The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Shaping Sourdough Dilemma

Talal's picture

Shaping Sourdough Dilemma

Hi folks!

when i learned sourdough the initial technique i learned was after  the initial short fermentation , one would then shape the bread then let it sit for the final long fermentation. Then the baker would carefully " tease" the loaf out , and bake it as is. (method 1)

Ive also seen some other methods where after the final fermentation the baker would then roll it up and shape it . (call this one method 2)


My question is , which method is better for sourdough in order to maintain its lovely air bubbles? ive always done it the first method assuming you want to maintain as many of the air bubbles created in the process but then ive seen some lovely breads from folks rolling it back up and reshaping just before baking.

Today i did it the 2nd method as i tried a new longer ferment (24 hours) and the dough fell apart as i clumsily took it out of its proofing basket. SO  i figured , why not experiment !


Thanks for your help

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

OK, more info please...  Flour types?  Amount of starter to dough?  Starter hydration?  These are all relevant to how the sourdough is handled.  Each flour type and starter amount in the dough will influence the dough differently.  Also if the sourdough is a wild yeast or a pure cultured one.

drogon's picture

I started with something similar to your method 1, but had lots of issues with the dough sticking to the banetons after a long prove, so switched it round and have been doing it that way for some 2-3 years now. A typical day might be @ 9pm; Mix, knead then leave for the bulk ferment overnight, then in the morning (7am today) tip the dough out, scale/shape and transfer to tins/bannetons/couche as needed (I used 2 tins and have 6 loaves in the couche this morning) and they'll go into the oven at about 8:30.

24 hours seems like a very long ferment - unless you're controlling the temperature and keeping it low. At typical room temperature my dough would fall apart after about 14 hours. (that's the gluten giving up, resulting in a collapsed, sticky goo)

Do some searching for the finger poke test - that's the best way to check when the dough is ready for the oven - that'll help if you're using the 2nd method.

I couldn't say what's better for bubbles - not something I've particularly fussed over - I was more interested in making life easier and not having sticky banetons to clean out!


Talal's picture

Thank you both for your responses.


Mini Oven:

-pure red fife flour

- the main recipe is 300 g sourdough to 460 flour, but ive been experimenting and tweaking it a bit. last one was 370 sour to 390 flour and it was the best dough so far.

-starter is probably 90-95% hydration

-wild yeast sourdough




thanks again for your input. it did seem to me that the first method was not the best as i seemed to lose alot of air bubbles transferring it over to the pizza plank to slide on to the stone to bake.

I will try doing it the 2nd method more from now on , or rather your way. But i was always under the impression that you would lose all the air in it , but thats clearly not the case as yesterdays dough which was 24 hour fermented after reshaping and baking had the best holes of any thing ive made so far.

with regards to the long ferment, i totally agree i generally have been doing 10-12 hour or so, but i read some studies and some folks doing a LONG traditional ferment 24-30 hours and that this sort of long fermented bread is safe for those suffering from celiac or gluten sensitivity. Im not one of those myself luckily, but my wife seems to be a bit sensitive to commercial breads and such and i was hoping to see if this long fermented bread would suit her stomach well. It makes sense as the bread would be further predigested.

One thing that surprised me with this long ferment was the amount of liquid outputted , which makes sense i suppose. i generally proof in a little steel bowl with muslin inside it and cover it. This time the muslin was very wet at the bottom. As i took the douhg out last night it pretty much was falling apart almost so i reshaped and baked , thinking i was going to get a piece of brick due to the air bubbles lost but boy was i wrong!


So i guess the main lesson i learned from this, is you can shape after a long proof without worries, which will really make things easier for me now!


Any other thoughts or comments are more than welcome, thank you al



drogon's picture

Be very very careful if suggesting to people with Coeliac disease that your long fermented bread might be OK for them... Some very (very) small studies have shown that it is OK, but personally, I'm not going there until more studies have been done. I also avoid saying things like "gluten sensitivity". You either have Coeliac disease or you don't. (In the same way you can't be "a little bit pregnant"!) My experience suggests that people who fall into that category actually have a wheat intolerance and are just fine with gluten (my mother in-law for example - however trying to eat out with her is an issue at times, so going the gluten-free route is an easy way for her to be wheat free) Lookup FODMAP intolerances for more details...


You don't say how much water is in your final dough... I'm not a   big bubble chaser so 60-65% overall hydration works well for most of my breads - a typical recipe might be

flour: 100% (80% white, 20% stoneground wholemeal)

water: 53%

starter: 40% (white flour @ 100% hydration)

salt: 1.5%

or in real numbers: 470g flour (376 white + 94 wholemeal), 188g starter, 259g water, 7g salt. Overall hydration is 63%. That will slowly bulk ferment overnight at about 21C and 9-10 hours later can be shaped into a boule, (I use cloth lined round baskets now) left to prove for 1.5 hours then into a hot oven (280C) with steam for 11 minutes then down to 200C for another 25 minutes. Should yield a "large" (800g) loaf. I make about 6-8 of these a week. Mix, knead at about 9pm, up at 7am to scale/shape prove and in the oven by about 8:30, sometimes later, sometimes sooner. In the shop, still warm before 9:30.


Miredough's picture

Hi Gordon

I decided to try your process, unfortunately I was not a member yet, I had captured the post from someone else, and it took me a long time to re-find your post!  So 3 main questions here:

1, By mix and knead, do you mean you mix all at the same time (no hydrolyse waiting) and just knead a lot?  I ended up mixing, waiting 30 min, then kneading for about 4 minutes.

2. No stretch and fold (or coiling) at all throughout the entire 9 hours?

3. Isn't the total mass 924g?  how come you said 800g?  Or did I put in too much starter (188g seemed a LOT!)?


Talal's picture

Thanks for your tips Gordon. Im an herbalist with a strong background in nutrition. Ive tested this myself on a few people and have had great results so far. Definately is easier to digest but again it varies. Ofcourse i wouldnt just say to anyone celiac this will work for you, but rather suggest it as a possibility.

I  respectfully disagree with your thoughts on gluten sensitivity. Ive had none celiacs come back with an IGG test indicating antibodies to Giladin, gluten, wheat etc and have much better quality of life or no reaction when eating a good sourdough.  This indicates some sort of sensitivity to either of the above 3 or all of them depending on the patient. some it was specific to gluten or giladin.
 With an IGG test it was very exact.


With regards to the final dough i add roughly 235 ml of warm water forgot to mention!

I like the tempratures you go with Gordon! I think i need to experiment more with temps. i have just been going as hot as i can 500f on my stone, which is how pizzas are done, but it seems bread is not the same.

im going to try research a good article on this forum on tempratures and such! Please do point me in the right direction if you have one in mind :)

kind regards


drogon's picture

so your overall hydration is about 70%. As long as you can work the dough, that should produce nice loaves.

The temperatures I cook at are based on my experience and experimentation. There may well be articles here and elsewhere on it that I've read, but I don't have any bookmarks/references. I started the 2-step temperature thing after attending a day course on sourdough a couple of years ago and adapted it for my own needs and mostly stick to it. I don't with the Rye breads as they don't seem to benefit but I don't cook nearly as much Rye breads as wheat based ones.

With my newer oven, I'm experimenting with turning the temperature down as soon as I load it with bread and letting its thermal mass do the work - however its a dual fan oven and even with 2 fans going, there are still some hot spots, so turning the bread after 11 minutes is still a good idea.

I have 2 main bread ovens - one goes up to 250C (or used to go up to 250C, after I changed the thermostat recently it struggles a bit )-: The other will go to 300C and is a commercial oven with water/steam injection. It takes a while to get there though, so in the 45 minutes warm up it usually gets, it makes it to about 280C.