The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Getting cozy with my recipe but shaping needs work...

PastMyBreadtime's picture

Getting cozy with my recipe but shaping needs work...

First, a huge thank you to this community and all the useful knowledge being shared here. I've been baking sourdough since March or April of this year, and have come a long way from the dense, flat, disaster loaves of the early days. 

Recently I've been baking a loaf similar to the ones pictured, with the same proofing times. The specs, roughly, are:

30-35% Fresh Milled Turkey Red Wheat

70-65% AP or Bread Flour, depending on what I have on hand

80-85% Hydration

20% Starter (50/50 WW/AP @ 80% Hydration)

2% salt

I go for a longish autolyse, around 90 minutes, then mix in the starter and about 30 minutes after that I mix the salt. I use the Rubaud method for mixing during the starter and the salt introduction, which I feel gets everything really well mixed at that stage. After that initial ~2hr beginning period, I do around a 6-hour bulk ferment with several gentle stretch & folds and one "lamination" step that I've borrowed from watching the lovely baker FullProofBaking on Instagram. It's a great technique to test the strength of your dough and incorporate some air early on in the process. A 20-30min bench rest before shaping, then into the fridge before a 12-20 hour cold prove depending on my schedule. I bake straight from the fridge in a preheated dutch oven, 24 mins @ 450F w/ lid then 22 mins @ 410F w/o lid. 

So far I'm happy with the color and flavor I'm getting here, but know i need to work on my shaping as my last several loaves have come out uneven and not symmetrical. I tend to get a side blown out or the boule will rise out the sides rather than towards the top. The results are a little comical but still tasty. 

Does anyone have some useful tips or videos for better shaping? Do you feel that the preshape is a really important step to a nice tight boule, and if so do you have tips for preshaping a high hydration dough?

Any help is appreciated. For more pictures of my breads or to follow along on my journey into SD baking, follow my baking IG @



Our Crumb's picture
Our Crumb

Exquisite scoring, Lauren.  Works of art.  Don't be losing sleep over their shapes.  Since when should handmade bread be even and symmetrical?  This shape works for me (and Chad Robertson, obviously).  If symmetry imparts a flavor it's too subtle for this toad's tongue.  You've clearly pulled a nice tight surface and timed your fermentation for vigorous spring the way those scores grinned open.  YouTube has oodles of shaping videos.  Search and ye shall find.

I'm thinking you were keen to share your gorgeous bakes but too modest to say, "Aren't my breads beautiful!?!?" and opted for a random shaping query.  Good for you, on both counts.  Thanks for the pretty pictures.



PastMyBreadtime's picture

Thanks Tom! And yes I was excited to share my pictures as I feel I owe my success very much to this forum and finally felt I had something worthy to share. My question about shaping was still genuine - I can be a perfectionist and will be happy to see this issue improve with future bakes. I appreciate your recommendations, I'll check out more videos and keep working on it. 

Our Crumb's picture
Our Crumb

Yep, your scoring suggested perfectionism was also in play here - a nomination for TFL's Matisse Prize could be just around the corner (if there were such a thing).  That the skin of your dough allows such precision scoring also attests to pretty near-perfect dough handling.  Reminded me of some of Phil Agnew's artistry (search TFL for PiPs).


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

in lovely pictures!   :)

PastMyBreadtime's picture

Thanks so much! We had a really overcast morning yesterday in Portland, Oregon with a lot of fog and it made for great lighting on my kitchen table. I was happy with the photos for sure!

albacore's picture

This debate is a current hot topic on IG; the modernists are favouring the no pre-shape. I think Kat @not.a.crumb.left on this forum is currently a "no pre-shaper".

Personally I have found that I seem to get less spread and more loft with a pre-shape and 20-30 mins bench rest before final shaping. I do tend to make batardes more than boules, so I am applying the comment mainly to that shape.

I just take the divided piece of dough, pull up the edges and fold to the centre, turn it over and rotate while dragging to build a bit of tension.

PS: lovely looking loaves and great micro-scoring. I'm afraid I'd never have the patience to do that! Especially knowing it was going to get eaten!


PastMyBreadtime's picture

Thanks Lance. My pre-shape method is sloppy for sure; I just use a bench scraper and pull the dough around in a circle while tucking the sides underneath...with the hydration level I use it's sticky and tends to be pretty imperfect. I like the idea of doing a couple pulls towards the center and flipping it over. I'll try that next time! 

Also thanks for the compliment - the micro scoring takes no time at all. I don't use a lame, just a razor blade with a safety on one side, I do one or two quick rows of tiny lines, they look like little fern leaves and I'm not too careful about them because they do spread out so much in the oven. One final deep slash goes on after that and then it's time to bake.