Sourdough Workshop: Shaping Your Dough

February 06, 2014

Shaping your dough isn't just about aesthetics. It's about creating the right surface tension so that the bread expands like a balloon. If you don't shape your bread properly you won't get a smooth crust, and your bread won't rise as much. Because the wild yeast acts so slowly, sourdough needs all the help it can get to rise, so it's even more important than when you make a bread with commercial yeast.

It's fun with photos and video time! There are three main shapes:

A boule (round loaf)

Sourdough Bread

A sandwich loaf (baked in a loaf pan)


A baguette
(The last one is curved because it wouldn't fit on my pizza stone.)


However, if you are working with no-knead bread, any dough with high hydration, or dough that requires an extra long fermentation time, it  may be runny and difficult to shape the traditional way.

How to handle very liquid / runny dough

Really the shape is up to what you want to do with your bread. I usually go with a sandwich loaf because I can stick the bread pans with dough directly in the fridge overnight and not use up too much space. Once in a while, I do like a big rustic loaf with minimal shaping ala the Reinhart stretch and fold technique. This is the fun part!

After you've shaped your dough, you need to let the dough "proof" before baking. Proofing is the time it takes for your bread to rise one last time before baking. If it's cold out, sourdough doesn't rise very fast. To speed up the rise, keep the shaped loaf covered with plastic wrap or a damp towel in a warm place. Sometimes I do this by warming a mug of water in the microwave, then sticking the bread in the microwave beside the mug. Other people do this by placing the bread in a warm oven that has just been turned off. However, you have to be careful not to bake your bread or dry it out at this point.

Conversely, you may want to slow down the rise by sticking your dough in the fridge. If wrapped with plastic, it can stay in your fridge for up to 5 days before baking (but it will get more sour as time passes).

Start from the beginning: Sourdough Workshop Index.

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