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

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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 (scroll down to the bottom of this page for instructions on how to recognize mold). Here are ways to deal with dough that’s developed gray color and liquid on top.

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 (a “skin”). 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.

*Is it mold? 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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161 thoughts to “Gray color and liquid on my dough: Is there something wrong? Is it mold?”

  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.

    1. 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

      1. 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.


    1. Hi Sharon,

      You can substitute any bean flour to add protein to the dough, or sorghum flour will also work.

      Thanks, Zoë

  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

    1. Hmm, don’t know, we don’t make noodles! But see our FAQ tab and click on “Gray color on my dough: Is there something wrong?”

  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?

    1. 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

    1. are you sure this is mold?
      It sounds more like a chemical reaction.
      Are you storing or using anything made with aluminum with the dough?

  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

    1. 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. 🙂


    1. 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

      1. 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.


      2. 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

      3. 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.

      4. 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

      5. 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.


      6. 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

      7. 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.

    1. 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

      1. 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.

  11. I am interested in baking English muffins. Do you have a recipe in any of your books that you can recommend. Also, do you have any “special instructions?

    Thanks bunches.

    1. We have a number– which book do you have? Or just type “English Muffin” in our Search Bar to the left…

  12. Hi,
    I have noticed that after baking my pizza dough in the oven, there are small yellow marks on the bottom of dough where it seats on the steel plate and these marks start growing day by day turning into something like blakish mold.
    Does it mold and what does it relate to? My ingredients or my steel plates?

    1. Hi Iman,

      Are you talking about baked pizza or the raw dough has patches of blackish color?

      Thank you, Zoë

  13. Hi Zoe,
    Actually we first bake the dough in the oven(like bread)and then add the ingredients to the baked dough(or bread) and then freeze it for later cooking.
    The yellow patches occur after first stage i.e when we have baked the dough and when we cook the pizza again(second stage), they turn into black patches and it only happens under the baked dough, not on the top.
    Thank you, Iman

    1. Hi Iman,

      Thanks for the details. Doesn’t sound like this is sitting around at room temperature long enough to develop mold. Baked bread can sit out for a couple of days, even in humid climates, without getting moldy. So, this sounds like it is happening in the oven. Likely your stone has something on it that is transferring to the dough. Do you put oil on the dough before you bake it? Is there loose flour on the stone that has burned and turns black?

      It happens to me when I am baking multiple pizzas and the flour from the first one scorches on the stone.

      Hope that helps! Zoë

      1. Hi Zoe,
        I guess you are right.
        Yes. We put oil on the pizza plates before putting the dough on it. We use the same plates for baking the dough and cooking pizzas.
        Could it be due to unwashed pizza plates? Because sometimes we just clean the plates from previous pizza cooking with a piece of cloth and bake the dough in this unwashed plates again. So i was thinking of some kind of chemical reaction in the oven. Is it possible?
        Thank you,Iman

      2. Hi Iman,

        I think it is just the oil from the dough and it is not harmful. If it doesn’t effect the flavor, I wouldn’t worry about it.

        Thanks, Zoë

  14. Zoe and Jeff-

    I’ve had your book for years and find myself making the European Peasant bread recipe more than any other. I end up adding some shredded parmesan cheese and garlic flakes and make flatbread either in a frying pan on the stovetop or in my woodfire pizza oven. I’m wondering if I should adjust the amount of water or leave it as is in the recipe. The flatbread tastes great, but I’m wondering if I would get a better finished product with slightly more water.

    1. Hi John,

      How much cheese are you adding? Neither of those ingredients will dry out the dough significantly, but if you are adding quite a bit of cheese it may absorb some of the water from the dough. Does the dough seem dry to you compared to without the cheese?

      Thanks, Zoë

  15. I find that adding Vital Wheat Gluten (4-8 grams per cup of flour), even to dough just a day old, results in a grey coloration to the crumb. It certainly helps the rise though and doesn’t hurt the taste. I think I will try King Arthur Bread Additive when I need to replenish the VWG flour.

  16. Hi.
    I’m so glad to have found your site.

    I’ve always bought organic flour and over the last few months I’ve noticed my flour develop blue/ gray streaks in the dough.
    I threw out the flour on my kitchen counter thinking it was mold

    I then opened a fresh bag which I just bought only to discover the streaks again.

    What is this?

  17. Hi,
    I thought back to about 20 years ago, I had a recipe for a rustic Italian bread published about December 2000. In the instructions, they called to add the Biga and then gradually add the flour and water to the slowly Kitchenaid (#1 speed) stand mixer to combine the weighed-out unbleached KAF water and Biga. I believe the Biga was 50/50 flour and water allowed to pre-ferment on the counter for 24 hours and then roughly 6 cups of flour and so many ounces. But you MUST check the recipe for the weight of the flour to get the right hydration %. The actual recipe is online at Cooks Illustrated. Specifically, it says to use the hook Speed #1) for 4 minutes then let it rest for 20 minutes to autolyze. Then start mixing with the hook again for about 8 minutes at #1 speed to form the gluten net. They cautioned to pay attention not to exceed the speed of the hook or exceed the 8 minutes of final mixing. The reason they gave is that over-mixing or using a higher speed will cause oxidation of the flour and turn it a gray color. I followed their directions precisely and the bread came out great!

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