Before I start the discussion, let me say this: This isn’t a discussion meant to argue that one is better than the other, nor will I suggest you use one folding technique exclusively. But what I will say that at least in my experience, the folding technique you use depends on the bread you’re making, and it will affect the type of container you use for fermentation, though I realize many bakers prefer to do their folding on their bench.
So I have a rule-of-thumb with respect to the type of folding I do: If I’m using whole grain flour at or above 20%, or if my dough contains inclusions such as cheese or nuts or dried fruit, I will invariably use coil folds. The reason for this is that it is much gentler on the dough and the particles of inclusion material or bran have less of a chance of tearing the dough. Otherwise, I’ll just do regular stretch and folds.
Now that’s the kind of general rule-of-thumb I use. But the reality is that as of late, once my dough becomes pretty gassy, I tend to do coil folds for my final sets, irrespective of inclusions or whole grain. I do my best to retain the gases as much as possible especially with naturally leavened bread. I don’t want to ruin all the work the wild yeast has done.
The exception to this is when I do yeasted breads, such as baguettes. I will always do stretch and folds with a dough that uses commercial yeast. The reason for this is that it’s fast-acting and once activated very active, so I’m less concerned about degassing the dough and can be a little more assertive with it. Those little buggers will just pick up and fill the dough wtih CO2.
I realize that this is nothing groundbreaking, especially for experienced bakers. And this entry, as most of my non-recipe entries – is more of a reminder for me to practice what I just preached.