Sourdough Technique – Stretch and Fold

If you bake with sourdough, you should be familiar with this technique. The stretch-and-fold technique is used to develop gluten in dough over a period of time.

Why is developing gluten structure important for sourdough bread baking?

Gluten development is crucial for achieving the characteristic texture and structure of bread. It’s important for a number of different reasons;

  • Structure: Gluten acts like a strong elastic web that traps the carbon dioxide bubbles produced by yeast and sourdough during fermentation. This web allows the dough to rise and keeps its shape, preventing it from collapsing into a dense mass.

  • Texture: Well-developed gluten creates a chewy and airy crumb in the bread. The gluten strands hold onto the gas bubbles, leaving tiny pockets of air throughout the bread after baking. This results in a pleasant texture that’s both satisfying and light.

  • Rise: Gluten helps the dough rise higher. The strong gluten network can expand and withstand stretching brought on by gases.

The Stretch and Fold Process

The stretch-and-fold technique is a gentle way to develop gluten in sourdough bread dough during bulk fermentation. Here’s a breakdown:

The Process:

  1. Wet Hands: Wet your hands slightly to prevent dough from sticking.

  2. Grab and Stretch: Gently scoop up a side of the dough.

    Scoop sourdough - stretch and fold

  3. Stretch the dough upwards as far as it comfortably goes without tearing. As the gluten develops, you will feel the dough get tighter.

    Stretching sourdough - stretch and fold

  4. Pull the dough back on itself and back over the center of the main dough mass.
  5. Place the folded dough back down.Completing 1 sourdough stretch and fold.
  6. Rotate: Rotate the bowl by 90 degrees.

  7. Repeat: Perform steps 1 to 6 three more times, stretching and folding each side of the dough once. This completes one set of stretching and folding.

  8. Cover the dough and leave it to rest for 30 minutes.
  9. Repeat the previous steps at 30-minute intervals, 3 more times.
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