The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Help me: My pain a l'ancienne comes out flat

Eidetix's picture

Help me: My pain a l'ancienne comes out flat

I made two batches of BBA ancienne this week. Both times I got oversized breadsticks: wonderfully crackly, tasty and about as flat as biscuits. I will post my MO below in hopes of getting a suggestion or two about developing the appropriate half-round in my next go-round.

I worked with KA bread flour, fresh Fleischmann’s bread machine yeast, soft water (low mineral content) and kosher salt.

I measured ingredients precisely on an EatSmart digital scale and mixed as directed using my small Bosch. The dough was then refrigerated for 18 to 24 hours, during which time it rose little if at all. (I keep my fridge a bit on the cold side.)

At room temperature, BBA suggests that the mixture might double in 2 to 3 hours. On my first try, it took about 10 hours; the second time, almost 24.

With both batches, I did not touch the warming dough at all before sliding it from the bowl to the counter for the finishing touches.

The bulk product came out sort of flat after minimal countertop shaping. I tend to be all thumbs, but I took pains to give each effort all the finesse I’ve got. As directed, I let the dough rest for 5 minutes after dividing it width-wise with a metal spatula.

After my final cuts, I tried scoring each loaf with second-rate straight-edged knives; I attempted three delicate slices for each stick, none of which seemed to get the job done. I let it be and kept going.

On both occasions, I was late in preheating the oven, so the shaped loaves cooled (warmed?) their heels for at least five minutes before they went in.

I baked the bread on the back of a sheet pan topped with parchment paper, following Reinhart’s directions for steaming and heat. (My Jenn-Air oven is consistently on the money for temperature.)

I’m not sure where I’m going wrong, or if and how I should tweak the various variables to get the bread I’m looking for. Any suggestions from my Fresh Loaf brethren would be much appreciated.


bnom's picture

I would look to your shaping technique first.  Getting a good surface tension on the dough and letting it proof between the folds of linen certainly made the difference for me between flat and well-shaped baquettes.  You might check out Ciril Hirtz video on shaping baguettes. 

LindyD's picture

Hi Eidetix,

Your water is the problem.  Soft water with few or no minerals plays havoc on the dough.

If you don't have normal tap water available that hasn't been softened, try bottled water - but stay away from reverse osmosis filtered water.

Happy baking....