‘Why does my dough spread?’

One of the questions I am asked the most is:

why does my dough spread?

Or, why are my loaves so flat?

Which often goes hand in hand with ‘I really struggle to score my dough’.

If that’s you, read on…

All of these issues can be easily fixed, and will be because your dough is very soft, can’t hold its shape, and therefore spreads, it will be impossible to score successfully, or even you can score it, the scores close up. Typically, this is because your dough is not firm enough.

The key reasons for this are, either:

⁃ your flour was not strong enough for the dough to hold its shape,

⁃ there was too much water in your dough for the flour you’re using,

⁃ you are not building up enough structure in your dough during the pulls and folds actions (they do make a difference),

⁃ you are not pulling your dough together tightly enough when placing it into your banneton; this video will help,

⁃ or the dough is over proving and therefore losing any structure,

Also note that if your banneton is too big for your dough your loaf will be wide and flat.

There’s answers, help and solutions for you throughout my book, posts and on my faq page.

But the key thing to know is, it’s always an easy fix… AND, as always, all that matters is how your loaves taste!

My rule of thumb is this: if your dough is soft and sticky BEFORE the overnight prove, you probably need less water in your dough; if it’s soft and sticky AFTER the overnight prove, it’s probably over proved and you need less starter in the dough from the beginning, or to move your dough to cooler spot.

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16 thoughts on “‘Why does my dough spread?’”

  1. I followed your master recipe making it half used two types of bread flours with 14 and 12 gms protien. My starter is around 2 months old. When i was shaping my dough it was nice and tight i didnt kept outside overnight as we stay in India and temperature here is around 30 so i shaped it and kept it in the fridge in my proofing basket. But when i removed in the morning it was some how flat then yesterday as shrink.. Why this happens?

  2. It’s quite typical for dough to be smaller from the fridge. But… How did it bake?

  3. My dough has not risen properly overnight, it’s not cold here, is that because my starter wasn’t quite ready and so not strong enough? Is there anything I can do to fix it?

  4. I’m so sorry I missed this, your message only just came up 🙏🏻 what did you do?

  5. Sometimes proofing in be oven with the light on for a couple hours then turning the light off is good, I live in New Hampshire and it gets cold here so the oven works great! Can’t wait to try to is recipe!

  6. Hi, following your recipe for the first time. I’ll give feedback back after bake.
    Love your instructions so easy to follow so far… I’m new at this and have had a few expected flops. Haha. Until tomorrow. 🙏

  7. I live in South Africa and we have daily widespread power cuts (loadshedding). I’m making a loaf of rosemary focaccia and our power is going out in an hour. I just slapped it in there without a Dutch oven, and I’m hoping for the best

  8. I have been looking at the shop for bannetons. Regarding size when it says for example 500- 750 is this just the flour quantity for the recipe or should you include the water ?
    Hope that makes sense.

  9. It does. It relates to the full dough weight – BUT i also go by the measurements, and those bannetons are the perfect size and are the ones I use.

  10. I think I know more today than I did yesterday! And having fun learning my starter and observing the whole process. I do find the convection setting may not work as well as the thermal setting when it comes to browning ..

Let me know what you think...