I suspect that the most difficult skill when working with sourdough is how to shape the loaves before their second proving (which is normally a retarded (or slowed-down) proof in the refridgerator). Pre-shaping and shaping bread depends at the very least on the hydration of the bread, how much gluten/strength has been developed during bulk fermentation and ambient conditions. The purpose of pre-shaping and shaping is to develop as much tension in the dough to help it hold its shape in the bake and to encourage ovenspring.

These loaves in the image below are hydrated at 73% (which is really a medium level hydration) and you can see from how they are sitting up on the bench that they have plenty of tension. They are also seam-side down as they rest very briefly (1 minute or two) to help close the seal before I dunk them in rice flour and then place in bannetons seam-side up.

Got any questions? Get in touch.

folded sourdoughfolded sourdough

By the way, I’ll post some video of how I pre-shape and shape bread in June, but for now if you’re searching online for sourdough shaping videos, notice how much people handle the dough. Shaping dough should not be fussy at all, and this is particularly the case with wetter doughs. Remember, the very best bakers will need to hand-shape hundreds of loaves a day and there’s simply no time for fuss. I like watching the team over at Proof shaping dough: they respond to the dough as it is and just get on with it (although I probably do even a little less than they do).

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