Introduction: Shaping Your Loaf
In every lesson in this course, we will be going over a dough forming technique after each bulk ferment.
For this classic white bread, we will be forming a dough into a loaf pan. Bread has a real tendency to get stuck to the pan in the oven. This can be prohibited by oiling and flouring the pan before you place your dough in it, but I prefer using parchment paper. Parchment paper doesn't introduce any oil into the crust and works as an even better non-stick agent.
To start, size a piece parchment paper for the loaf pan like pictured above, then place your loaf pan on top of the paper. Mark your paper where the loaf pan's corners sit.
Cut from the corners to the dots you marked on paper, and fold all of the newly created tabs towards the center of the paper.
Slide the folded paper into the loaf pan, and flour lightly.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, a countertop or cutting board is perfect, then throw a small amount of flour on the top of the dough you just removed from the bowl.
Pat the dough down into a rough oval. Then fold the bottom third of the dough towards the center of the dough, and rotate the dough 180 degrees. Stretch the dough nearest you toward your body, and then fold towards the top third of the dough. Take this dough-burrito shape and fold it in half one more time, pushing the seam into your work surface as you move across the dough.
When you have this long shape, give it a squeeze to shorten the length and then transfer ito the paper lined loaf pan. Press down onto the dough so that it is evenly distributed in the loaf pan. This also ensures that we have good gas distribution inside the dough. Cover with a barely damp towel, or slide the whole thing into an oven bag to prove.
Don't have a loaf pan? No problem! Instead, just transfer this shaped dough to a cookie sheet. This loaf will rise differently, expanding outwards instead of upwards. You'll also have to reduce your cook time by 5-10 minutes.
Allow to double in size once again, poking the dough every once in a while to see how it's feeling. A fully proved dough will spring back slowly after nudging it, feeling smooth and bubbly, but also still holding its shape. A good metric of readiness in a loaf pan is when the dough is doming about one to two inches over the top lip of the loaf pan.
Begin preheating your oven to 375 when your loaf has almost doubled in size, at least 20 minutes before you anticipate popping your loaf in the oven. When a dough goes through its secondary forming prove, the loaf can become over-proved if allowed to expand beyond double.