The Fresh Loaf

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Rest after shaping: I don't really get it

JeremyCherfas's picture

Rest after shaping: I don't really get it

I've read all I can find about the need to rest the dough, generally on the counter, immediately after shaping, in order to let the dough relax. But I confess, I just don't get it, especially with wetter doughs. If I have shaped a round ball and I leave it sitting on the counter for 10 to 15 minutes, it spreads out and becomes a domed pancake. Well, I exaggerate, but you know what I mean. At that stage, I can round it up and try to tighten the skin by repeatedly stretching it down and around, but it doesn't seem to give noticeably better results than just putting the original rounded ball into my cloth lined bowl.

Am I missing something vital here?


fancypantalons's picture

This is an educated guess, but:  When you let dough rest, the gluten has a chance to relax.  If you then put that rested dough in the oven, the gluten won't fight back against the oven spring, so you should get better spring.

If that's not the case for you, then there may be other factors limiting the oven spring you're getting (eg, not baking on a stone, not steaming the oven, incorrectly timing the proof before the bake, etc), and once those have been fixed, you might find you get better spring after resting.

But that's just a guess. :)

JeremyCherfas's picture

I get plenty of oven spring, even though I don't rest the dough after preliminary shaping. This is about the rest after the bulk fermentation, not after the final proofing.

My technique is to tip the dough gently out of the bowl in which it bulk fermented. Shape it for a boule or longer loaf and then pop it into a basket or onto a cloth to proof before baking. Many books say to rest between preliminary shaping after dividing the dough and final shaping for proofing, but I don't seem to need to.

I guess I shouldn't be asking, giving that I am getting what I want from my daily bread, but I do also want to understand.


Neil C's picture
Neil C

Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice opines, " The  sole purpose of this stage is to relax the gluten after its workout during rounding so that it will be easier to handle during final shaping.

Therefore, the rule is not ironclad, and is based on whether or not the final shaping can be done immediately after the pre-shaping.

jennyloh's picture

I believe for wetter dough, in order to hold up the shape,  you may need to put either in a proofing basket or tin.  

I usually do not see resting after the shaping, only few recipes.  It is usually before the shaping to let the gluten rest before your start shaping it.  The final round will be proofing before baking.

OldWoodenSpoon's picture

his process of shaping his sourdough boules as a two-step process with a purposeful rest in between.  In the first step the basic shape of the dough is set, but it causes the gluten to tighten up.  The bench rest allows the gluten to relax, and then he does the same shaping a second time, a little gentler and a little quicker but tighter, and puts the dough down for proofing.  He states that the shape-rest-shape process is to maximize the surface tension on the dough.  In doing so, when slashed and baked the dough will then spring up instead of out.

I'm not sure how or if this applies to pan loaves, but it does make sense for boules and batards.  I use the technique on my sourdough recipes with what I think is pretty good success most of the time.

One man's opinion (Daniel Wing's opinion that is).


The Roadside Pie King's picture
The Roadside Pi...

If you are shaping into a round ball, there is less need for the rest. However if the shape you wanted was a batard or a long loaf then you would rest it after shaping the ball then continue after the gluten has rested to go to what ever shape you want. Also if while shaping the ball you notice a lot of resistance it would be wise to stop, let the gluten relax then continue to shape your ball.

Thats what I learned from BBA


Chausiubao's picture

If you're completely done shaping, theres nothing to do but proof and bake. In a sense a proof is a bench rest, but in addition to relaxation, there's fermentation going on. 

But then, that is only true if you're completely finished shaping your dough. If not, then the bench rest is for easier final shaping as others have said.

yozzause's picture

Hi Jeremy when you take the dough initially especialy if it is to be divided up and you scale it up you end up with irregular shaped lumps. therefore we usually hand up into a regular round shape then let it relax and recover, if you continued there is a risk of tearing the dough which will show in the finished product it will also be less able to hold the gas being produced because of the gluten strands tearing. Of course with a large batch of dough by the time you have handed up a bench full of dough pieces you are able to go back to the start and do your final shape or mouid what ever that might be.
If you only have 1 or 2 loaves to shape then we let the dough recover. of course if you are aiming for a bread that has biger holes etc then less handling may well help and just a quick fold under will suffice.
regards Yozza

JeremyCherfas's picture

The comments all make sense to me. I guess what I really ought to do is a comparison of my bread under my conditions, resting one and not another. But I'm not sure I really care that much. :)


Arbyg's picture

A nice bench rest is another build in fermentation and strength it will also give you a more open crumb, when I want a really tight crumb I reduce bench rest. Next time u make a batch of dough notice the nice light popping sound the dough makes after the bench rest if u skip this gas will be less evident, in the end of course do what works for u