It’s time for a new bread, a new way of doing things. I’ve long resisted switching to folding dough instead of kneading because…why exactly? Maybe I thought kneading was a necessary primal step in creating bread, something to do with hands and muscle and…nonsense. Many world-class bakers use the folding technique on wetter doughs to create a stronger and more open-structure bread, including Chad Robertson from Tartine. I made the switch and bumped up my regular bread recipes from 65% hydration to 88% while only using a quarter as much yeast. This means changing from a dough that can be kneaded and handled to one that’s in the terrifying no-man’s land between cookie dough and pancake batter. Using less yeast and a longer rise means time for more flavor to coax from the flour and more structure to form. Right after mixing it all up this is how it looks:
When you mix it all up, just leave it covered in the bowl for 50 minutes. Just let it work its magic, okay? In 50 minutes, wet your hands, reach in on either side, scoop completely underneath, and fold it in half, bottom to top. Rotate the bowl 90 degrees and do that again. Your hands will be a mess, just let it flow, man. Cover it and wait another 50 minutes. I really hope you have something to do. When the timer beeps, lift and fold again. Reset the timer for one last 50-minute session. For the counting-challenged, that’s three folds over 2-1/2 hours. Lift and fold at the end of that and you dough will have risen and gotten as strong as an Icelandic ox. Behold the majesty of folded wet bread dough!
See how it’s got nice long strands of gluten formed? See how it’s getting puffy and filled with beautiful large air pockets? Notice that the dough is clearing more from the sides of the bowl. This is the magic of wet dough that isn’t kneaded. Now you need to pour a crap-ton of flour on your board and get it right to the edges.
Next pour your dough out on the board and try to keep it from dripping on the floor. This is Jabba the Bread. Oh, shuda, kuchu wanki, mite bigasa! Oo-hahahah!
Now listen carefully. You need to flour your hands, flour the top of the dough, floor anything within ten feet of this dough. It is beyond sticky, it’s a kleptomaniac octopus. Don’t be a hero! Flour is cheap, douse that monster! If you’re using the four-loaf batch, divide into quarters and flour it all again.
Give that a twenty minute rest or so while you wash your hands. Don’t cover it up–no worries about this drying out. Now it’s time to wrestle this stuff into the pans or bannetons. I did both with this batch and found it was best just to dump each blob of dough in the loaf pan and THEN form it like you’re tucking covers tightly, rolling your fingers down the sides and under to the bottom. With a banneton or proofing basket it’ll be trickier, but you can tuck it into itself as tight as possible before it plops out of your hands and onto the floor. Did you ever have that toy as a kid that was a hot-dog shaped water balloon that was impossible to hold onto? Yep, this is just like that. But once your dough is happily tucked into pans, give it another 40-50 minutes to proof uncovered while the oven heats up to around 450.
You should have some really nice air bubbles and rise from the dough. Bake it for 40-50 minutes turning once and you should be rewarded with a really nice loaf of bread: stronger, tastier, and more open than my previous recipes. Not that those aren’t good but these take less handling and make a far superior product, in my opinion. Enjoy the New Bread. Recipe will be up on Bread page when I get it all together. Happy baking!