We heard your feedback so we are sharing some bread shaping tips! We will also discuss the remaining bread steps in the future, but we're starting with one of the step that we get questions about most often.
Before we start this discussion, it’s important to note that this is not intended to be a highly technical blog post. There are many overarching styles and techniques involved with bread making and shaping, and within each technique, each baker further develops their own personal style. If it’s of interest, you could read for hours on the subject, but I’ll be honest…the life stage I’m in with two small children doesn’t afford me much extra time. I’m about to share my process which is largely based on what I can do efficiently to yield great products and still enjoy the process.
Honestly, that’s the great news, too! No matter what your style/interest, you can do what YOU enjoy and minimize your least favorite parts while still getting the delicious life-giving benefits of fresh flour bread. Interestingly, there’s a saying that relates that bread shaping speaks to the baker’s confidence. It infers that someone lacking confidence will be nervous to “break” their dough, thus not working assertively enough with the dough and producing a more floppy loaf. Please be encouraged - everyone makes a floppy loaf at least once. I think it’s a right of passage. Let’s normalize this together and not be afraid to confidently post your first loaf in our The Unsifted Collective on Facebook. It is by practice that you will find what works for you. I’ve included some helpful tips below to start off strong. You’ve got this!
Here's our quick how-to video for the final shaping for a 1 pound loaf.
WHEN do you shape the dough?
WHY do you shape the dough?
The most obvious reason is to make different styles of bread. Shaping allows you to use one dough recipe (like our Simple Sandwich Bread) to make many different bread products which offers premium flexibility. But there are other important and more nerdy reasons like:
- To remove excess gas from the dough, which allows more flavors to develop in the longer fermentation time. It also helps eliminate gaping holes in the final bread.
- To spread the gas out into smaller bubbles evenly throughout the dough which creates a more even internal structure.
- To create an even loaf via the outer layer. The tightness of the outer layer forces the dough to rise evenly in the oven which allows for an even internal structure. If your loaf is lopsided or uneven, this can be a sign that your dough doesn't have a smooth enough outer layer.
- To add strength. Shaping allows the dough to be pulled tighter and tighter. A tighter dough does take longer to rise, but that allows more fermentation time and will produce the dreamy taller and more rounded bread.
HOW do you shape the dough?
- STEP 1: DEFLATE THE DOUGH on a lightly floured surface. I like to pour the dough out of the bowl and fold it over on top of itself. This releases the majority of the excess gasses.
STEP 2: PRE-SHAPE THE DOUGH - Use a knife/bench scraper to cut off dough into lumps of dough that are close to the right size for your final product. The goal is to get closer to the final shape and use this as a stepping stone to make the final shaping easier.
I prefer to use a kitchen scale, but many people simply eyeball it. Below are approximate weights and pre-shapes for various breads:
- 1 Pound Loaf: 650-680 grams (1 pound 8 ounces)
- 2 Pound Loaf: 1,133 (2 pounds 8 ounces)
- Dinner Roll: 65 grams (2.3 ounces)
- Hamburger Bun: 100 grams (3.5 ounces)
- Hotdog Buns: 85 grams (3 ounces)
Pizza Crust: 680 grams (1 pound 8 ounces)
Pro-Tip: Try to make as few cuts as possible and not tear the dough so you can maintain the network of gluten strands that you have created.
- STEP 3: CREATE THE FINAL SHAPE - Watch our how-to video to see how I shape my 1 Pound Bread loaves. No matter what bread you are making, there are several consistent steps that apply across all shapes:
- If the dough is too hard to work with, let it sit for another 10-15 minutes and then come back to it.
- Make meaningful folds/pulls; the goal is to move the gas around to the edges of the dough. While you don't want to manhandle the dough and rip it apart, you also do not need to be scared of the dough. Try to just enjoy the process!
- As you pull/fold the dough, make sure to seal each section so that air isn't trapped inside which will create holes or fallen bread after baking.
- Fold/pull on the dough from the outside, working around the whole dough ball to form a smooth side and an ugly side. The ugly side will be facing downward in the pan.
- Touch the dough as little as possible - excessive overhandling increases the temperature of the dough, and may rip the gluten which creates floppier and stickier bread.
BEST thing about shaping the dough?
The best thing is that you can make multiple types of breads from ONE (or minimal) recipes. This definitely adds convenience!
Here are just a few different shaping ideas you can do all with the Simple Sandwich Bread recipe:
- Sandwich bread loaf
- Dinner rolls
- Hamburger buns
- Hotdog buns
- Pizza crust
- Garlic knots
- Cinnamon rolls
- Stromboli rolls
- Braided loaf (cinnamon raisin, yum!)
- Hoagie bun
- and more!
Let us know if you have more questions. Do you have a personal style or tips that you routinely use? Please share them with our collective in the comments below!
Happy Unsifted Baking!
**Video and photo kindly created by Kristen Loney (Instagram @kloneyphoto)