The Fresh Loaf

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Bassinage, Gaude & flour characteristics

tanyclogwyn's picture

Bassinage, Gaude & flour characteristics

Dear All you experts

Here’s a couple or so queries thrown up by Father Christmas to a rather casual home baker in the UK (likes sourdough/long rises, bakes in an elderly and moderately controllable Aga). FC brought me Le Dictionnaire Universel du Pain (ed. P de Tonnac, Paris 2010) – 1217 pages of fascination; and not least the annexes with recipes from a number of ‘starry’ bakers.

Question 1: Several of the recipes allow for 50 or 60g of eau de bassinage in addition to the normal measurement of water (650g usually). Is this additional water part of the recipe or is it simply water that is held back in order to make an adjustment in case the dough is too firm (see Dictionnaire under bassinage, eau de). The only reference I have found in my English books is in Beyond nose to tail p. 92 where Henderson & Gellatly refer to ‘the bathe’, and allow for a higher proportion – 60g to 340g; the bathe appears to be added in stages after a sort of autolyse. Is there a standard practice in French boulangerie of adding this water as part of the mixing/kneading process, and if so, at which stage?

Question 2: In Eric Kayser’s recipe (Dict, p. 1108) he calls for 20g of ‘gaude’. What is this? There is a farine de gaude apparently – which appears to be toasted (torrefie) maize coming from the Jura/pays de Bresse. If this is it, could one substitute toasted polenta meal?

Question 3: at the risk of opening the classification of flour issue, on p.1100 Ganachaud says one should ask one's miller (ho hum) for flour with a W value of between 230 and 240 and above all a P/L as close to 50 as possible. I am reasonably familiar with the T issue, but can some kind expert explain these latter terms (or point me in the right direction)?



ananda's picture

Hi Tom,

What a great present!   Is it published In English; I thought it was only available in French?

Anyway, for "bassinage", you may want to look at these 2 threads: and

It is about mixing the dough slightly firm in the first place, then letting it down with the remaining water.   So, some of the water is held back.   See my posts on the above threads charting the cultural roots of this method of mixing and the long-suffering mixer men [boys] given the uneviable task in the first place.

For advice on flour, I suggest you contact Shipton Mill directly.   They will be your best source of help.   If not, try Marriages.

I've read Dan Lepard's piece in this book and was really impressed; I'd love to get hold of a copy if it's in English.   Sadly my French is not up to that level.

All good wishes


Farine's picture

W (for work) is what the French bakers call "la force boulangère" of a flour, in other words the amount of work necessary to stretch a small ball of dough to breaking point. It is rather well correlated with the amount of gluten present in the flour. For bread baking purposes, a flour's W should be neither too low nor too high. High W flours are often mixed with lower W ones to produce a flour with the requisite W. According to the book Les Pains français by Hubert Chiron (where I found the info), bread baking requires a flour with a W situated anywhere between 180 and 220 without any additives. Ganachaud seems to have a different opinion since he recommends a higher W.

As for the P/L, again according to Les Pains français (a remarkably informative book by the way), it expresses the tenacity/extensibility ratio. 

I hope this helps!

tanyclogwyn's picture

Andy and MC

Very many thanks for your help and advice.  There's so much information around that at times it seems a positive overload!

I'll try the bassinage method next time I use my trusty Kenwood 701A - better that than looseon the kitchen worktop ...

Alas the dictionary (with an entry on geindres) is only in French and Father Christmas got it from Amazon UK (I think).  There was a very favourable write up in the FT one Saturday.