned a dark color. What is wrong??? Thank You

  3. I have begun making my own greek yogurt and everyone says to use the whey that I strain in my bread. Can whey be substituted to water in the master recipe from your first book?

    • I’ve done it and I like the result– there’s a more sour flavor, see if you like it. Lot’s of nutrition in that whey.

  4. I had made homemade bagels from a recipe on pinterest. the recipe called for the bagels to proof overnight in the fridge. the recipe called to oil the parchement paper. I had no other oil other than olive oil so i lightly misted the parchement paper. the next morning i began boiling the bagels and noticed “green spots” on the bottom of the bagel dough when i flipped them during boiling. Is this just dye from the olive oil or did mold happen overnight??? thanks.

  5. Hi why does my freshly pizza dough get grey bits on the bottom and when I cook it , it turns into mould is its because I freeze it

  6. Thank you so much for this wonderful book about Artisan Bread! I have not been able to get the bread from the peel to the hot stone without having to scrap it off the peel with a spatula. Is there a proper amount of corn meal or flour that is supposed to be used? Maybe I am scrimping so that I don’t have smoke to deal with. Thanks, Stephanie

    • Hi Stephanie,

      The best insurance to get the loaf off the peel is to set it on parchment. You just slide the parchment and loaf right onto the stone and bake it. No mess in the oven and it never sticks! If you like the flavor of the cornmeal on the bottom crust, just dust the parchment with cornmeal before placing the dough on it.

      Enjoy, Zoë

  7. The New Artisan Bread in Five: Master recipe

    I typically use King Arthur flour for your recipes. However, my local grocery store had a sale on Gold Metal flour, so I decided to purchase a few bags. During the process of making a few batch’s of bread with the Gold Metal, everything seemed the same. But, when we would cut into the loafs after they are cooked and cooled, we are noticing that the crumb is a darker color and kind of gray inside. Is this due to the difference in the flour?

    I used the same storage tubs, same utensils and same measurements as what is defined in the book. I made the dough two separate occasions, once the dough was refrigerated overnight before initial use, the next batch was refrigerated for 3-4 days before making a loaf. Any ideas why the crumb is dark and kind of gray looking?

    P.S. My husband bought me a Danish dough whisk for Christmas. My family loves all the recipes we have tried thus far. :-)


    • Hi Deb,

      My initial thought was that the batch might be a bit older, and it can sometimes turn gray, especially if the container is tightly closed. However, you mentioned that you got this result from a fresh batch. Did you notice any liquid on the top of the dough or was it particularly dry?

      Thanks, Zoë

      • Hi Zoe,

        It wasn’t the actual dough that looked gray, it was the interior crumb after it was baked that looked gray.

        There was no liquid at the top of the dough, and the dough wasn’t particularly dry. However, come to think of it, while I was shaping the loafs, I used more flour than typical in an effort to keep it from sticking to my hands. Could it be that I incorporated too much flour while making the gluten cloak? Could that cause the interior crumb to be gray?

        Thanks in advance for your response.


      • Hi Deb,

        This gray coloring is really only something I’ve experienced with a dough that has been stored for a week or more in the refrigerator. I’ve never experienced it with fresh dough made from unbleached KAF or Gold Medal. Is the flour you bought bleached or unbleached?

        The only other thing I can think of is that something reactive came into contact with the dough, like a metal spoon that may turn the dough gray?

        Thanks, Zoë

      • Oh boy….well….I checked the bags of flour and noticed that I accidentally bought “bleached” flour. (I never buy bleached flour, I always buy unbleached.)

        So would the fact that the flour is bleached cause the crumb to be gray?

        I did buy a baking steel and have been baking my bread on parchment paper over the baking steel. But since I am baking it on parchment paper, I wouldn’t think that would cause the grey color.

      • Hi Deb,

        I bake on a steel too and love it, that’s not going to cause a reaction even if you bake directly on the steel. I think it is the bleached flour. The unbleached flour has a creamy color to it, which is what you are used to. The bleaching will make it whiter, or in this case a bit gray, but there is nothing harmful in the bread, just the difference in color.

        Thanks, Zoë

      • This may not be a very kosher thing to do, but I live alone and I don’t have to bake bread all that often for myself.

        When it is time to bake a new loaf,and I find that my dough is “too old to rise again,” I take it out of my plastic dough container, flour it some, and roll it out “really thin” on my kitchen counter.

        I take a tablespoon of new yeast and dissolve it in only two tablespoons of warm water. I let it dissolve, and then stir it.

        I then pour the yeast solution all over the rolled-out dough and let it soak in for a few moments. I then roll up the dough and knead it for only about a minute, until it seems like the new yeast mixture has been completely absorbed into the dough.

        I then put the dough back in its container and let it rise until it flattens on top. Then it goes into the refrigerator overnight.

        The next day, I follow your “standard operating procedures,” to form, rise, and bake the loaf.

        It works great, and I don’t waste any dough at all. Plus, I get the beginnings of some great sour dough taste.


      • Hi Philip,

        This sounds like a great solution. We typically would use that last little bit of dough to “seed” the next batch of dough with that sour dough flavor. Just dump the new ingredients over the old dough and mix as normal.

        Cheers, Zoë

      • Thanks for your reply about the color. My husband and kids actually noticed a taste difference between the bleached and unbleached. We felt it did not taste as good. It could all be in our head, but we have decided to return the unopened bag of bleached flower. They were on sale buy one get one free right before the holidays, so I just grabbed without really reading. Lesson learned. Thanks again for helping me to tease apart what happened. I appreciate your efforts.

  8. Recently my baking has been yielding white bread with the loaf interiri drkeing to grauy after baking. Dough has milk, sugar and butter taht usually produces very white bread), Using same brands of KAF unbleached all purpose flour, sea salt and filtered water with low mineral content.
    Dough made fresh for each loaf by hand in glass bowl, and hand kneaded on counter. No contact with metal except coated loaf pan at end. Baked immediately on second rising within 3 hours of initial mixing, no refrigeration. Only difference is I bought a new 1 lb batch of rapid rise yeast , same national brand (have used both regular and rapid rise yeast in the past.) Yeast proofs fine. Bread looks great when made, overnight the crumb much darkens to look like rye flour etc in it. Darkens with honey in the bread and also with white sugar. Milk is typically bakers dry milk but no difference seen with scalded reg milk. Have baked white sandwich bread weekly for years with never this problem before.

  9. My first dough turned light gray right after I mixed it. I’m wondering if it was the chlorine in the water. Second batch was made with distilled water, and it stayed white. The gray one tasted fine, and it looked fine after baking.

    • Hi Janice,

      Did you use the same container to mix in? I’ve never experienced the water making such a noticable difference in the color, but I suppose it can if it has a lot of minerals in it.

      Thanks, Zoë

      • Same container. Our water is softened, but it comes from the Mississippi, so I’m thinking lots of chlorine. Bread tasted fine both times.

  10. I found the same leathery, gray layer on top of the dough, especially near the end of suggested storage time. Not wanting to throw out good dough, I found a solution.

    The bucket I use does not have a tight fitting lid, it just rests on top. I use a piece of plastic wrap resting on the surface of the dough. It allows any gasses to escape, but prevents the air from drying and oxidizing the surface of the dough.

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