How to Shape Beautiful Bread Loaves and Rolls

Let me show you how to shape beautiful bread loaves and rolls.  This is the 6th post in a 9-post series dedicated to helping you become a confident homemade bread baker.  You can find the first 5 posts here…

How to Become a Confident Homemade Bread Baker

A Spotlight on My Favorite Mixer for Bread Baking

A Spotlight on Simple Ingredients for Homemade Bread

How to Make the Best 100% Whole Wheat Bread

A Spotlight on my Favorite Tools for Bread Baking

(This post may contain affiliate links.  If you click on a link and purchase a product or service, I will receive a commission from the sale.  You will not incur any extra cost.)  

You’ve made a beautiful batch of bread dough.  Now what?  Let’s talk about how to shape that dough for a loaf pan or divide that dough into rolls.  How you handle the dough during the shaping process will affect its continued rise and its final shape.  Well shaped dough will encourage the bread to rise and dome making a beautiful finished product.

Prepare Your Workspace

First, I prepare my workspace with the tools that I will need to handle my bread dough.  If I am making a loaf of bread, I need my silicone mat, a lightly greased loaf pan, and a tea towel.  If I am dividing my dough into rolls, I will also need a bench scraper, a scale with a lightly greased plate on top, a lightly greased pan for my rolls, and a tea towel.

I work on a silicone mat such as this one or this one.  I find this mat wonderful to work with, and it provides me with two important benefits.

First, I do not need to use any added flour to handle the dough during the shaping process.  Do you remember when we talked about making bread dough in this post?  The amount of flour to water ratio in your bread is important for ensuring a nice texture for your bread as well as ensuring that the bread is not too dry.  You have already added all of your flour, kneaded the bread, and let it rise.  If you add flour to your bread during shaping, it will not have time to fully incorporate into your dough and develop the helpful gluten that we’ve worked hard to establish.  Flour at this point can only serve to make your bread dry.  By shaping my dough on a silicone mat I avoid the need for extra flour, keeping my bread moist and delicious.

The second benefit of using a silicone mat is the drag I can achieve on the bread dough during shaping.  By slightly dragging the dough across the silicone mat I can seal the dough and create a tight bread shape, encouraging a nice dome on the top of my loaf.  I will talk more about this below.

Ready? Let’s Shape!

Shaping Loaves of Bread

I place the dough on my silicone mat and lightly flatten the dough into a rough rectangle with the heal of my hand.   My rectangle is roughly as wide as my loaf pan is long.

I begin at a short end and gently roll the rectangle into a log.

I seal the dough by pinching along the length of the final edge.

This pinched edge then is placed face down on my mat.  To make this loaf tight and nicely domed I will cradle the loaf gently with my hands on either side and rock the loaf slightly back and forth barely dragging the bottom of the loaf across my silicone mat to seal and tighten the loaf.

My formed loaf is placed into my prepared loaf pan sealed side down and domed side up.  I will cover the loaf with a tea towel to keep it moist while it rises.  My loaves of bread usually rise for about 30 to 40 minutes in the pan.  I look for the loaf to dome above the edge of my loaf pan by about 1/2 to 1″.  Then I know it’s ready to bake!

Shaping Rolls

You can divide your bread dough into rolls with or without a scale.  When I use a scale I measure my dough in ounces.  This dough weighs about 30 oz.

I want to make 16 rolls so by rough math I know that each roll needs to be just under 2 oz.


Working quickly so my dough does not dry out, I use my bench scraper to divide the dough into pieces.  I quickly weigh each piece while making small adjustments for size as needed.  It’s important to keep your dough covered during this process to avoid having it dry.



If you do not have a scale, I recommend rolling the dough into a long log.  Cut the dough in half, then cut each half in half, and keep cutting until you have the number of rolls that you desire.  As a bonus, this method is quicker than taking the time to weigh each roll.

Now that all of your rolls are cut, work with one piece at a time while the other pieces stay covered with a tea towel.

I take a piece and quickly roll it on my mat into a rough ball.  I make a  circle with thumb and forefinger and push the roll up through the circle pinching off the bottom the dough with my thumb and finger as it exits the circle.

I then place the roll on my silicone mat with the pinched side down and gently roll it along my mat sealing the bottom with the dragging friction of the mat and ensuring a nice, round shape.  Each roll goes straight into my prepared baking dish and gets covered with a tea towel while I shape the other rolls.


For this batch of rolls, I wanted a nice, soft, dinner roll.  Each roll was nestled snuggly together in my baking dish.   The rolls were pulled apart after baking revealing a nice, soft side.  If you are looking for a rounded roll with a firmer crust, place the rolls apart of a baking sheet with enough space between each roll to ensure that they do not touch during rising and baking.  Are you looking for a hamburger bun?  Shape as above, then flatten it with the heal of your hand once finished.  Place them far apart on a baking sheet, rise, bake and enjoy!

There you have it!  Beautifully shaped bread loaves and rolls.  These bread loaves and rolls were made using the 100% whole wheat bread recipe found here.  Give it a try!

Do you have bread baking questions for me?  I’d love to answer them!  Contact me or comment below.












  1. Michelle

    I want to get that mat!!! It looks like they are out of stock on Amazon. Do you have a second choice? Or I could wait. And do you have a favorite bench scraper?
    Would you mind a tad more explaining on the pinching technique for the rolls? I want to make sure I understand 😉

    1. Post
      Donna Fitzgerald

      Hi Michelle, You’re right. It does look like the silicone mat is out of stock. I have updated this post and suggested another silicone mat that you could consider. I like the size of the mat and the fact that it provides circular measurements for pie dough as well as linear measurements across the top. Those measurements come in handy! Glad you found my favorite bench scraper in my post about baking tools!
      Happy baking!

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