Sourdough Mistakes: When You Forget To Stretch And Fold

Is it really the end of the world if you forget to stretch and fold? Let’s find out!

What Happens If You Forget To Stretch And Fold Sourdough?

Failing to stretch and fold your sourdough can cause your bread not to have structure and not build any strength. This means that the gluten wouldn’t fully develop so if you were to do a window pane test the dough wouldn’t be as strong and most likely break easily.

Without manipulating your dough AKA stretching and folding or kneading your dough you risk not having your dough rise because of it not being strong enough. This also means that you wouldn’t have a very nice oven spring. 

Unless you want a flatbread it’s highly suggested to do a form of stretch and fold. There are more delicate methods and versions of stretch and fold, for example, you can do the coil method.

Coil method

How this is done is you would first wet your hands, while it’s in a bowl you would pick it up on the sides gently and then fold it upwards and then fold. Then you would rotate your container and repeat the same steps that were mentioned above.

Once you see the dough starts to develop strength after a few rounds, leave it to sit for a bit and then repeat the same steps again until your dough is at a point where it no longer needs a stretch and fold.

The number of rounds of doing the coil method will depend on the type of crumb you’re looking for. If you want a more open crumb you would do fewer rounds and if you want a tighter crumb you would do more rounds to get the dough tighter.

There are many benefits of stretching and folding your dough but we will address other methods you can do if this method isn’t your favorite. Should you do stretch and fold before or after Bulk fermentation? See below to find out more about the most important phases.

Can You Make Sourdough Without Stretch And Fold?

If you prefer not to do stretch and fold the good thing is there are other methods you can do instead to still achieve a really good sourdough bread. You can use the slap-and-fold method. This method is known to be easier to adopt and faster in terms of getting your dough to develop strength and get to that smooth outer texture.

Here’s how to do slap and fold in 3 steps

  1. Pick the dough up from the counter
  2. Throw the dough onto the counter (slap)
  3. Then fold it and repeat it.

It’s recommended to do it for about 10 rounds but it always depends on discretion and how the dough is developing. You’ll notice that the gluten will start to get stronger with less effort and you’ll get a similar result to stretch and fold in terms of the crumb. This method is great if you don’t love the technique of the traditional stretch and fold and rather do something else. 

Another method that you can try is doing a no-knead version of Sourdough bread. There may be some differences with the dough if you’re used to a certain type of texture with the dough when using stretch and fold but for the most part, the bread will still come out tasty and have a nice crumb.

Here are a few things that you will notice in terms of differences and similarities with no-knead sourdough bread:

  1. The dough doesn’t have as much volume but it still has volume
  2. You’ll notice that the dough sags a bit more than usual
  3. And the dough doesn’t tuck as well so it’s strong but not as strong as if you were to do the stretch and fold
  4. You’ll notice that the bread may be a little bit dense but it’s still good
  5. The best part is the crust is still very similar

What Happens If I Don’t Shape My Sourdough?

Not shaping your sourdough just means that you need to just throw it in a pan and see the end result once it is baked. Most times not being able to shape your dough usually means that the dough is too sticky or too runny to form a shape. 

To be able to shape your sourdough you need to get to a point where the outer side is not as sticky as within. Doing the stretch and fold method is what will help you to form your dough and give it strength so then you are able to form it into a shape AKA a ball. 

If you do the work beforehand and you do the method of stretching and folding or any other method that was mentioned in the article. Once you get to the shaping part it should be super easy. At that point, you are creating tension and being very delicate with the dough to not deflate it.

If you’re struggling to shape the dough it means that you have gone too far and most likely the bulk fermentation process has passed. 

Can I Stretch And Fold After Bulk Fermentation?

It is possible to stretch and fold both before and after bulk fermentation. but most of the stretch and full portion should be done before because this is a part where you would be helping the dough to build up gluten and build the necessary strength and sourdough gas needed. Also depending on when developing your dough it also would affect the structure of the crumb.

Doing stretch and fold earlier will usually lead to more irregular crumbs and doing it late will usually mean a more even crumb. If you decide to stretch and fold your dough after the bulk fermentation process you want to be very delicate and be very careful not to completely deflate your dough and keep as many bubbles as possible.

So whether you choose to do it before and after or just before or just after you would have to keep in mind that it’s going to affect the structure of the crumb, the way the bread comes out and the texture.

How the Bulk Fermentation phase works

This phase starts as soon as you add your starter to your dough. The amount of time you wait for your bulk fermentation to finish will highly depend on the amount of dough you start with as well as the temperature where you choose to bake. The more starter that you add the less time you would give the bulk fermentation to finish and the less you add the more time needed. 

It is finished when it has increased in size, looks like the bubbles have formed, and there’s air within the dough. If you want to be extra sure you would do a float test. Take a piece of the dough and drop it in a cup of water and if it floats it means that it is finished and ready to shape. If it doesn’t float it just means that it will need more time to finish in this phase. 

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