Busby's Bakery School

How to Stretch and Fold


Stretch and fold is a technique that works similarly to degassing. What sets it apart is that it focuses on developing the dough fermentation as opposed to degassing which is solely for the final stage of fermentation.

Stretch and folds are used on the dough during bulk fermentation to encourage a strong structure, maintain a consistent temperature and help the dough to develop evenly.

A stretch and fold schedule is a routine given to a whole dough batch. The dough is pulled out, stretched and folded, before it's left to rest in a container for a period before the action is repeated.

How to do a stretch and fold

The stretch and folds are given to the dough at regular intervals before dividing into loaf size pieces, degassing, moulding and final proofing.

There are different types of stretch and folds floating around bread making communities. Lamination, coil folds, slap and folds.... What really makes the difference is the amount of stretch given to create strength in the dough. In my opinion it doesn't really matter which technique you follow but I am going to do some further experimenting to prove this.

Here's how to do a simple stretch and fold:

Place the dough on the table

First, rub a bit of oil or dust some flour lightly on the table and drop the dough on top. If it’s been kept in a 4 sided container great, if not just picture 4 sides on the dough. Don’t play with the dough too much, you want it nice and relaxed.

stretch one side of the dough

Take the right hand side with your hand and stretch it out as far as the dough feels comfortable, using your left hand to hold the rest of the dough on the table.

fold the dough over at a third


Then fold it over itself, at roughly the two third point.

And again to the middle

Fold over again to the centre point of the dough.

fold over the side

Then take the left side of the dough, stretch it out and then fold it over the other edge. You can do it in two stages if you like, or just one stretch and fold over is fine.

pull the dough from the bottom

Pull the bottom of the dough towards you

fold the dough to the centre

Fold over to the centre of the dough -not all the way to the top.

fold over


Take the top of the dough and stretch up 

finished

Again, fold over, this time to the edge. 

place the dough back in the bowl

Place the dough back to rest in the bowl- whilst basking in your own glory “How much goodness and strength have I just put into that dough!!”

In the bowl stretch and fold

This way doesn't create much strength in the dough but works wonders when strength isn't important like in ciabatta or focaccia. It makes little mess and I use it quite a lot.

take a piece of dough

Take a piece of dough from the edge and stretch away

fold over

Fold it over the opposite edge of the dough.

turn and stretch

Turn the bowl 45 degrees and take the edge and stretch again

bowl stretch

And fold it over.

next stretch

Repeat this turn, stretch and fold techniques 5-6 times.

turn the dough over in the bowl

Turn the dough over so the rough edge is at the bottom of the bowl.

finished

Done!


Why we stretch and fold

Yeast fermentation needs time, warmth and food to develop. By using the stretch and fold technique, the dough receives the following benefits:

  1. The gluten network is realigned which supports a stronger structure.
  2. The yeast gains fresh food to feast on.
  3. The outside edges of the dough gain more strength to support it when rising. 

The stretch and fold method increases the intensity of fermentation in a similar way that kneading does. It highlights a point that I made at the start of the article, the quality of fermentation cannot be overlooked, it’s not all about time.

Placing one stretch and fold into a fermentation period will improve the quality of the dough. 

Changing bread fermentation technique such as kneading, resting, stretch and folds and adapting the time or repetition rate allowed will give different characteristics to the dough.

This allows us to create different bread styles from the same ingredients. 

The Tartine method stretch and fold

This is a pretty revolutionary method used to make sourdough bread. It is a no knead method that has been quickly adopted by home bakers across the world. The Tartine method doesn't knead the dough, instead it uses several stretch and folds over a short period to in effect do the kneading.

Using the Tartine method is easier than kneading the dough. It won't develop the gluten as well as kneading does, but it does work well for sourdough breads.

How to Stretch and Fold 1How to Stretch and Fold 2

It creates a dough with ease whilst still creating a structure. It's also a good way to practice stretch and folds! You can get the book here on Amazon:

If you do click the link and purchase I get a small commision which is much appreciated towards the running of this site.

Gareth Busby with making bread


Is degassing the same as stretch and fold?

Stretch and fold is a technique that works similarly to degassing. What sets it apart is that it focuses on developing the dough fermentation as opposed to degassing which is solely for the final stage of fermentation.


The benefits of stretch and fold

By using the stretch and fold technique, the dough receives the following benefits:

  1. The gluten network is realigned which supports a stronger structure.
  2. The yeast gains fresh food to feast on.
  3. The outside edges of the dough gain more strength to support it when rising. 

The stretch and fold method increases the intensity of fermentation in a similar way that kneading does. The quality of fermentation cannot be overlooked, it’s not all about time.

Placing one stretch and fold into a fermentation period will improve the quality of the dough. Changing a fermentation process such as kneading, resting, stretch and folds and adapting the time or repetition rate allowed will give different characteristics to the dough.

This allows us to create different bread styles from the same ingredients.

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How to Stretch and Fold 4