The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

When you don't have time to bake bread, bake bread.

dmsnyder's picture

When you don't have time to bake bread, bake bread.



I based the formula and procedure for these ficelles on Pat Roth's (Proth5) baguette formula, which I have made several times. These are entirely levain raised and use a 65% hydration dough. The dough is entirely hand mixed. It employs a long bulk fermentation. The bread develops a delicious, sweet baguette flavor with no noticeable sourness when made following Pat's procedure. See Baguette crumb - 65% hydration dough

I wanted to make baguettes this weekend, but didn't have a block of time long enough. Also, I had a 125% hydration levain but not time to convert it to Pat's 100% hydration levain. So, I improvised.




Baker's %

AP flour

11.25 oz


Water (80ºF)

6.25 oz



0.25 oz


125% hydration levain

3.0 oz



20.5 oz


Note: Taking into account the flour and water in the levain, the Total Dough hydration is 63%.


  1. Prepare the liquid levain and let it ripen at room temperature until the surface is all bubbly (8-16 hours, depending on how active your seed starter is and the room temperature).

  2. Refrigerate the levain for a day.

  3. In a large bowl, dissolve the levain in the warm water. Add the other ingredients and mix to a shaggy mass.

  4. Cover tightly and allow to rest for 30 minutes.

  5. Stretch and fold in the bowl for 20-30 strokes. Re-cover the bowl. Repeat every 30 minutes 3 more times.

  6. Transfer to a clean, lightly oiled bowl.

  7. Bulk ferment 1.5 hours. Do a stretch and fold on the board.

  8. Bulk ferment for another 2 hours.

  9. Refrigerate overnight (8-12 hours).

  10. Take the dough from the fridge and immediately divide it into 3 equal pieces.

  11. Pre-shape each piece loosely into a log and cover them.

  12. Let the pieces rest for 1 to 1.25 hours. The should feel a bit puffy but should not have expanded much.

  13. Shape into ficelles and place en couche, seam side down.

  14. Pre-heat the oven to 500ºF with baking stone an steaming apparatus in place.

  15. Proof the loaves until they spring back slowly when pressed with a finger tip.

  16. Pre-steam the oven.

  17. Transfer the loaves to a peel (making sure that they are seam side down on the pel) and score them.

  18. Load the loaves onto the stone. Steam the oven and turn it down to 460ºF.

  19. Bake for approximately 20 minutes, until the loaves are nicely browned and the bottom sounds hollow when thumped.

  20. Transfer the baguettes to a rack.

  21. Cool completely before eating.

The ficelles had a crunchy crust. The crumb was sweet and tender with a very slight sourdough tang.

There is frequent discussion on The Fresh Loaf about how to fit baking into a busy schedule. I share this experience as an example of adaptation of a known recipe, usually made in one day, to a two-day procedure. I think it was reasonably successful, and I may very well do this again when I don't have an 8 hour block to babysit dough.


Submitted to YeastSpotting



arlo's picture

Very impressive David. Rather interesting it doesn't develop a sour flavor when fermented that long. Even if I ferment with my liquid levain for an over night period I seem to develop more tang.

Thanks for sharing with us!

hansjoakim's picture

I agree with arlo, David - lovely dark crust and great flavour, I'm sure!

I also noticed the long period of bulk fermentation followed by overnight retardation. Is this long fermentation cycle a result of refrigerating the levain before mixing your final dough?

Great stuff, as always!

dmsnyder's picture

The long fermentation before retardation was unchanged from Pat's original method. If you look at my previous bake - see the link in my post - you will find I simply added in the retardation without changing any of the other timings.

My only compensation for refrigerating the levain was to mix the final dough with warmer water.


dmsnyder's picture

The ficelles did have more sour tang than Pat's baguettes do without the cold retardation. 


SylviaH's picture

The crumb has the kind of structure I enjoy most when eating ficelles or baguettes 'a balance of crumb to crust' up to about 69% hydration at most, and has to taste wonderful when combined with the lovely carmelized crust...scoring is lovely also....yummm!


EvaGal's picture

While the weather is warm enough, I take advantage of the heat in the car and the interruptions in my time at home by bringing my bowl of sourdough with me.  So as I taxi the young ones to choir or piano lessons or orthodontic appointments, etc., I'm simultaneously proofing.  My teenagers do roll their eyes when I emerge from the car with a bit of oil on my hands from my stretch-n-folds of the rising dough done over the bowl in the front seat.

I'll need to figure out how to keep this system going when the weather turns cold.


dmsnyder's picture


Your teenagers are going to roll their eyes. That's what they do. Your proofing dough is as good an excuse as any, but if they didn't have that one, they would find another.


bnom's picture

Can you please tell me the advantage of proofing en couche with the seam side down?  I always proof seam side up (baking seam side down).

And thanks for posting such inspiring photos!

dmsnyder's picture

The advantage of proofing seam side up en couche is that the upper surface of the loaf gets a little drier due to the linen absorbing moisture. This makes scoring easier.

The advantage of proofing seam side down is that the loaves are easier to transfer to the peel (You don't have to roll them over on the couche before flipping them onto the transfer peel.)

I hope that's clear.


ronhol's picture

What kind of flour do you use?

I've noticed big variations in the final product according to the different flours I've used.

dmsnyder's picture

I use AP flour for baguettes. For these, I used KAF Sir Galahad from (Same as KAF AP.)