The Fresh Loaf

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Kneading vs Stretch & Folding

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whiskers's picture
whiskers

Kneading vs Stretch & Folding

I successfully cultivated a sourdough starter and have been baking/experimenting all kinds of breads for the last several weeks. This artisan bread baking has totally got me hooked!! I still have a lot to learn, but this site has been very helpful especially for finding answers to all of my questions after questions after questions.... 


I usually do find my answers using the search function, but I can't seem to find this particular one...


My question is: what is the difference between kneading and stretch & folding? Isn't the purpose of both methods to develop gluten? I would understand the difficulty of kneading by hand, especially for higher hydration doughs. But I do most of the kneading using my bread machine, so I usually just run the machine until I get the "windowpane" effect. I have done it by hand using the S&F method as well. Both gave me nice results, but I've never done a side-by-side comparison using the same exact recipe. (Perhaps that's my next project...) It really got me wondering if there is much difference in flavor, texture, formation, etc.


The only closest thing I could find was that with the traditional kneading method, you actually risk over-kneading the dough, as the dough still keeps developing gluten while it's resting/proofing. Is this true? (Granted, a lot of it depends on the types of flour and the length of each fermentation.)


I see that a lot of people prefer doing it by hand, which I think is definitely more labor intensive. (not that I mind it, but sometimes, I just don't have the time) If that's the only option, there would be no question, but many of those people have either a bread machine or Kitchen Aid mixer and still prefer to do it by hand. So I'm assuming there must be a good reason here.


I would really appreciate any comments and opinions on this.

flournwater's picture
flournwater

In my own experience, the method I use for kneading depends upon the type of dough I'm working with.  The slack dough that I use for most of my open crumb breads is kneaded in the stand mixer (using the dough hook) and then kneaded after each rise using the stretch and fold method.  For me, the stretch and fold for those kinds of breads produces a better crumb than the "press/push/turn and do it again" method.


As the dough become more dense the stretch and fold method can create a risk for tearing the dough from time to time so I rely on the old style of  "press/push/turn and do it again" for those.

rolls's picture
rolls

richard bertinet's 'french fold', once i came across this i have never looked back.

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Whiskers, you have touched on the most important learning point for a new baker. Learning how to properly mix and develop dough is essential to making good bread. The sooner you get your hands in it, the sooner you will understand. I suggest you unplug your bread machine and place it in a cabinet for now. You won't need it again.


Before you take water to flour, understand that the water does not absorb into the flour instantly. It takes upwards of 30 minutes to hydrate the small particles of flour with water. If you mix a 65% hydration dough of just flour and water using a spoon or your fingers it will look and feel dry initially. Push and knead to get all the dry flour incorporated into one mass and wait 30 minutes and it will feel like a totally different dough. At this point you can knead using the french fold or the Bertinet method of slap and fold until the dough is smooth and feels like it has some strength to pull back. Cover and let it rest for 1 hour and do a stretch and fold to further develop the strands of gluten and decide if it needs more stretching. If it is not in danger of tearing, wait another hour and S&F again. Don't tear the strands.


With higher hydration mixes and those with whole grain combination's, it might take 3 or more S&F's but I usually get by with 2 using bread flour and 3 with All Purpose flour.


Once you learn this important step in bread making, you will be on your way to using any flour combination of flours in any hydration level you wish. I hope this helps.


Eric


 

Elagins's picture
Elagins

one more thing: gluten development actually doesn't require kneading (contrary to popular folklore), but is a chemical process called autolysis that takes place over time ... hence the popularity and splendid results from no-knead breads. as eric and flournwater's comments point out, the key is even hydration during mixing; after that, the dough really does take care of itself. 


having said that, i stretch and fold exclusively when i'm working with a very slack dough, such as for ciabatta or baguettes a la ancienne, which i normally fold every 20-30 minutes over the course of a 90-minute fermentation. with stiffer doughs, such as for bagels and ryes, i fold, press, punch, turn and do it all over again.


again, flour and water are very forgiving, and often can take far better care of themselves than we can.


Stan Ginsberg
www.nybakers.com

whiskers's picture
whiskers

Thank you so much all for your comments. I do understand the importance of autolyzing and that the flours do not absorb water completely right away. But this leads to another question...


Let's say you have a formula/recipe that you know works, and weigh things correctly (whatever hydration you're working with), and knead everything in a machine without autolyzing. The dough probably looks very different at the beginning because the flours haven't absorbed all of the water yet. But at the end of it all, wouldn't all of the water eventually get absorbed anyway as it sits to ferment? Or do different methods actually affect the flour's ability to absorb moisture?


I guess this kind of goes back to my initial question after all. Are the machines really unable to achieve the same effect when it comes to artisan baking?


As flournwater pointed out, maybe the crumb structure comes out better with the S&F method, or the combination of the two methods especially for higher hydration doughs. I have yet to test this myself. It would be very interesting to see if there is anyone who actually prefers the machine method.


I'm not a sales person for any bread machine companies nor am I trying to promote the machine kneading method. In fact, I love working with doughs by hand! But I'm just very very curious...

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi,


I think the answer to your question is best illustrated with how difficult it is to add water to a dough that is already partially mixed.


As Eric says, starches will not break down straight away, so the autolyse is a wonderful technique to achieve this, and therefore properly hydrate the flour.


This is essential in order to give enough water over to hydrate the proteins; insufficient water means the gluten will not develop properly; this is largely why industrial bakeries need such intensively powerful mixers.   However, once mixed the gluten becomes incredibly strong, especially with the l-ascorbic acid in there, creating cross-bonds in the dough structure.


It therefore becomes impossible to add more water; so my thoughts are that the dough will not take up the water; it will just get over-mixed.


Best wishes


Andy

whiskers's picture
whiskers

I'm no scientist, but it's always very helpful to know exactly why things happen the way they do. Thank you very much for taking time to explain this. As Eric suggested, I think I'm now going to unplug my machine for a while and learn things the proper way for the most optimal results.

BerniePiel's picture
BerniePiel

I've enjoyed this thread a lot.  It also is relevant to problem I've gotten myself into and want to see what you think of my attempted solution which is proofing as I type.


This morning I decided to make an oatmeal loaf using a recipe on KA's bread flour.  Of course my nature being what it is, I used the recipe as a point of departure.  The basic ingredients called for three cups of flour and a cup of rolled oats, I also added three TBS of honey which was called for in the recipe.  I elected to use half of the three cups with some hard white winter wheat berries that I milled this morning (first time to use these) and the other half was KA's bread flour.  I also noted I had just the right amount of buttermilk and used it to replace the water which was 1 1/2 cups.  It also called for a packet of yeast to be added to the water, I added it to the buttermilk which I had warmed to about 97 degrees.  it appeared to me that the yeast was proofing, but in truth it could have been that the buttermilk was just frothy.  I also added two tablespoons of melted butter to the buttermilk-yeast mix and then added it to the dry ingredients with the honey.  I mixed it by hand to incorporate the liquid into the dry.  It seemed a tad too dry so I opted to add an egg and mixed it in, for about three minutes and then let it set.  The overall mix seemed to have a good tacky feel to me which I felt indicated a sufficiently hydrolyzed mix to allow the development of gluten and a good environment for the yeast.   I turned the dough out and kneaded perhaps 15 seconds, shaped into a ball, covered it and let it sit for an hour.  Sadly there was no expansion.  After another hour, this time putting it in a warm oven (105) there was still nothing.  I was torn between tossing the mix into the trash and starting anew or to try to salvage which is what I finally chose to do.  So I opened another pack of yeast,  put it in one cup of water at 99 degrees.  I tore the old mix into about 10 or 12 pcs and put then into the KA mixer w/ dough hook and mixed for about three minutes then moved it to medium speed for kneading and constantly adding one tsp of KA bread flour and alternating w/ my freshly milled flour until I had a dough that was still sticking to the side of the bowl, but still capable of being worked.  It actually had the consistency of a lot of no-knead dough's that I had seen from various videos.  It was sticky.  I put it on a floured board and kneaded 5 or 6 turns adding just enough flour to work it without sticking to the board or my fingers.  Interestingly, the dough started to take on a satiny texture.  I shaped it into a ball once again, oiled a bowl and put that bowl into a larger bowl of very warm water and put it in a warm oven and there it sits. 


    Well, I just now decided to check it and couldn't believe what I saw--the dough had more than doubled  and was at the top of an 8" bowl and had a very airy feel to it.  I punched it down and kneaded it once again five or six times, shaped it into a ball and am letting it rise again.  After seeing how much this dough has risen, it reminded me that not only did I add a packet of yeast, I added 3/4 C of my new starter which I had fed only an hour before and really didn't think would add anything one way or the other.  Looking at this dough, I may be wrong.  One other thing, I decided to add a mix of dried cranberries and black cherries to this oatbread made with whole wheat flour and  bread flour.  My fear at this time is that the dough will really be without much structure because of all the leavening that's been added.  I've turned the oven on to 430 and will roll the dough onto my stone in about another 20 minutes.  This should be interesting......If I knew how to upload pix, I'd do so regardless of what this looks like.  Yes I will add some moisture to the oven before I add the dough.    Thank you for whatever comments, especially regarding using just buttermilk for the liquid in a loaf.  Bernie

whiskers's picture
whiskers

By this time, you might have already seen the end result, but I'm very curious to see what happened to this bread. If you had kneaded too much at the beginning, you might not have been able to add extra water and yeast etc. in the process. So do you think that the yeast you put in at the very beginning was bad or was not enough amount to rise in the given time?


I hope you documented this regardless of the outcome. I've used buttermilk as the main liquid for sweet doughs - cinnamon rolls etc. - and also have used coffee an beer for sourdough breads with pretty good results. I think the buttermilk contributes to more tender and soft crumb, right? Seeing your dough double and more sounds pretty promissing to me. I hope it turned out nice!

BerniePiel's picture
BerniePiel

Hi Whiskers,


http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=56657&id=1172499599


These are the pix I took of the end result.  I'm really happy with it in all respects, taste, crust, crumb, appearance.  I think what happened was that the butter which I had melted in the microwave may have been too hot for the yeast in the buttermilk and may have killed it.  I have used this package of Fleischman's yeast just a few days ago and it worked fine, so I don't think the yeast itself caused the problems with the failed first rise.  Surely two hours would have been plenty of time.  But, here's another thought, after the remix, I put the dough into a warm oven in a pan that held warm water.  That may have been enough to trigger all of the yeast plus my sourdough starter leavening agent.  That one step is the only thing I didn't do on the first effort.  My kitchen stays around 67 and the oven was at 100 to 105  ( this evening I also discovered my oven runs hotter than what's on the digital readout.)  Let me know what you think about the loaf---wish I could send you a slice cause there's plenty to go round.....it's 11" in diameter and 4" high.   Guess I know what's for breakfast for a few days. {:-)


Bernie

whiskers's picture
whiskers

I'm so glad your bread turned out great! It looks great! 


I have killed yeast by adding hot melted butter or milk. We all learn from mistakes, don't we?


I would've never thought of adding more yeast in the middle of it, but if something like this happens to me in the future, I will definitely remember how to save the dough. Thanks and happy baking!

BerniePiel's picture
BerniePiel

Thanks, Whiskers.  I got lucky on this one.  But, I have to tell you I was very, very close to trashing the ball and starting new.  I should say the only disappointment with the "new" loaf was that the amount of black cherries and cranberries was for the old loaf, not the new one with the additional flour.  They are scattered here and there, but not as thickly as I would have liked.  But, when you do get to taste one, it sure adds a nice, new dimension to this oatmeal-whole wheat bread.  Thanks, again, for the nice compliment.


Bernie Piel

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I lifted it off the facebook page:



 

BerniePiel's picture
BerniePiel

Mini,


Thanks for helping with the photo.  Is there a help site on TFL.com that explains how to upload photos.  Since you went to my FB page, you probably saw several of the other loaves I've made in the last couple of weeks, but I just am not certain how to do it on this site.  I've used ftp before, and uploaded photos to many other sites, but this one truly confounds me.  I've been using computers since 1978 and I thought the idea was that they would make life easier---seems this time it's taken an opposite turn.  {:-)  Again, Mini, thank you for the help.  You must be a girl scout. B

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

under your name just under the search box (left, upper corner of the page.)   Is that a scout cap on your smiley?   I sent you several links and hope they help.   Glad to be of help.

dsoleil's picture
dsoleil

Hi Whiskers,


I just returned from the Asheville Bread Festival this weekend where Peter Rhinehart gave a workshop and demonstrated the S&F technique with a wet shaggy dough.  He did 4 S&F, one every ten minutes, and was able to show the gluten development at each stage.  The difference just a few minutes apart was amazing.  He used the S&F instead of traditional kneading and said that it will produce a more irregular, open crumb in your breads.  By the end, his shaggy dough was smooth and pliable like a baguette dough.  Great demo!

whiskers's picture
whiskers

Whoa! I would've loved to watch the demo! I'm convinced now that the S&F is the way to go for more open crumb etc. You must have learned a lot at the festival.