If you want to have a perfect loaf of bread, you need to fold the dough and it is a must-do technique if you want to get much better results. Many recipes require us to have a long, initial fermentation process, followed by kneading, then followed by a shorter fermentation process. During the first fermentation process, the yeast will eat a lot of carbohydrate in the dough and this could take about one hour. Even so, it is not enough for the flour, gluten and water to react fully; so proper cellular structure can be achieved. The byproduct of yeast operation is consisted mostly of carbon dioxide, alcohol and others. However, the yeast activity will slow down if there’s no more usable carbohydrate around it. So, you need to fold the dough to redistribute the yeast cells, so they can get renewed amount of fuel. The fermentation process can accelerate again. The folding process will also release the excess gas from the partially fermented dough, so there’s enough room for the yeast to grow.
You need to work the strands of the dough, so they can become stronger. First of all, you need to know how to fold properly. An easy way is to use the letter fold way. Put the dough on the well-floured counter and pat it flat. Take a third of the dough and bring it over the dough and take a third at another side and do the same. You should do this, so the gas can be expelled quickly. Pat the dough flat and do the same process again. You can do this over and over, so enough gas can be removed. The roll-up fold method is quite simple. You should roll the dough into a rather long tube on a well-floured counter. Then, you should roll the dough at the opposite way, you make a ball of dough. This method should also remove the gas and rearrange the nutrient inside the dough, so the second fermentation process can accelerate again.
After you know how to fold, it is also essential to know when to fold. A good way is to assign three-fourth of the total fermentation time for the first fermentation phase. So, if the first fermentation period takes about one hour, then the second fermentation period should last for 20 minutes. So, if the fermentation process needs to take about 2 hours, the first phase should be 90 minutes and the second phase is 30 minutes. It is acceptable to make all the necessary adjustments depending on the recipe. Ingredients, your skill and the condition of the kitchen, such as humidity and temperature could affect the length of proper fermentation process. You can experiment with different folding method, to see whether it works for you. It may be necessary to try with different schemes, until you come up with the best possible results. However, it is quite likely that basic methods are good enough to provide you with the kind of bread that you want.