I figured that, since I have these steps already photographed for another entry, mainly the Vermont Sourdough post here, I may as well include them separately as their very own little “Stretch and Fold show and tell” .
More show than tell, mind you.
I hope this helps to show the technique well and let people know that there is an alternative to kneading, if you find that aspect of bread making difficult or tedious. Some people actually like kneading and feel it’s a good mental zone out therapy, they just get in the groove. I like kneading, myself, and some doughs you pretty much have to knead by hand, like bagels, which is usually way too stiff for a mixer to handle.
But this is a really great way to simplify your bread making if you don’t want to get into the heavy push and turn stuff. Even if you like kneading, this is a good technique to have in your bag o’ tricks for those time you’re just not feeling like it.
For a little more info on the ideas around the process and a couple of video clips, see the other page on this blog, Stretch and Fold: you don’t need to knead.
Here it is, step by step:
With no flour on your bench, place the dough on the counter. Using a scraper to assist reaching well underneath, start to stretch the dough into a rectangle, trying to pull the dough as best you can from the centre, “pinching” with the scraper, not simply pulling the edge. Repeat for all corners.
Continue to stretch the dough into an even rectangle or square, using the scraper to reach well underneath.
With the dough now stretched into it’s square-ish shape, begin by pulling the top third’s edge up in the air to give it a little stretch, then fold this top third down to the centre of the rectangle. Repeat with the bottom third, stretching up slightly, then folding to the centre. Because you did not flour the counter top, the dough should adhere a little to the counter as you pull allowing you to easily stretch it a bit. (This will actually all make sense when you do it yourself.)
Moving to the left side, pull the left edge out to stretch a little, then fold to the middle.
Finally, repeat again with the right side, stretching out a little then folding to the middle. That’s it, you’re done.
Replace the dough into the container until the next step.