The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

How to improve my shaping

mizrachi's picture

How to improve my shaping

Over the past few years my bread has gotten better and better.  I am so much more comfortable in all aspects of baking but I seem unable to improve my shaping techniques.  Would a class be the best way to get better in this area or is there some other recommendation to help me with my shaping skills.





lazybaker's picture

Can you watch videos on youtube? Just do searches on bread shaping, and you will find some videos on how to shape bread. I learned that creating a tight surface tension helps in make the bread rise better. Always fold and seal.

G-man's picture

I second the suggestion that you watch videos. They've helped me immensely! Actually, TFL has a link up on the top bar there that says Videos, click that and you'll find a large variety of excellent videos. Pay attention to the ones by Mark from Back Home Bakery, he helped me improve my techniques quite a lot, and also Jeffrey Hamelman's videos. The series on shaping and slashing on the first page, posted by Larry, is also pretty nice for learning to shape different loaves.

tomsgirl's picture

I third that suggestion. I still have A LOT to learn but my shaping has improved greatly after watching You Tube.

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

Volunteer at a local artisan bakery. It took me one day to learn all of the basic shapes (the bâtard being truly a bâtard to learn well), but I volunteered three days. The other two days taught me just how unbelieveably hard (physically, repetitively) and monotonous (boring) the job of production baking really is. I decided to keep my day job.

gerhard's picture

The people running the bakery are taking a risk having volunteers work, Workers Comp. is a real bear and if someone that is not employed gets hurt they don't cover it so then you are dealing with your liability insurance and they will want to kown why someone not employed by you was in the production area.  It is more of a headache than it is worth.  Tours are another one of those things that present you with complex questions, you want to promote your business on the other hand you don't want people to get hurt, introduce contaminants i.e. pet hair, human hair, things they may have stepped in etc. and then there is always the possibily that there is someone in the group that would think it is funny to throw something into a mixer..........




thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

Or maybe as a temp. worker?

I forget exactly, but I had to sign the usual forms for employment and pay for supplies and uniform.

dmsnyder's picture

Hi, mizrachi.

I second the above suggestions, but taking a class would be the very best option. 

There is no substitute for shaping a large number of loaves under the direct supervision of a professional who is there to teach you. I have taken two of the week-long workshops at the San Francisco Baking Institute and recommend them highly. In addition to the outstanding instruction, you also learn from your fellow students, many of whom are experienced professionals looking to further refine their knowledge and skills. If a week is longer than you can afford, the SFBI also offers weekend classes that have also been found valuable.

I'm sure you would get similar endorsements from the other TFL home bakers who have taken these courses. Besides myself, txfarmer, Shiao-Ping and SusanFNP come to mind. I know there are others whose names I can't recall at the moment.


wally's picture

Mizrachi, as someone who now makes a living as a baker I'm with David and the others who recommend a course.  Yes, you can look at pictures and watch videos.  But the essense of shaping is learning to be comfortable with dough and especially with how much pressure to exert.  Too little and you get a loaf that won't hold its shape.  Too much and you get a very tight crumb structure when your goal was open crumb.  The best way to get there is through a class (unless you have a baker friend who will let you come into their bakery and tutor you) where you can observe a pro and then repeatedly practice what you've watched until you gain a sense of touch and confidence.

If you are on the East Coast King Arthur Flour is an excellent place to enroll into a course.

Good luck,


longhorn's picture

While one can get a lot out of videos there are subtle details that you cannot see in a video and handling perfect dough for several days can really help engrain what you are shooting for. It will still take work to find that magic point when you get home, but you will at least carry the experience. And great shaping is heavily influenced by having great dough to begin with. 

I highly recommend SFBI for I took their Artisanal I class. I am sure KA has a good class and there are other less visible classes that are no doubt fine. I don't think you will find a good class a wasted effort!

Good Luck!