The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

wonky boules

ericb's picture

wonky boules

Boules seem like the easiest shape to master, but mine always turn out wonky. Sometimes, there's a blowout on the bottom, causing the loaf to be lopsided like a eternally tipped teakettle. Others, an eruption is frozen in time as a billowing mass exploded from a scoring mark. Still others are nearly perfectly round, masquerading as grapefruits trying to escape the bread knife.

I think my methods are sound. When shaping a boule, I tuck the sides beneath the dough with cupped hands on all sides, constantly turning until tight. I proof it in a flour-lined bowl until poking leaves a dent. I turn out the boule onto parchment, score it like Mother Bates, slide it into the oven, and take bets on which deformity will ensue.

Would anyone mind sharing with me any tricks to getting a nicely rounded boule?




pmccool's picture


Take a look at the scoring tutorial in the TFL handbook.  It will give you some helpful tips on scoring for different loaf shapes, including boules.

Here's another link to some shaping and scoring videos at Northwest Sourdough, in case you want some pointers on shaping a boule.

Once you see what the basic techniques are, its mostly a matter of practice, practice, practice.  


xaipete's picture

Wow Eric, I've never had that happen. I'm no master at scoring, but what's round out of the proofing bowl stays round. I did have a recent problem with one stubborn boule that, apparently, wasn't too anxious to meet thermal death and tried to defy my attempts to dislodge it off the peel into the oven. However, my will prevailed and it went to the stone, albeit as a batard because of my shoving! But other than that I've had no problems with shape. It sounds like you are doing everything right.


leucadian's picture

It appears that the scoring is not working right.  Think about why scoring works in the first place: it provides a weak spot in the crust to accommodate oven spring. No oven spring: no problem. I would guess that the slashes open slightly, then bake hard, stopping further spring. Then one of the cuts opens explosively, or a bottom seam busts open, tipping the teakettle. So here's my list of likely culprits:

Violent ovenspring, causing all the expansion to go into the first place to crack.
Uneven distribution of yeast and food in the dough. Could this be a problem in mixing?
Oven temperature too low or dough too cold, causing the opened slashes to harden before all the oven spring has happened, forcing the dough to open up at random locations. Would a convection oven do this?

You might try moistening the loaf before purring it into the oven, or maybe Susan's inverted bowl or a cloche to keep the humidity high. You might also try the baguette trick of an angled slash, leaving an ear to protect the opening dough from premature hardening.You might consider a longer proof, to reduce the ovenspring.

Good luck. We've all been there.


gaaarp's picture

Eric, are you sealing your seams when you stretch the dough around to make the boule shape?  After shaping, turn the boule over (or into the bowl), and then pinch the seams nice and tight.  I don't know if that will solve all your problems, but it should keep it from blowing out on the bottom.


arhoolie's picture

I too had problems with boules blowing out on the bottom.  I've found that if I let the boules rest for 10 minutes or so after final shaping, that helps to seal the bottom seam and prevent the blowout.  Give that a try.



ericb's picture

Brian and Phyl -- you're probably right about sealing the seams. I think this is particularly easy to overlook with boules. Unlike batards and baguettes, shaping boules does not involve pinching the seam against the counter top. It seems like I can pinch all day with my fingers, but the seams just come apart. I will try leaving the boule on the counter for a few minutes to see if that helps.

I probably could use to proof my loaves a bit longer, too. I will also try brushing them with water before putting them into the oven (I'm becoming less convinced that steam in a home oven is as effective as in commercial ovens). 

Thanks for the suggestions. I'm planning on baking a ton of dough today, so I'll make a few of those into boules.