We may have avoided kneading, but it’s still imperative to physically manipulate yeasted bread dough to develop gluten. That’s where folding comes in.
Gently turning the dough over itself after letting the dough rest to hydrate, accomplishes three things:
- It brings the wheat proteins into closer proximity with one another, keeping the process of gluten development going at a maximum clip.
- It aerates the dough, replenishing the oxygen that the yeast consumed during fermentation.
- It elongates and redistributes the air bubbles that turn into chewy open pockets once the dough is baked. The result is well-risen bread with a moist crumb.
Like with kneading, the dough evolves quite a bit just through this folding process, turning from a lumpy mass to cohesive dough.