The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

When to stretch-and-fold

SCruz's picture

When to stretch-and-fold

I want to learn more about S&F. I like the method. The dough feels good.

I've looked at other threads but not found the answers to two questions:

First, in ABED some breads call for S&F and others for kneading. Besides rich doughs preferring to be kneaded, what about the dough or formula might tell you to use one method over the other? For example, the wild rice & onion is kneaded, but the WW is stretched. I'm thinking about it in regards to working with older recipes, and rather than blindly experimenting, I'd like to understand more about the likelihood of success. Then I'll experiment.

And second, some bakers seem to use longer intervals, up to 30-45 minutes, between folds. All the recipes in ABED call for being done in 40. Why?

Thanks for your insight.

flournwater's picture

I don't know if there's a scientific reason for deciding when to stetch and fold over kneading (or both) but it appears to me that stretch and fold techniques apply more slack dough formulas and even then the S&F process often follows an initial kneading session

"And second, some bakers seem to use longer intervals, up to 30-45 minutes, between folds. All the recipes in ABED call for being done in 40. Why?"

"Time" is both your friend and your enemy in bread making.  NEVER use time to determine when a dough is ready for a next step.  Learn to read and understand the condition of the dough.  Time suggestion/recommendations in any bread formula are simply estimates; your results may vary.

Chuck's picture

what about the dough or formula might tell you to use one method over the other?

S&F is a much simpler and easier method than kneading for "helping" gluten to develop even further in doughs that are developing anyway. In some cases S&F is all you need, hence "no-knead".

S&F isn't so good though at a) developing gluten that isn't already headed that way, or b) distributing moisture evenly throughout the dough, or c) mixing in ingredients that tend to not mix very well. Hence S&F isn't so good for a) rich doughs [which you've noticed], or b) doughs with lower hydration that don't distribute the water themselves, or c) doughs containing bits of solid material (like onion chips).

There's a whole lot of gray area where either S&F or kneading will work, or where S&F can be made to work just by taking a little extra care elsewhere.


some bakers seem to use longer intervals, up to 30-45 minutes, between folds. All the recipes in ABED call for being done in 40. Why?"

I think it's more about the total length of time of the bulk rise than it is about time intervals between S&F cycles. The time between S&F cycles is largely just an artifact of spreading a few S&F cycles fairly evenly over the total period of the bulk rise.

Dough that ferments slowly for a long time is generally considered more flavorful. Motivating things the opposite way is the cooking urge to "just be done with it". Whether to stretch the bulk rise with its S&Fs over seven hours or over just one hour is a personal value judgement (most recipe books make a default choice though:-). You can retard any old recipe (including so far as I know the ones in ABED), perhaps by reducing the yeast, perhaps by using colder water, perhaps by taking advantage of a cold basement or hallway, or perhaps by using your refrigerator or wine cooler.

LindyD's picture

Master Baker Jeffrey Hamelman discusses when to fold in Bread, and the complexity of the  topic.

How often to fold depends on the type of dough, length of fermentation, and how strong the baker wants it to be.  Generally:

Yeast doughs that ferment for about 90 minutes should be folded once, to degas.

Doughs made with 35% or more of pre-fermented flour generally have good strength, so you have to be careful not to build too much strength by S&Fs as expansion suffers with too strong a dough.

If you're using a weak flour, do extra folds.

High hydration (75% to 85%)doughs benefit from extra folds; builds volume.

Don't fold any dough with a short bulk fermentation (i.e. sourdough rye).

Stiff doughs (i.e. challah, bagel dough) don't need folding since they're strong coming off the mix.

Listen to the dough with your hands.

craigskelly88's picture

Hi there, talking about doughs that bulk ferment for say 90 mins, does that mean degas then shape for its final prove, or s & f then prove again then shape into its final shape ??

RobynNZ's picture

Hamelman's 90 minutes assumes that the bulk fermentation is being done at the temperature he recommends for the formula in question. In this case the fold (his version: dough flattened on the bench just enough to degas large gas pockets, then left, right, top, bottom are each folded in turn to the centre)  would be done at the 45 minute mark and the dough returned to the bulk fermentation container. (Note depending on the formula he may recommend more than one fold, spaced evenly during BF).

Then preshape (retaining the same top/seam orientation as was done in the S&F), rest for 20-30 min, shape, then final proof.

If your local library has Hamelman's "Bread" available, it's well worth a thorough read to learn about technique and process, then there are the great formulae too. King Arthur Flour has put a series of videos on YouTube with Jeffrey Hamelman teaching basic technique,  this is a link to the mixing and folding one.

Because I don't have good control over bulk fermentation temperature (and therefore, in the case of a single fold, not being able to judge the halfway point easily), I tend to use Chad Robertson's S&F technique (well described and photographed in his book "Tartine"), the S&F is done in the bulk fermentation container every 30 minutes, until the dough starts to hold 'shape' when 'folded' and begins to become pillowy, then I leave it again before going on to preshape etc. I find this easier to judge. Look in Video section in dark banner above for recently added video of Chad Robertson handling his dough.

Cheers, Robyn

SCruz's picture

This has been really helpful. Thank you all for your thoughtful and informed responses.


spriolo's picture

I found the stretch and fold technique very rewarding.  But I'm also looking for other doughs where it will work.  What about pizza dough?

Why is short bulk fermentation bread NOT good for stretch and fold?

lynnebiz's picture

I've used stretch & fold for pizza dough (and also no-knead, and a combo of both). Turns out great.


spriolo's picture

I tried this last night (after all this talk I figured I'd give a go).

It worked out great.  I didn't change my formula, but after the initial mixing, I stretched and folded the dough 2 times over one hour.

After the third rest (at 90 minutes) the dough was ready to be scaled and shaped into pizza's.  The end product was delicious and airy.  Good stuff.