How to Fold Bread Dough

  • 01 of 08

    Why Fold Bread Dough?

    bread dough on floured surface

    Punching bread dough down after it rises is a tried-and-true method of degassing the dough, but folding the dough is even better.

    When you fold dough, you:

    • Expel the carbon dioxide formed during fermentation
    • Strengthen the dough by aligning and stretching the gluten strands
    • Equalize dough temperature which eliminates hot spots

    All this results in an even better loaf of bread than before. What follows are photo instructions of how this works.

    Continue to 2 of 8 below.
  • 02 of 08

    Pat Dough Out on Floured Board

    Dough patted into rectangle
    Dough patted into rectangle. J.McGavin

    During bulk fermentation (first rise) your recipe may instruct you to fold the dough at regular intervals. Instead of punching it down in the bowl, turn it out on a floured surface. Use enough flour so the dough does not stick. Pat the dough into a rectangle, removing most but not all of the air bubbles.

    Continue to 3 of 8 below.
  • 03 of 08

    First Fold - Pick Up One Side of the Dough

    First fold of bread dough
    First fold of bread dough. J.McGavin

    Pick up one of the sides of the dough and fold it a third of the way over the rest of the dough. Brush off excess flour.

    Continue to 4 of 8 below.
  • 04 of 08

    Second Fold - Bread Dough

    Second fold of bread dough
    Second fold of bread dough. J.McGavin

    The second fold is like folding a letter. Pick up the other side of the dough and stretch it over the first fold. Lay it on top and brush off the extra flour.

    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08

    Third Fold - Bread

    Top fold
    Top fold. J.McGavin

    Grab the side furthest away from you and pull in towards you, one third of the way. On all of these folds, gentle stretching is ideal.

    Continue to 6 of 8 below.
  • 06 of 08

    Another View of Folding

    Top fold
    Top fold. J.McGavin

    After the third fold. Note that the dough is not pinched closed in any way.

    Continue to 7 of 8 below.
  • 07 of 08

    View After Fourth Fold

    Fourth and last fold
    Fourth and last fold. J.McGavin

    Fold the piece of dough closest to you, the only side left, over the other folds. You have formed a square ball. Brush off excess flour.

    Continue to 8 of 8 below.
  • 08 of 08

    Place the Dough Back in the Bowl

    Dough in bowl, seam side down
    Dough in bowl, seam side down. J.McGavin

    Place the dough back in the bowl. The recipe may ask for a floured or oiled bowl to keep the dough from sticking.

    That is all there is to folding bread dough. The end!

    Some recipes that ask for folding: