Debate Between Kneading And Folding: The Differences

There are two basic methods of working dough: kneading and folding, which I will explain in detail.

What Is The Difference Between Kneading And Folding Dough?

The difference between kneading and folding dough is dependent on how hydrated the dough is. Kneading with a very hydrated dough tends to progress way faster in terms of gluten then if you just stretch and fold the dough.  Kneading the dough is more work but done in a shorter time. 

When stretching and folding the dough you would repeat this method every 10 to 30 minutes for about 3 rounds which is less effort in the long run.

It becomes very hard to knead the dough if the dough has at least 80% hydration because the dough is very sticky causing it to be very hard to knead and form the dough and that’s where stretching and folding the dough would come very handy especially if you lack experience in this area. 

Using the stretch and fold method also allows you to control the progress better and assess the texture and the form of the dough as the gluten starts to develop. 

How To Stretch And Fold The Dough?

Have a dough scraper handy and nearby to scrape any of the sticky dough. Before taking it out of the bowl you want to have left it out for a good 30 minutes, so it rises a bit and has time to soak up the water within the dough. Take the dough out of the bowl you mixed the ingredient in and lay it on the table.

Once on the table pick up the dough on the side stretch it in the air, not on the table because it will just stick whatever it touches and then fold and repeat this motion. The faster you get at it.  The less it will stick to the table.

You will know when you’re done stretching and folding when it starts to get harder to stretch. When you can no longer stretch as much it means the gluten has formed. You will notice this after doing about three to four rounds and leaving it each time for 10 up to 45 minutes in between. This will depend on how your day is going and the task you’re doing. The more rounds you do the dough will start to grow and get airier and get bubbles. 

How To Knead Your Dough?

You’re going to take the sticky dough out of the bowl and place it on the table be sure not to put any flour to avoid it sticking. Because you already weighed out the perfect amount of flour and you don’t want to get a very hard and stiff dough which may lead to dense bread once baked. 

Kneading dough consists of slapping the dough and then folding and you keep on doing this until you see the gluten start to develop. You would do this for about 15 minutes and then you would leave it to just rise. 

How you’ll tell if the gluten has developed is once you stretch it will start to be transparent if you stretch it and it’s still breaking it just means that you need to knead it a little bit longer for the next five to 15 minutes. You will keep on repeating this action until you’re able to stretch it without it breaking. 

Keep in mind that kneading dough has many ways to do so and there isn’t just one way to knead bread. Everyone has a different way of doing it. But this is just one of the ways.

We go deeper into why people prefer stretching and folding dough instead of kneading, as well as some reasons someone might opt for a mixer over doing it by hand.

Can You Stretch And Fold Instead Of Kneading?

You can indeed stretch and fold instead of kneading. Doing the stretch and fold method allows you to have the dough work around your day. So if you want to leave the dough for a bit for at most an hour you can do so, come back stretch and fold and repeat for a few rounds until it gets to your desired dough. 

This is a preferred method where once home baker’s discovered this method they tend to stick with it. Using the stretch and fold method allows you to control the dough a bit and allows you to slow down and look at the process and progress of the gluten as you stretch the dough. 

Sometimes when kneading you can risk over-kneading the dough. Most will usually say that it is better to use this type of method if it’s sticky dough but you can indeed use it for kneading with sticky dough, you just have to be fast and have enough energy to keep on kneading the dough until gluten forms. 

For some, it’s more work intensive. Some would even say it actually takes less time to stretch and fold your dough than kneading. 

What Is The Difference Between Kneading And Blending?

The difference between kneading and blending is if blending you would be more restrictive in terms of not being able to do the stretch and fold method. When blending because you’re not using your own energy you’re more likely to potentially over knead your dough while it’s mixing in the mixer. But can be a great alternative if done right.

kneading your dough allows you to have more of a feel for the dough and it may take longer and will be messier and have things to clean up. Using a mixer would be throwing in the ingredients and it will do all the work for you. Blending your dough in a mixer will develop gluten. 

It’s important not to leave your mixer unattended with the dough and check your dough periodically so that means stopping your mixer from time to time to check how the gluten has developed so you can be sure not to overmix it.

Depending on the type of bread there may be some bread that you prefer to mix in the mixer rather than kneading. For example, using enriched dough can take longer to mix especially with fat in the recipe so using the mixer can be an advantage because gluten takes longer to form when fat is involved. Kneading would take longer and more effort to get the dough to the point where gluten develops.

Do You Really Need To Knead Dough?

Kneading is one of the ways to help your dough develop gluten. But there are many different ways such as using the slap and fold method or using a mixer. Kneading your dough allows air to develop in the dough which allows the dough to have a nice elasticity. Kneading your dough allows your dough to have a nice structure and also a nice smooth surface. 

It comes down to the preference of the method you are looking to use. People tend to choose the kneading method because they have more control over their dough especially if they’re looking to make a certain type of bread that absolutely needs kneading. And for some, it is very therapeutic. 

There is an option to make no-knead bread but there are some restrictions to that but it makes great bread regardless. Just the same this method is especially great if kneading is not one of your favorite methods to do.

You can read more about no-knead bread in this article and learn more about the pros and cons of kneading your dough.

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