The Fresh Loaf

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Shaping boules

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ryan's picture
ryan

Shaping boules

Hi Everyone,

 I'm currently baking a country levain raised bread. Every time I shape it the seam always seems to come apart. Does anyone else have this problem, and potentially a solution?

During my bulk ferment I do lightly oil the dough (is this detremental to shaping). 

I shape it and bench it for 15 minutes before final shaping. I do let it rise in a banneton.

 Thanks for your help and happy baking,

 

Ryan

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Ryan,

I've experienced the same problem with boule shaping, especially with country style miche recipes I like to do. I can't say I've solved it completely, but here are some things that seem to help.

I usually do a good portion of the shaping upside down at the beginning. The benefit is that no counter dusting flour touches the eventual bottom of the loaf during the early shaping, which keeps the seams moist. I gather in the sides toward the center and squeeze them together. Then, I turn the loaf right side up, but I put it down on a spot with minimal dusting flour - just barely enough to be able to pull the loaf back up to drop it in the banneton. I do some final fine-tuning of shape and tensioning, trying not to gather dusting flour into the bottom of the loaf.

Once it is fully shaped, I let it rest on the counter for 10-15 minutes before putting it in the banneton. The seams have a chance to seal under the weight of the loaf that way. Using minimal dusting and letting it sit to seal seams may result in the loaf being stuck to the counter, but I've always been able to gently but firmly peel it off the counter and drop it in the banneton.

Bill

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Ryan,

Bill is really the master here and I use his technique with a slight addition. The hydration matters when talking about having dough split open at a fold. Excess flour will prevent the bottom folds from bonding. You are correct I think that oil also forms a layer that prevents the dough from being sticky enough to bond to the folded layer. I started using a brush to help remove excess flour when shaping. Just a few swipes with a pastry style brush or a cheap glue brush removes most of the powder and helps the seams close. I learned this watching a video of a fellow making croissants. He brushed every fold before sealing and it works like a charm for me. The oil is a little harder to fix.

Search for Bill's shaping video. He has a clean hands technique what uses wet hands that is amazing. That's what I use for shaping rye's.

Eric

ryan's picture
ryan

Bill,

Would you mind posting the link to the boule shaping video on this page please? I think it'd be helpful.

Thanks to you and Eric for your responses.

 Happy Baking,

Ryan

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Ryan,

This is the only video with boule shaping in it, unless I forgot something. Eric, if this isn't the one, let me know. This is not the classic approach, so maybe someone can post a more traditional boule shaping process for us.

The dough in the video is very slack, so it may have some relevance here. Anyway, you can probably tell from watching it, the truth is that I wasn't very comfortable with the condition of the dough when it came time to shape. This was an attempt at a NYT-no-knead-SD-conversion, my first try at it (and last, so far), so it hadn't been folded much or at all, if I remember right. As a result, when I turned the dough onto the counter, it seemed very, very slack, and after stretching it out a little and attempting to handle it, it became clear to me I wasn't going to be able to shape it right side up, so I folded it and went to the upside-down technique you see at the end. I was worried I had overhandled it, and to some extent it is a deviation from the "fold a couple of times and dump it in a bucket" concept of a no-knead. However, when I read the actual recipe it didn't seem way out of tune with the suggested method in the recipe article. Note that when I turn it right side up, I put it on a spot on the counter with very little or may no flour dusting on it.

When I do my miche boules, which have about 1.5 Kg of flour in them, they aren't as slack when it comes time to shape, as I fold them along the way and they aren't quite as slack to begin with. However, the technique is very similar, except I just start immediately with the upside down shaping, turn it over, let it sit a few minutes, then fine-tune the shape, and tension some more, then let it sit about 15 minutes, then drop in banneton, seams up.

I agree with Eric that a pastry brush is very useful to clear flour. I also use it before scoring and baking to clean off all the flour and bran I use to dust the loaf before it goes in the banneton.

One other somewhat dangerous technique is to ever so lightly spray the bottom of the loaf with water (while it's upside down) using an atomizer. It has to be an extremely fine mist, or you will adversely affect the bottom surface. However, if it has become dusty and dry and you can't get enough of it off with a pastry brush, then it's a way to recover to a slightly stickier surface on the bottom of the loaf that will cause the seams to stick better, as long as it is only the very smallest quantity of moisture, literally a very fine mist that descends on the bottom of the loaf and that's it. However, I have no flour on the bottom if I just start by turning the loaf out onto the counter upside down to begin with.

Bill

ryan's picture
ryan

Bill,

Thanks, it was instructive.

I do a kneaded sourdough of 68% hydration so I think that perhaps I'm demanding too much from my gluten, so I think the problem is with my patience and more gentleness with the way I treat my dough.  As well it's possible that the dough isn't rising enough during the first bulk ferment, thus obviously not helping elasticity.

I did however find your actually technique of shaping the dough good, and will be trying it on my next bake day.

 

Thanks, happy baking

Ryan

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Ryan,

Can you elaborate on what you mean when you say you are demanding too much from the gluten? Are you kneading by hand? If so, folding the dough at least a couple of times during the bulk fermentation can be extremely effective to develop the gluten over time, as it ferments. Also, with sourdough, I've found that shaping when the dough has risen by something like 160 to 180% of it's original volume works well. I've had better luck shaping fairly early before the dough has fully doubled in volume, in other words. The dough should be puffy and clearly should be in the process of rising vigorously when you turn it out to shape it, but it's fine to shape well before it has fully doubled.

Bill

ejm's picture
ejm

I shape boules in a similar manner. The only big differences are

  1. I use my dough scraper to make the initial envelope type folds.
  2. Before starting the upside-down part, I hold the partially shaped boule in my cupped hands and pull the dough down and under, pinching it shut. (I hope this is making sense!) Just before putting it on the peel to rise, I turn it over and make sure it really is pinched shut then sprinkle a bit of flour on the parchment papered peel and place it seam side down to rise there.
bwraith wrote:
I've had better luck shaping fairly early before the dough has fully doubled in volume, in other words. The dough should be puffy and clearly should be in the process of rising vigorously when you turn it out to shape it, but it's fine to shape well before it has fully doubled.

This has been my experience lately as well with bread made with captured yeast (sourdough). When making commercial yeast slackdough bread, I often let the dough almost triple before shaping it. It doesn't seem to suffer at all. But the natural yeast seems much more finicky and just stays flat if the dough is allowed to come even close to over-rising.

Bill, is that water in the small white bowl behind the bag of flour? What is in the ziplock bag that you dipped into just near the end of the video? (Corn meal? Rice flour?) And does the rising shaped loaf touch the inverted bowl placed over it? If so, how do you stop the loaf from deflating when removing the bowl to bake it?

-Elizabeth

P.S. The video keeps stopping just as you are zipping the giant plastic bag shut; from the settings, it looks like there are 20 seconds more (but it also looks as if the video is done).

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Elizabeth,

Yes, water is what's in the container that I dip into occasionally to get rid of stickiness on the scraper or my hands. I usually don't use a lot of flour and am more of a wet hands and counter person, although I usually turn my dough out for the later folds onto a lightly dusted counter - much more light than in this case. The reason for more flour in this case is that I didn't really know what this dough would be like, since I was trying this NYT no-knead SD conversion for the first time. So, I didn't want what would become the top of my loaf from a very slack dough to stick to the counter and went fairly heavy on the flour, more like what you might do with a ciabatta.

I also used quite a bit of flour on the parchment paper for similar reasons - just not sure how the whole thing would go and didn't want to get into trouble with a very wet dough somehow soaking the parchment and creating "a situation".

The flour I used to dust the parchment paper was probably semolina, if I remember right.

The rising loaf would not have come close to making it into contact with the bowl, at least I don't think so. It was meant to be big enough to allow for a full rise before dropping it in the Dutch Oven.

As I mentioned above, the context of this video was a documentation of the process I went through on my first try at a sourdough conversion of the NYT no-knead recipe, so it wasn't meant as any sort of demo of the "right technique". Those NYT no-knead conversion videos, if anything, showed the difficulties you encounter when you're not sure what's going to happen when trying something new.

Bill

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Ryan,
That link Bill posted is a good one plus he has a few others you can see from the page. Bill is being modest, his videos are very helpful.

My favorite is the home milling one. It's the dancing buckets that gets me, can't stop laughing!! I'll bet you were quite the inventor as a kid Bill.

Eric

JERSK's picture
JERSK

   I watched Bill's video on boule shaping and it is quite different than the way I've done it and what  usually range 67- 70+% so 68% shouldn't be a problem. Let me see if I can describe. Flatten the dough out slightly and pull up 4 corners to make the belly button. You can let it rest, covered by a bowl on the counter, for 15-20 minutes at this point, bottom up. With a higher hydration you can usually skip the rest period. Have a bench/pastry sraper at hand. Dust the counter really lightly. Much less than shown in the video, or not at all. You need the frcition of the counter top. I usually dust my hands so the dough doesn't stick to them. Put the dough, belly button down on the counter. Cup your hands and drag the ball towards you. Pick it up, turn it slightly and drag it towards you. If it sticks, pick it up with the bench scraper and maybe add wee bits of flour. Keep repeating this turning and dragging until there is a tight skinned ball of dough. Always keep the belly button down. Don't roll it around. It only takes about 20-30 seconds or so, maybe 10 drags. The friction from the counter seals the belly button and pulls the dough tightly from the top.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

The video wasn't really meant to be a demo of how to shape a boule, so I hope it won't be taken that way. I was really just trying to document how I went about making that NYT-no-knead sourdough conversion recipe.

I think what JERSK describes is closer to the recommended approach.

I agree you shouldn't dust the area where the boule is set "belly button down". If you notice, I only turn the dough out with the top side down on the more heavily flour dusted part of the counter. That's to keep what will be the top of the dough from becoming stuck as it stretches.

Once I turn the dough over so the bottom is on the counter, it is set down on a spot on the counter that is not dusted at all, so that it will hold it's shape while the seams seal.

Bill