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The Complete Guide to Shaping and Scoring Sourdough Bread

May 01, 2020 4 min read 1 Comment

The Complete Guide to Shaping and Scoring Sourdough Bread

Nothing is more delicious or more satisfying than homemade sourdough bread. From its crusty outside to its chewy center, this characteristically tangy loaf is the perfect artisan bread for beginner and pro bakers. However, just as important as the taste is the presentation. From how to score sourdough to the easiest shaping techniques, find the best tips and tricks for mastering all the shapes and scoring variations of sourdough bread in our complete guide below.

Why Bread Scoring and Shaping is Essential

Explore simple recipes for sourdough beginner bakers

Though shaping and scoring sourdough may seem to be a secondary element meant to please the eye only, it actually is a very important step in the baking process. The goal of the various sourdough shapes is to create a skin along the surface of the dough. The skin builds tension which not only allows the dough to hold its shape, but will also form the crisp outer crust that is key to delicious homemade sourdough bread. The defined shape of the loaf allows the bread to evenly expand in the oven during the baking process. Meanwhile, the bread scoring creates an opening in the skin to allow steam to escape and simultaneously controls the expansion, so the dough does not lose its shape.

how to shape a sourdough bread

The shaping and scoring will always take place after the bulk fermentation, also called the first rise.

Sourdough Shapes

When it comes to shaping homemade sourdough bread, there are a wide variety of loaf types bakers can use, ranging from beginner to advanced.

See various sourdough bread varieties

  1. Boule - One of the most common of the sourdough shapes is boule bread. Boule is a circular loaf with a domed top.shape a boule sourdough bread loaf
  2. Baguette - Baguettes are long, thin loaves that are shaped like a tube.baguette sourdough bread shape
  3. Baton - Batons are the same shape as baguettes, but shortened.shape a baton sourdough bread
  4. Batard - A batard loaf is also very similar to a baguette. It is an oval, but shorter and fatter than the baguette.a batard loaf


Shaping the bread

The first step to all sourdough shapes is to lightly flour the work surface and remove the dough from where it was resting for the first rise. Make sure to use just enough flour to keep from sticking to the surface, as too much flour could result in lumpy bread.

For boule bread, gently begin folding an edge of the dough into the center, rotating it slightly, and repeating the fold to the center with a new edge handful. Repeat the rotation until the circle is complete. Once the first circle is done, gently flip the form upside down, so the seam is facing the tabletop. Use your hands to cup the dough and finesse it into its final boule shape. Finally, gently put the dough inside a round banneton proofing basket to strengthen the shape.

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For Baguettes, batons, or batards, gently stretch the dough into a circle. The longer the loaf, the bigger the circle. Next, fold over the left side to the middle, then the right side to the middle, overlapping slightly. Gently press the fold down to seal them together. This method will create a long oval or tube shape. Adjust the length according to the loaf you want.

A 15-inch oval banneton is perfect for proofing baguettes while bantons can use the 14-inch oval basket. Batards would be best proofed with a 12-inch or 10-inchbanneton basket. 

No matter what loaf you choose to make, once the shaping is done, allow the dough to rise again for the second and final rise. A circular bread proofing basket will help the dough retain its shape for a boule, while oval bread proofing baskets are key for baguettes, batons, and batards. Banneton baskets significantly help provide a better rise while maintaining all your hard shaping work.

Scoring Sourdough

Finally, for those wondering how to score sourdough, the ideal time for bread scoring is right before the loaf goes into the oven, after proofing stage. A serrated knife or bread lame is best for making clean scoring lines. 

A long, vertical slash is customary for a boule, baguette, or batard loaf. On the other hand, short horizontal slashes can be used on batards, batons, or baguettes as well. For those desiring a little more creativity to their sourdough shapes, little diagonal slashes can be added to a vertical cut to create the appearance of leaves.

Creativity can be employed when making slashes to create artistic scores, as long as they are done thoughtfully, without overcutting the top. Too many slashes will ruin the integrity of the skin and the bread may not expand correctly.


Final Bake

shape and score sourdough bread shape

Bread shaping and scoring is a fun way to add elegance to homemade sourdough bread. No matter what variation of sourdough bread you experiment with, the key is to practice. With a little work, you will be shaping and scoring beautiful loaves with efficiency. The bake is on!

1 Response

Hazel J Weaver
Hazel J Weaver

October 14, 2020

Thanks so much for this, very clear and useful! My brother was wondering why he had a gluggly bit in the middle of his boule and we think (now!) it was cos he didn’t score it .

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