Punching down & Shaping
After the dough has risen in the mixing bowl, it has to be punched down. Despite the harsh sounding name of this step, you must be gentle to your dough. Punching down removes some of the gas bubbles formed by the yeast during rising and produces a finer grain. It also redistributes the yeast cells, sugar and moisture so they can ferment and rise the dough during the proofing stage. When the dough has doubled in size (and has passed the "ripe test") push your fist quickly, but gently into the center of the dough. Then pull edges of the dough to the center. Take dough out of bowl, if used one during rising, and place on lightly floured board. Pat dough gently. Turn over and shape your dough into a ball. Kneading the dough two or three times will help release additional air bubbles.
Let the dough rest
If you have time, let the dough rest 10 to 15 minutes after punching down and before shaping. Cover with an inverted bowl and let sit on counter. This relaxes the gluten and makes the dough easier to roll out and shape. Some doughs are quite elastic and will "pull back" at first when rolling out.
SHAPING THE DOUGH
Follow your recipe for shaping the dough. The following are a few shaping hints:
To divide dough: weigh the dough on a kitchen scale to obtain loaves and rolls which are of uniform size.
Rolling out dough: using a rolling pin will help eliminate air bubbles in the dough and prevent "holes" in the bread.
Sealing edges and ends: moisten the edges of dough with cold water before pinching to help seal them. This is especially helpful for doughs which have a moist filling.
Shaping and sealing ends of loaves: pinch ends together and smooth out or tuck sealed ends under loaf.