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Stretch and fold, when, how many times, how often?

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katyajini's picture
katyajini

Stretch and fold, when, how many times, how often?

I (am very new to bread baking and) want to use the stretch and fold technique that I have been reading about here.  I don’t have a mixer and I want make very wet doughs like for focaccia and ciabatta.   I have done the no-knead method and autolyse and know very well that you can make tasty bread without any kneading whatsoever.  And I am intrigued by the knowledge that whipping the day light out of a dough results in over oxygenation and actually less tasty bread and therefore leaning ever more toward stretch and fold.  


I have not had a chance to read the PR and JH books that describe/discuss this method only the videos and chats on this site.  Is it possible to give some generalized guide lines?


 I am confused about the following:


1)      After you mix in the yeast how do you know how many times you ought to stretch and fold the dough before you let it rest?  Some advice is just once to quite a few times?


2)      How do you decide how long you should let the dough rest before you stretch and fold again? Some advice is as short as 10 mins or up to 30 mins.


3)      How do you know how many cycles of S & F you should do?


4)      How can you tell when the right amount of gluten is developed?                                                          I have a specific question here.  For example in http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/2984/jasons-quick-coccodrillo-ciabatta-bread  or Rose Levy Berenbaum’s sheet foccacia or http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/3621/quick-rustic-ciabatta-pizza-recipe-full-howto-pics it tells you how long to mix with a mixer at a certain speed for a certain length of time and how the dough will suddenly come together.  Not having seen the dough prepared with a mixer is there some way to tell from S & F that you have achieved the same?


5)      And importantly why can’t I just do a bunch of S & Fs all at once (as kneading used to be) let the dough rest and not hover over it?  Why are the intermediate rest periods important?  Would it not work if I did a bunch of S & Fs and then let the dough rest?


6)      Related to (5) can I simplify this process in some way and do S & F only once or twice?


7)      And then is doing S & F in the bowl just as good as taking the dough out on a counter?


8)      Can you actually over do the S & F and ruin your bread?


Last night, just to see, I mixed water and flour at 100% and 113% hydration and let it autolyse.  The dough(s) did firm up quite a bit after the 1 hour autolyse.  I gave it a few S & F in the bowl with a rubber spatula and that seemed to move things along a little further.  I just couldn’t tell if the gluten was developed as the recipes described they should be.  Would having added yeast changed things?  Those goops are in the fridge.  I will add some yeast to them tonight and see where that takes me.


 


Well!  This is a long post.  Some of these questions must be so naïve but I hope some them are relevant.


Thank you for any input!


 


K.

rolls's picture
rolls

not to add to your confusion, but have you tried richard bertinets method of 'working the dough'? there's a video of him making sweet dough which shows his technique you can find it on this site or on the gourmet website.


ive found that its really good for wet doughs you don't need a mixer and its easier to tell when the dough comes together coz you see and feel the difference. after that, depending on your time, you could do a couple of S&F's, though he doesn't mention anything about this. but i find with really wet doughs it does make it easier to handle.


hope this helps

ejm's picture
ejm

I follow Maggie Glezer's advice to "stretch and fold" 3 times in all starting 20 minutes after the first kneading, with 20 minutes resting time (covering the dough to prevent it from drying out) between each stretch and fold.


Of course, it isn't always 20 minutes between. Sometimes it's as little as 15 and sometimes it's 30 or 40. (Rose Levy Beranbaum leaves about 30 minutes between each stretch and fold. I don't know what Peter Reinhart's stretch and fold schedule is but it seems likely that it's not far off.) I get the impression that the important thing is to be very very gentle.


Some time ago, I put together a photo essay showing what I do:



  • Kneading Slack Dough by Hand (scroll down to "Slack dough still resembles porridge after hand-kneading for 5 to 10 minutes" on the linked page)


(And Richard Bertinet's method for kneading is fabulous as well. I now do a combination of the two - kneading for a much shorter time using Bertinet's slap and fold method and then switching to Glezer's "stretch and fold" to finish the dough.)


-Elizabeth


 


The Technique: Sweet Dough with Richard Bertinet
www.gourmet.com/magazine/video/2008/03/bertinet_sweetdough
(The dough is very slack and his method of kneading appears about a third of the way into the video.)

katyajini's picture
katyajini

rolls, no you did not add to my cofusion at all.  And yes I now have found that video.  that is just such a cool video.  (like the guy too!)  I tried the method along with something very similar by sourdough guy.  I could not get it to work with the goop I had made from just flour and water.  But I felt it would work.  I think i did something to work with.  Thanks so much.


 


Oh Elizabeth thank you.  thats a great tutorial. the dough i made was wetter than what yours looks like.  I think I made a mistake somewhere but i will keep trying.  I think this is going to work.


 


K.


 


 

ejm's picture
ejm

Sometimes the dough I make is ridiculously wet. I have sometimes made it so slack that it wants to run off the board if I don't move quickly.


Remember that the amounts of flour for even the same recipe can vary, depending on the humidity and temperature. The age and type of the flour will also make a difference.


When the dough is really sloppy, I would be inclined to add a little more flour OR do the stretch and fold step more than three times. Do it until the slop starts to resemble a very soft and floppy pillow.


Just curious, how are you measuring your ingredients? By volume or weight? (I'm guessing by weight because you used percentages.)


-Elizabeth

ejm's picture
ejm

I just noticed that there were several questions on the original post. (I think I looked only at rolls' reply before jumping in.) Here is my attempt at systematically going through the questions.



Some of these questions must be so naïve



Not at all. We are all beginners and even when we're not, we can all learn from new perspectives.


1)      After you mix in the yeast how do you know how many times you ought to stretch and fold the dough before you let it rest?

Generally, I stretch and fold slack dough into four (about) - fold in half from one side; quarter turn, fold in half; quarter turn, fold in half; quarter turn, fold in half.

2)      How do you decide how long you should let the dough rest before you stretch and fold again?

A 20-30 minute rest between stretches (dough covered during rest-times to prevent it from drying out on the outside) works for me. But I've left it for up to an hour and it still seems to make a difference.

3)      How do you know how many cycles of S & F you should do?

Generally, with slack dough, I do the stretch and fold cycle three times in all. But sometimes I forget and only do it once.


4)      How can you tell when the right amount of gluten is developed? [...] mix with a mixer at a certain speed for a certain length of time and how the dough will suddenly come together.  Not having seen the dough prepared with a mixer is there some way to tell from S & F that you have achieved the same?

I'm a little wary of "do this for x number of minutes". There are too many variables. When the dough is first mixed, it looks pretty rough. After each stretch and fold, and during the rest periods, it will smooth out. You know it's close to being right when starts to resemble a very soft and floppy pillow.


I've found that if I make sure the resting bowl is clean and dry (NO oil!!) before putting the dough in, I can use the "gently pour dough out of bowl" method to check for readiness. If the dough pulls away cleanly from the bowl, it has been kneaded and stretched enough. Try this by pouring the dough out of the bowl first and note how much is left on the sides of the bowl.

5)      And importantly why can't I just do a bunch of S & Fs all at once (as kneading used to be) let the dough rest and not hover over it?

You can certainly do whatever you want. The dough will develop anyway. (That's what "no knead" is all about, I think) But I do get the impression that the dough likes to rest  between handling periods to allow it to develop.

6)      Related to (5) can I simplify this process in some way and do S & F only once or twice?

Definitely. Do what you feel comfortable doing. Homemade bread is always going to be superior to storebought.

7)      And then is doing S & F in the bowl just as good as taking the dough out on a counter?


Probably. But doing it on the counter gives you the opportunity to do the pouring test to see if the dough still wants to stick to the sides of the bowl.

8)      Can you actually over do the S & F and ruin your bread?

It seems unlikely. My guess is that you'd get tired before that happened.


I have read though that if the dough starts to split apart (after it has already been smooth) it is overworked and the gluten strands have been stretched past their limit.


But you probably want to guard against the dough over-rising. It does continue to rise between stretches and folds.


Temperature also makes a difference. Too cold makes the development very very very slow. Too warm makes the yeast very active and it might go through its food supply too quickly.


 


Hope that all made sense!


-Elizabeth

katyajini's picture
katyajini

Elizabeth!  Thank you for such a thorough answer.  I do see that I need to get started and I probably will get it.  I really like your roll out of bowl test.  I am going to give it a try tonight or tommorow.  This has really been helpful.  K.  PS I will keep you posted.  

katyajini's picture
katyajini

Elizabeth,  I forgot to mention I do weigh my ingredients.  I have so much to learn and experience to gather.  I made another specific post about crazy problems I have been having with a very wet dough from Jason's ciabatta recipe, something no one else seems to have complained about. Did you ever try this recipe?  It seems to be very popular.  Thank again, so much for taking the time to answer my questions.  K.

ejm's picture
ejm

K, I'm glad my responses to your questions were useful.


I haven't had the nerve to make coccodrillo or ciabatta (from Carol Field's book "The Italian Baker") since 2004. The pencil notes about Field's ciabatta are not particularly glowing. And I had some spectacular failures with the coccodrillo. I see from my blog notes (Coccodrillo revisited:Tuesday, 10 February 2004) that the dough was insanely slack. But I made it before I knew about "stretch and fold".


I really should try it again. I'll take a look at Jason's recipe and see if it varies greatly from Field's. And whichever one I make, if it works, I'll report my findings. (If it doesn't work again, I'll come wailing in to report that I'm NEVER EVER going to make coccodrillo again!)


-E


(It occurs to me that maybe our semolina flour is different from others' semolina flour.)

katyajini's picture
katyajini

Elizabeth, I worked on Jason's ciabatta all Sunday long doing many mini experiments and looking at the pictures on your link and some other videos members gave me.  Finally i did get it to work wothout a mixer!  I can't write about it now about i will post what I found very soon.  You are so patient and dedicated it will be a piece of cake.  I was about to write back by mid Sunday maybe this is not a bread i can make without a mixer but...not true.  K.

katyajini's picture
katyajini

Elizabeth I rambled on about what happened with my experiments.  maybe it will mean something to you.  I am beginning to like not needing a mixer and achieving bread with such minimal 'kneadind.


 


K.

ejm's picture
ejm

Where are your ramblings, K?


-Elizabeth

katyajini's picture
katyajini