How to Shape Sourdough

Learn how to shape sourdough in this bread making video from Howcast.


Okay, so my sourdough has been autolyzing for about 20 minutes and the salt's on top of it. So I've got all my ingredients here. I don't have to add anything else. But now I'm going to start kneading my dough, so I'm going to scoop it out of the bowl, I'm going to get; there's a little salt, make sure the salt comes with the dough; and now I'm going to start kneading it.

And I'm going to knead it. I'm going to sort of fold it over itself and I'm pushing away with the palms of my hands, and I'm going to do this until I've developed the gluten. And I'm going to show you what I mean by the gluten being developed, after I've been kneading this for about I would say, about five minutes. And if there's any little bits of, these are little bits of salt, I just sort of scoop them up into my dough and I keep kneading.

Okay, so this sourdough, I've kneaded for about seven minutes. I've done my window pane test. I've seen that the gluten has developed, and so now I'm just going to lightly oil the bowl that the dough was in, and I'm going to place the dough in the bowl. And the dough's going to ferment for two and a half hours, and we're going to give it a fold halfway through. And basically a fold is like punching the dough down. It's just a very organized way of punching and degassing the dough, so that it distributes the yeast. And I'm going to cover my bowl with a towel.

Okay, so our sourdough bread has been fermenting for about an hour and a quarter, and we're going to turn it now and turning simply means punching it down. So you can see there's been some growth and activity, so I'm going to wet my hands and I'm going to give it what is called a turn or a fold. So I'm going to take it and I'm going to fold it like a letter. And then I'm going to rotate it 90 degrees and fold it like a letter again. And then I'm going to take it and flip it upside down. So you can see it looks like a nice package and that just helps redistribute the yeast. And so we're going to let the dough ferment for another hour and a quarter before we divide and shape the dough.

Okay, so now our sourdough bread, our dough has been proofing for two and a half hours and it got a turn at one and a quarter hours, and so what we're going to do now is we're going to divide it. And the easiest way I divide the dough is just to get it to come out on to a lightly floured surface and then I just eyeball it, and you're going to divide it evenly into two pieces. And then because I'm going to shape these into rounds, I'm not going to try to pre-shape them. I'm just going to very directly and gently shape them into rounds.

And I like to use these baskets that are lined with linen and you can see that I've used them before, because they have a little bit of residual flour on them, and that sort of helps temper the linen whenever you're using it, so that the dough doesn't stick to it. The first time you want to use a linen-lined basket like this, you want to take some flour, and I generally like to use rye flour, and just sort of sprinkle the inside of the basket with a very nice coating of rye flour, about like that, so it doesn't stick. And I'm going to do the same with this basket, just like a gentle, light coating of the flour, on the bottom and the sides as much as possible.

And you could also use all sorts of baskets. This is called a banneton and it's a wicker basket, and it sort of works the same way. It's a coiled wicker and you could just sprinkle the flour gently on the surface of this. And I don't really worry about moistening this surface. I just try to get a nice coating of flour on it. And here's another nice example of an oblong basket. So this dough could easily be shaped into an oblong shape and proof in an oblong basket. So to shape this dough, I'm going to take a little bit of my all-purpose bench flour and I'm just really going to gently fold the dough over, basically like I'm folding it again, and then I'm going to sort of start to round it.

And I can see that this is a little dry and that my dough has a little bit of a dry surface to it. So what I'm going to do is I'm going to quickly wet my hands, and just that little bit of moisture is going to help me do the final shape of this dough. And I'm just going to sort of tighten the dough up and I'm rotating it 90 degrees as I go, and I'm cupping it. And so that is called a round or a boule shape, and I'm going to take that round, I'm going to get underneath it, and I'm going to put the top on the bottom of the basket, and let it seam side up, and that's how it's going to proof.

And then what I'm going to do with this basket, now, is I'm going to put a piece of plastic over the surface of it. I like to use a little shopping bag, a plastic shopping bag to cover the surface of it. It's sort of enclosed and so it doesn't dry out on the surface. And then I put this in my refrigerator and I let it stay in the refrigerator overnight, probably a maximum of up to 18 hours. And that's called retarding, and I love to retard sourdough bread, because it helps add another dimension of flavor. Any time you put anything in the refrigerator, it slows down the fermentation and it helps to develop a beautiful flavor that way.

And so I'm going to shape this piece of bread the same way. I'm just going to fold it and start tucking it, and then I'm going to sort of using the friction of the table, my hands are really rolling down towards me and that friction is what's creating the tension in the dough. And then once I have my loaf shape I'm going to take it and the seam is going to stay up, and the top is going to be on the bottom, and that is how I shape sourdough loaves into round boules.

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