The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Help with slap&fold/Bertinet method

Kirstie Bee's picture
Kirstie Bee

Help with slap&fold/Bertinet method

Hello all.

I'm very much a bread-making novice - today I attempted the slap&fold method for the first time, having previously stuck to heel-of-the-hand style kneading.  Although I find my breads much more enjoyable to eat now than the first one I tried - which was a bit of a brick - I do like the idea of a slightly lighter bread, as they do still sometimes seem a tad dense (though I can only compare to shop bought bread, so I'm not entirely sure what they should be like!).  However, I really struggled to get the slap&fold method (I have watched the video) to work for me - my dough seemed to stay quite ball-y instead of stretching and wouldn't stick to the table, which I think in turn stopped me getting the kind of stretch I'd like.  I found that if I put a little water on the table or dough then it would stick better; but that didn't last and I felt as if I must be doing something wrong if I had to keep wetting my surface!  I haven't yet ventured beyond a 'basic' loaf, while I try to learn the fundamentals and get a feel for everything.

For reference, ingredients were:

500g strong white flour

Sachet instant yeast

10g salt

340g water (68% hydration)

10g fat (olive oil)

Any suggestions?  As I said, I'm very new to bread, so apologies if this is a silly question!




caraway's picture

I've been using his method lately (love it if no one is trying to sleep)  :-)  and have found that the dough needs to be at least 75% hydration.  I prefer 78%.  Otherwise, the dough is too stiff to manipulate.  It should be a puddle of mush when you start and will develop into a beautiful soft smooth dough as you knead.  The 'strong' flour you're using might also be a problem.  Don't know your country, but here in the USA I'm using half King Arthur AP and half Pillsbury AP which would be less protein than a typical 'bread flour'.

Hope this helps, enjoy your baking!

Sue's picture

What Sue said:  French Folding works best with wetter doughs -- appropriate hydration cut-off depends upon what flour you're using.  I imagine that your 'strong' flour at 68% is pretty stiff.  But as Sue said, you don't need 'bread flour' (i.e., 'strong' flour) to make bread.  Most light and airy 'artisan style' hearth breads are achieved with lower protein flours (~11%, as opposed to your 'strong' flour's 13-14% -- I'm guessing).  "Puddle of mush" -- well, maybe.  But definitely too wet to get anywhere with heal-of-hand method and messy to pick up.  And you don't need the 'fat' (oil).  Makes for a more indulgent loaf, but is not necessary.  More beneficial to wholemeal breads, but unnecessary for 'white flour' doughs.

Feel free to post pictures -- easier to diagnose from them.

Happy baking,


jemar's picture

I am not as experienced a bread maker as many on here but I have been making bread for some years now, starting with when I bought a bread machine becaused I was fed up with the types of bread available in the supermarkets.  Then I was given Richard Bertinet's  book, Dough, and that inspired me to start making 'proper' bread.  Then I was lucky enough to spend a day  at one of Richard's classes in Bath and I was able to have first hand experience of his 'slap and fold' method.  He does recommend a wood surface to work the dough his way but I don't have a wood surface suitable and use my granite worktop and I find it works fine for me.  It does take some practise and you need to be quite forceful in throwing the dough down and when you fold it over try and lift it to get air into the dough.  If you have the video you will understand, I hope, what I mean.  I have always followed his recipes to the letter and use what he specifies, which is usually strong bread flour  so I wouldn't change from what you have been using, it is probably the technique that is wanting, not the ingredients.  Keep practising, I'm sure you'll get there in the end, it will be worth it!

ananda's picture

Hi Kirstie,

Not sure of your base, but that is possibly of significance as noted by Sue and Tom.   US bread flour is stronger than UK bread wheat, which is what I assume is the bulk of what M. Bertinet is using from his base in Bath, UK.   I'm thinking you just need to up the hydration a little to make the Bertinet slap and fold method work for you.

Best wishes


dabrownman's picture

lower hydration doughs in the same range you are using, it takes some real slapping (very hard), sometimes 2 times before folding once.  After a couple of minutes of this you can usually get to 1 really hard slap and and fold as the dough comes into shape.  My apprentice really goes crazy with low hydration dough slaps as they make a much louder sound than normal ;-)


Applespider's picture

I watched the Gourmet video and then found another on the Guardian website of an edited private masterclass.  It covers more than just the slap and fold and I found it interesting.

I usually do Dan Lepard's minimal knead sourdough but was making panettone this weekend.  On Friday evening, around 8.30, I started slapping... only to get a knock on the door from a worried neighbour.  Oops!  One extra mini-panettone going downstairs now!

Kirstie Bee's picture
Kirstie Bee

Thanks all for your helpful comments and sorry it has taken me so long to say so!  Hopefully all this will help me get the hang of it - looks like a really fun (if noisy) technique!

Sue, Tom, Ananda - I am indeed in the UK.  I checked and the flour has 12.1g/100g protein, so somewhere in the middle, I guess.  Shall certainly bear in mind the wetness of the dough - I suspected that might be a contributing factor.  I read that 60% hydration was a generally good starting point for a basic 'white' loaf, so I've been working my way up from there...I thought 68% was quite high for that type of bread but now realise that relative to other breads, it's not really wet at all!  As to the fat, I did know it wasn't necessary but included it because I had read that it could help the bread keep better - would you say I'd be better off without, or just that it's unnecessary?

Jemar - That must have been a great experience!  I'll definitely keep practising.  Our kitchen table is wooden but very smooth so I might experiment with the worktop!  I think my main problem was that the dough sort of bounced back off the surface, but perhaps when (if) I get the knack of the technique and can work in a bit more force, that won't be such an issue.  The videos just make it look so easy!

Dabrownman - Thanks for the tip.  I did end up kind of waving my dough about at certain points, haha.  Can't imagine what I must have looked like!  Double slaps sounds a good idea.

Applespider - Thanks for the extra video, I'll have a look. does make quite a noise!  But I find that quite satisfying!'s picture

Others can weigh in on value of adding fat/oil to dough for keeping -- I have limited experience there.  I use olive oil in our 100% whole wheat breads (Reinhart) and they keep well, so, yes, perhaps it's helping there.  Natural levain is, in my experience, the best 'preservative' for home made breads.

Here's the french folding video that I found the most useful of all for understanding the method: French Kneading with La cocina de Babette.  It's more of an instructional presentation than others, which tend to be just demos.

Happy Slapping :-)!


Ruralidle's picture

Richard Bertinet advocates 70% hydration in his classes - where he demonstrates slap & fold. 500g flour and 350g water so quite wet. Works a treat once you get used to not spreading it around your kitchen :)

jemar's picture

Thank you Tom for the link to the video of the slap and fold method.  Although I have used this  method many times I find this an excellent teaching  aid in the reasons for doing it and find the tips very helpful.