The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Kneading or Stretch an Fold or both

jowilchek's picture

Kneading or Stretch an Fold or both

If this has been discussed and I missed it I'm sorry, but I didn't see it.

I tried a new recipe:
recipe for a 60% hydration French Bread dough, the so called French Bread

It requires 5-7 min. kneading, then stretch and fold several times, at intervals.
I thought stretch and fold method eliminated the kneading I wrong? Do they go hand and hand? Or are you to do one or the other, not both?
p.s. the bread turned out good, against my own judgment I followed the recipe and did both the kneading and the strech and fold.
Any advice or remarks appreciated.

csimmo64's picture

Kneading in the mixer or by hand begins to develop gluten. Depending on your flour and intensity of the mix, full gluten development happens around the 10 minute mark. The goal is to mix to proper gluten development.

When you fully develop the gluten, air gets incorporated into the mixture and whitens the dough. This, however, is an unwanted step in making artisan bread. The incorporation of too much air destroys all of the creamy colored pigments that contribute to crumb color, texture, and most of all FLAVOR! 

For the artisan baker, it is a necessity to use doughs containing high proportions of water to flour (70% is a good start), also to gently mix doughs to proper development, and utilize longer fermentation times. These procedures all contribute to the breads total flavor, open crumb, and volume.

Stretch and folds are a gentle way of GREATLY increasing the gluten's strength without incorporating too much air or movements. 

When you over-mix your dough, you lose out on the benefits of a long fermentation, and also the gluten aligns in such a way that it creates a tight crumb with little flavor and poor texture. 


Hope this helps your understanding.


p.s. I currently mix my "french bread" for 4 minutes total, with 2-3 stretch and folds. Good luck :]

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

I keep hearing things like, "the goal of the artisan baker" or "the artisan baker should do this" or "the artisan baker should do that".

This assumes that there is A style of bread that is "artisan".  Usually when these discussions happen, people are talking about French style breads.

Let's speak plainly here.  There are hack bakers in France who turn out products that are undeniably French that most people here would not cross the street to eat a second time.

An artisan baker is a craftsman who makes bread.  However, what sort of bread s/he makes isn't part of the equation.

A well made German, Dutch, Norweigan, Swedish, Mexican (.... fill in the blank...) bread is no less an artisanal bread than a French bread.  And if the breads mentioned above were made by a craftsman and the French bread were made by a hack, the other bread might well be more of an artisanal bread than the French one.

Don't get me wrong, I respect and admire French bread culture.  However, the French don't hold an exclusive lock on the world of artisanal baking.  It's a big world filled with wonderful breads, and many of them look nothing like anything that has been baked in France.

Sorry if this is off topic, but people assuming that artisanal bread has to be a French style bread always bothers me.



proth5's picture

I must apologize for your question hitting the wrong person at the wrong time (just spent three days taking classes on these issues) and I will give a somewhat long answer.

Let's see how you can understand this for yourself.  What are you doing when you knead (or mix) bread dough? You are developing the gluten and creating small pockets of air in the dough.  But mostly you are trying to develop the gluten and strength in the dough. 

But dough strength will develop by itself over time as acids are produced by the yeasts in the dough.  (Try it yourself if you want.  Mix equal parts by weight of flour and water [say, 4 oz each] and add a pinch of yeast.  Stir the stuff just enough to blend.  After you stir it, it will have no strength.  Let it sit at room temperature for 6-12 hours [watch it during this time to see when it doubles].  You will find that it has developed strength and some elasticity without your  doing a thing.) What kneading or mixing does, then, is speed up this process.

A stretch and fold is also manipulating the dough and so it will help the dough develop strength.  However it also does two other things: it helps to equalize dough temperature, and it degasses thedough and distributes the yeast and its food so that it may continue the fermentation process.  Back in the day, we "punched" our dough down to perform similar functions (and you will still see formulas written this way.)

Many formulas that you see from professional artisan bakers will have both mix times and call for stretch and folds.  The mix develops the gluten to a certain point and the stretch and folds develop it further.  This is often called "improved mix" because it reduces the time for the dough on the floor, but still preserves the carotenoid pigments (the stuff that makes our breads have a creamy or yellow color).

So yes, in some cases you can use stretch and folds (and time) to eliminate kneading - or, indeed, you can use the two techniques (and less time) together.

And let me just make a comment on the hydration levels mentioned above.  It is hardly a "necessity" to use hydrations starting at 70% for artisan produced bread.  As I mentioned I was just with a group of bakers who can be considered pretty well qualified as artisans.  The favored hydration for baguettes? 67%  One uses the appropriate hydration to create a balanced bread and the appropriate texture for the product.

Hope this helps.


csimmo64's picture

I meant it is a necessity to acheive those results that you look for. 70% was a good place to start. Right now I use 67% to get the hang of hydration. Still hard for me to get the right open crumb. Sorry if you interpretted it wrong.

proth5's picture

I'm going to sound a bit argumentative.

Usually people think that they must move to ever higer hydrations to get the "open crumb" that some consider the mark of "artisan baking."

I'm going to paraphrase what I have heard from some very qualified artisans: Open crumb is not the result of higher hydration, but the result of getting fermentation correct.

No need to go 70% or higher to get good results...

And, I'll stop.

plevee's picture

Please amplify on the details of getting 'fermentation correct'.


csimmo64's picture

Yeah please elaborate on this. I'm still seeking open crumb, and this is what I have believed up to this point only from teaching myself through baking, reading, and studying in 2 months. At least list some links or useful information so I can see what I need to do!

proth5's picture

Well that's the craft, isn't it?

If I could write a post to the internet and tell beginning bakers exactly how to get fermentation "right" I would be the most famous home baker in the world.

"Right" is a balance.  The fermentation should be slow enough (a lot of people like to retard doughs overnight in the fridge) and thorough enough (doubled in size?) matching the right amount (and type) of dough development prior to bulk fermentation with development during fermentation.  It is creating a balance between the effects of the pre fermented flour and the final dough. It is shaping with appropriate firmness and gentleness.

And it can be  different from baker to baker. 

I can but give you a quote from "my teacher":  "Take a formula, bake it and evaluate it, then change a factor and try again."

Another good one "The issue with being self taught is the quality of the instruction."  What many of us have found is that finding the right teacher and doing hands on work with that teacher is what makes the difference.

But I do have formulas from very qualified artisan bakers - and ever higher hydrations are not always the answer (although the very nature of some breads - for example ciabatta - call for high hydrations.)

You are on a site chock full of information. No links required.  There is a search feature. There is a handbook here that is full of good information.

That's the best I can do.

emmsf's picture

Just one quibble with your distinction between hydration and fermentation.  You are right, I believe, that a higher hydration alone does not necessarily result in a better crumb or more "artisan" bread.  And getting the fermentation/proofing right is definitely important.  But hydration and fermentation are directly linked. As a rule, higher hydration yields greater yeast activity.  So it's not the mere presence of water in the dough, but the water's effect on yeast activity (as  well  as water's impact on enzymatic and bacteriological activity) that modifies crumb, taste and texture, and yields results many would consider "artisan."

carefreebaker's picture

I'm new to higher hydration dough. I would like to progress further then Jim Lahey's bread and Artisan Bread in Five MInutes a Day. Would someone please direct me to a website with a good beginner recipe to try? And recommend a bread book for me to purchase? Thank you

LindyD's picture

Would someone please direct me to a website with a good beginner recipe to try

Your already at the website.  Check out the lessons, videos, and handbook in the tabs above.

Look to the left of your screen and you'll see "recommended books."

And welcome to TFL.  If you have any questions or problems, ask.  TFL has lots of experienced bakers aways happy to help out.

kolobezka's picture


I was also just thinking about the necessity of kneading and for how long. If the complete development of the dough is not aimed during kneading then the window-pane test cannot be a criterion...

You write that: in some cases you can use stretch and folds (and time) to eliminate kneading - or, indeed, you can use the two techniques (and less time) together.

In what cases? In the TFL Handbook there are several alternative for mixing the dough. Among them just S&F 3 -4 times (without initial kneading). Or another that I liked was: French fold 10 times, 5 minut rest, French fold 10 times.

In her new e-book Teresa Greenways calls for just 2-3 minutes kneading for sourdoughs.

I have always done about 100 French folds and then 4x S&F in 15 minutes interval. Was it necessary?

My problem is that I am not able to handle (do French folding) with more than 500g flour at a time. But sometimes have to do 3-4 loafs. Is it worth to buy a mixer for kneading?

My doughs are not very, very hydrated, let´s say 70% hydration for 60% wholegrain (but european flour may be much weaker in gluten than in US).

I would appreciate any opinion from a more experienced baker :-)


jowilchek's picture

I have learned a lot thanks to all of you, now the trouble is getting it all from the computer to my head to my hands. I know as with everything else I have learned over the years pratice makes perfect. I only started making bread a year ago, and used the same recipe for 9 of those months, then as usual I wanted different types of breads, and recipes. So this is a journey and if it were not for this web site I would never even tried new recipes, and techniques. So a big thanks to all of you.