How to shape wet dough

The secret to our method is having a nice wet dough. This allows us to store the dough and make a beautiful loaf. One of the most often questions is how to successfully shape the wet dough into a nice neat ball. If your loaf is not shaped well, it may spread out and be too flat or it will bake in a shape you just didn’t intend. Even if your dough is super wet, even wetter than we intended, within reason, it can still be successfully shaped and bake into a gorgeous loaf. We’ll show you how in this video. The trick is using more flour than you may think is okay, but as you’ll see we aren’t working the flour into the dough, we’re just using it to keep the dough from sticking to our hands. As we gently handle the dough we add more flour. This allows us to shape, without overworking the dough. I didn’t use a Bench Scraper in this video, but it is a great tool for keeping the dough from sticking to your hands.

The dough in this video is the Master recipe from The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, but this method can be used for any of our doughs.



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108 thoughts on “How to shape wet dough

  1. I only bought the lame because I was having so much trouble with the serrated knife and I figured it must be that I need the proper equipment! I don’t get it. The bread itself comes out great, even with my botched and inelegant scoring, so I don’t think I’m preparing the dough wrong. I use a scale and I’m very careful. I have the same problem with other people’s sourdough recipes as well. The videos show them effortlessly scoring patterns into the shaped dough with zero tearing or pulling, drawing intricate patterns of slashing large ears, etc., but when I go to do it to the dough . . . well, it’s not like that.

    1. Our wet dough just doesn’t behave like traditional dough–you may have to adjust your expectations (or dry out the mixture so it’s more like traditional dough–but you won’t be able to store finished dough at that point).

  2. You just solved one of my HUGE problems. I feared adding more than mimimal flour at this point was taboo. I’m ready to bake. THANK YOU.

  3. Thank you! It worked for me, but I still want it a little higher and with more air pockets.
    And or what can i expect for the ratio of diameter to height after baking?

    1. Bigger holes? Try aging the dough for longer; the white dough can go 14 days. I love it at about 7 days. The holes enlarge, but you may find more sideways spread as the dough “loosens.” A one-pound loaf of white dough, baked as a free-form round, should be about 3 inches tall. The diameter, if all’s going well, should be about 6 or 7 inches.

  4. Using the challah recipe the dough was super sticky after rising in refrigerator overnight. Do I need to add more flour and knead it? I haven’t made this recipe in awhile and don’t remember it being this sticky.

    1. We have a bunch of different challah recipes. Which recipe are you using, from which book and page number?

      1. The new artisan Bread in 5 minutes a day page 296. The first loaf wasn’t so good but I put the dough back in refrigerator for a few more hours and tried again. It was better the second.d loaf but I used the turban recipe for that

      2. Okay, that’s the standard recipe. If you made it in the butter version, it definitely is easier to work with when you keep it refrigerated a little longer. It’s much looser when it’s warm. It sounds like you might prefer the recipe a little dryer so you could take out a couple tablespoons of water, if this continues to be a problem. I can’t explain why this didn’t happen when you’ve tried the recipe in the past.

  5. Jeff, I did move to Florida so maybe humidity is a bigger factor than I thought. I will try a little less water next time.. thank you.

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