The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

A Question and a Story

Janknitz's picture

A Question and a Story

Question First:  Will Stretch and fold work for pretty much any dough, or do some doughs absolutely require kneading?  

I'm not talking about things like laminated doughs (i.e. croissants) but basic lean and enriched bread doughs?

Now the Story:

I posted already about my experiments adding my new wild yeast culture sourdough to KA's multigrain loaf recipe to lighten the crumb and extend the shelf life.   Following Dan Lepard's suggestion, I calculated the total flour weight an added 30% of that weight in sourdough starter to the dough.

My first try was a disaster, but all my fault.  It made the usually dry dough very wet and sticky in my Kitchen Aid mixer.  I did what I knew was a mistake even as I was doing it-- I added flour, and added and added, and added flour, until it came clean from the sides of the bowl.  I probably added 3 or 4 cups of flour and what I got was this very dense, hard, dry loaf.  DUH!  

So when I tried again, I was determined not to add additional flour.  I mixed it up and kneaded it in the KA mixer for about 6 minutes, then put the sticky mass onto my marble board.  I used stretch and fold techniques and the teeniest bit (really about 1 tsp) of flour to ball the thing up.  After the first rise, I stretched and folded the much tamer dough again before putting it in my loaf pan.

I got a lovely, light loaf.  It still has a dense crumb but that is to be expected with all of the ingredients, but it tastes moist and light and delicious.  Now we will see how the shelf life is.

If stretch and fold can handle that sticky mass, it seems to me it can handle anything.  Hence my question.  What do you think?

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

Stretch/folding and kneading are doing the same thing: developing gluten.

Any dough that requires kneading can be stretched and folded, but of course the results can differ depending on your technique and approach (especially how many times you stretch and fold during bulk frementation).

I have successfully applied stretch and fold to almost everything I bake, regular sandwich bread, french breads, sourdoughs, pizza crust, cinnamon rolls, etc etc. There have been times where I also did some kneading after stretching and folding, but that is usually just to incorporate a little more flour to get the feel I want to the dough hydration. Stretching and folding allows for much easier handling of slack (or rather wet) doughs, and sometimes even though the gluten is fully developed, my doughs still feel a little too moist for certain recipes.

For stiffer type doughs, you can stretch and fold, but it's a bit more difficult and you may just want to knead it. I'd just say that they are both separate tools, and knowing how to do both just gives you that much more flexibility. When you run into a new recipe that ends up with unexpected consistencies, it's nice to have as many tools in the toolbox available as possible.

- Keith

Janknitz's picture

That's exactly the information I was asking for.  I learned to stretch and fold on Mike's site and that was what inspired me to try it on this dough.

I'll have to drill a bit deeper on his site to see how to deal with drier doughs.

I've actually looked at many online videos of various stretch and fold techniuqes.  Mike's by far is the clearest and easiest to follow and understand (Susan of Wild Yeast has a short video that's excellent as well).  But there seems to be a wide variety of techniques and approaches out there.  Some only seem to stretch and fold once or twice in a bulk fermentation, other's do it repeatedly at brief intervals (that seems a bit more fussing than I want to do). 

Are there general guidlines anywhere, on how to convert a conventional recipe to stretch and fold--primarily what intervals to use and how many times?  So far I've only done it with doughs that are kneaded but are a little difficult to handle  (also works nicely to shape AB in 5 doughs). 

Janknitz's picture

Today is the third day since I baked the multi-grain loaf with the addition of sourdough starter, and so far so good.  The bread is still moist and fresh tasting.  It has always been very dry and stale at this point before.  

I keep checking it to see if it's time to slice up and freeze the rest, but so far it's still very nice.  Thank you, Dan Lepard!

And with my thrift store bread slicing guide, we are getting lovely slices, EXCEPT--I'm having a problem (with all my breads) that the probe thermometer I used to check doneness is making holes in the center of my bread.  I'm losing 1 or 2 slices of my loaf pan breads to holes that are much bigger than the stem of the thermometer.  I guess it's an essential sacrifice since I really do need the temperature to know if my loaves are done, but it's sad to see the best part of the bread go to waste  :o( 

I started freezing the scraps of bread with hopes of making some killer bread puddings, or at least something to feed the ducks at the park.