Basic Techniques: How to Shape a Loaf of Bread

Now that it's finally cool enough to turn on our ovens again, we're getting back into the habit of baking bread at home. Last weekend, we made a few loaves of sandwich bread to eat during the week. Here's how we shaped the loaves:1. The Finished Loaf - Here's what we're aiming for!

2. Shape the Dough into a Round - Start by shaping your risen dough into a round. Let it rest for a few minutes after you do this to give the gluten a chance to relax. This will make shaping the loaf a lot easier.

3. Flatten into a Rectangle - Use the heels of your hands to gently flatten the round into a rough rectangle. If the dough is sticking to the counter, sprinkle a little flour underneath. Try not to use too much flour, though, or else you'll have trouble getting the dough to stick to itself once you shape it.

4. Fold the Bottom Third Up - This part is like folding a letter! Fold the bottom third of the dough over on itself.

5. Fold the Top Third Down - Then fold the top of the dough down so that it overlaps the other layers.

6. Pinch Closed - Use your fingers to pinch the dough closed where the top layer meets the bottom layers. Don't forget the sides!

7. Fold the Dough Again - Our goal is to get the surface of the loaf as taut as possible. This will help the loaf rise evenly and keep its shape. If your loaf still seems a little loose after the initial folding, just fold it in half again and pinch it closed. We do this by pressing the middle down and drawing up the sides.

8. Invert the Loaf into the Pan - Roll the loaf over until the seam is facing down and then gently lift the loaf into your pan. The seams should be on the bottom with the tight surface facing up.

9. Let the Loaf Rise - The loaf is ready to bake when it starts to peak over the rim of the pan. Slash the top with a serrated knife or a razor blade so that it rises evenly in the oven, and bake!

Is this how you shape your loaves or do you have another way?

Related: Essential Kitchen Tools: Bread Baking

(Images: Emma Christensen)

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