The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

how to make a better baguette

varda's picture
varda

how to make a better baguette

I have been trying to make a good baguette and reading up on this site, I discovered the whole discussion about the Anis Bouabsa formula.  I have tried it twice so far.   The first time didn't work out at all.   The second one is the best baguette I've ever made - not saying much since I've only made a few baguettes in my thus far short baking career.  I think because the dough is so wet it kind of sags a bit and instead of a round or oval cross section, I get more of a triangular one, with a very flat spread-out base.   My inclination is to tighten it up a bit by adding more flour, but wonder why others aren't having this problem - or if it's just part of the result one expects with this wet dough.  I note that the hydration for this formula is 75% - exactly the same as for the Lahey no-knead recipe, which requires a pot to keep it in decent shape.  I am using AP flour - I see that some people are using/ recommending other flours - but the original posts say the flour isn't the point - it's the technique - so I don't know if the type of flour has something to do with the sag or not.  

wally's picture
wally

Baguettes are among the simplest of breads but most difficult to make well.  Your shaping technique is crucial, because if the baguette lacks sufficient surface tension when you form it, it's going to show in the finished product.


That said, starting out with a 75% hydration formula is almost certainly a recipe for disaster.  Why not cut your teeth on baguettes with a hydration in the mid-60% range?  (Jeffrey Hamelman's excellent book Bread has several baguette recipes you can attempt).  It will make shaping infinitely easier.  As you get more confident, then up the hydration if you want.  But starting out making baguettes using extremely high hydration dough is a real challenge.

varda's picture
varda

The instructions certainly looked easy.   I will definitely try the Hamelman or other drier recipes.  Thanks!

mcs's picture
mcs

This is a short video I made working with the dough you're talking about.  Maybe you'll find it helpful.  I'm using Wheat Montana flour and following the original proofing/timing instructions from the recipe. 


-Mark

varda's picture
varda

I hadn't seen it.   Cool.   I see it takes a bit more than what I had thought to get and keep these in the proper shape. 

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Mark is a masterful baker as well as a generous and talented teacher. His shaping techniques work. Period.


However, there is another shaping technique that is more traditional and is the one prescribed for shaping baguettes in all the good bread books. Some of the books have really helpful illustrations - photos or line drawings. I'd encourage you to look at them.


Here's my attempt from an old blog entry to describe the steps in this method entirely in words:




Dividing and Shaping a long loaf


Scrape the dough from your fermentation bowl gently onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide and scale the dough according to your intended loaf weight. Gently pat each piece into a rectangle.


To pre-shape for  a bâtard or baguette, fold the near edge up just past the center of the dough and seal the edge by gently pressing the two layers together with the ulnar (little finger) edge of your hand or the heel of your hand, whichever works best for you. Then, bring the far edge of the dough gently just over the sealed edge and seal the new seam as described. (The "true classic" technique is to fold the far edge to the center first, then rotate the loaf 180º and fold the "new" far edge to overlap the first fold.)


Cover the dough with plastic wrap and/or a kitchen towel and let it rest for 10-60 minutes, with the seams facing up. (The time will depend on ambient and dough temperature, how strong the dough is and how active your starter is. The dough should have risen slightly, but not much.)


To shape a bâtard (or baguette), fold the near edge of the dough to the middle and seal the edge, as before. Now, take the far edge of the dough and bring it towards you all the way to the work surface and seal the seam with the heel of your hand. Rotate the loaf gently toward you 1/4 turn so the last seam you formed is against the work surface and roll the loaf back and forth, with minimal downward pressure, to further seal the seam. Then, with the palms of both hands resting softly on the loaf, roll it back and forth to shape a bâtard. Start with both hands in the middle of the loaf and move them outward as you roll the loaf. 


Tapering of the ends is achieved, as your hands move out, away from the center of the loaf, by rotating your wrists outward (abducting) and opening them so the thumb side is elevated and your pinkie side is still in contact with the dough (supinating). If you want a baguette which is a cylinder (constant diameter, except for tapered ends), you would only rotate your wrists as you approach the very ends. For a torpedo with a high central part of the loaf and gradual tapering, you would start your wrist rotation sooner and increase it gradually.



I imagine this description will be of little or no use to a strictly visual learner, but I hope it helps some.


David


varda's picture
varda

These instructions are clear as a bell, picture or no.   And just in time for the baguette that I will be attempting to shape this morning.   Thanks!


Varda

varda's picture
varda

These instructions are clear as a bell, picture or no.   And just in time for the baguette that I will be attempting to shape this morning.   Thanks!


Varda

SteveB's picture
SteveB

Another baguette shaping video can be found here:


http://www.breadcetera.com/?p=8


(scroll down to middle of page)


 


SteveB


www.breadcetera.com

varda's picture
varda

Thanks for the link.   It looks like there is a lot more here than just shaping.   With David's written instructions, and this video, which looks like it uses the same technique, I should have a non-triangular baguette in no time.  

varda's picture
varda

So I used every bit of advice I received above and tried again.   I tried to make a drier dough but somehow it came out just as wet as yesterday.   After the first proof, I used the pre-shaping techniques as detailed and video'd above.   And also for shaping the baguette an hour later.   I set up an ad hoc couche with an old placemat and a couple of pieces of granite that happened to be sitting on my counter.   Then hustled to get the loaf into the oven as fast as possible (oops - I was hustling so much that I forgot to score.)    Even though the dough was very wet, the loaf held its shape and came out with a round cross section rather than a triangular one.   I still have a huge amount to learn but you people sure taught me a lot in a short amount of time. 

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Great, vhaimo!


Keep at it. It will come together.


Another procedure I've found really improvers the strength of a slack dough is doing a couple stretch and folds on the board. Do them at 30-45 minute intervals after all the stretch and fold in the bowl sessions and before cold retarding the dough.


David

varda's picture
varda

So after the three folds in the bowl in an hour, you are saying take it out of the bowl - stretch and fold, leave sit for another half hour, then again, then into the refrigerator?   Ok.   I'll try it.   Thanks again.