Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Bread Baking - Shaping Loaves

I'm not sure I can describe in words how to shape a loaf of bread. I'd much rather have you all over and show you! It is so much easier then it sounds. But I'll give an attempt and hope you ask questions if it doesn't make sense.

There really is no wrong way to form a loaf of bread. I enjoyed seeing different methods described in various cook books. You can find lots of online videos where you can watch the professionals shape a loaf. But here is how I do it.

Loaf Bread

You really can just pull off a ball of dough, place it in your bread pan and smooch it into the corners. But here is the way I form a loaf that seems to result in a smooth evenly shaped loaf (most of the time).

First divide your dough into as many loaves as you plan to make. Cutting the dough with a knife is better then pulling it apart, but both work. Grease your bread pan. I find that solid shortening like Crisco, lard or butter works better because oil is just absorbed in the dough. Slightly grease your counter top with some oil. You may flour the counter if you like but I prefer oil.

With a rolling pin, roll your dough flat, pushing out the air bubbles. My goal is to make the dough about as wide as my bread pan, and as long as can be easily rolled.
Roll up the dough from the short end, squeezing the dough together with your fingers as your roll.

Then, tuck the ends of the dough tightly underneath.

Place it in the greased bread pan, seam down.

Smash the dough down into the corners, until it's well flattened. Now you are ready to sit the dough in a warm place to rise! (The whole process took you much longer to read then it ever takes me to actually do it!)

Long Loaves

I use this method when making a loaf with a soft crumb such as Miracle Bread. I would not use this method if using an hearth style bread with large irregular holes.

Roll out the dough into a large rectangle, squeezing out the air bubbles.

Roll up the dough beginning on the long side. When rolled, squeeze the seam tightly to seal it and place the dough seam down on the greased baking sheet.

Slit and garnish as desired (a topic for another post).
Round Loaves

This is the method I use for a hearth style bread. I couldn't figure out how to take pictures since it is a two hand process. Maybe if Ed is home someday when I'm baking, I'll have him take pictures and add them to this post. 

Divide dough into as many loaves as desired. Oil your hands and pick up one lump of dough. 

Form into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough and pulling around to the bottom. Keep rotating the ball in your hands and stretching until you have a smooth ball on top. 

The idea is for the top of the dough to be taunt so that the bread will raise up and not out. The bottom with be lumpy. You want to use a firm but gently hand. You don't want to squeeze out all the air bubbles but neither do you want the dough to be flacid. 

Place the ball of dough onto a greased pan seam side down OR in a very well greased bowl seam side up. 

Did that make any sense? 

Other Loaves

The sky is the limit when it comes to shaping loaves. It is fun to braid bread, spiral, shape baguettes, etc. 

The great thing about shaping a loaf of bread is that if it doesn't turn out just like you imagined,  you can slice it before placing on the table and no one will care if it doesn't look perfect because they will be enjoying the taste! But there is something fun about pulling out a picture perfect loaf and your shaping technique will improve with practice.


  1. I gave up trying to make loaves a long time ago...they always stuck to my pans:(

    I'm a round loaf baker:)

    You have great bread recipes here, I'll have to keep tabs.

  2. Yum...I feel like going and making bread now hehe....have a great day!

  3. You always come up with the best posts. Really useful! Thanks, Liz

  4. All of those loaves look so good! Yum! I have a question, how do you get your loaves to be soft, mine always ends up with a hard crust. Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge. Wish you were next door, but since we're miles apart I guess via blog posts will have to do. God Bless

  5. Happy Momma -
    Try brushing with butter immediately after taking them out of the oven. It gives the loaf a nice glow too!


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