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Punch down or fold the dough to release air bubbles
It is essential to get all the air out of the dough, or you could end up with large ugly air pockets in your loaf, and nobody wants that.
Punching down and folding affect the dough’s texture in different ways.
Once the dough has risen, carefully remove the plastic wrap or dish towel.
Drop it onto your parchment paper or on a lightly flour-dusted surface, or if the dough is easy to handle without flour, shape it on a lightly oiled, clean countertop.
After resting, turn the dough bottom side up and press to flatten. Then fold the dough into the shape you want.
Punching down and folding affect the dough’s texture in different ways
Punching bread dough down after it rises is a tried-and-true method of degassing the dough (removing any air bubbles). It also reinvigorates the yeast cells, introducing them to the new food.
But folding the dough is also a valid technique for executing these tasks. When you fold the dough, you do three things:
1. expel the carbon dioxide formed during fermentation,
2. strengthen the dough by aligning and stretching the gluten strands, and
3. equalize the dough’s temperature, eliminating hot spots.
You can also easily roll the dough up jelly-roll style.
Remember: Over moulding could cause breaking of the surface tension and result in a smaller finished loaf.
Punch the dough
Punching down will result in a finer, more tender crumb — something you would look for in sandwich bread or pastries like cinnamon rolls.
Punch the dough down, and knead briefly by hand 2 or 3 times to release the air bubbles.
Fold the dough
Instead of punching the dough down to release the air, it is sometimes better to fold it.
The folding method creates bread that rises higher and has a looser crumb and air pockets once it is baked. This is a welcome characteristic of artisan bread, baguettes, dinner rolls, oatmeal bread, Landbrot (a German country bread that uses a starter as a leaven), and sourdough wheat bread.
Feel to try folding in recipes that call for punching down the dough.
How to fold the dough
Pat dough into a rectangle
Pat the dough down, removing most but not all the air bubbles.
Once the dough is deflated, shape it into a flat rectangle, about 1-2 cm (1/2 to 3/4 inch) thick.
The first fold
To create the first fold, pick up one of the sides of the dough and fold it a third of the way over the rest of the dough.
The second fold
The second fold is like folding a letter. Pick up the opposite side of the dough that you folded and stretch it over the first folded piece, laying it on top.
The third Fold – Repeat the first fold
To make the third fold, repeat the first fold, folding it one-third of the way down over the middle.
The fourth Fold – Repeat the second fold
Now it is time for the final fold. Fold the bottom third of the dough over other folds, creating a square centre.
You should now have a thick, square-ish piece of dough.
Note: On all these folds, brush off the excess flour, and gentle stretching is ideal, and the dough should not be pinched closed in any way. You should be able to see the layers of the folds.
Shape and cover it with some plastic wrap or with a towel and let it rise.
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