The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

shaping and proofing: shaping tips for well-aerated boule center?

fractious's picture

shaping and proofing: shaping tips for well-aerated boule center?

i made a sourdough using approximately the hydration ratio and method described in susan's by now famous sourdough recipe. i liked the result a lot (see photos and details here) and am now trying to make it even better.

one minor nit is that the edges of the boule were well-aerated (possibly even too much so), but the center (though still aerated, with some irregular holes) had a much denser crumb. i would like a well-aerated crumb throughout. any tips on what to do during shaping to get a more uniform, highly-aerated crumb throughout? i used (again approximately) the shaping instructions contained here.


ehanner's picture


I'm a bit confused. Your loaf looks good to me inside and out. You mention Susan's sourdough but link to an outside page of instructions. Then you link to a sales site for what appears to be a new product you are marketing.

I suggest that if you want to introduce your baking pot that you do so with flare and up front. Write a new post introducing your product, telling us a little about yourself and the process by which you make these. It's a one time courtesy on a free bakers forum that the members are subjected to commercial offerings. In my view, a covert marketing post is an inappropriate thing to do on a forum that specializes in helping people learn to bake. I'm sure we would all like to see regular posts of your personal  breads, regardless of how they are baked.


PS: Nice Pot BTW.

fractious's picture

dear eric,

judy's making the pots and i'm testing them for her on shaped loaves -- i'm not getting paid by her, though i did get a test cloche for free (so far anyway). i've posted on the freshloaf previously (in fact, addressed directly to susan) and indicated that the pots were for sale by someone else, and neglected to note this in this posting. sometimes i forget; sorry about that.

i have every intention, once i figure out how to bake well in one of judy's cloches, to write a full review of the thing and post it to the fresh loaf. this whole process of figuring out how to achieve completely uniform aeration within the boule is part of getting to that point. i link to the external post (which i wrote, on judy's blog) because it describes what i did to bake the bread and susan's sourdough is all over the fresh loaf already so linking back to that recipe (which is also given in my account of what i did) seemed pointless. in case it isn't pointless, here is the link to susan's sourdough.

re: the crumb, there should be no confusion. david's right about the problem. the aeration in the photo is great, but it is the aeration of the edge of the boule, not the center. (i have no beef with the crust btw, since it is awesome.) in the center, the crumb is much denser than at the edges (though still good) with far fewer large holes. here, for even more clarity, are two photos of a slice at the edge and at the center where the variation in aeration is quite evident.



dear david,

good idea about dough temperature. i will try to let the whole loaf come up to room temperature before baking it next time. my issue with that really is that with a high hydration loaf, letting it warm up also means having it spread out. i'd also like to avoid letting it proof in a form (which everyone else seems to do) because the dough invariably sticks to whatever i'm using as a form (and i've tried flour rubbed linen etc etc). any thoughts on that?

belfiore's picture


Several of the wonderful bakers here @TFL suggested rice flour for couche, baskets & brotform and since I tried it I have not had dough stick to anything! I've found the trick is to be very generous with dusting whatever you're going to use to proof the loaves.

Hope this helps with that and I think the baking pot looks interesting enough to try. I've been juggling spray bottles, steam pans, baking stones and turkey roaster lids trying to find the right combination to get bread to look as good as your's does. As a beginner (me not you all) it can get frustrating to invest several days worth of work, do all of the tricks and not get the desired result. Thanks for sharing!


fractious's picture

i'll try that again and use more of it. i've used rice flour a few times previously, without much success. dough stuck less, but still got stuck. 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

the dough needs some folds during the bulk rise.  That distributes the bubbles better evening out the temperature.  The shaping is a continuous process  that is done all during the rise at aproximately 45 minute intervals several times before the final shape and proof. 


richawatt's picture

I agree with the folding. you will get good holes and rise if you have good strong yeast,evenly distributed throughout the dough.  Try disolving the yeast in your water before the mix, and or using a preferment like a poolish that you let go for 12 hours or so.  or just start using sour doughs. but as far as the shaping...with pratice you will find what works best for you, but I will turn the dough out from what it is fermenting in,beinbg carefull not to de gass it, then I will weigh it out and pre shape it.  For a boule, I will do a rough ball.  I strech the top ever so slightly, just enough so it holds it's shape and dosent loose gass.  Then after a 10 - 20 min rest I do the final shape, once again being careful not to de gass it too much.  I lot will come out, and the dough will be about half the size from the bench rest,  but it should have a nice tight skin and be placed skin side down in what ever you are proofing in.  in the bakery I work in I use wicker baskets from the dollar store and some natural unbleached un died cloth from the fabric store.  then just proof and bake like usual.  make sure you have a nice hot  and thick stone to bake on.  pizza stones are not good enough.  not thick enough.  use some fire brick or un glazed quary tiles from the depot.  this is very important to getting a good oven spring,and a nice open crumb.  good luck!!