The Fresh Loaf

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stretching and folding vs kneading

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amen2u's picture

stretching and folding vs kneading

This may well be a no-brainer, but I have to ask.  Before I came to this forum I only kneaded my dough.  I discovered the various stretch-and-fold techniques, watched the videos and read quite a few post threads.  Over the following months I tried this method.  But I fail to see any major benefits or even much of a difference.


So, is the "stretch-and-fold" just a substitute for kneading?  Or is it actually better is some way?  I enjoy kneading: I find it relaxing in a unique way.  Or am I not performing the folding process properly?

I would appreciate further clarification here.



Chuck's picture

There are times when one technique is a little more appropriate than the other, often related either to dough hydration level or to what you're trying to accomplish (mixing? or gluten develpment? or degassing?) [see this thread for starters]. It's always nice to have one more technique in your bag of possibilities, and so be able to come a little closer to using the "best" technique each time. 

There are also times when one technique just isn't possible and you have to use the other. For example a very high hydration dough can be so "sticky" that kneading it is difficult to impossible, while stretch-and-fold technique are quite workable.

But often it seems to be a matter of what's best for you more than what's best for the dough. There are various reasons why some individuals (apparently not including you:-) avoid kneading; for example my advanced age and chronic sore back make kneading impossible for me now, even though I enjoyed kneading a lot in my younger years.

amen2u's picture

Thanks for your quick response.

I was sort of getting to that conclusion, but I was not sure of it.  I agree that it is a plus to have a variety of options available, and there is no doubt I will continue to use each as appropriate.

Your reference to the other thread was exactly what I needed and is quite illuminating.  It gave me much of the information I was lacking.  Good stuff.

I too am right up there in years, complete with bad back and other failings that age brings, but I can still get into the rhythm and flow of kneading.  For me it's much like meditation and very soothing.

Looking forward to continuing my own voyage of discovery and to putting those "new" insights into practice.


Once again, thank you.  I do appreciate it.

hanseata's picture

it's always nice to have more than one way to do things. Apart from better handling of high hydration doughs I use S & F when I don't have the time to make pre-doughs.

Usually it fits my schedule better to prepare soakers and bigas ahead, then the mixing of the final dough takes only 5 minutes (plus 5 minutes autolyse). But when I am gone the whole day and still want to sell my breads the other morning, I work with S & F.

I find S & F a very pleasing technique, because you really see the dough development - but it takes much longer, you have to be present, even though it's not all hands-on. I use Peter Reinhart's method, 4 stretches and folds with 10 minute intervals, that means at least 40 minutes total time.

Certain breads take longer preparation no matter what. For a sourdough bread you have to prepare the starter ahead, and, also, if you do certain mulitgrain breads, you need a soaker, for the resting time of the S & F dough overnight is not enough (see my Leinsamenbrot:

Happy baking,



amen2u's picture

And thanks to you too, Karin.  Your perspective and detail is exactly the kind of thing I need.  It fills in the usually cold manual-type instruction --- not that that sort of thing isn't needed too.

I have checked out Peter Reinhart's S&F methods and have tried them a couple of times.  I have a long way to go.  Although I have been the family baker for decades, venturing into artisan breads is relatively new to me, and I had none of the theory, science or specific techniques required.

I value the anecdotal comments you have made.  Quite often that sort of info re-inforces things I have come to suspect.  At other times it corrects a misdirection I have taken.

So a hearty thanks to you.

Mary Fisher's picture
Mary Fisher

If, like me, you have arthritic hands, stretch and fold is far easier than kneading - which I never particularly enjoyed anyway. I couldn't understand people who said it relieved stress but there again I don't suffer from stress.

My method for s&f is to lift the dough from the boar and let it fall over my hands to the board. Then I turn it and do the same. After three or at the most four liftings (when it stretches itself) the dough is too inelastic to fall so I let it rest.

After a while I do it again. I'm not such a purist that I time the intervals or count the stretches, my life is governed by more practical issues. So if the oven is ready, no matter how many stretches the dough has had, it's shaped and, not long after, put in the oven. I've found by experience that I get good rising - 'oven spring - even if I put the shaped dough straight into the oven after the stretches.


rolls's picture

hi I LOVE this technique, was jus using it yesterday as a sort've experiement, as i don't have much time for baking these days but i still wanted to fit it in, so i mixed up a quick no knead dough, but added some milk, olive oil, vanilla,  cinnamon and dried fruits. i let it rise and would just come and go, and whenever i saw it risen i would just stretch the sides over and in with a spatula, (so very easy going) and all in the same bowl, i didn't time or anything and have to say that even after just doing this once i found a HUGE difference in the dough, and now it doesn't at all seem like a dough that hasn't been kneaded, looks very strong actually and holding itself very well :) so i think this technique really does make a difference to the dough, as for the baking im  hoping it'll give me higher loaves :)



hanseata's picture

I'm not the great kneader, either, I let my mixer (and autolyse) do that. That's what I like about the S & F, too, the dough develops itself with just a little help.


Mary Fisher's picture
Mary Fisher

Yebbut it takes power and makes a noise and if we're making our own bread don't we want to do as much of it as we can?

I do have a mixer and used to use it a lot but no more, it's far more satisfying to do as much as I can manually - not just in breadmaking.

Gradually I'm doing more and more by hand, even sawing quite large timbers, It does take longer but it's so good for me :-)

jstreed1476's picture

For my part, I use stretch-and-fold mainly with higher-hydration doughs like pugliese. But when the dough isn't quite so wet, I prefer Dan Lepard's method of kneading for 10 seconds, resting for 10 minutes, until I've done 3-4 such cycles, depending on how the dough feels.

Either way, you wind up with more time to do stuff like chase your three-year-old around the house:-)

nowhereman's picture

I find both techniques really meditative and quite reactive to your mood and the 'way' you handle the dough....What about employing a mix of both kneading and SF, for instance, 5 lots of knead to 5 SF alternating over ten - fifteen minutes.? Recent experiences tell me now only to use SF when I've got the time to be present for the process entirely- monday I tried a sourdough SF only, not even approaching double bulk in what 10 hours? Maybe a proper knead would have been appropriate but instead I used SF that did not seem to change the overall state of the dough..I suspect my timings could be out though perhaps.


Next time I bake i'm going to try the above 5:5 knead/sf, see what happens..Dont know if any of you here have already tried this?