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The Stretch and Fold Method

In some of the recipes that we’ve posted I refer to stretching and folding the dough, so I want to more fully explain it here, as I will continue to provide recipes that utilize this technique. The stretch and fold method (S&F from here on), is a remarkable way to maximize gluten development in a dough with minimum mixing time. It is sometimes referred to as “intermittent kneading” and also by the term “folding.” All of these refer to a similar method, though the time intervals may vary from recipe to recipe. In short, it means to intermittently fold the dough over onto itself during the fermentation stage. What this accomplishes is to strengthen the bonding of the gluten protein threads that hold the dough together and thus trap the carbon dioxide created by the yeast. This is what creates the bubbles or air pockets that we refer to as the “crumb” in the final bread.

I suggest this technique more and more often in my classes and recipes, as it allows us to more fully hydrate the dough, almost to the point of over-stickiness, yet still create a very workable, dynamic dough, one that pops in the oven and creates more of the large irregular holes that artisan bakers (and consumers) love to see. The method is actually quite simple and I have short video that illustrates  this at:   .  

To work with sticky dough many bakers use flour on the work surface and on their hand, but I prefer to use an oiled work surface (either olive or vegetable) and either oil my hands or dip them in water (sticky dough won’t stick to wet or oily hands). All you have to do is to transfer the dough from the mixer to the oiled work surface, pat it into a rectangle or ball, and then pull, or stretch out about half of the dough from one side and then flip the stretched piece back over the top of the dough, about to the middle. Then repeat this from the other three sides, stretching and folding half the dough back over the top of the dough. Then, when all four sides have been folded over, flip the whole dough ball over so that the smooth underside is face up and the folded top is underneath. At this point, you either place the dough into an oiled container or leave it on the oiled work surface and cover it with a bowl. (As I said, some bakers prefer to work with floured surfaces instead–that is totally up to you.)

You can repeat this S&F at 5, 10, or even 45 minute intervals, depending on your baking schedule for the dough in question. For same day bakes, three or four S&F’s at 30 to 40 minute intervals are common, which allows the dough to ferment in between the S&F’s. For overnight dough, such as pizza or focaccia or certain rustic bread formulas, the S&F intervals can be as short as 5 minutes. Typically, four S&F’s are sufficient to fully develop and firm up the dough, but some doughs require only one, while others might require five S&F’s if they are very wet.

This technique greatly enhances the oven spring and causes the dough to achieve a kind of bounce and liveliness that is hard to replicate by conventional mixing methods. It also allows us to push the envelope regarding hydration, sometimes making it possible to add as much as 5% to 10% more water than the recipe calls for. And most importantly, it’s also a lot of fun and gives great pleasure to watch and feel the dough get stronger and more vibrant with each S&F — yet another reminder that we’re working with a living, dynamic product.


David macgregor

Hi I cant see the link for the video for the stretch and fold method. Great post though.Sometimes I get really excited reading stuff on here or watching the videos. I really love this website so much, much better than facebook haha. I was thinking though it would be great if you had a bit were members could upload pictures of our recent pizza attempt. so we can see what sort of pizza adventures people all over the world have been having? just a suggestion. but i hope you like it because that would be really great. anyway like i said i love pizza quest. but i love pizza even more, all the best David


Yes, we do want your photos and will be happy to run them. Let me check with our technical folk so we can tell you how to send them to us.
I screwed up and forgot to post the link to the video. Try this:

David macgregor

Thanks Peter i watched the video very useful. Looking forwards to being able to post pictures on here.

michael tiberio

Hello Peter ! I am new to your website but not new to the wonderful world of Pizza. I grew up in Brooklyn NY and worked in my Uncles Pizzeria at age 11. I have served my country in the Navy for 20 years 69 -89 and have just retired from a 22 year career with FEDEX in November 2010.I have made pizza all over the world, especially on two Navy warships while underway in the Persian Gulf for which my crew were very appreciative. I am now settled in South Jersey not far from Philly and preparing to purchase my Primavera oven from Forno Bravo. I will keep you posted. Mike T.


Thanks Michael–can’t wait to hear about your next round of adventures. We have a Forum section and would love to see your photos there. You just need to register as a Forum member and go to The Quest section and then click Your Photos. We’d love to see galleries from as many of our PizzaQuest fans as possible–should be quite inspiring.

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Pizza Quest is a site dedicated to the exploration of artisanship in all forms, wherever we find it, but especially through the literal and metaphorical image of pizza. As we share our own quest for the perfect pizza we invite all of you to join us and share your journeys too. We have discovered that you never know what engaging roads and side paths will reveal themselves on this quest, but we do know that there are many kindred spirits out there, passionate artisans, doing all sorts of amazing things. These are the stories we want to discover, and we invite you to jump on the proverbial bus and join us on this, our never ending pizza quest.

Peter’s Books

American Pie
Artisan Breads Every Day
The Bread Bakers Apprentice
Brother Junipers Bread Book
Crust and Crumb
Whole Grain Breads

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