Shaping your dough into loaves

March 14, 2011

Learning how to properly shape your dough will result in beautiful finished loaves that you can proudly show off to family and friends. The different shapes of breads are usually done because of a long standing tradition, but don’t be afraid to try out different shapes. If you want rolls, but made baguette dough, go ahead and shape it into some rolls. The only warning I give is that different shapes may take a longer or shorter amount of time to bake. It may also change the density of your finished bread.

Round Loaves or Boules

Start with an unfloured counter, form the dough into a rough ball. I like to cup one or both of my hands over the ball of dough, and then moving in tight circles I pull the dough towards me with the heel of my hand. This movement will help to create a tight skin on the surface of the dough.

Baguettes

On a very lightly floured counter turn your dough out. Divide into the quantity of loaves you want to make. Gently press out each piece into a rough rectangle. With the short side facing you, fold the top third of the dough to the center and press to seal. Then fold the bottom third to the center and press to seal. Now I take the whole piece and fold it in half and press firmly with the heel of your hand to seal the edges together. To stretch the dough out, place your hands together in the center, with your palms facing down. Using light and even pressure roll the baguette back and forth as you spread your hands apart. If your dough starts to tear at any point stop working on it and let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes before trying to stretch it out more.

 Rolls

Divide your dough into the quantity of rolls you want to make, then shape them into rough rounds. You will want to work on an unfloured work surface so the dough will slightly stick to it. This will create tension on the dough so that it will tighten up and be able to hold it shape during rising and baking. Cup one hand slightly over a piece of dough. Rotate your hand in small circles while applying a gently pressure to the dough. Your dough will eventually form into a tight little ball.

Batard

A batard is shorter and fatter than a baguette, but is formed the same way a baguette is. On a very lightly floured counter turn your dough out. Divide into the quantity of loaves you want to make. Gently press out each piece into a rough rectangle. With the short side facing you, fold the top third of the dough to the center and press to seal. Then fold the bottom third to the center and press to seal. Now I take the whole piece and fold it in half and press firmly with the heel of your hand to seal the edges together. To stretch the dough out, place your hands together in the center, with your palms facing down. Using light and even pressure roll the batard back and forth as you spread your hands apart.

Torpedo

This shape is like a thinner football. It is fat in the middle with sharply tapered ends. I form these just like I do a batard or baguette but instead of rolling it out under my hand, I will just taper the ends out. So, gently press out your dough into a rough rectangle. With the short side facing you, fold the top third of the dough to the center and press to seal. Then fold the bottom third to the center and press to seal. Now I take the whole piece and fold it in half and press firmly with the heel of your hand to seal the edges together. Then starting on the ends of the loaf I rock it back and forth with medium pressure to taper the ends.

Pan Loaf

I like to shape my dough into a rough round then let it rest for 5-10 minutes to let it relax before continuing. Then with the smooth side down gently press out the dough into a rough rectangle that is about 1 inch shorter than the pan you are going to bake in. With the long side facing you roll the dough towards you into a tight cylinder. Gently rock the loaf back and forth until it is about the same length as the pan. I like to pinch my long seam to make sure that it doesn’t unravel while it rises. Place your dough in the pan with the seam side down. Apply a little pressure to the top of the loaf to make sure that it is touching the pan on all sides. This step will also make sure that it doesn’t come unraveled during its final rise.

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