The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Any folding experts out there?

shopkins1994's picture

Any folding experts out there?

Hi Everyone. I was wondering if someone could answer a few questions about folding. When a recipe calls for X folds, how many times do you do a complete "fold" of the dough per fold? Most articles I have found on folding pull the bread at four sides but they don't say how many times to do this per fold. For instance, do you pull all four sides, flip it over and pull another four sides again, and repeat a few times? Or do you literally pull the four sides once and you are done with that fold period?

Also, when you fold, do you only pull four sides or do you pull more? It seems to me that pulling it in multiple smaller portions gets the entire round folded better and allows you to slide your hand all the way to the top of the piece to stretch it. Any help you can offer is very appreciated.



mrfrost's picture

The more the better. @ 3 min mark:

Potato Rolls


You do it periodically, until it feels right.

shopkins1994's picture

How strange. All of the videos I watched stretch and fold in the bowl. These are the first two videos that I have seen where they take the dough out, make a square, and then fold it like paper. Has anyone compared the two ways? 

mrfrost's picture

I usually do it as however instructed by the recipe. At least the first time or two.

After that, I do whatever is most expedient for me.

WoodenSpoon's picture

that doing in in the bowl is much more effective when dealing with higher hydration doughs, for anything a little stiffer I get the best turns when I do em on the counter.

Breadandwine's picture

I'm going to be a little controversial, here.

I've been making bread for 40 years - and I'm still learning. However, I learned nothing from that link you posted, Heath - sorry.

In fact I feel a little critical analysis is called for:

What on earth was he doing letting the dough get to that stage whilst still looking for lumps of flour in the dough? He said he wanted to make sure all the flour was wet, so why didn't he?

The dough, IMO, appeared to be too 'tight' - compare that with the dough in the video posted by Mr Frost.

He maintains that, "The frissage is damaging to the gluten structure…" Once again I don't go along with this; IME gluten recombines very quickly after kneading - and after knocking back. 

Not too keen on that method of folding the dough - it seems quite laborious to me. I'd much rather pull the corners out a few inches, fold them into the middle and repeat until the dough 'feels' right.

So I obviously couldn't do this in the bowl. And I've never minded a mucky bench.

And using a rolling pin to shape the dough for a tinned loaf? Talk about making work for yourself!

Then he brushed the top with olive oil to stop it sticking to the cling film. He'd be much better off just covering it with a dry tea towel - save on cling film at the very least.

Sorry to go on, but I like to simplify methods and techniques as much as I can - KISS.

Of course, his fold and stretch method may produce a better loaf - but to test that I'd need to do a side-by-side experiment. Hmm...

However, having said all that, in the final analysis, I do  believe in 'Whatever works for you!"

FlourChild's picture

The thing about stretch and folds is that you need to learn to do them until the dough structure feels properly developed.  That's something you can only gauge with practice.  But better an extra fold than not enough, particularly if the dough is fairly soft/ higher hydration.  Doesn't really matter whether it's done in the bowl or on the counter, as long as the bowl is wide enough and doesn't limit your ability to work the dough.  

I find it useful to perform a lot of folds in the first session, then progressively fewer in subsequent sessions until the dough feels right.  

The other important thing is to stretch the dough as far as it will allow without beginning to tear (tearing damages the gluten structure).  Since different people handle dough with different levels of strength, you may find that your doughs need more or less folding than an author specifies.

shopkins1994's picture

Thank you everyone for all the input, it has been very helpful. Can someone tell me if you can over fold a dough? 

Also, as I am folding the dough, at first it starts out that I can pull it far. But as I go around and around, it gets tight and does not stretch as far. Is this this "feels right" that everyone is talking about?




mrfrost's picture

Well, the proof that it was "right" will be revealed when you turn out the dough and are ready to shape.

Takes a little experience, but if it still feels "right" when you are ready to shape, then your s/f was probably sufficient.

If it's too slack too shape, then it probably needed another cycle or two of s/f. As for "over folding", yes it's possible, but not likely if you use a little instinct. Like stopping when it feels too tight(like it tearing, or might tear).

That's why, as a beginner, it's best to pick recipes to follow that give good instructions(like describing the dough's consistency, how it should feel, etc).

Also, videos abound. You can usually find one, or more, similar to your recipe, if not the very recipe you are making, that show the necessary techniques.

shopkins1994's picture

When I am doing one "Stretch and fold" session, should I continue to go around until the ball tightens up? It seems that the videos I watch only go around once but I can continue to go around 2-3 times and then the dough will become tight all around and won't stretch much anymore. That's when I consider the fold session done but it doesn't seem like others do that in the videos.



mrfrost's picture

Well, again, I typically follow the recipe's instructions.

That said, depending on how the dough was initially mixed, the dough might be very slack(wet, loose), so the first on the first s/f, there very well be no tightness because it's too early for much gluten development. In this case, during the time between folds, the dough(gluten) is also developing.

So give the process time. But when the dough starts feeling too tight to stretch any more, you are probably "about there". If you are not sure if it's "right", give it one final rest. Then, after the rest, check to see if the "right" final consistency has been achieved, or if more s/f is needed.

Again, the good recipes, the ones I selected as a beginner, these details will be explained: how many times to "go around" on initial and subsequent sessions, etc.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

..or maybe it was...   is that you need to keep track of the "top skin" of your dough.  Before folding flip the dough in the bowl unless it is just too wet and runny.   Get the top side down next to the bowl or table before the folding, then when it feels tight enough to stop folding, flip it back over so the top is back on top.  Tuck under any corners sticking out to give it a nice round shape to rest and rise.

The first posted folding videos don't mention this, in fact, it doesn't seem to matter.   But for the last shaping of the dough, the top was called "the nicest side" of the dough.  This tends to be true.  

If the top side of the dough is flipped down before folding or adding ingredients such as nuts and/or fruit, they will stick better to the more porous side of the dough and stay inside the dough with consecutive folds.  If not flipped, ingredients tend to fall out of the dough onto the work surface.  Just something to keep in mind...