Old doughs- you have used them before, right? They're those hunks of dough laying in your fridge; the piece from a previous batch of dough left in an old ziploc bag or in a flour-and water-crusted jar, heaving with carbon dioxide bubbles trying to get out for some air. Often they do sneak or ooze out like b-movie creatures clinging to all parts of the fridge.
It's like what John Downes famously called, "satan's spawn." Yes, sometimes that old dough isn't a sure fire thing, wether it was created with a pinch of commercial yeast or natural sour. It's just too sour or too old. I can't say truly what is the golden rule to handling such a creature, but whether it was luck, skill, or perserverance, this weekend good things came despite old dough.
Specifically, I was working with a bit of old pizza dough in my fridge and with my usual starters in deep hibernation from lack of any feeding for more then a week. It seemed that there wasn't going to be any baking going on here. But the lazy baker in me was simultaneously lazy – not up to waiting for a refreshed batch of levain – and simultaneously obsessed, nothing would stop me from my bake. Well, lo and behold, we got some bread!
Pre-ferment, old dough whatever you call it, some times it's the luck of the gods that are looking down on you. But beware. Satan's spawn could be lurking!