The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

How can FWSY recipes develop gluten sufficiently w/ just a few stretch and folds?

Fivewater's picture

How can FWSY recipes develop gluten sufficiently w/ just a few stretch and folds?

Hello. Enthusiastic newbie here.

So I’ve started out my bread baking journey using FWSY  as a guide. Whenever I have posted pics online people keep telling me the gluten is underdeveloped. In the book though the only gluten development recommendation is just a few stretch and folds. This seems counter to all the other techniques I read about where gluten is developed more thoroughly with like... slap and folds before bulk with additional stretch and folds during bulk.

Is there something I’m missing about FWSY’s logic?

I’m trying to make white bread with 50% percent poolish starter.



dmsnyder's picture

Welcome to TFL!

The technique Forkish uses can develop the dough adequately. "Kneading" and stretching and folding help develop the gluten and, more specifically, develop gluten structure. They also redistribute acid, heat and other products of fermentation that develop during bulk fermentation. But please understand that all gluten requires to form is its two protein components which are present in wheat, water and time. There's a lot in the preceding sentences to learn, but, in brief, Forkish's techniques work.

That said, you need to develop your own sense of how well-developed your dough is and accommodate your dough handling accordingly. Counting stretch and folds or minutes is less helpful than paying attention to your dough.

I am not sure what kind of bread you are wanting to make. Is it one from FWSY? What do you mean by "50% poolish starter?" 

Happy baking!


idaveindy's picture

Welcome to TFL!   I see this is your first post.

Trust Forkish. He knows what he is doing.

As a newbie, you ought not use FWSY "as a guide", but rather follow it closely. The  only variations should be making adjustments to ferment/proof timings if your ambient temp does not match his, and adjusting hydration if your flour has more or  less moisture than his.    (When you get to the sourdough levain, there is another little deviation you can take.)

Combining Forkish's methods with other methods before you have mastered Forkish's methods is likely going to result in disappointment.

Taking a guess..... Are you using the formula on page 98?  If so...

Then if you use a mixer, or slap-and-folds, or Rubaud-mixing, or other vigorous mixing, to mix the poolish with the rest of the flour and water, you will mess up (damage, "undo") most of the gluten that already built up in the poolish. 

Note how he says to pour 250 grams of water around the perimeter of the poolish. That will gently dislodge it from the tub.  

Time and yeast make gluten in the poolish. Sometimes, in other formulas, poolish can be disolved in water. But for this formula, not so. The rest of this formula depends on using the poolish's gluten as a base. The poolish's gluten needs to be preserved in this case.

When Forkish says "pincer method alternating with folding the dough" (page 100, 2nd column), he means it.  That gentle mixing preserves the gluten in the poolish.

I also concur with dmsnyder above. 

Hope this helps.  Good luck, and bon appétit!

idaveindy's picture

Second thought...

sometimes newbies confuse "fermentation" and "gluten development."

If your previous advisors/helpers  said "under fermented", that is a separate issue from gluten.  In that case, check the expiration date of your yeast.  and maybe test it as per:

Fivewater's picture

Thanks for the thorough advice. I really appreciate it! And I don’t have the book on hand but yes I think it is the p98 recipe. White bread poolish,

So I tried the pincer method at first and kept ending up with a sticky mess all over my hands. So I bought a dough whisk. Perhaps the whisk was messing up the gluten structure? My theory was that the air is too humid where I live for his hydration levels. I guess that decreasing the water slightly is an allowable adjustment? It’s probably just my technique. I will try again.


one other question... why does forkish add yeast to the final mix? Can’t the poolish leaven the bread without extra yeast being added?

idaveindy's picture

"So I bought a dough whisk. Perhaps the whisk was messing up the gluten structure?"

Thanks for adding that information.  Yes, that was almost certainly it. The whisk just sliced up the gluten that the poolish had developed.  The flour in the poolish is half the flour in the whole loaf, so the whisk damaged half the loaf's gluten. 

(whisks, and other vigorous methods are good for the _initial mix_ where there is no pre-existing gluten that could be harmed.  Whisks are also good for mixing of dry ingredients.)

(Technically, there are ways to sometimes recover from damaged gluten, but it get's too complicated for a beginner, and you still need to focus on and learn the basics.)

"My theory was that the air is too humid where I live for his hydration levels. I guess that decreasing the water slightly is an allowable adjustment?"

Not just allowable, it's almost mandatory. Flour is not flour is not flour.  Every brand, year, batch and bag can be different.  It may gain moisture in storage, or it may lose it. One brand may be "thirstier", as we say, than another, and just need a few percentage points more watsr than another. 

Just guessing here, but try holding back 5% of the water in the poolish and 6% of the water in the final mix.  That would be 25 grams and 15 grams, if you make the full amount. Towards the end of the final mix, you can slowly add some back if it feels too dry.

Unless the formula author does videos, it is difficult for a beginner, who does not have an in-person mentor, to learn to judge hydration by feel.

Without an in-person teacher, we all have to go through the learning curve by trial and error.


Please update with your progress... photos and all that.  

Buon appetito!

idaveindy's picture

"why does forkish add yeast to the final mix? "

In short, to balance things.  Time, CO2 production, fermentation, gluten.

Inventing formulas/recipes is a matter of balancing all the ingredients to accomplish all the things that the inventor wants in the final product.

Too much yeast in the poolish could have several effects that change the final mix.  You'll pick up on those as you learn.  And they are too many and too nuanced to cover in a comment.

I would suggest a 2nd reading (or a first, if you have not done so) of chapters 1 - 4 of FWSY.  Those tutorials are important because the _system_ is important.  You cannot treat most artisan bread cookbooks merely as a "collection of recipes" and just jump in on page X.  You have to understand the author's _system_.  

So..., don't combine things from two different systems until you understand what's going on.

That, and misunderstanding what an "equivalent substitution" is, (substituting A for  B, whether an ingredient or a procedure) are the main tripping up points for beginners.

The next tripping up point is about the little adjustments that we all do: hydration % based on conditions of the flour and local humidity, and time adjustments based on ambient temperature.


phaz's picture

It doesn't, nor does any bread. Time and rising are key - unless you stretch and fold a couple hundred times - that'll help a little. Enjoy!

Oops, that was in relation to gluten development.

Why add yeast - not knowing the method or recipe, I'd have to say it sounds like the process is split between ferment (with starter only ), and proof with yeast for the rising ability. Enjoy again!

semolina_man's picture

The prevalence on this site for high hydration stretch-fold types of dough formulae are in line with the no-knead trend.  The supposed mechanism for gluten development is that a wet dough allows gluten to form. 


Do some research.  Traditional European (French, German, Italian) bread bakers use mechanical kneading by hand or by machine.  This is where the bread culture is presently being led into the future.   No one should be afraid of the k-word, knead.


The idea of no-knead and its related cousin no-bake, are westernisms aimed at making things easy, although not better imo.

dmsnyder's picture

Here is a photo of the crumb of yesterday's bake - Forkish's "Field Blend #2" My only modification was to substitute Spelt for some of the rye. I did 2 stretch and folds in the bowl at 30 and 60 minutes and one lamination fold at 120 minutes into bulk fermentation. BF was about 3 hours. I proofed at room temp. for 50 minutes, then cold retarded for about 20 hours. Let the loaf warm for an hour while the oven was being used otherwise and baked per Forkish in a Dutch oven.

Hope this helps.