The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

How to adapt stretch and fold technique to work with traditional kneading?

sentur's picture

How to adapt stretch and fold technique to work with traditional kneading?

In quite a lot of sourdough recipes they say stretch and fold (usually with 30 min intervals) instead of kneading the bread vigorously for 10-15 mins.  I love doing it this was and find it far easier and that I get better results than traditional kneading.  Is there any formula or technique for adapting traditional kneading technique recipes to work with the stretch and fold technique. I have a lot of my favourite bread recipes which call for the dough to be kneaded for 10 mins. 

dmsnyder's picture

With most un-enriched breads, I would just do an autolyse for 20-60 minutes. Note: If using a liquid starter, incorporate it into the autolyse, holding back only the salt. If using a firm starter, add it with the salt after the autolyse. If there are a lot of whole grain flours, do a longer autolyse. They absorb more water and take longer to do so.

Then, depending on how you are mixing (by hand or machine) and how much strength you need to add to the dough, do anywhere from 1 to 4 stretch and folds during bulk fermentation. Generally, you want to evenly space these during bulk fermentation, leaving the dough undisturbed for the last 30-60 minutes.

The idea is that the autolyse and the use of S&F's will promote good gluten development with minimal machine mixing, resulting in less dough oxidation (for better flavor) and a more chaotic (less regular) gluten network, resulting in a more open crumb.

So, for example, if your bulk fermentation is estimated to be 150 minutes, and you figure you will do 2 S&F's, you would do your autolyse, mix in your salt and starter and put the dough in a covered bowl. Do the first S&F after 50 minutes. Do the second after another 50 minutes, and let the dough finish fermenting for the last 50 minutes. Then divide, shape, etc.

Hope this helps.


davidg618's picture

Stop kneading.

Start Stretching and Folding.

That said, I"ll add a few boundary conditions.

1. This simplicity applies to all lean doughs (flour, water, salt and yeast)  up to approximately 72% hydration. It also applies to most sweet doughs. Exceptions are doughs with large amounts of sugar (say > 10%) and/or large amounts of fats (> 20%). High hydration doughs (> 75%) are probably better handled with additional techniques such as two-step hydration, machine kneading, Bertinet's "slap and fold" method or a variation of S&F sometimes called in-bowl S&F, and other names. S&F is not prescribed for high fat doughs: e.g. brioche.

2. Hydrate (autolyse) the flour (without salt) before the first S&F for at least 30 minutes. Adding the yeast to the mix is optional--I always add it--poolish, biga, or natural levain are added at initial mix.

3. Allow the dough to rest after each S&F, Gluten development continues while the dough rests. Rest periods vary from as little as ten minutes to as much as an hour. Hydration and dough temperature will dictate. A rule of thumb: lower hydration or lower dough temperature, longer rest periods.

4. Concentrate on learning the "feel" of the doughs as you perform the S&F's. The doughs' elasticity, tenacity and extensibility will change markedly after each S&F and rest period. Make note of feel of the dough. After the bake compare how the dough felt, with ease (or difficulty) shaping, and oven spring (or lack thereof).

These are the basics. Others will suggest variations on this theme. There are many.  Pick a set of techniques that feel right to you. Stick with them until you are experiencing success. Find out what works for you, and perfect it.

By way of example. In my second year of baking I put my stand mixer on the back of the counter, and mixed, and manipulated every dough I made by hand for the year. I rarely or never kneaded them. Now, in my fourth year of learning I mix the dough with the stand mixer, just enough to incorporate the water, flour, preferments and soakers; then I autolyse. Following, I encorporate the salt and machine knead for the first dough manipulation, but only for short times (dependent on the hydration). Subsequently, I finish the dough with sets of S&F and rests. I often think of the final S&F as a window-pane test of all the dough. This is the basic technique I chose, and stick to.

Happy baking,

David G


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.

dsadowsk's picture

using a stand mixer (Dear Cuisinart, the problem is me, not you) I've been making extensive use of Ken Forkish's techniques in Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast, doing stretch and folds in a 12-qt. plastic container, sometimes after an autolyse. My loaves have greatly improved, and I can finally bake a baguette that doesn't look like it's been run over by a truck.

I've used Forkish's techniques for a Reinhart bread (struan) where the original recipe involves using a stand mixer, and I'm happy with the results. No particular adaptation was needed, I just did Forkish's hand mixing and stretch and folds. While different breads may do better with different techniques, it's also true that different bakers may do better with some techniques than with others. Experiment, and learn what works best for you.

hanseata's picture

Since I like Peter Reinhart's methods, I work either with pre-doughs, or with his S&F technique (from ABED), depending on my schedule or the size of the batch. I never knead any of my doughs for longer than 4 - 6 minutes.

The method requires 1-2 minutes mixing, until all flour is hydrated. 5 minutes autolyse, then 6 minutes kneading, followed by 4 S&Fs at 10 minute intervals, and overnight bulk fermentation.

This works like a charm, even for my Poppy Seed Stollen with 44% fat - not to mention the sugar and eggs.

But even with S&F, I prefer soaking coarser grains and flakes before, to have a better control of the hydration.

For really highly hydrated doughs, I do like Ken Forkish's minimalistic approach. These breads, of course, are something I bake only for us. For my little bakery I need more predictability for the rise (and can't bake with multiple Dutch ovens, either).

Happy holidays,


dsadowsk's picture

While I have had good results with Forkish recipes and a dutch oven, I also had a good result making Forkish's poolish white bread dough and shaping into baguettes (thanks to TFL for making me aware of flipping boards!). So you take what you want from different folks and use it as you please.

I don't know what it is about me and spiral mixing hooks, but when I use them on slack doughs I never achieve the structure I want. So hand mixing and stretch and fold it is, at least for now. Baking just for me and my family means I can adapt to the long rise.

hanseata's picture

Exactly. I think the different methods often reflect the temperament of the baker (does Slappin' Bertinet throw knives around the kitchen, when he is upset?)

My hands suffer from very dry skin, so I avoid hand kneading, and my 7-qt. Cuisinart (or 20-qt Hobart for larger batches) kneads very well. But Forkish's "pincer squeezing" and S&F are very effective, elegant methods, and make long kneading for me basically obsolete.