The Fresh Loaf

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Baguette Shaping...Suggestions Welcome!

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fastmail98's picture
fastmail98

Baguette Shaping...Suggestions Welcome!

Hello, Friends...


I'm practicing making French bread and seem to have the texture, flavor, and crust okay, but the problem that I have is in the shaping. I've been following Peter Reinhart's instructions as to preparing the pate fermentee, mixing, fermenting, and proofing, but when it comes to shaping the final dough, I end up with something between a baguette and an oval. It looks okay, kinda rustic. From what I can see in the video that came with Ciril Hitz's 'Baking Artisan Bread', he uses a wetter dough that takes the shapes like magic. I'm using a dough that is stiffer. From my final dough, I can get a batard or boule, but I need some help on getting a more tubular shape and those wonderfully crafted ends. Here's what I baked up today...how firm or slack should my final dough be so that I can get a better shape? Thanks!


Russ


French Bread from Russ

leucadian's picture
leucadian

You're almost there if you've got good taste, crust and crumb.


It seems obvious, but for most home ovens, a baguette needs to have less dough in it than boules and batards. As to shaping, do you find that you can't elongate the dough to a baguette shape? In that case, you may not be resting it long enough after pre-shaping. The pre-shaping for a baguette should be a log, maybe half or a third of the desired length. The actual shaping takes practice mostly, but also extensible dough (the opposite of elastic, meaning it doesn't snap back), a lightly floured work surface to develop the friction required to pull the dough taut around the circumference, active yeast, and a light touch. Not to mention patience and persistence.


Think of the preshaped dough as two parts: the inside which will form the crumb, where you want to preserve as much of the gas retaining structure as you can, and the outside which will form the crust, where you need to stretch the gluten strands into a smooth, strong skin that will burst exactly and only where you score it. So in shaping, you compress the innards as little as possible, and stretch the skin as much as you can. Then let it proof, allowing the yeasties to reassert themselves and provide more tension to the skin, until you score it and pop it into the oven. Oh, and the little pointy ends come from having a work surface with just the right amount of friction, and hands that are trained to make them just so.


I noticed a little crease on the bottom of your loaf, and a big hole in the top. I will guess that the crease is from some flour that got incorporated into the seam when you shaped the loaf, and the hole from some trapped air during shaping or before. Was the dough overproofed perhaps? That would explain the light color and the fact that the bottom seam didn't blow out. Most of the rustic doughs around here are in the 60 to 70% hydration range, and I usually aim for 63%, but you don't have to have a high hydration dough to get a baguette shape. Finally, take a look at dsnyder's tutorial on scoring.


If this were easy, everyone would be doing it. Keep at it.


Stewart


 


 


 

fastmail98's picture
fastmail98

Thanks, Stewart! Less dough makes sense. I'm working with too large a piece, I know. I'm sure I over-proofed this because I was trying to modify a recipe calling for a stand mixer and a poolish that I made last night. I don't have a mixer and the mixed dough was way too thin after I fermented it. I was trying to get Ciril's 'stretchy' dough, but it turned out to be a bowl of goo. I had to add flour to it so that I could get onto familiar ground and gave it another rise...that may have exhausted the dough from over-proofing. The structure is there, but not enough gluten and sugar to caramelize on the crust to get the darker color maybe? My next batch will be ye olde dough pre-ferment the way that I know best and take your advice on working with a smaller amount of dough for the baguette shaping. Good bread for thought! Thank you again for your kind words and suggestion!


 


Russ

fastmail98's picture
fastmail98

This helped me out alot. Berween your videos and Stewart's suggestion about using less dough, I have a good idea of how to approach making a baguette. I know it will take a lot of practice, but it's my goal to make as best a baguette that I can. I find that I tend to rush through my dough shaping and I can now see that I'm not fully working this very critical step. Thanks, Howard!


Russ

holds99's picture
holds99

I've been fiddling around with baguettes for quite a few years and it took me a long time to understand how important it is to NOT overhandle the dough and to allow the dough to rest for about 10 minutes between each shaping interation.  Do Not Hurry the dough.  Let the gluten relax between each of the 3 shapings.  If you hurry the process or handle the dough too roughly you won't get good results.  I firmly believe that making baguettes properly is the most difficult challenge in baking. 


Don't know if you're familiar with M.C.'s site: "Farine" but she has a terrific interview: "Meet the Baker" with Gerard Rubaud, a truly wonderful baker, along with some short video clips that are very intersting and helpful.  Here's a link:


http://www.farine-mc.com/2009/11/meet-baker-gerard-rubaud.html


Good luck with your baguettes,


Howard

foodslut's picture
foodslut

In addition to holds99's suggestions, here's another short video showing a baguette shaping technique that works OK for me:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uOKYFZPGimg


Enjoy the practice - even if they're not shaped perfectly, you'll still enjoy the bread since you say the flavour's good!

fastmail98's picture
fastmail98

Thanks, Food...


Because this is a craft, I know there are things like 'feel' and 'tactile memory' involved. I am a former skilled craftsperson by trade and I can relate to all of the techniques as just that...techniques that are an acquired skill. And, of course, acquired skill only comes from actually having to make and work the dough. It's not just the shape that I am looking for...that's actually secondary. It's the skill developed by learning how to use my hands that is most important. Everything else will follow. Thanks again for your help...I learn from everyone, everything, and from anywhere I can. I often wish I had youtube videos of my Grandmother making breads and pies!


Russ