i shape my dough right after punching it down after the first rise. i guess the best way to prevent air bubbles would just be to be as careful as you can when shaping and kneading. just be as thorough as you can while kneading.
Sarah is a trusted source on General Cooking.
Punching it down well will help. Also developing a very taut surface throughout the kneading and shaping process - yeast will make a shape (i.e. an air bubble or other awkward lump) unless there's a shape to fill (a nice taut "skin" of gluten to rise evenly against)
Sarah, that seems like good advice...and I will try it...I am wondering if you roll the dough w/ a pin or use your palms to shape it into a loaf, and do you use folding technique or rolling into loaf shape and do you ever knead it a bit after punching it down?
I've always shaped with my palms. I'll take a shot at explaining but it's like one of those exercises where you have to describe how to make a peanut butter sandwich - much easier to show than describe! :)
When kneading, use quarter turns and fold the dough into the centre on itself then push away. The centre, where the folds meet, becomes the "key". Once kneading is finished you want to try to close the key by turning the dough over and using resistance from the kneading surface, with your palms cradling the dough tightly, to pull the ball towards you. You'll see the skin of the dough stretch around and make a nice taut surface.
After punching the dough back, you don't need to knead again but you do want to shape using the same principles. Punch the dough into a rectangle and stretch the dough from the two long sides into the center. There are other ways to shape the loaf but regardless...Turn over and close the key making the surface stretch again.
Hopefully that made some kind of sense - perhaps check out a dough shaping video on you tube, or if you really want to geek out find the book Bread Science
I LOVE baking...and feeling out on this is great idea! Thanks so much Sarah...I will definitely watch this video...I watched a couple but they were amateur hour....
The 0:49 sec mark of this video shows what I was trying to say about "using resistance from the kneading surface, with your palms cradling the dough tightly, to pull the ball towards you".
<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pmTPL2J8OZk" target="_blank">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pmTPL2J8OZk</a>
I would probably try to create more tension when folding into a shape than what it seemed like they were doing here, but play around and find whatever works for you.
Also check out Peter Reinhardt's books, especially The Bread Baker's Apprentice- excellent theory and probably more accessible/readable than Bread Science. Great photos too.
I prefer the "fold under and pinch method" this allows for a nice smooth surface and an even rise.
I usually rough-shape the dough into a rectangle after the first rise, and then fold over 1 inch at a time, pounding the seam with the palm of my hand. That works fairly well if I'm going to use a pan or just bake it on a stone.
If you like a square sandwich loaf, I would recommend investing in a Pullman (or pain de mie) pan.
I have been considering, but with my epic fails at not getting the air bubbles out, the loaf pan doesn't seem to be the problem of the moment. I actually made two loaves of oatmeal wholewheat bread, one looked stunning,picture perfect, the other was like a sad lump..turns out the picture perfect loaf was anxiously cut open, after waiting endlessly, and sadly there was a large gap between the crust and the rest of the loaf.....sigh....
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