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How to Shape Homemade Bread

A Guide to Traditional Loaf Styles and Shapes

© Sarah Tennant

May 1, 2008
A Baton Loaf (Back) and Split Tin Loaf, Peggy Greb
It's surprising how different ways of shaping and slashing dough can affect the finished product. Here's a quick glossary of traditional shapes.

Lovers of Italian breads may be surprised to learn that most of the wide selection of unique loaves are formed from the same dough. Italian bakers know that it isn't the ingredients which make the differences, but the shape. Shaping can form a mass of dough into a crispy-thin pizza or a chunky cob loaf, a crusty baguette or soft-sided pull-apart rolls.


A very long, thin, crusty cylindrical loaf with long slashes along the length. Also known as French sticks or French bread.


Shorter and fatter than a baguette. Vienna loaves are baton-shaped.


Shorter and fatter again than the baton; often slashed diagonally and sprinkled with poppy seeds.


A loaf made by intertwining three or more long strands of dough. The traditional Jewish challah is often shaped into a four-stranded braid. Braided wreath loaves are made by plaiting a long braid and forming the braid into a hollow circle.


Usually made with a specific enriched dough, the brioche shape is similar to a cottage loaf, only baked in a large fluted tin rather than on a baking tray. Mini-brioche tins can also be purchased for roll-sized loaves.

Clover Rolls

Small rolls made by placing three balls of dough close together, so they bake into a single roll.


A rustic round, freeform loaf--'cob' means 'head'. A Dutch cob is a cob loaf with a single slash down the middle. 'Cob' always refers to a large loaf, not to small bread rolls of a similar shape.


A cob loaf with a cross slashed on top.

Cottage Loaf

A cob with a smaller ball of dough perched on top, and secured by poking a floured skewer or finger down through the top. The French pastry-like brioche is formed like a cottage loaf, but baked in a round fluted mold.


Flatbreads exist in many different forms. Some are unleavened, such as chapattis, tortillas and matzo; others contain yeast, such as foccacia and pizza dough. Naan bread is traditionally tear-drop shaped, although sometimes sold in supermarkets as precisely-cut squares. Pizza, chapattis and pita are usually round, while Swedish knackerbrod is round with a hole in the centre.


The name "grissini" refers to a specific recipe, but many types of bread can be baked into bread sticks - long, pencil-thin crunchy breads which are often dipped in soup or hummus.

Harvest Loaf

A specialty bread crafted in England for Harvest Festival, often for display rather than consumption. The dough is molded into the shape of a sheaf of wheat, and the dough is glazed, baked until dry and set to adorn the altar of a church.


As the name suggests, simply a horseshoe-shaped loaf; braided horseshoes are a fancier version.

Parker House Rolls

Small rolls made by pressing the dough into a flat oval, placing a small amount of filling in the centre and then folding into slightly unequal halves.

Pull-Apart Loaves or Rolls

Bread baked as one large mass, but designed to be pulled apart into individual rolls. Pull-apart rolls are made by placing balls of dough close together in a square tin; the baked rolls are then usually sold joined together. Pull-apart loaves follow the same principle, but the balls are placed in a loaf tin. Monkey bread is a unique variant of the pull-apart loaf—the balls of sweet dough are dipped in a sugary mixture of dried fruits, spices and butter before being placed in a fluted ring tin to bake.

Sandwich Loaf

The traditional 'supermarket' loaf, baked in a lidded tin so that each slice is a perfect square. Usually sold pre-sliced for convenience. Also called a Pullman Loaf.

Spiral Rolls

Small rolls made by rolling the dough into long sausages, then coiling them into spiral or 'snail-shell' shapes. Spiral rolls are usually soft white dinner rolls.

Split Bread

Baked in a loaf tin, with one deep lengthwise split down the middle. A split loaf can also be formed by placing two long sauages of dough side-by-side in the tin.

The copyright of the article How to Shape Homemade Bread in Breads & Muffins is owned by Sarah Tennant. Permission to republish How to Shape Homemade Bread in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.

A Baton Loaf (Back) and Split Tin Loaf, Peggy Greb
6-Strand Challah Being Braided, Yoninah (Wikimedia Commons)
Uncooked Grissini on a Baking Tray, kotchtopf (Wikimedia Commons)
Plain and Slashed Bread Rolls, 3268zauber (Wikimedia Commons)

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