Dough is a thick, malleable, sometimes elastic paste made out of any grains, leguminous or chestnut crops. Dough is typically made by mixing flour with a small amount of water and/or other liquid, and sometimes includes yeast or other leavening agents as well as other ingredients such as various fats or flavorings.
Doughs vary widely depending on ingredients, the kind of product being produced, the type of leavening agent (particularly whether the dough is based on yeast or not), how the dough is mixed (whether quickly mixed or kneaded and left to rise), and cooking or baking technique. There is no formal definition of what makes dough, though most doughs have viscoelastic properties.
Flatbreads such as pita, lafa, lavash, matzah or matzo, naan, roti, sangak, tortilla, and yufka are eaten around the world and are also made from dough. Some flatbreads, such as naan, use leavening agents; others, such as matzo, do not. Crackers are also made from dough, and some (such as saltine crackers) are leavened.
Doughs with higher fat content have a lesser water content, develop less gluten and are therefore generally less elastic than bread doughs; these doughs are often called "short" by bakers. This category includes many cookie and pie crust doughs, such as shortcrust pastry.
For yeast-based and sponge (such as sourdough) breads, a common production technique is the dough is mixed, kneaded, and then left to rise. Many bread doughs call for a second stage, where the dough is kneaded again, shaped into the final form, and left to rise a final time (or proofed) before baking. Kneading is the process of working a dough to produce a smooth, elastic dough by developing gluten. This process is both temperature and time-dependent; temperatures that are either too hot or too cold will cause the yeast to not develop, and rising times that are either too short or too long will affect the final product.
Doughs for biscuits and many flatbreads which are not leavened with yeast are typically mixed but not kneaded or left to rise; these doughs are shaped and cooked directly after mixing.
While breads and other products made from doughs are often baked, some types of dough-based foods are cooked over direct heat, such as tortillas, which are cooked directly on a griddle. Fried dough foods are also common in many cultures.