The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Value of fold and stretch

Lucifer's picture

Value of fold and stretch

What am I missing out if I don't do fold/stretch?

I intentionally decided to omit this step to reduce the labor cost. My goal is to produce low cost sourdough. The bread comes out with the right size of holes. I didn't notice any taste/smell difference with or without stretch/fold. Am I wrong?

MichaelH's picture

What recipe are you using? Do you have pictures of your breads?

Baking a cheap bread with the the "right size holes" is a goal I don't remember seeing before.

In asking your question keep in mind that there are many bakers on this site that routinely take 48 hours or more to craft a loaf of bread. Appearance, crust, aroma, density, crumb and flavor are qualities we strive for.


Lucifer's picture

Michael, too true. Poor wording on my part.

Let's say I'm happy the way it comes out. The appearance is a uniform "brick" shape in a form.

On the other hand all artisan bakers do it for some reason. Trying to establish what benefits fold-stretch has other than to help give it some shape.

Franko's picture

Hi Lucifer,

As I mentioned in our previous exchange on varda's post:

the stretch and fold technique is important for developing certain types of dough. I'm going to semi-quote some of Jeffrey Hamelman's thoughts on the subject.

  1. doughs made with baker's yeast that ferment for more than 1.5 hrs should have at least 1 fold to degas
  2. doughs made from 35% or more prefermented flour tend to need less folding because of the strength building characteristics of the acid from the preferment.
  3. doughs made with weak flours benefit from extra folds.
  4. doughs made with high hydration benefit from extra folds. As more folds are incorporated the resulting breads are more voluminous.
  5. doughs with short bulk fermentation such as sourdough rye breads do not require folding since there is little in the way of glutenin and dough structure will not be improved by folding

stiff doughs such as challa require no folding since they tend to have adequate dough strength at completion of mixing. degassing may be needed if bulk fermentation is longer than 1.5 hrs

My apologies, I didn't realize you were baking professionally and had labour cost concerns involved in your response. I certainly appreciate the 'time aspect' of doing these extra steps... however they do make a lot of sense and the product does benefit from them. Ideally this is a way to apply the  stretch and fold technique, but I'm also a firm believer in not fixing what isn't broken either. If your customers are happy and your labour cost is sustainable, then you have an easy, practical, and economical method of making good bread for your clientele. While Hamelman's methods are ideal to making the best loaf possible , I'm not convinced yet that they can be utilized profitably by lower margin operations.

All the best,


Lucifer's picture

Thanx Franko. Very informative.

I'm not baking commercially. Not yet.  Trying to figure out how I can make a profit on good traditional sourdough selling it at the price of the tastless rubbery sponge most of population here buys from the supermarket. So far it's been a reasonably smooth process with minimal labor involvement. Your earlier comments made hesitate.

Still learning :) Thanx again.

dmsnyder's picture

Franko provided Jeff Hamelman's prescriptions for when to S&F but left out the functions and the ultimate "why."

Stretching and folding the dough during bulk fermentation accomplishes several things.

1. It de-gasses the dough.

2. It strengthens the gluten fibers and, by folding, results in a more complex, somewhat less chaotic network of cross-links between gluten fibers.

3. It re-distributes the parts of the dough to equalize temperature within the dough mass.

S&F is also an alternative method of developing gluten to mechanical mixing. The latter results in a more uniform crumb by repetitively folding the dough in the same manner which creates a more "woven" and less random pattern of gluten strands. Mechanical mixing also tends to oxidize more of the carotenoids in the flour. These are the chemicals which give unbleached flour its yellowish color and are important for the flavor of bread.

If you like your bread the way you are making it, that's good. Do try using S&F's after a short mechanical mix instead of a longer, more intensive machine mix. You might like your product even better.


Lucifer's picture

A-ha! Makes sense. I'm buying this book now ...