A Step-by-Step Guide to Forming Sourdough Boules

Sophie Herbert Slater, Martha's niece and a self-taught sourdough expert, shares how to shape, proof, and score this classic round loaf ready for baking.

shaping dough
Photo: Johnny Miller

A boule is a rustic, round loaf of crunchy bread—that's fitting, as boule is the French word for "ball." It's a comforting shape and one that's easy for new bread bakers to master before they dabble in oblong loaves or baguettes. It's also a go-to shape that pro bakers return to time and time again—after all, bread shaped into a boule has a more rustic feel, like a loaf made for sharing. Here Martha's niece Sophie Herbert Slater, who is a self-taught sourdough expert, gives us a step-by-step guide on how to shape a boule ready for baking.

Shape the Loaf

With the sides of your hands on the counter, cup the folded dough and drag it toward you, tucking the edges under to meet in a seam. This motion creates tension on the exterior that will help it hold its shape in the oven.

transfer dough
Johnny Miller


Using a bench scraper, gently transfer the loaf into a basket or bowl, seam-side up. (Baskets made specially for sourdough, called bannetons, leave pretty markings on the loaf, but any bowl works fine.)

boules dough in bowl
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Cover and Chill

Use a cloth to cover the dough and refrigerate it overnight to proof. The slow rise helps flavor develop—plus, it'll be ready to bake in the morning, which means you'll have all day to enjoy your fresh bread.

scoring dough
Johnny Miller

Score It

Gently place the dough seam-side down in a preheated parchment-lined pot. Score it: While Sophie uses a lame—a double-sided blade—to create designs, it's not necessary. If you don't cut the surface, the bread will split open naturally, for a more rustic look. Then, cover and bake. You can also put a few ice cubes on top to create more steam, which thickens the crust.

Get the Sourdough Boules Recipe

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