How to shape wet dough

The secret to this method is having a nice wet dough. This allows you 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 you don’t work the flour into the dough; just use it to keep the dough from sticking to your hands. As we gently handle the dough we add more flour. This allows you to shape, without overworking the dough. 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.

107 thoughts to “How to shape wet dough”

  1. Thanks for posting it! Such appropriate timing! That will help me as I mold my first batch of dough into a loaf for dinner tonight! Love the book!

  2. Thanks for the video! I was always afraid to use as much flour as you show here. I thought I wasn’t supposed to. Next time I will- that will make it much easier! 🙂

  3. Great video! Thanks for sharing this. As I loved watching how it started out as a boule shape and then worked out so nice and flat! I can’t wait for the 3rd book since I loooove pizza and flatbreads!

    [If you need any testers let me know. ;-)]

  4. Hi Jeff & Zoe
    A couple of months ago I mentioned I have a favorite commercial bread I’ve been trying to reproduce…Honey Wheatberry Loaf. Anyway, I think it is pretty good. I took the basic ww bread recipe from your book and used a couple of ideas from your wheatberry loaf and I think ww sandwich loaf and came up with the following:
    2 cups ww flour
    4 1/2 cups unbleached flour
    1/4 cup each soft wheat berries, wheat bran, wheat germ and cracked wheat
    1/4 cup vital wheat gluten
    1 rounded tablespoon Kosher salt
    1 1/2 tablespoons yeast
    3 cups luke warm water
    1/2 cup honey
    1/2 cup canola oil
    1/3 cup raisins.
    Pour boiling water over wheatberries and soak for a couple of hours. Drain. Take about a tablespoon of the unbleached flour and mix it with the raisins on a cutting board and finely chop the raisins with a sharp knife. Combine the flours, wheat bran, wheat germ, and cracked wheat with the vital wheat gluten, yeast and salt and the chopped raisins. Mix the oil, honey and warm water and pour into the dry ingredients with the wet wheatberries. Mix well. Cover and let rest for 2 hours on counter. I shaped my loaves at this point and placed them in 2 loaf pans (sprayed with Pam). Then I let them rest again covered lightly with plastic wrap for about an hour to 90 minutes. Baked at 350 for about 1 hour in center of oven with pizza stone on rack below loaves. Used hot water in the broiler pan. I posted a photo on Facebook HBin5 Fans -on Feb 26th. Maybe you might have time to try this recipe and give me any corrections you think might be necessary for a better loaf. I have not been baking bread very long (except in a bread machine in the 90’s). Made a few febble attempts to make classic type recipes without much success. Your books are fabulous and I love every thing I have made so far. See you in Tucson on the 14th!! 🙂

  5. Can I use a regular loaf pan to make the 10 grain bread? I like the artisan shaping but I make this for my mother who lives in an assisted living facility and she prefers the shape she is used to – at 90 I try to make her happy.

  6. Hmmm, that’s not very wet dough compared to what I end up with and what I assume others talk about. I’m talking dough that sticks to your fingers when you try to pull it out and would never cut like that because it sticks back together as soon as the knife passes through. (I cut in the container because I couldn’t lift it out with one hand and cut with a scissors–it’s too wet to lift w/o two hands!) And mine usually gets *drier* in the fridge, not wetter. Weird?

    1. Hi AnnMarie,

      Are you weighing the ingredients or using measuring cups. If you use measuring cups be sure to use the scoop and sweep method or you will end up with too little flour and a overly wet dough.

      The dough will get drier once it is refrigerated, but after several days of storage it will sometimes have some liquid separate from it.

      Hope that helps! Zoë

    1. Hi Roy,

      Are you referring to the steam in the oven? It needs to go in with the bread and is only effective for the first 8-10 minutes.

      Thanks, Zoë

  7. can the breads from your first book be made with less salt? and if so how much can one reduce the salt by?
    also i bought a covered emile henry pot to bake bread in, it’s ceramic… have you baked any of your breads this way and do you HAVE to preheat the pot? Cast iron is too heavy for my arthritic hands thanks

  8. I just found your site; fabulous, now I can get some questions answered and learn more stuff.

  9. Can you tell me the nutrition facts for your basic bread recipe, “Mater Recipe” white and wheat? mostly I am interested in calories and sugars. They are too delicious, thus probably not low in calories:)

  10. hi guys! I just got the book yesterday and I love it! Actually we met in San Fracisco, I was sitting in front of you two! 🙂
    okay. here’s my question: I bought a bread machine recently and I wonder if your recipes are suitable for bread machines. Is there anything that I should be aware of when making it?

    1. Coco: Problem with bread machines is that I’m not sure they have the capacity to handle the amount of dough you specify. And I’m also not at all sure that they’ll adequately bake such wet dough without the center being wet. Some of our readers use them to mix half-batches, but bake them free-form.

      That’s the main complaint about bread machines, the crust isn’t that good because everything bakes against a teflon surface rather than oven air. Jeff

  11. My dough looks like yours in the container, but after I let it rise, it rises very little even with a long period of time. It doesn’t rise much at all in the oven. What could be the problem.

    1. Carmine: Have you been through the “Dense crumb” FAQ on this website (see above). And be sure you are using unbleached all-purpose where are recipes call for white flour. And handle the dough as little as possible.

      Which of our recipes are you using? Jeff

  12. I bake my loaves in my cast iron dutch oven. I love everything about how it comes out except that the bottom of the loaf seems to cook too fast and sometimes gets even a little burnt. Any suggestions on how to fix this? Thank you!

    1. Hi Amy,

      Where in the oven is your Dutch oven when you bake the bread? If your heating elements are on the bottom of the oven the Dutch oven should be set at least in the middle. If this is not it, you can create a “pillow” out of foil that you will put the bread on. Just create a cushion of foil and lay it on the bottom of the pot. Place the parchment with the dough right on top of it and bake as usual. I do this when I am baking on the grill in the summer and it works wonderfully.

      Thanks, Zoë

  13. Jeff, Zoe and everyone,
    Has anyone tried adapting your technique using less yeast with a longer initial rise to enhance the flavor of the bread? I ask this in response to the recent piece in the NYT by Harold McGee.

    I’ve loved my loaves from your book but I haven’t tried the Lahey method, although I’ve watched the video on the NYT site several times.

    What are your thoughts?

    1. Sarah: Some of the published articles have really missed the point about our book– it’s not defined by its yeast quantity; that can be adjusted to whatever you like based on how long you’re willing to wait to bake the first loaves. The crucial difference in our recipes is that you STORE enough dough for many loaves- that’s what gives you the time advantage.

      So yes, per the post we did on low-yeast versions, you can radically decrease the yeast as we did in the “Low-Yeast” post found under our FAQs tab.


  14. Jeff: thanks for your answer. I was thinking to use the bread machine to make the dough and use your method to bake (steam and all). I just wonder if I should just use the recipe as it is, so I should increase/decrease any of the ingredients. Thanks

    1. Coco: Just use the recipe as written, given that you just want to use the machine for mixing purposes anyway. Jeff

  15. Thanks Jeff and Zoe. I agree with you, those articles missed the point about what your book does for us newly crowned bread-baking-queens (and kings). I love being able to bake bread every day with minimal effort and mess. I would NEVER be able to do it if I had to mix, rise and move the dough to a towel and then into the steaming cast iron pot every time I wanted bread. And then clean it all up. No way.

    But since I never bake the bread on the first day of mixing it up since I prefer the crumb on later days (I actually stagger two batches for this reason), I will give the lower yeast method a try to see what all the fuss is about.

    I’ll report back. Do you find the taste significantly better?

    1. Sarah: Well, truthfully, I don’t– I can’t perceive that flavor. We find that some people can tell, and most people can’t . Sounds like you are among the group that can tell, so definitely try a batch with lower yeast as in the post I sent you to. Jeff

  16. Jeff- I’m not claiming that I don’t like the flavor and I’ve never detected anything bad about the flavor– I was curious, really.

    We love your bread in this house!

  17. Sarah,
    Check out my “Head to Head Bread Test” on my blog at

    I made two simultaneous batches of AB in 5 master recipe, one using the amount of yeast called for in the receipe and one using very little yeast.

    In a blind taste test my family preferred the low yeast version 3 to 1, and it had a nice texture and crust. However, the low yeast version did not rise as well as the full yeast version despite longer proofing times.

    Since that post I’ve been experimenting here and there. Some of the AB in 5 recipes are fine with the full amount of yeast, you can’t detect much difference. But in lean doughs, less yeast is very nice, although I do use more than I did in the low yeast version in my blog test.

    Have fun experimenting to find your own perfect amount.

  18. I just got the King Arthur proofing bucket and the lid fits tightly. Should I put the lid on as it fits or just set it on the top? There is no vent that I can see. I’m very anxious to try your bread making way.

    1. Hi Helen,

      For the first 48 hours just lay the lid on top, but don’t snap it shut.

      Enjoy all the bread, Zoë

  19. Hi, I have a question: I just bought your book for whole grain baking and I was wondering if I really need a baking stone and if I could bake your bread without it.

    1. Katya: You won’t get a great crust on a cookie sheet but it will work (need to grease it). Try to get the loaf off the sheet 2/3’s of the way through baking and just finish on the oven rack to crisp up that crust. A great alternative to the stone is any cast-iron surface, even a skillet. Jeff

  20. Thanks so much for the video. Sometimes nothing beats being able to see a technique.

    I’ve gone through the dense crumb FAQ section as I was struggling with impossibly wet dough (that wouldn’t rise at all, just spread out like a slow stain; this after being refrigerated but before going in the oven). The fact that I live in France influences this, as I think I have figured out: the protein and moisture content of the flour’s different. (Thanks Veronica, for asking before me!) Having the weights is really helpful, and I am now going to try her weight measurements for the flour. Can’t wait to see a nice, full rise…

    After that, I can start practice my slashing (which, right now, looks me like dragging!) At least the bread tastes good!

  21. Hi, I thought I’d pass along an observation I’ve had after using the first book recipes since it first came out. Let me preface this with fact I have baked breads for 40+ years at home and as a baker for a school many years ago…so dough doesn’t intimidate me After studying YOUR book…I decided I would rather use the SAF Gold yeast which I use for sour or sweet/enriched doughs. I really didn’t think it would matter that much. Then about 6 months ago I ran out of this Gold yeast and just bought bulk name brand yeast at the grocery store. Same recipes…basic “instant” (not rapid type) bread yeast. DIFFERENT results were clearly noticeable in doughs that were reaching the end of their refrigerated time. In fact…I couldn’t quite believe it made such a difference so I kept using it the regular store yeast (to be frugal as well) and kept noticing the volume difference as well as the smell of the long fermented dough. SOOOO I strongly recommend the SAF GOLD yeast if your planning on using the long fermented dough, especially in a “loaf” type bread. I won’t use any other yeast now if I have any choice in the matter. BTW…Recently I bought another of the original book with bucket, dough wisk, and a lb of yeast for a newlywed couple. Can’t think of a better gift to give than a book with great simple bread that anyone can succeed in some fashion with. Wish I had such a book when I got married 35 years ago. I even made them a little video so they could see how I made their favorite bread as well as noted the book for any errata (my original book had quite a few little glitches) and link to the website so they could see your videos too.

    1. Teegr: glad to hear I’m not the only one who’s gotten hooked on digital video! Interesting about your experience with different yeasts, thanks for sharing…


  22. Hi Jeff & Zoe, Thank you for coming to Tucson today! I posted the photo I took of you at the demonstration on the FB fan page and also my own FB Wall. Trying to get more people interested in baking bread and buying your books 🙂

    1. Hi Georgeann,

      Wow, you are so quick. We had such a blast and were so happy to have met you!

      happy baking! Zoë

  23. Thanks for this video! I am usually pretty timid about how much flour I add. It’s nice to see that you’re so generous with it. Mine doesn’t usually stick, but if I want to go further with flatbreads, I think I will definitely have to use more flour.
    BTW, I have been adapting your concepts to my own challah recipe and have come up with my own – does the web NEED another??? – great challah recipe. It’s on my blog if anyone wants to check it out.

  24. Hello, I just made the multigrain bread and i did it as a 2lb sandwich loaf. My problem is that it didn’t rise very high and stayed a little dense. It was still delicious but I’d like each slice of bread to be taller so as to make a good sandwich with it. I did leave it out to rise at room temp in the loaf pan for maybe an hour or two longer than you said, and when i made slashes with the bread knife before putting it in the oven it deflated quite a bit. What can I do to make the sandwich bread taller?

    1. Jamie: An hour or two longer is too much, it overproofed. Try again with a 90 minute rest and see what you think. Also check out the “Dense loaves” question on our FAQs page above. Jeff

  25. Still working on the perfect loaf of 10 Grain for my mother. Is this dough less elastic when pulled from the bucket. Mine sort of breaks off. I can still form a loaf but wonder if I have the right proportions. Do I need to add more water or is drier, less elastic texture the nature of this dough? P.S. I think that you maintain this site and answer questions almost immediately is remarkable and greatly appreciated. Thanks!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. Sue, did you ever resolve the problem with very sticky dough that doesn’t seem to have the gluten stretch we see in the videos?
      I’ve had that problem always (whole wheat recipe and 10-grain recipe), even with weighing the ingredients and using exactly the types of flour called for.

      1. Hi Marion,

        You can try adding an additional couple tablespoons of vital wheat gluten to your recipe to increase the strength of the dough.

        Thanks, Zoë

  26. Off Topic!
    just made 10-grain again, topped it with the Harvest Grains mix from King Arthur, doubled the rise time (in a banneton), added 15 minutes to the bake time (on a stone) (i used half the recipe instead of 1/4) and we just cannot rave about this bread enough. We french toasted it Sunday, BLT’d it today, and now Jim’s having it with crunchy almond butter. Yummmmm. Only thing I’m gonna try next is to loaf-pan it, to get more sandwich friendly size. And we’re at 7,000 feet.
    Your recipes just never fail.
    Truly artisanal bread in 5 minutes a day. Truly.

    1. Marcia: I’m always a little flummoxed by the altitude question. Some people report trouble at high-altitude, so we did the high-altitude post (see the FAQs tab). Others, like you, say “no-problem.”

      Glad to hear it… Jeff

  27. I have both your books and love using your recipes. Occasionally when I bake a loaf of bread for the suggested amount of time and it looks golden and delicious is ends up being gummy (even when I let it cool). Is there a way to check with a thermometer? And if you can, do you have a suggestion as to what type and brand?
    Thanks a million!

    1. Bonnie: Try 205 to 210 degrees for lean doughs, and 185 degrees for egg-enriched doughs. Make sure the tip of the instant-read thermometer is in the center of the loaf.


  28. I have been making the soft whole wheat sandwich bread and we love it! My loaf always looks great going in the oven as it bakes I always have one side that has split the length of the loaf as it rose in the oven. What am I doing wrong?

    1. Nancy: Try to slash the loaf deeper to prevent the unpredictable cracking from taking over. Flour the surface well, and slash deeply (1/4 to 1/2 inch straight down, not at an angle) with a bread knife. Do the slashes crosswise (not along the length of the bread).

      But… this is hard to avoid. See what you think. Jeff

  29. Re: one week old dough. Today I was going to bake a loaf using the remaining dough-I found a lot of moisture had collected and the dough was almost runny (as you alluded to in your video) but I was afraid of using flour (ie more than a sprinkle on top) b/c you had said not to really incorporate any so I shaped the loaf as best I could (very sloppy) and put it on a cornmeal coated peel. The dough spread right out after the 90min-a gummy mess that there was no way I could transfer to the stone so I put it in a loaf pan and TRIED to bake it-no way-the middle was just all wet dough so I threw it out-very frustrating. So do I just do as you showed on the video (you were making pitas with it rather than bread) with the flour etc then see how it goes? This is the first batch of dough I have made as I recently bought your book and I don’t want to be discouraged!

    1. Myrna: No, you can use enough flour so it can be handled. Some will be worked in… but that’s fine, especially late in the batch life. Also, you can stop the resting time if you see that it’s spreading sideways too much– and into the oven at that point.

      But late-batch loaves will be trickier to achieve great domed loaves, and yes, may work better as pitas, pizza, or other flatbread. Jeff

  30. I am a newly addicted bread maker, and I have come across a question I can’t seem to find a direct answer to. I saw your email on the fresh loaf’s blog and thought you might be able to answer my question? I am working on a formula for pizza dough, and a home-brewer friend of mine suggested using dry malt extract (DME) for color and sweetness. I did a good bit of research, and from what I understand, Diastatic or Non-Diastatic malt powder is what most use for baking, depending on whether they want the added enzymes to feed the yeast or just the sweeting/carmelization properties.

    Do you know if brewers DME would be considered Diastatic (live enzymes) or Non-Diastatic? Or, is DME not really either? I am trying to figure out which would be best for pizza…I may have to do some trials, but I would really like to know if DME contains live enzymes or not, and most brewers that I’ve read posts from and asked have no clue (or give conflicting answers). Any insight you have would be MUCH appreciated! 🙂

    1. Hi Breanna,

      From what I understand the DME is a non diastatic malt and is used more for color and sweetness. I think this is what you want to try instead.

      If I find out more I will let you know! Thanks, Zoë

  31. Your breads are fabulous!!! I have been making bread for 40 years and have never been able to get anything comparable to European bread until now!! My husband and I both thank you!!

  32. I’ve seen the difficulty with the dough sticking in regular loaf pans mentioned a few times…I’ve been baking mine in my grandma’s glass loaf pans treated liberally with non-stick spray, and the loaves slide out beautifully!

    1. Becka: Well, the truth is, in many cases you can get away with it. The typical aluminum non-coated pans– then tend to just stick.

  33. I once made an error and added one full cup of water to the whole wheat bread recipe and the bread came out perfect. I was worried about it sticking to the peel, but like you I added a liberal amount of flour when I was shaping the bread. It came out perfect.

  34. I’ve been experimenting with the light whole wheat bread because I found the 100% whole wheat bread a little strong. I’ve made several batches and increased the whole wheat flour to 2 1/2 cups with 4 cups all purpose rather than 1 1/2 with 5 cups all purpose flour. we like this more than the original recipe.

    Has anyone else tried this and determined how far I can go with this. I also add a little extra water as I increase the whole wheat flour.

  35. Hi,

    I am wanting to make individual pitas, but I am not sure If I should make one initial boule and break it into smaller ones or make smaller ones initially.


  36. I just finished reading your book Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day and mixed a batch of rye bread last night, I am wondering how one uses the wicker baskets for proofing, does one bake in them also? I am not familiar with the artisan breads, I have been baking traditional bread since I was a child and would like to try this. I will still use my loaf pans since we do make sandwiches, but i would like to make the round and oval loaves but from what I understand the dough will keep its shape better with a basket.

  37. My bread is not cooking evenly. I get blobs of raw dough in spots. I have a wolfe oven with the bake stone. I have double checked every step along the way. It looks beautiful and smells great. The bread that is cooked tastes great but there are raw spots. Any great ideas? Thanks

  38. Dear Jeff and Zoe,

    First of all, I’m a pretty terrible bread maker. No 2 loaves ever turn out the same. Some over kneaded, some under… You get the picture.

    2 days ago I found your book in our local book shop (I live in Malaysia and what gets imported is sometimes pretty random) and decided to buy it since 5 mins prep is a HUGE attraction for someone who creates apocalyptic size messes during usual bread making efforts.

    In any case, it kinda mixed up ok, though I think it was wetter than your video. It was waaaay too wet to shape out of the tub the next day. So I just tipped some into a loaf tin and did everything else as instructed. Believe it or not, I got 3 really yummy loaves! I clearly did something not quite right, but everyone who’s tasted it loves it!

    Therefore, my question is this, can I just dump a whole lot of flour on during the shaping process to make it manageable? I understand I’m not to mix it in, but mine doesn’t get that nice stretchy texture all your videos show. In fact it’s texture is best described as drippy-stretchy.

    Thanks in advance! And I LOVE your book! Never thought bread making could be easy…


    1. You definitely can use as much flour as needed so you can handle it. Biggest issue in Asia is that flour is lower in protein (generally). So you may need to decrease the water a bit. Not sure how much though.

  39. Hello,
    I have a question regarding the conversions for using weight in lieu of volume.

    I have the new artisan bread in 5 minutes a day, and am using King Arthur flour (both white and whole wheat for the 100% whole wheat sandwich bread). I see that when using king arthur’s white flour you’re supposed to add 1/4c to the recipe. What about for the wheat flour portion with KA? And by the way, when you say ” add 1/4c,” does that mean for each pound called for in a recipe? I love using my kitchen scale, and would like to have a guide for how much to add when using King Arthur flours. Thanks so much!

    1. Hi Katie,

      Are you referring to the recipe on page 134 of the NewABin5? If so, there is no need to make any adjustments with KAF whole wheat flour for this recipe. The all-purpose white flour has a different protein count and therefore requires the additional 1/4c of water, but you’ll be fine with this recipe.

      Thanks, Zoë

      1. Hi Zoe,
        Thanks so much for the quick response! I’m using the kindle version, so unfortunately there are no page numbers! It’s the “100% whole wheat sandwich bread” recipe though (just before the American-Style Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread). So, from what I understand now, there is no need to change anything if using KA flour when the recipe calls for all whole wheat flour. But anytime (referring to all the recipes in general) it calls for all purpose white flour, is it necessary to make adjustments with the water when using KA flour? And if so, is there a certain ratio of water to add for the amount of flour?
        Thanks again!

      2. Hi Katie,

        Right, I forget that the kindle is ageless, but we’re on the same recipe. You should be fine without adjustments. Have you ever made our dough before? It may be helpful to start with the master recipe, just so you know what the consistency should feel like. The 100% whole grain doughs are a bit denser. Here is a post on how to adjust for a variety of flours in the recipes.

        Thanks, Zoë

      3. Hi Zoe!
        Yes, I had the first editions of the books, but it has been several years since I have worked with the dough. So this time I made a batch of each (100%whole wheat and the regular master) to get back in the swing of it. 🙂

        Thank you so much for the help!

  40. Thank you so much for showing how to shape the wet dough! Have your first book, Artisan Bread in five minutes a Day. Used to make Bread all the time when I lived in Burnsville, MN. Even had Neighbors asking me to show them how to make your bread. Then I moved and stopped making bread. Just recently started again and seemed I was making frisbees☹️ After watching your video , I am now going to try it again! Thanks so much!

    1. Just type that word into our Search Bar above and hit “Return,” and you’ll get right to the answer. Which of our books are you using, which recipe and page number?

  41. Unfortunately it didn’t work for me.. within 45 minutes of proofing, the dough spread like a cookie!
    Then reshaped it and put it into a loaf pan 🙁

  42. In the video, you don’t show the part where you scored the loaf. I find that I can get it looking like a nice firm ball of dough with the technique you demonstrate, but it is still not firm enough for me to smoothly cut into it with my lame. Is there a way to make a wet or highly hydrated dough firm enough for the lame cuts to go smoothly?

    1. I’m not crazy about the lame with our style of dough–it tends to “catch,” unlike typically-hydrated dough. So years ago, I gave up on lames, and went with high-quality serrated bread knives, cutting straight down into the dough (not trying to go at a shallow angle, the way I sometimes see for lame instructions. Our dough seals back up when you go at the shallow angle.

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