The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Hello to all!

CuriousLoafer's picture

Hello to all!

I am an ambitous amateur bread baker, particularly intereted in sourdoughs. I've been baking seriously for about a year and a half and I've improved a lot in that time. I can now promise to bring artisan hearth breads to gatherings and feel confident that the loaves will turn out to be both delicious and presentable.

However, I still struggle with what should be very simple loaves. Baguettes are beyond me. They fuse to the parchment paper couche and become hopelessly stuck. Or deflate when I pry them loose. Or if, in desperation, I bake them IN the couche, they sort of steam on the sides and get a flabby crust. I've tried oiling the parchment paper, but that, again, yields a flabby texture to what should be a crisp crust.

Also, I live in a semi-arid climate and the dough dries out very quickly. With a lower-moisure dough, it works very well to spray the loaf lightly with oil and cover with plastic wrap while it proofs. The dough stays moist, but non-sticky enough to allow for clean scoring. But with a high-moisure dough like baguette dough, the surface seems to get too sticky to allow the blade to score cleanly and I get ragged edges and pull the soft dough out of shape.

How do I get the dough to stay vertical, be moist but not sticky, and crisp up the crust?

I'm getting a bit tired of eating flat, dense baguettes that resemble scimitar blades in shape and dimension.

Ford's picture

It sounds to me that your problem may be that you are not building enough tension into the surface of your loaves when you are shaping them.  (Click on the "Video" box at the top of this page.)  Also a light dusting of flour on the surface of the dough will reduce the stickyness.  A dusting of cornmeal or flour on the parchment paper, the couche, and the peel should allow you to transfer the risen dough to the oven.  A film of oil on your blade will help in keeping the dough from sticking during slashing.

Keep on baking!


CuriousLoafer's picture

I'm at work, so I can't watch the video yet, but I did try oiling the lame blade on my loaf last night, and it seemed to help a lot. So thanks for that tip, and I'll re-post when I can view the videos. Thanks!!

ehanner's picture

Baking good bread is more about technique than anything else. That said it helps if you start with a known recipe that will deliver dough in the range of 65-68% hydration. Are you following or reading a particular recipe? It sounds like you are having trouble more with the method and work flow.

I suggest taking a look at this set of videos produced by King Arthur and Master Baker Jeff Hamelman. While these were produced for advanced or professional bakers, there is a wealth of information to be gleaned. Look at the condition of the dough after mixing and that he adds water. Watch how he uses a small amount of flour on the bench and only handles the dry (floured) side of the dough. The shaping and scoring shown is the best demonstration of how to do things right I have seen. I'm sure you will find these videos helpful.

Let us know how you are doing and what recipe you are following.


copyu's picture

Those KAF videos are the greatest!

Thank you so much for posting the link here. I learned more, this evening, about things I knew, or thought I understood, than ever before in one sitting. Excellent stuff, sir!

Best wishes,


CuriousLoafer's picture

I'll watch the videos as soon as I get a chance. I'm at work now and can't from this computer.

I'm using the traditional baguette recipe from Daniel Leader's Local Breads book. And I weigh my ingredients carefully to make sure that they are accurate measures.

Thanks for the tips!

RikkiMama's picture

You might consider making a small investment and getting linen for your couche.  SFBI sells linen canvas at a very reasonable cost:

I use a mixture of equal parts rice and bread flours and give my couche a good dusting of the flour mixture before transfering the loaves to it.  Alternatively, you can use just bread or AP flour.  I haven't had any sticking problems since the linen is relatively non-stick to begin with.

Just remember NOT to wash the linen canvas.  It only needs to be allowed to air dry before storing.