The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Best loaf shape for sourdough?

home_mill's picture

Best loaf shape for sourdough?

Are there any particular types of loaf shapes that work best for sourdough?

I most commonly see it in a Boule and second most in a Batard.

I have used both of those and I am tempted to try a loaf pan.

But it does seem that a Boule gives a certain desirable crust and crumb.

One problem I have with a Boule is it is hard to judge when it is time to go in oven since it's not obvious when it has doubled in volume.


dmsnyder's picture

Hi, Home_Mill.

As you say, I've mostly made sourdough into boules with an occasional batard. I've made baguettes with the same dough a couple of times. All are good. I've not made sourdough pan loaves, but see no reason not to do so.

Regarding how to tell when a boule is ready to bake: There are a couple of things you can monitor. One is volume expansion. This works best if you raise the dough in a banneton, always scale your boules to the same weight and keep track of how high it needs to rise in the basket to be just right. Another method which works regardless of weight or how you proof is to press a finger into the dough. A fully proofed loave should retain the depression you make and rebound very slowly.

I find different formulas do best with different degrees of proofing. Some published formulas are specific about how much expansion is "enough."

I hope this helps.


home_mill's picture

I tried using a loaf pan yesterday and was not happy with the results for two reasons:

 Crust was not as good as the Boule

When I did bulk ferment I got a strong rise faster than expected. After I shaped and put it in the loaf pan I got a weak rise barely to the top of the loaf pan and no oven spring. That was a dissapointment after the strong first rise. I am using 800g of dough.  

ClimbHi's picture

While it may not technically be considered a "loaf", I think pain de epi is my favorite shape for sourdough.

Just is. Dunno why.

I have some with me now that I was intending to eat for lunch, but now I'm thinkin' it won't make it past breakfast. ;-)

Batard is a close second.

Pittsburgh, PA

nguy78's picture

I don't think there is any one loaf better than another when it comes to sour dough bread, there are benefits to each type and a lot depends on what you are looking for. 

For the past 2 years I have been baking sour dough almost exclusively and have used the pan loaf frequently I like it better for luncheon sandwiches and it fits in my toaster nicely. 

                I have found that the loaf doesn’t get the sourdough crust that I adore unless I depan (is that a word?) the loaf half way through the baking cycle, once the crust is set (I use silicone loaf pans so it doesn’t stick).  I also don’t have to wait for the baking stone to heat up before I start baking, it takes less time to preheat the oven; I still use my stone but more as a heat battery than as a cooking surface.

                Hope that helps.

Janedo's picture

I do pan bread when the dough is so wet, I can't shape it and I do want a shape with lots of crumb. I did it recently with a spelt bread that otherwise would have just been a pancake. The result was incredible and of course, perfect for the toaster (as I am such a toast person!)

Otherwise, anything goes! It's all very subjective.


Oldcampcook's picture

I do sourdough in pans almost exclusively.  My "guinea pigs" are more familar with that shape than boules or batards.

That being said, I usually bake baguettes for home consumption along with a batard or two about every two weeks.

My Jewish Rye is usually baked free form in batard shape.  I like the crust on it better in that form.  I have  baked it in pans and do so frequently, but my personal preference is free form.

Richelle's picture

I use round pans quite frequently, not in the last place because I happen to have some that fit on top of one another (the top one upside down) and this works kind of like a Dutch Oven... it keeps in the steam and this creates huge oven spring and lovely thin crackling top crusts on all my breads. As I work with a gas oven, I'm very happy with this method, as making steam in the oven itself is a wasted effort.

I do bake lots of free form loaves as well, but mostly with yeasted loaves that ar a bit less wet.

Greetings, Richelle


Tacomagic's picture

I try to form my sourdough loaves like a very thick batard.  Usually only doing 2 or 3 seams, and not rolling it out very much afterwards.

In general I go for a loaf that is, at most, twice as long as it is wide, and very blunt on both ends; I sometimes even fold under any taper I see to get the ends to be thicker and blunter.  I usually end up with nice fat loaves that work very well for sandwiches. Ham and cheese on sourdough with a dollup of horshradish mustard... lunch is the highlight of my day at work on most days.


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