This is my last post in my series on the Salt and Fold Method. Here are the links to the entire series:
Let the dough rest for half an hour in a warm place uncovered. By withholding the salt, you are giving your leaven or your starter a chance to inoculate your dough uninhibited. It’s like calling your teenage kids on a Friday night half an hour before you’ll be home – it gives them a chance to get their act together. This period is commonly referred to by bakers as the “autolyse period”. After half an hour, you are ready to add your salt. Do this by placing your salt in a small dish and adding just enough water to dissolve your salt into a thick solution. Dissolving the salt in water makes it easier to incorporate it evenly into your dough. Spread the salt evenly across the surface of the dough, wet your hands and scrunch dough together with both of your hands aggressively (like a cat sharpening its claws on the carpet). Keep scrunching until you feel the salt has been as incorporated as possible.
Once your salt is incorporated, you will need to fold the dough before letting it rest. Fold the dough in on itself in four motions. Picture the dough as having four corners. Grab underneath of one corner and fold the point to the center of the dough. Repeat this for the other three corners. You should be left with a tight ball of dough in the bowl. Let the dough rest for another half an hour, and fold it again. Repeat this resting and folding 2-3 more times until the dough feels stretchy and tight. If by fold #4 the dough still isn’t quite holding together, the hydration was probably a little too high. Simply give it an additional fold or two and it should start coming together.
This whole process should take around 2 – 2.5 hours between the mixing, salting, and folding/resting. Once finished with the last fold, cover dough with cling wrap or a lid (if using a lid, rub or spray the underside with a little olive or canola oil – you’ll thank yourself later). Let dough proof in container at room temperature for the first 12-15 hours of its life. After 12 hours, the dough is ready to be baked if you so choose. Otherwise, if you desire more sourness and depth of flavor, you can move your dough into the refrigerator for a cool bulk ferment. Depending on how active your dough is, you can keep your dough in this cool bulk ferment stage for a few days, and perhaps up to three or four! A two day (40-48 hour) cool bulk fermentation period is ideal. After day 3 and 4, the dough starts to fall apart as the gluten breaks down; however, on rare occasion I have baked a dough I had forgotten in the fridge and it sometimes turns out beautifully. I like to experiment by making enough dough for 4-5 loaves and taking a portion out of the refrigerator each day to see how the quality improves or declines with a longer cool bulk fermentation. The choice is yours!
Stay tuned for Pt. 2: Artisan Bread: Shaping, Scoring, and Baking.