The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Stretch and Fold vs French Fold

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Rosalie's picture
Rosalie

Stretch and Fold vs French Fold

Call me a dummy or accuse me of not paying attention, I don't care. I'm confused about Stretch&Fold and French Fold. They're the latest, and I agree they're great. But I'm confused about what they are.

I know about Mike Avery's writeup and videos on SourdoughHome.com. I've printed it out (not the videos) for reference. Is there something I can print out about the French Fold? In particular, is there something that compares the two methods and tells me the difference? I've watched bwraith's videos (video link and video link here), but I'm not sure of the difference.

Further (when you've convinced me there is indeed a difference), when does one use the one and when the other? bwraith says to use French Fold for less developed doughs. Does that mean you might use French Fold the first time and Streth&Fold after?

Rosalie

BROTKUNST's picture
BROTKUNST

It's a good question, Rosalie.

What I am doing, I guess, is a Stretch & Fold because, well, I stretch and fold the dough when necessay. Personally I don't think there is much of a fine-tuning ... I just stretch  the dough and fold it on from all sides, flip it around - add one more fold if the dough seems to need and then place the dough back in the rising bucket. That works effectively all the time.

All you want to do is straighten out and encourage the gluten layers ... Not sure if the the gluten likes it 'french' more than any other way, but this is what it gets under my watch :)

BROTKUNST

Rosalie's picture
Rosalie

Wow, Bread Artist!  Great explanation!  I think I get it now!

 So ... S&F stretches and FF doesn't?  Is that it? ???

Rosaie 

Cooky's picture
Cooky

Good explaining there, kid. I have used both techniques on different loaves, and honestly don't see a difference in the outcome. Both seem to work very well as methods to goose the gluten without traditional kneading. I do think the French fold style , which I would describe as a  lift-fold-and-slap, is a bit easier to use with a very slack dough.

For my next batch, I'm going to try each on half the dough for a side-by-side comparison. 

P.S. Does anybody know the origin of the term "French fold'? I can't find it anywhere in cyberia except here.

 

"I am not a cook. But I am sorta cooky."

Rosalie's picture
Rosalie

Be sure to let us know how it turns out.

FYI, I've tried googling "French fold" and all sorts of things show up.

From  http://desktoppub.about.com/od/glossary/g/frenchfolds.htm   Definition: With French folds the paper is folded with crossfolds or right angle folds, often with a short first fold. The shorter portion or head in french folds may be folded to the inside (heads in) or outside (heads out).

From http://www.universalprinting.com/help/glossary.html  french fold - Two folds at right angles to each other.

Stationery, bookcovers, wallets, napkins, binding for quilts, moneyclips....  But not a clue as to its origin.

Rosalie

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi Rosalie,

As I've mentioned here and there, I'm not really sure where that term "French Fold" came from, but at least Eric and I have been using it to describe that particular motion in our discussions here on TFL.  I haven't seen the technique described wdely, nor do I know any term that is consistently used to describe it. So, I've used the term "French Fold" simply to be consistent with Eric in our discussions on TFL. As Leemid says, "That's my story..."

When I've seen the so called "French Fold" used, and when I've used it myself, is when the dough is still very wet and shaggy and has not come together into a more conventional smooth dough yet. You can wet the counter and quickly give a shaggy mass some structure using that technique. Although in the video I did the motion literally only twice for that dough, I have on occasion with a very wet, shaggy mass repeated that motion several times, perhaps 5 or 6 times in a row with very good effect. It's just a lot more efficient and less messy in my opinion than trying to do the same thing with a conventional kneading technique. If you have a mixer, you can bypass that technique, since the mixer can do more or less the same thing to a very wet mass of flour and water. However, I find it much messier and more of a hassle to clean the mixer than to just throw the mass of flour and water out on a wet table and bring it together quickly with a few "French Folds".

The other technique, which I've been calling a "regular fold" or a "stretch and fold", is what I would normally use once the dough has come together into a smoother more regular dough using whatever mixing, resting, and other technique to get it to that point. The best explanation of the folding technique I've seen is in "Bread" by Hamelman.

The two techniques are similar but not exactly the same, as you can see in the videos. In the "French Fold" you pick up the dough, which allows its weight to stretch it some. Then, you toss one end on the counter and it sticks. You can stretch it a bit more by pulling the end you are holding up or toward you while the other end is stuck to the table. Then, you flip and rotate the end you are holding so that the whole dough rolls over itself. The result is more dramatic and works well on a very undeveloped wet dough, but if you tried it on a more developed dough, it would be too damaging and rough.

On the other hand, the "stretch and fold" can be done very gently and if you don't overstretch the dough, it will not damage the dough by ripping it or making it overly stiff, which would probably be the result of trying to agressively do the "French Fold" technique on a more developed dough. However, you can overdo the stretching in a "stretch and fold", too, by stretching it too much or folding it too many times, which will tear or rip the dough and may result in an overly stiff dough.

So, I would say you could use the "French Fold" technique in the initial stages of dough mixing, particularly with a very wet dough. You could use the "Stretch and Fold" at any point, even in the early going, but it is particulary useful once when the dough has developed more and risen more, when you want a more gentle and controlled technique that will not damage the dough or degas it too much

Bill

KipperCat's picture
KipperCat

So is a "Stretch and Fold" the same thing as an Envelope Fold? i.e. folding the dough as if it were a business letter to go in an envelope, and then repeating from the other end? That's what I think I remember from your videos, but I've slept a time or two since watching them. ;)

Btw, from your description above, it seems to me the Stretch and Fold would be the best to use for the NYT/Leahey No Knead bread since it's done so late in the process (after an 18 hour autolyze/ferment).  Right?  

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi KipperCat,

Your description of the envelope fold sounds identical to what I've been calling a "stretch and fold". I would think that after 18 hours and probably just before shaping, you would want to very gently fold the dough, probably trying not to degas it way too much. However, I haven't done the NYT/Lahey recipe, though I've seen some videos of him or others doing it. If I understood the videos and NYT No Knead discussion right, the "folding it into a bundle" at the end is basically the shaping step, so it's kind of like forming a boule, but just a little rougher approach, since he's just going to toss the thing in a hot Le Creuset or dutch oven or similar.

However, the stretch and fold we've talked about here and elsewhere on the site is more typically done earlier in the development, perhaps in the first several hours of fermentation, as a way to develop the gluten in a dough. It's purpose is therefore somewhat different from the tensioning of a loaf prior to baking that I think is what's going on with the folding/bundling in the No Knead recipe at the end of 18 hours.

Still, I've used the folding technique fairly late in the bulk fermentation, too. For example, if I've used a tiny amount of starter and just let the dough rise overnight, I might still try folding it a couple of times in the morning after it has risen quite a bit but before it's ready for shaping and final proof.

Bill

Rosalie's picture
Rosalie

And I shall print it out to be sure I understand it.

Am I making it too complicated?

Rosalie

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Rosalie,

You are asking very reasonable questions, and I can imagine being confused or frustrated when first reading all this stuff. I would say don't worry about the "French Fold" too much. I had a devil of a time trying to show my son, Will, how to do the "French Fold" technique correctly. That technique is specifically useful mainly for a wet dough and right after mixing and before it has developed much. If you do your dough in a mixer, then you really don't need the "French Fold", since you can mix the dough, let it rest, and knead it with a dough hook all in the mixer before you start any "regular folding". However, if you do very wet sticky doughs, like whole grain doughs or ciabatta doughs, and if you don't use a mixer for the early stages of mixing and kneading, then that "French Fold" technique is worth learning, at least I've found it to be a very valuable technique in those circumstances.

The techniques aren't complicated as you can see in the videos, although I had a devil of a time getting my son to do the "French Fold" technique even after he had seen the video and I had done a couple myself for him to see. 

However, the hard part that is very difficult to show in a video or explain in words is getting a feel for the right consistency of the dough. You want the gluten to be developed enough to be elastic and hold in gas, yet you don't want it so stiff that it will not stretch and rise well. It takes doing it a bunch of times to discover how the dough changes in consistency over time and as you apply more folds. The dough will relax when it's resting, and it will stiffen up when you knead or fold it. It's matter of applying enough kneading and folds at the right intervals to end up with a dough that is elastic, holds in gas well, and therefore rises well.

Bill

ehanner's picture
ehanner

These are two entirely different methods to arrive at the same (almost) end. The French Fold is the first method I try. If I can get the gluten to develop using  FF then I stop with that. There isn't a need to stretch later if the stretching done in the FF is effective. You can go to far. The stretch and fold I feel is more for whole wheat breads that have trouble developing gluten strings. If the FF isn't good and tight then I let the dough sit for 30-60 minutes and do a S&F. Depending on how that goes I'll do more or maybe try a FF later.

Hope that helps.

Eric

JMonkey's picture
JMonkey

I think that the "French fold" is a term that cropped up here, actually, but I'm not entirely sure of that. In any case, I decide which one to use based on convenience, mainly.

If I'm doing a very long fermentation and will only have a few minutes somewhere in the middle, I'll just do a quick French fold to develop the dough adequately. On the other hand, if I know I'll be around the house for 1.5 to 2 hours somewhere in the midst of the main fermentation, I'll do a stretch n' fold every 30 to 45 minutes. Before doing either of these two methods of developing the dough, I let the dough rest at least an hour after a quick initial mixing to make sure everything is hydrated and evenly distributed.

Both methods work well, though my personal preference is for the stretch and fold. A bit less messy on the hands, in my opinion.

Rosalie's picture
Rosalie

Will one of you master bakers come to my house and tutor me?  I'm getting confused again.

Rosalie

BROTKUNST's picture
BROTKUNST

... an interesting offer though :)

 

The two videos up top give you a good visual ... keep in mind, there is no magic to this, nothing engraved in stone and carried down from a mountain. It just looks as if it should not work, but it does. It's really quite impossible to mess up. Everybody here just bakes with water and flour after all. My preference would be the 'stretch & fold' but really the more simple fold, the so-called-here 'French Fold' works just as fine.

 

The key is just to limit the kneading and cover the remaining gluten development with some form of folding. And again ... you could make up your own folds and it would still work.

 

BROTKUNST

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

My simple advice is to try both described methods and see which works best for you. We all have found ways to steam our ovens to produce our ultimate crust. Some of us use a mixer to knead, some knead by hand, others French fold and of course stretch and fold. There is no set way .. temperature, flours, ovens, scales, so many variables..trial and error will help you find your groove..and of course once you think you've found it you'll have to try something new..that's the fun

BROTKUNST's picture
BROTKUNST

So true ....

 

BROTKUNST 

Danai Wangsiri's picture
Danai Wangsiri

I do knead my dough with this technique since I saw video year ago and it gives me most reliable result. I use less yeast than most traditional ways, let alone machine kneading. This method need practice to achieve stretch-and-fold result in one throwing. Several observations from my experience.


-Dough should be on more hydration side


-work better with volume as weight adds momentum on throwing


-average time to knead is about 15-20 minutes. I have  tried 10 minutes with around 30-40 throwing and it still get good result.


-only problem on dough with whole grains or dried fruit as they keep dropping out


I think practice will help you master.


Good luck!


Danai