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Hamelman SD- folding during ferment question

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Mason's picture

Hamelman SD- folding during ferment question

I have a question about folding a sourdough during fermentation.  This is in response to a delicious but overfermented attempt at a similar sourdough that I got advice about over here:

I'm tring a variation on Hamelman's sourdough (without the book--I'm waiting for a library interloan).  I'm tring a variation on the method posted here by zolablue:

I based my formula on the amounts listed by gavinc in his spreadsheet:

But with amounts varied to make a 25% whole wheat sourdough with the same hydration, as follows:

Overall Formula g Baker's %
Bread Flour 691 75
Whole-wheat flour 230 25
Medium rye flour 0 0
Total Flour   921  


  601 65
Salt   17 2
Total Yield 1514 164
Bread Flour (KA) 150 100
Whole-wheat flour (Bob's RM) 0 0
Medium rye flour 0 0
Spring Water   150 100
Mature culture (100% hydr) 28 19
Total Yield 328 219
  Use 306  
  Leftover for next build 28  
Final Dough    
Bread Flour 541  
Whole-wheat Bread flour 230  
Medium rye flour 0  
Water   451  
Salt   17  
Liquid levain 300  
Total   1514  

The method: preferment a levain for 14 hours (it looked really good, and just more than doubled). Mix in rest of ingredients (without salt).  Autolyse 25 minutes.  Knead with salt in KA for 2 minutes. Ferment 2.5 hours.

I'm just about to begin mixing after the autolyse stage.  Zolablue's description of the method seems detailed enough for me to follow.  Except for this instruction:

FOLDING: Fold the dough either once (after 1 1/4) hours) or twice (at 50-minute intervals), depending on dough strength.

But I'm tring to figure out what "dough strength" means here.  I presume the dough shoudl relax enough after 50 minutes to fold it again without tearing.  How can I tell if it is strong enoug to fold after 50 minutes or whether to wait for 1h15?

What would be the advantage of two or of three folds?  Should I try for three?

Advice would be appreciated


janij's picture

This is one of those feel or intuition things.  If the dough is sufficently developed, then one stretch and fold to just redistrubute the yeast and food will be fine and degas a little.  If you do not have enough dough strength from say hand mixing vs mixing in a machine, then 3 maybe needed.  How does the dough look and fell to you?  Is it smooth, springy and alive feeling?  If so you are probably close and should so say 2 max.  If on the other hand you are hand and the dough is not smooth et , but it is too hard to continue by hand, you may want to fold 4-5 times over 15-30 minute to get the dough structure you need.

In your case, autolayse 25 min plus 2 minutes in a KA, I would say do 2 on the 50 minute intervals.  When you fold it, it should have relaxed enough to stretch out nice and smooth to fold up.  To answer your question of how to tell?  It is just on feel like I said before.  Have you watched any of the video's on how dough looks as it comes together?  Back Home Barkery has posted some here.  Steve on Breadetcetra (I think that is the spelling)  did a home shot of the french fold and it shows how the dough changes.  Also on youtube is a video of I think Richard Bertinet doing the french fold with a sweet dough and it shows it well.  Let me see if I can find some links and I will post them.

janij's picture
Mason's picture

I thought it would depend on an experienced feel.  I haven't tried this method yet, so I'll just have to try it and see.

The dough feels great.  after kneading it passed the windowpane test, just. I bowled it to ferment.

But then I realized I forgot to add the salt after the autolyse, so I had to haul it out of the bowl (very sticky!) and put it back in KitchenAid to knead in the salt (another minute or so).  I then let it rest 5 minutes on the bench, and then hand kneaded again--with very slightly wet hands)  to make sure. (Nowhere near as sticky now.)  It was smooth and soft and and fairly well relaxed even then.  

I have seen videos of people doing the french fold (I was originally trying for no-knead bread, so studied them then, and tried it once with very wet dough. But the sourdough lured me enough to amabdon the no-knead and want to knead it properly).  These videos helped, though.

So the folding is to slightly degas and to develop the gluten further.  But if it already has a good gluten structure, then two folds should do it?  I'll try that.

Thanks again!


janij's picture

If the gluten is really good then 1 should do.

janij's picture

Hamelman gives 3 reasons for folding.  I knew I was forgetting one and it was bugging me so I looked it up.  You may not care.  But reason 1 is the carbon dioxide.  You have to expel some or it has a negative affect on the dough.  2nd it temperture equalization.  Outside of the dough vs inside.  3 is dough strength.  So i was a little wrong on redistributing the yeast.  It is more about getting rid of their by product. :)

Mason's picture

Thank for the tips about the reasons for folding.  The temp. equalization didn't occur to me.  I did know about using it to pop the really large bubbles and redistribute the CO2.

The first two folds were great.  The third and forth were a bit tight. I stopped there and put it back in the bowl.  Perhaps I should have let it rest a few minutes before the 3rd and 4th fold.  Or perhaps two folds would have been enough.

The dough is not as hydrated as some that use this method (65%).  I'd like to push that up next time, which might make the dough more stretchy and relaxed next batch.

This might also be due to the 25% whole wheat in the dough.  WW doughs should probably be less stretchy. (I have only used purely white flour for Challah and Stollen, which I only rarely make.)

When I take it out next time I'll be dividing the dough for shaping.  I'll have to let it rest between folding and rounding.

It looks like it's going to spring well.  I'm considering baking one tonight and retarding the other overnight to bake tomorrow.

janij's picture

Would love to see how it turns out!

rockfish42's picture

Another reason to fold is to obtain dough strength without over oxidizing the dough during the kneading, this is more of a concern in commercial mixers. For many of the breads in Hammelman you don't need to pass the windowpane as the folds will take care of the development later.

Mason's picture

After 3 hours rising  in a lined basket under a large stainless steel bowl, it wasn't very high.  I was worried, but it felt about right, so I (sadly) scored it and put it in the oven (in a terracotta colche, with steam, at 460°F.

The oven jump was far more than I hoped for, though.

After baking it had a slight grigne (first time I have achieved it!).  

As it smells and looks and feels, I'm quite happy.  I'm anxious to taste it.  I am posting these photos while I wait for it to cool enough to justify slicing it open.

I can't wait any longer.  I'm off to taste it, and then to sleep.


Royall Clark's picture
Royall Clark

What a great looking creation! How did it taste? Had to be good!

Mason's picture

Im quite pleased with the crumb.  It's deliciously creamy and chewy, but not quite as sour as I'd like.  

There are a few larger holes in some places.  I think perhaps folding once more might have reduced the largest ones.  But I do like some holes. 

I need to work on my folding and shaping technique a little (the "iron hand in a velvet glove" will take practice). But overall I'm quite pleased with this as a starting point from which to experiment.

I retarded the other half of this batch in the fridge overnight, and another boule is out and rising now.  I'm hoping for a similar rise, but with extra sour taste.