Knocking Back & Shaping Dough
During the first rising of your dough the yeast creates little bubbles of carbon dioxide which inflates the dough. It’s very difficult to shape the dough when it is like this so it needs to be “knocked back” or “punched down”. This makes the dough easy to shape and gives a much more uniform texture to the dough.
If the recipe requires more than one rising before shaping it’s easiest to punch the dough down in the bowl, cover and allow the rise to continue.
In the video I punch the gas out of the dough but you can achieve the same thing by putting the dough on a surface and repeatedly folding the dough on itself to expel the gas.
During shaping the idea is to stretch and align the gluten so that it forms a kind of “skin” over the dough. When it rises for the final time the dough should get larger but pretty much retain its shape just as if you were blowing up a balloon. The shape should also be maintained during baking.
For long loaves or rolls the dough is spread out into a rectangle and rolled up or folded over itself. This aligns the gluten strands around the dough. You can think of this as creating hoops of gluten. For very long breads such as baguettes the dough then needs to be rolled out further to form a long “sausage”.
Round loaves and rolls are shaped by repeatedly folding the edges into the centre of the dough, as shown on the video. Think of this as creating a gluten “cage” for the dough to rise in.