Stretch and fold techique
Jeffrey Hamelman’s book, BREAD – A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes, is one of my favorite baking sources. It not only contains excellent bread recipes/formulas but also has a wealth of information about bread baking in general. If you’re a serious home baker you owe it to yourself to become acquainted with this excellent, well rounded book about the baking craft. The first section alone (ninety-two pages) is well worth the price of the book. In these pages Hamelman takes you through a detailed description of each of the twelve steps of baking and explains numerous baking terms and techniques. The twelve-step method is a defined, straightforward progression of logical steps used in the bread baking process. I firmly believe that a thorough understanding and application of the twelve-step method will make your baking more enjoyable and provide you consistently better results.
In the sections Ingredients and Their Function along with Hand Techniques Hamelman discusses and explains how ingredients work, such as yeast and sourdough starters, and how to make bread by hand. BREAD puts artisan baking into perspective and reiterates the simple fact that most artisan breads require only four ingredients: flour, leavening, salt and water. However, that’s where simplicity ends and knowledge and understanding of the craft takes over. This book was written for both the professional and home baker. It contains scaled down “Home” formulas for each recipe that can easily be executed by a reasonably proficient home baker.
One of my favorite recipes/formulas from this book is Hamelman’s light rye bread (page 197) which, in my opinion, is about as good as rye bread gets. I bake this delicious bread frequently, using it for sandwiches and toast or simply slathered with butter. I prefer a slightly tighter crumb for sandwich bread, rather than a more open crumb (baguettes, ciabatta, etc.). To acheive the desired crumb texture I give this dough three stretchs-and-folds (at 20 minute intervals) during bulk fermentation. The three stretchs-and-folds result in a moderately open crumb.
Incidentally, when trying a new recipe I usually mix the dough by hand the first time. Hand mixing has the advantage of getting my hands into the dough and being able to feel the changes that take place as the dough develops during the mixing process. Hand mixing also leads to an better understanding of how your dough should look and feel (color, gluten development, hydration, etc.) as it progresses through the mixing process. With this understanding and some practice a home baker can then confidently proceed to using an tabletop electric stand mixer to mix the dough.
Filed under: Rye Breads