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When I make my sourdough, a rested dough will stretch and fold 3-4 times before quite suddenly going tight. At this point it's likely to tear if I stretch much more. Should I put it down and rest it again, keeping stretching with some tearing, keep stretching but more gently, or what?

My typical loaf is a 50% wholemeal seeded* sourdough. I'm not going for the very open crumb found in many white sourdoughs, but more of a tasty sandwich loaf - I also bake it in a tin. But it's perhaps a little dense. It's initially kneaded in my stand mixer at 59% hydration, then after 30-60 minutes I add the seeds, salt and more water bringing it up to 65-70% (hard to judge exactly because I soak the seeds and they bring some water with them). Once the dough comes together again in the mixer, which normally involves some resting, I stop it and let it rest. Then I stretch and folding every half hour or so until bedtime (a variable number of times depending on when I started). After the last stretch I roughly shape it and put it in a loaf tin, pressing it into the corners. The tearing happens preferentially at the seeds but can occur anywhere. This routine works with my evenings, and is adapted from the recipe I got with the starter.


*about 9% (baker's percentage) seeds - sunflower, pumpkin, linseed etc. in variable proportions depending on where I've been shopping.

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  • I don't really understand the question. Are you asking if there's harm in stretching and folding more, or whether there's use doing it? What is the result you are trying to achieve?
    – GdD
    May 13 at 9:37
  • @GdD Harm, use, or neither is what I'd like to understand, especially if it starts to tear. But it looks like there's a point I need to clarify anyway.
    – Chris H
    May 13 at 10:43
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    I agree with @moscafj on this one, there's no benefit in stretching after it tightens. Tearing it a bit isn't a huge deal, the strands will reconnect, but it isn't going to improve your end result or get you there any faster.
    – GdD
    May 13 at 12:08

1 Answer 1

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In my experience, yes, the stretch and fold is about 3 - 4 times. It doesn't need more than that. I only do 3 to 4 sets of stretch and folds, 30 minutes apart, then leave alone for the rest of bulk fermentation. However, especially if you are using sourdough stater, a lot depends on your local conditions. The point of stretch and fold, and resting, is to strengthen the gluten structure. If you find this strengthening to happen sooner, you need fewer stretch and folds....if your dough needs more strength, add a set. In the end, don't do it until it tears, because then you are disrupting the structure of the gluten that you've worked to create.

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  • So 3-4 sets of 3-4 folds per set? That's about what I'm doing, which is good
    – Chris H
    May 13 at 10:45
  • @ChrisH Good starting point...could be slightly more less depending on conditions and specific formula.
    – moscafj
    May 13 at 11:00
  • I could maybe add a set or 2, but it sounds like no more folds per set. But when I'm trying to bake and look after a child a rigorous test is unlikely as time seems to disappear
    – Chris H
    May 13 at 11:05
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    @ChrisH...it shouldn't take long to get a feel for it.
    – moscafj
    May 13 at 11:24
  • I was thinking more about baking one loaf with more sets, the next with fewer, and comparing the texture. Better of course would be 2 loaves otherwise identical at the same time but I don't have duplicate loaf tins
    – Chris H
    May 13 at 11:35

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