The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

De-Lurking with Anis Bouabsa's Baguettes

EdTheEngineer's picture

De-Lurking with Anis Bouabsa's Baguettes

Greetings everyone!

This is my first post, having been lurking here for a few weeks. This is a fabulous website and it has accelerated my learning and increased my enjoyment of my new hobby a great deal. I started baking bread a few months ago as an antidote to revision for my university finals. My initial attempts were flat and dense bricks and puddles, more like squashed soda breads. But since finding this site a few weeks ago I've been inspired to put a bit more energy in and try out some of the techniques I've been reading about and watching on the various youtube videos dotted around.

I thought yesterday that I'd have a first attempt at baguettes, having previously been put off by reading it was difficult to make an actual 'baguette' rather than baguette-shaped sandwich bread. The first hit in the search was the Anis Bouabsa recipe. I wanted to have them ready for this evening's dinner so couldn't quite stick to the method prescribed. My method was:

- Poolish - 250g flour, 2g yeast, @100% hydration. Fridge for 7 hours.

- Allow an hour to warm, add the rest of the ingredients. Fridge for 2 hours then in the pantry (which is about 10 degrees C at the moment) for 5 hours. 

- Pre-shape and rest for 40 mins

- Proof for about 50 mins

I slit and sprayed with water, then put them (on baking paper) on the floor of the Aga, which has had a small pan of water on a higher shelf boiling away for the duration for constant steam. Took about 35 minutes to cook - a bit longer than the recipe says - the floor of the Aga is at a lower temperature than the recipe calls for but my feeling is that having them directly on a nice, big, heavy, high thermal mass aga oven floor is A Good Thing. I don't have a stone slab but I guess putting that higher in the oven would be the better way to do it.

I wasn't expecting much - this was a real step up in shaping complexity (I was guided by the <i>excellent</i> Ciril Hitz videos) and more difficult slashing than my usual cave-man technique. But I was pleasantly surprised by what came out of the oven!

Three Baguettes

You can see my shaping is a bit inconsistant (not to mention wrong in ways that are less immediately obvious to me!) but they just about look the part. They sang and crackled promisingly on the cooling rack and I had to try one before dinner. You know, just to test... it tore just like the baguettes I've had in france and biting in was a lovely crunch followed by tasty chewiness. The crumb was on the right lines, I think:


Baguette Crumb


I'm really quite excited to try this again. Next time I'll plan ahead more thoroughly and give it the 21 hours fridge fermentation that the original recipe calls for. I'll not bother with the poolish stage either (I did it as I thought it might give me the flavours and gluten development a little quicker).

I've been getting quite into using a poolish. I've just come back from a bit of travelling and decided tot to make a sourdough starter until i got back (just so I could be around to care for it) so a poolish seemed like a good stop-gap for getting a bit more flavour out of the flour. For fun, here's a photo of another recent session.

- 1kg of flour (2/3 whole grain 1/3 strong white), 500g of which was in a 100% hydration poolish overnight in the fridge. 

- 20g salt.

- 20g fresh yeast

- teaspoon of dark brown sugar.

Produced a pair of boules, finished in different ways:

Pair of boules

I cut the slashes quite deel on the nearer boule, but the loaf still sprang right up to the point of stretching them out flush with the rest of the crust. Given they have so much spring left to give, should I prove them a bit longer?

Anyway, thanks for reading, now I need to go an feed my new starter!




SylviaH's picture

Your loaves are great looking, love the crumb of your baguette, TFLoafers love crumb shots! Very attractive and delicious looking boules.  For being fairly new to baking bread you have a lot of talent.



EdTheEngineer's picture

Thanks Sylvia! That's an enormous complement coming from you. I've been using your 'super steam' technique for the past few bakes and it works really nicely - thanks for sharing it!

SallyBR's picture

Welcome to TFL!   Nice to see you "de-lurking" - and with excellent reason, so many nice breads!


Like you, I learned a lot from this site, and still do


Looking forward to your future adventures....

Daisy_A's picture

Hi Ed,

Welcome to TFL!

What a great bake. The finish on the boules is gorgeous - wouldn't be out of place in a professional bakery. From what I understand of hearth loaves, slashes finishing more or less flush with the crust are fine. The loaf doesn't appear to have 'burst' through the cuts. It looks good. Do you have any crumb shots?

If you want to try to proof for a slightly shorter period and see what happens, do it, bearing in mind what you probably know already about temperature and starter strength also influencing the loaf's rise. 

Those are your first baguettes? Wow - it takes a lot of people months to get shaping like that. Glad you cited Ciril Hitz. Have found him to be a 'diamond geezer' when it comes to shaping. Certainly turned my shaping around. 

I'm supposing you are an engineer given your screen name? Well with a first baguette shaped like that I would say the future of engineering is safe in your hands!

Best wishes, Daisy_A (UK baker)

EdTheEngineer's picture

Hi Daisy. Thanks for the kind words. If the baguettes look roughly baguettey it's only a reflection of Ciril Hitz. While I couldn't shape with the kind of naturalness and smoothness that he showed, his explanation of what the point of the process was really helped me end up with something about right.

And yes, I'm an engineer (the nickname was to differentiate me from EdTheArchitect in a group of friends). Wouldn't extrapolate my abilities too far though!

How many UK people are there around these parts?


ananda's picture

Hi Ed,

Some excellent baking to introduce yourself with.   Welcome to TFL!

There are a few posters here from the UK, including Daisy_A and myself

Best wishes


Daisy_A's picture

Hi Ed,

Like Andy says there are quite a few UK bakers on TFL. 

There are some UK themes on this thread, particularly to do with flour

Wishing you continued good baking.

Best wishes, Daisy_A

Daisy_A's picture

Hi Ed,

Just an afterthought. Don't know if you've seen these on Boulangerie.Net's YouTube site but here are some great videos on bread slashing or 'scarification' as it is in French.

Obviously Ciril Hitz is going at a lower speed as it is an instructional video. These guys are going much nearer production speed and taking no prisoners - awesome!

Coupes sur Bâtards

Coupes sur Baguettes

Best wishes, Daisy_A

EdTheEngineer's picture

Hi Daisy,

That's quite a sight, thank you for that. Next time I do my three baguettes I'll adopt the professional air of a seasoned lamé-er/scarifier and see if it makes a difference. Always fun to try and run before I've got the hang of walking!

Good stuff.


Floydm's picture

Those are great looking loaves, Ed.  Looking forward to seeing more from you, and welcome to the site.


Franko's picture

Wow Ed, Talk about making an entrance!

All your loaves look terrific, but the baguettes for a first time bake are quite impressive. Baguette shaping can be one of the more difficult shaping techniques but yours are pretty consistent. The left hand side one might have a bit of a curve to it, but I've seen much worse being sold in bakeries, and I'm sure you have as well. As a matter of fact, if I was shopping for bread I wouldn't hesitate to pay money for any of these loaves. Well done, and welcome to TFL.


dmsnyder's picture

Hi, Ed.

Welcome to TFL!

I can only echo the opinions already expressed: An outstanding bake, beginner or not. Looking forward to see more of your breads.


wally's picture

There's nothing beginner-ish about those loaves, and the baguettes are really lovely looking.  Welcome to TFL; I look forward to more posts!


highmtnpam's picture

Welcome. How did you get the flour on you spiral shaped boule?  Really looks great!


EdTheEngineer's picture

Hi Pam, I floured the top first and then cut a spiral by hand with a razor blade. So the non-floured bits are oven spring. I didn't have a banneton at the time (though that has changed since father christmas brought me an early present!) but wanted to get something a bit like a banneton effect.

Thanks for the welcome!


Matt H's picture
Matt H

Super! Good to see a fellow bread-baking engineer on here! :)

breadsong's picture

Engineer, baker, you're obviously a person of many talents!
You don't mind if I call you EdTheBaker do you?!
Thanks for sharing your beautiful breads and I just love the idea of your 'swirly-boule'. 
Regards, breadsong


longhorn's picture

You are off to a great start!  And obviously have a touch for dough!

Well done!

Looking forward to your posts!


belfiore's picture

Welcome to TFL! Your breads are top notch and very professional looking! I think you get a go to the head of the class grade level leap.

I'm sure if you've been lurking very long you've found some exceptionally talented bakers  who are very generous with their support and encouragement.

Good job & I would say you should email them to or post your pics at Ciril Hitz's I'm sure he'd love to see them.


bottleny's picture

Does it still possible to shape like Ciril Hitz's demonstration? My dough was wetter than the one in the video, and very sticky. Or, the dough for baguette shouldn't be so wet?