Welcome to the 1st PANARY mini-series of hand-skills training videos: “Making the round shape, both loose and tight”
Throughout this first series you will watch me performing professional actions, as well as actions designed to suit the student or amateur. The first series features three videos that share the related tasks of:
- creating the round shape for putting the dough away for its rest before final shaping
- moulding it into tight rounds as finished cobs that are ready for final proof
- Pt. 1: Dividing The Dough, “Air Fold”
- Pt. 2: Moulding A Cob
- Pt. 3: Professional Cob Moulding With Testing For Readiness
Cutting & weighing
The cutting and weighing of the fully proved dough is the first task on the bench, followed by a rest period, for which the dough is to be shaped into neat, round pieces.
While dividing the bulk dough on the bench is an important part of being a baker, it is a task that becomes easier with practice, and requires less skill than some other hand actions of the baker.
After placing the risen dough on the dusty (floury) bench top you set about cutting it into several pieces, each one hopefully as near to the required weight as you can get. After the cutting strokes that separates two or three pieces from the bulk, it is best to put your cutting tool down and proceed to weigh each piece with your hands. Following a piece onto the weighing scales brandishing your cutting tool is a clumsy way to do it. You are much more nifty at breaking off little blobs of the dough and adjusting its weight by using both hands.
Now comes the interesting bit: how to shape the dough into a neat roundel, or a hemisphere, to have it ready for its rest period, when it will be allowed to soften and relax, and even do a little gassing again. The craftsman baker’s term for this resting period (quite a short one compared with first proof and final proof) is “intermediate rest”. With one in each hand a craftsman (or tradesman) baker can round them up on the bench. The old-fashioned craft name for it was “handing up”.
The household baker does not need to strive to learn how to round a piece in each hand. As an alternative to rounding up on the bench top there is “mid-air fold” – my name for performing the task in the air, using both hands of course.
Holding the piece in front of you, by moving around the circumference, you gently fold the sides down under the bottom of the piece, repeating the action a few times so that a roundel is soon achieved.
When it is placed on the dusty bench it sits there looking like a hemisphere. Thus all the ragged pieces direct from the scales are tidied and rounded before being set to rest.
Being gentle is important because rough actions will tear the gluten strands and leave the piece too bound up – requiring a longer rest while you wait for it to relax. Cover them with cloths and plastic sheeting that protects them from draughts while they enjoy their intermediate rest, and go off to do something else for a while.
Why keep it neat?
In the video the importance of this neatness is explained: later, when you approach the piece to mould it into its final shape, it is much easier to mould a neat roundel of puffy dough compared with a ragged blob.
If you are a person who likes to do all your dough handling down on the bench, you can fold the piece into a roundel by learning how to “hand up” like a baker as shown in the coming video entitled “Moulding a Cob“.
But, remember, you would perform the task loosely so that the piece is merely neat if they are going for intermediate rest. For a finished cob you can keep at it, achieving a loaf as tight as a drum that is ready to go for final proof.