The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Stretch and fold method

bobku's picture

Stretch and fold method

For standard breads, not sourdough. How can I convert my recipes to stretch and fold  method. If a recipe says to knead for about 10 minutes and then let rise about 1 1/2  hours untill double in size. Should I do several stretch an folds right after mixing the dough then let it rise and do more stretch and folds during the 1 1/2 hours of rising. Should I be increasing rising time ?


PastryPaul's picture

I'm a tinkerer... I confess, I find it very hard to leave bloody well alone. I like to stretch and fold. If a formula calls for degassing or punching, I stretch and fold (more effective and less hard on the dough, but not so good for tension relief). If I just want to build a little more strength into a dough, I stretch and fold. If a formula says to let rise to double for about 2 hours, I often stretch and fold twice (at 40 and 80 minutes). Heck, if I just get a little bored, I stretch and fold.

I even stretch and fold no-knead formulae.

I've never noticed and adverse reprucussions to my tinkering. I don't really know what you would need to convert. I do, however notice that rising time is longer. Let the dough tell you when it's ready.


Maverick's picture

S&F works best with wetter dough. That doesn't mean you can't do it without a slack dough though. For your example above, I would do a S&F every 20 minutes for the first hour. Then let it rise the last 1/2 hour or until double (or whatever).

HeidiH's picture

I must admit stretch and fold is my favorite way to go so I've done just about everything that way.  Here  are my rules of thumb.

Starting with a basis of 3 S&Fs at 45 minute intervals:

-The warmer the kitchen, the less time between S&Fs, colder increase the time intervals

-Rye doesn't stretch because it has pentosans rather than gluten but do a couple just to get the wheat gluten going

-If the dough acts like its going to overproof at 3 cycles, do two

-If I get a late start, use the KA to knead and hurry things along but know the flavor won't be as well developed

-S&F on an oiled counter rather than floured so the hydration remains high enough

-Remember to set the timer or you might find an enormous, forgotten balloon of dough trying to escape the bowl.  Oh, wait, maybe I'm the only one who needs this rule.

Not only do I like the lazy aspects of not kneading by hand but I also do think the extra time results in better flavors.  Otherwise, as the others have said, let the dough speak to you.  One nice thing about the intervals of stretch and fold for a relative newbie like me is that it made the various stages of dough development more obvious.  Sort of like watching flowers grow.  If you sit and watch them it looks like nothing is happening.  If you go away and come back, you see the difference right off.


the hadster's picture
the hadster

some times i feel like i live in an "I Love Lucy" sit-com.  run-away yeast can really run! :->

dabrownman's picture

told me that she doesn't like to do S & F after 1 hour because her family prefers a softer crumb and she thought her dough crumb got tough if S & F's were done later than that.  So, I do 5 S & F's at 15 minutes, 3 at 30 minutes, 2 at 45 minutes and 1 at an hour forming the dough into a ball.   Seems to work and crumb is not tough.  I know some poeple do it in 10 minute intervals.

HeidiH's picture

That makes perfect sense.  We like a chewier (tougher) bread and find that the folds at longer intervals work for us.

ldavis47's picture

There seems to be 2 types of stretch and fold. The letter fold on the counter and the "turns" done in the bowl. I usually make wheat or rye breads which work well using the method described with oil instead of flour. I oil my hands flop the dough onto an oiled surface and push it out to about 1/2 inch thick, grab the edges stretch and fold each side. I repeat until the dough is clearly springy, usually x2 full S & Fs, then let it rest 10- 15 minutes before trying again. I usually get one S & F at each interval after the first. Doing this 5 times seems to be equivalent to kneading 10 minutes by hand. The final crumb is very chewy this way in the lean breads.

Maverick's picture

I would like to add that adding an autolyse at the beginning of making your bread dough will help a lot.

edit: in case someone doesn't know, autolyse is when you briefly stir the flour and water together and let it sit for 20-30 minutes before adding the rest of the ingredients (some debate whether the salt should go in to the autolyse mixture or not... I personally don't think salt has a place in autolyse since it is a protease inhibitor).

dabrownman's picture

autolyse for up to 2 hours too.

Antilope's picture

I used the stretch and fold technique on 65% hydration light wheat bread (half bread flour & half whole wheat flour).

It came out as good as when I make the recipe from kneaded dough. I adapted the Panama bread stretch & fold recipe that is on I also made a Tangzhong roux from the 1/2 cup of water and 3 Tbsp of bread flour, which I always do to this recipe when making the kneaded version.

Here's a link to a YouTube video showing the Stretch & Fold technique I used on the firm bread dough:
Panama bread's first stretch and fold
Panama Bread's Second Stretch and Fold
Panama Bread Third Stretch and Fold


Here's the recipe I used:

No-Knead Stretch-N-Fold Honey Wheat Bread

This makes a delicious loaf of bread with very little effort.

Makes a 1-1/2 lb sandwich loaf of Honey Wheat Bread without kneading.
No mixer, bread machine or hand kneading required.

You just need a wooden spoon and a couple of mixing bowls along with a loaf pan.

This recipe uses a series of stretch and fold techniques on regular firm dough to replace kneading. The bread is baked in a regular loaf pan.

Total time, about 4 hours, mostly rising and waiting. Actual hands on work, about 15 minutes.


1 3/4 cups (225 g) Whole Wheat Flour
1 2/3 cups (225 g) Bread Flour
4 Tbsp (30 g) Wheat Germ, raw or toasted

2/3 cup (160 g) Milk, lukewarm
1/2 cup (120 g) Water, lukewarm (used in Tangzhong roux with 3 Tbsp bread flour)
1 Egg (50 g), beaten (or 1/4 cup Eggbeaters egg substitute)
2 Tbsp (40 g) Honey or Brown Sugar
2 Tbsp (15 g) Ovaltine Classic Malt Powder (do not use chocolate flavor) - optional
2 Tbsp (15 g) Non-Fat Dry Milk or Dry Coffee Creamer
1 1/4 tsp (9 g) Table Salt
2 1/4 tsp or 1 packet (7 g) Instant or Active Dry Yeast
3 Tbsp (45 g) Butter, softened


In a large mixing bowl, stir together the Whole Wheat Flour, Bread Floor and Wheat Germ. Mix well.

In a smaller bowl, mix in the milk, water (or cooled Tangzhong roux), beaten egg, honey, Ovaltine, non-fat milk powder, table salt and yeast. Mix well. Let sit for 15 minutes.

Stir the mixed liquid into the flour mixture. Mix until the flour is completely moistened. Mix in the softened butter. Add enough additional water or flour as needed to form a slightly sticky, firm, ball of dough. Mix well until everything is evenly incorporated.

Form dough into a ball, place in covered bowl and let rest for 45 minutes.

Remove dough from bowl, do the first of three stretch and folds on the bread board.

Stretch and Fold Technique:
-Press and stretch the dough into a 12 by 9 inch rectangle. Dust lightly with flour, as needed.
-Take the top (12-inch) edge of the dough and fold it down to the middle. Press dough flat.
-Take the bottom (12-inch) edge of the dough and fold up to the top edge. Press dough flat.
-Take the right edge of the dough and fold it over to the middle. Press dough flat.
-Take the left edge of the dough and fold it over to the right edge. Press flat.
-Return dough square to the bowl and cover. Rest 45 minutes.

Remove dough from bowl, do the 2nd stretch and fold on the bread board and return the dough to the covered bowl for another 45 minutes.

Remove dough from bowl, do the 3rd stretch and fold on the bread board and return the dough to the covered bowl for another 45 minutes.

Remove dough from bowl, form loaf by rolling or pressing dough out into a 10 x 10 inch rectangle. Roll dough into a sausage shape. Pinch seam closed along length of dough. Rotate loaf to place seam on bottom. Flatten about 1 inch on each end of roll and fold under loaf.

Place formed dough in loaf pan, seam side down. Use an 8 x 4-inch or 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise in warm place until doubled and it has risen about 1-inch over the edge of the loaf pan, about 60 minutes. Remove plastic wrap.

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 350-F degrees for 45 minutes, until done, or until center of loaf reaches 200-F on a digital probe thermometer.

Remove from loaf pan and allow to cool before slicing.

Makes one 1-1/2 lb loaf of bread.

bobku's picture

My original post for this was from march of last year, since then I use stretch and fold on all my breads. For the most part I use sourdough formulas. I have found  stretch and fold method to be far superior in developing gluten. I make bagels every weekend and even use stretch and fold for that and my dough is about 52% hydration.

Antilope's picture

How easy  the stretch and fold technique was and how good the resulting bread was.

bobku's picture

Yes. I have found even with my bagel dough which I used to knead for at least 10 15 minutes, it didn't even come close to the gluten development I'm able to get with a few stretch and folds.

Wannabe's picture

Hi Everyone,

Sorry for asking a question on a such an old thread. Yet, this particular one gets me closer to answers that I seek. Can anyone point me to the criteria that he or she uses to determine whether (or when) to knead or fold? Hydration surely is one of the factors, but at what level? The linked videos to Panama Bread were great! That is the strongest dough I have ever seen folded. Many thanks, Antilope!

bobku's picture

I almost never knead. I even do stretch and fold when I make bagels which I originalky thought was impossible. What helps is that I always make a poolish with a very small amount of yeast which gives me a longer rising time lending itself  to stretch and folds at 45 minute intervals  but even a direct method with no poolish I would do stretch and folds at 20 minute intervals. I find I get far superior dough development and a great windowpane

COLC's picture

Like you Wannabe, I have been searching for the appropriate forum to ask my question, let's hope we find our answers, my problem is as follows;

I have been baking 100% wholemeal bread for quite  a while now, I now mill my own wheat and things have changed.

My recipe calls for 500g Wholewheat flour 320g water, 10 grams yeast, 1tsp salt, 40g oil,  1 tsp Apple cider vinegar, approx.72% hydration- sometimes I add seeds; anise, caraway, pumpkin etc.

Since I have been milling my own wheat I soak the flour overnight with the water, vinegar and salt, however the 320g water is not enough to hydrate the flour properly, it takes around  40g extra;

in the morning I mix all ingredients on the dough cycle in the bread machine for 10 minutes, at this time the dough is reasonably stiff, I stretch and fold about every 20 minutes up to 5 times, it rises very well in the intervals

My problem is after the S&F’s the dough is very slack a lot slacker than when first mixed; too slack to hold shape.

I would appreciate it if someone could tell me where I going wrong,




Wannabe's picture

Thanks for posting, COLC. Before seeing your note, I was wondering if my addition would catch anyone's attention (still kind of new to the way forums work on this site). Will now wait, happily, for the experts to reply to both of our questions.