The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Bread dough rising?

katiecooks815's picture

Bread dough rising?


I have a question regarding dough rising ... 


I am making a bread dough recipe. After the initial 1 1/2 hour rise after mixing, the recipe has me shaping the dough into balls and letting the balls rise for 15-30 minutes. After that, I shape the dough balls into loaves. 

It works just fine but I am curious about the science behind it - why do you need to shape the dough into balls first? Couldn't you shape them right away into loaves, pretzels etc.?

pmccool's picture

It matters more for breads that are baked without a bread pan or other container, Katie.  Even so, panned loaves can also benefit from pre-shaping.

1. The structure of a well-formed loaf is dependent, in part, on having a tight gluten sheath.  In other words, you want the outer skin to be tightly stretched so that the loaf doesn't flatten out during its final fermentation and baking.  Note that this doesn't apply to loaves having little or no gluten content.

2. It's easier to pre-shape, then let the dough relax somewhat, and then proceed with the final shaping than it is to do the entire shaping process in one pass.  The gluten network in the dough tends to become more elastic and less extensible as it is worked.  So, do part of the shaping and give the dough a chance to relax.  That way, the dough won't "fight back" as much in the final shaping step.

3. All of which makes it easier to obtain the shape and size you want in a loaf, while building in the strength that it needs.

Did that help?  Or did it add to the confusion?