The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

When to stretch and fold

sallam's picture

When to stretch and fold


I use my sourdough starter to bake sandwich bread every other day. I first refresh the starter and build the quantity I need at the same time, then mix the final dough and bulk ferment for 3 hours, during which I stretch and fold every 30 minutes. Then retard in the fridge for 24h.

My question is: should I stretch and fold before the 24h retarding in the fridge, or the other way round, retarding first, then stretch and fold while fermenting in room temperature? My aim is to get a huge oven rise, and develop deep flavor.

AbeNW11's picture
AbeNW11 (not verified)

before retarding.

dabrownman's picture

gluten development since there aren't enough wee beasties to make it poof up.  That is the perfect time really get the gluten developed without worrying about deflating it.  I like to do 3 sets of slap and folds 20 minutes apart that first hour .  I usually have some pretty wet dough so the forst set lasts until the dough stops sticking to the counter - about 8 minutes and the 2nd set is maybe 1 minute and the 3rd set maybe only 6 slaps and folds - to really get the gluten in shape.  Then I like to do 3 sets of very gentle stretch and folds for the 4 compass points only also 20 minutes apart.  I don.t like to manipulate or touch the dough at all for the next two hours.  This is when the dough will show some rise during bulk fermenting

Some people would bulk retard it then take it out 12 hours later let warm up and then shape for final proof on the counter.  I get smaller holes that way.  I much prefer to gently but firmly shape the dough after the bulk ferment and retard it shaped for 8-12 hours in tin or basket.  I just let it warm up on the counter while the oven preheats the net morning.  You just want to make sure it doesn't over proof while you sleep.  If it does no worries.  You can always reshape it and let it proof on the counter if it does,

Happy Baking   

ri_us's picture

I've tried it both ways and found before works a bit better.

108 breads's picture
108 breads

Definitely do the S&Fs before retarding. I usually bake after dough has been refrigerated for 12-48 hours. Sometimes I shape before dough goes in the fridge, but often I shape gently when I take out the dough. I bake right out of the fridge. Don't forget to preheat the oven. 

AlanG's picture

that David Snyder has written up though I do employ mechanization (KA610 mixer) in the early stage for mixing and initial dough formation.  Recipe is pretty much inline with Hamelman's Vermont Sourdough.  Mix for 2 1/2 minutes, autolyze for 45 minutes, add the salt and then mix on speed #2 for 2 minutes.  Dough is then at room temperature for 90 minutes with S&Fs at 30 minute intervals and then it goes into the refrigerator for 21 hours.  Subsequent work is identical to what David has posted.

Here are some batards that were baked the other day for our neighborhood association picnic which was alas cancelled because of potential inclement weather that never came.  I ended up with two dozen rolls in addition to these three small loaves.  Anyway, I got fantastic oven spring and finally some pretty decent looking crumb.  Ignore the roll, that was some leftover dough that I threw on the baking steel.

Wheat Rules's picture
Wheat Rules

Your loaves look beautiful! Do you steam the loaves or just place them on the steel? 

AlanG's picture

I use the wet towel technique as described here:  The oven is pre-heated to 500dF in the bake position (I have an electric convection oven).  I use a single rectangular baking pan rather than the two loaf pan approach described in the link.  Wet towels are microwaved in a Pyrex dish for 3 minutes until they are steaming hot and then transferred to the baking pan and put into the oven for five minutes to generate steam.  Bread is loaded onto the steel and a 1/2 cup of boiling water is added to the towel pan.  Heat is reduced to 460dF.  Loaves baked with steam for 15 minutes and then the steam tray is removed and oven set to convection mode at 420dF for 15 minutes (or until bread reaches an internal temp of 205dF).  Bigger loaves will take a little longer to finish their bake.