Why Some Bread Doughs are Folded

By Cook's Illustrated Published September 2014

Sometimes bread recipes call for folding the dough while others don't. Why is that?

Some doughs are left alone during the rising stage, but for many rustic breads, including our Authentic Baguettes at Home (see related content), we interrupt the rising time by folding (or turning) the dough, gently folding the dough over itself several times as it rises. Like kneading, this process builds strength by bringing wayward sheets of gluten, the protein that gives bread structure once flour and water have been combined, into alignment. But folding is a more gentle process than kneading, and it works out large air pockets that can form as the dough rises, giving you a more even dough by the end of the rising time.

Recipes vary in the number of folds made and how many times the process is repeated, but the approach is generally the same. For our baguettes, we fold the dough instead of kneading, but other breads might knead the dough after mixing and fold fewer times.

HOW TO FOLD: Using your fingertips, grab the edge of the dough and gently lift and fold it toward the middle. Turn the bowl and repeat, making folds as directed in recipe. If the dough is particularly sticky, use a lightly oiled bowl scraper or rubber spatula instead of your hands.