The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

French Fold

Ramona's picture

French Fold

I have watched several videos concerning the Frence Fold and have some questions.  I thought the dough had to have the right texture in order to stop and put into a bowl to rise?  This doesn't seem to show this, it seems to show the opposite.  I would like to do this technique, but I am trying to get consistency with the "feel" of the dough and I can't see how the French Fold works.  I do the regular Folds and they work out well for me, but I am not getting the French Fold.   I tried a recipe that called for using water to knead with instead of flour, today, and I just didn't seem to understand something, because I did this and the dough never seem to get that right "feel", so I switched back to flour to achieve what I knew would work.  What do I need to understand?

bluezebra's picture

There are many here WAY more knowledgeable than I but a question for you? What are you defining as the "right feel"?

Are you talking about the spring back bouncy feeling? Or are you talking about baby's bottom smooth? Or are you talking about that feeling that the dough gets seemingly between kneads where it goes from sticky sort of ball to a doughy feeling mass?

The way I use the French Fold as shown in the Sourdough Guy's video?

This is a real good thread that helped me out a lot.

What I usually do since I build all my bread doughs by hand (I start my pizza doughs and pita doughs etc in the food processor but it's a pain and I'm about to quit doing that cuz of clean up) since I don't have an electric stand mixer that handles dough.

I don't even use a dough wisk. I simply use one hand in a big bowl and use my fingers like a "claw" and stir the dough around and around until I have one big shaggy mess. Then I scrape the dough off and let it rest, covered for about an hour. When I come back, I have something that depending on my hydration either looks like a pancake batter (a little thicker) or a rough dough.

The thing that has helped the most is adding the frissage at this stage. Where you tump out your dough on to the counter and with the back pad of your hand take egg or really walnut size pieces of your dough and press them into a shmear about 6" long on the counter. Once you do that to all the dough you will be amazed at the amount of gluten development previously absent.

Then I will let the dough rest for about 30 minutes and come in and do the french fold like in sdg's video. That's assuming the dough isn't super high hydration. If it is, you can't do it. You simply have to do the stretch and fold al la Mike Avery. But if the dough is dry enough I do the FF. You will be able to feel the dough tighten up and resist you by about the 3rd FF. Definitely by the 4th. These are consecutive FF's during one folding period. Then I cover and set it aside in the bowl and let it rest for another 30 minutes. Then I come back and repeat that FF step again. Usually I can only take it to 2-3 of those before it again tightens.

This time, I cover the bowl and let it rest for an hour. Then I come in and do the stretch and folds like MA. I usually do 2 - 3 of these total with rest periods of about 45-1hour in between each SF series. An SF series to me = 1 stretch n fold, 90 degree turn, then a 2nd sf. Then back in the bowl, cover and rest.

By then, I can tell my dough is holding its shape after that fold and placement in the bowl. Also during this time (I call it the bulk or primary fermentation time and it generally takes around 3-4 hours total) my dough is rising. By the time the last fold is done and the cover put back on for another hour, it's usually doubled. I am gentle in my folds and try not to remove the air or degas.

Here is where my real question is on another I go ahead and place it in the fridge to retard and develop flavor as a bulk item or do I scale, shape, then fridge and retard? I can't answer that for you yet. I've been doing it like bulk ferment, bulk retard, scale, shape, final rise, bake.

Then it's out of the fridge, and onto scaling etc...

Hope that helps. Again, I'd rather hear from others who have more experience.