The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

What to do

proth5's picture

What to do

With a lot of baguette dough and a home oven.

Lately I have been working with ever larger batches of dough.  This is good training as it helps develop one’s eye in terms of dividing, does a little hand skill training on wrangling a larger volume, and because I have a tiny kitchen, ups the bar on mise en place and other organizational skills.

And while I am not in training for the Coupe du Monde (because I am too old, and frankly I don’t bake that well) – I continue to be very inspired by my two opportunities to attend and have decided to consider the judging criteria as I strive to improve my baking.  Baking to a schedule is part of that – and while the phrase “watch the dough not the clock” is good advice for most home bakers – inspired by the fact that the 2008 Team USA didn’t place because they finished late (geeez) I am practicing how to control dough temperatures and conditions so that I can hold to a schedule.

But then there’s that home oven.  I always knew that oven capacity is the big factor in getting bread out the door – but a commercial oven would simply not fit my space and to be honest, would not be a good investment in a state where there is only a remote possibility that someday I could operate a bakery from my home.

I’ve tried retarding the dough after pe-shaping and was not best pleased with how the dough felt during shaping. Additionally, my ever growing group of bread testers is beginning to want a little variety. So my challenge is to get decent loaves when I need to bake in shifts.

So after whomping up a large batch of my “bearguette” dough, I set myself to dividing up the dough.

Recently I had a little incident with wildlife in my home that required that I empty out and disinfect everything in my basement.  It’s an ill wind that blows no one any good, and indeed this exercise revealed that I have a large number of round cake pans inherited from my grandmother.  I knew in my heart that I had them – it just never came to front of mind.

I can load three pans at a time into my oven, so I gave my pans (6 total) a very generous coating of olive oil and sprinkled on a combination of dried herbs (oh, about 8-9 ounces of dough per 8 inch pan).  Dough was shaped into rounds placed in the pan “good “ side down and after a few minutes flipped to good side up.  This action coats the dough with olive oil and while there is no fat in the dough, the general taste and mouth feel is that of an enriched dough. (and then there are those herbs…)  This shaping is the least sensitive to over proofing and so is put somewhere cozy for as long as it takes to get the rest of the bread proofed and done.

I’ve still got a lot of call for standard baguettes so a good bit of the dough is divided with that intent.

Again, lately, though I’ve been considering how I would create a” baguette fantasie.”

In the actual competition, these are baguettes that must be shaped by machine (to demonstrate that the baker has the skill to create dough that would withstand machine shaping) and then cut and shaped to form various fantastical patterns.  I’ve pulled some oddly cut lumps from my oven.  Oh sure, they look good when loaded, but oven spring takes its toll on some of that cutting.  I begin to understand why some classic shapes are, indeed, classic – they work.  I’ve also had some horrible loading accidents, since I continue to hold to the belief that parchment paper is cheating (for me, at least) and a beautifully cut shape can get – oh, shall we say “distorted” if the peel is not rendered completely non-stick. (Oh, for a loader!)

Also, I’ve been working on traditional regional French shapes.  I had quite a good run on Auvernats (and, of course, me being me took no pictures) and have gone on to some other shapes – providing I can do them quickly enough.

So, baguettes loaded and baked, then the baguettes fantasie (which can handle slight over proofing a little better), then special shapes, and then my bread in the pans. 

The bread in the cake pans is “dimpled” to give it the look of foccacia.  I also take one pan and flatten out the middle and top with sauce and cheese to create a type of deep dish pizza.  (Yes, yes, not completely traditional, but delicious with the good bread as a base, and the oil and herbs.  Also a meal for the busy baker.)

I complete on schedule.  The kitchen is clean and the couches are hung with care to dry. Having been assaulted by the smell of a moldy linen couche (not in my home, but elsewhere), I am even more meticulous about this than before.  It’s a satisfying feeling. All that is left is to bundle up the bread for my various “customers.” When I was in Okinawa I learned how to tie a square piece of cloth (called a furoshki) into various carrying containers and have used my vast collection of flour sack towels to be the transport for these loaves.  The fabric allows enough ventilation to keep the loaves crisp and the recipients can store the loaves in the bags for a day or so.  I have a friend who has become the self appointed “bread fairy” for a number of folks who will come at her phone call to get their weekly bread allotment. (And you all get the destination to which this will lead…)

All this baking leaves little time for photography – even if I liked doing photography or was any good at it – but this week the special shapes came out well – so they were worth a snap.  They are left to right – a baguette fantasie, an epi de ble, and a torsade.

The torsade was proofed “good side” down on linen that had been coated with “remoullage.” Remoullage is bran pulled from the milling process and re-milled until it is as fine as flour.  It makes a lovely coating on the surface of the bread rather than just dusting with flour and has almost better non stick properties than white flour.

So that’s what I do with all that dough.  It’s one mix, but a variety of products.  My testers are completely sure that I have made at least three different breads.  I just smile and say thank you.

People get grabby over the herb bread and it really is a low maintenance addition to a batch of baguettes – I highly recommend it.


varda's picture

of very cool looking loaves.   Especially like the torsade, and I've never even heard of a torsade.   Very interesting post.  -Varda

proth5's picture

so much.

The downside is now I can look at the picture and obsess about how I could have made the shapes a little more graceful... Never ends.

There is a nice site on shaping of breads - I think the link has been posted before, but here it is:

LindyD's picture

Always enjoy reading about the challenges you set up for yourself, Pat.  

Your variations on the baguette dough theme made me think of the formulas presented in a Ciril Hitz book, where he creates a baguette, epi, scroll and breadsticks from the same dough.  

Gosh, that's got to take a  heck of a lot of organization and planning.  Not to mention discipline.

Well done!  The breads are beautiful!

proth5's picture

What I didn't mention is that this week I added in a batch of my grandmother's "Crispy Cookie Coffecakes" (formula on these pages..) to the day's bake to satisfy the general clamor for sweet stuff.  I've jazzed up that formula a bit to make it a bit more puffy and have been able to do variations on it to produce more products with a single mix. (and now, I'm thinking of more...)

You know, the big dogs are always such an inspiration - no wasted motion - so smart.


PiPs's picture

Thanks for a glimpse into your busy kitchen Pat ... the breads look and sound delicious . The 'bearguette' seems like a great all-round dough. You have a mixer for all that whomping?

The oven is the bottle-neck in my kitchen as well ... and on occasions I have been known to gripe and moan while I wait for it to finish a load  ... but I do the best with what I have at hand :)

Thanks for tip on the 'Remoullage' ... I have been using sifted bran to coat my loaves occasionally but I like the idea of milling it down finer and using that instead.

I think your photo is great and is the special icing on top of a great story.


proth5's picture

is another sad story.  I have the mini spiral that TMB baking distributes.  A while back, it threw a bearing and so has been taken from my house to inhabit "Dean's World" - Dean being the name of the bakery mechanic who is presumably fixing the thing.  Dean's world runs on "Dean time" - so the poor little thing is in still in the shop.  

I was using a double hydration technique with my poor, dear mixer and I do miss that technique.

So right now, I am mixing all this dough by hand using the "fold in the bowl" technique.  I could mix more, but I'd have to get a bigger bowl.  This mix I tried a little double hydration by hand and you can get a very small amount of additional water in the dough - but it is very much less than with the spiral.

While there have been strong opinions about mixers expressed on these pages - the mixer really just saves elapsed time and some muscle.  Sometimes that makes a huge difference in the life of the baker.  So despite the ability to mix this much (or really, much more) dough by hand I still want that diving arm mixer.  So cool! 

But - oof - oven capacity.  I think it's even worse after you have worked with commercial sized ovens.

I'm trying to think of more uses for my remoullage.  It really gives a lovely finish and I've always got some kind of bran hanging about.

Thanks for your kind words on the bread and the photographs.  I don't know how you remember to stop and take pictures of the process.  I forget that there even is such a thing as a camera when I am focused on the day's production.

(Raggedy Baker) Pat

PiPs's picture

I have never used a mixer for making bread until the recent bake using the single arm mixer ... what a difference it makes to the life of a baker ... yes physical, but the thing I noticed most was just that extra time made available ... you could give the dough/bakery/oven the extra attention it might need ... all the while you could hear the gentle mixing in the background.

Until the mixer visited 'Deans World' were you happy with it? Is it the SP5?

I always wish for a mixer when I make rye breads ... I am very happy and very clean mixing wheat doughs ... but rye breads on the other hand make me a misery :) even using wet hands ... I think its the dough consistency I don't enjoy.

Oven envy indeed ... sigh. The photos really just happen by themselves in my kitchen ... if I have a moment I will take a pic if anything catches my eye. I find with the bigger/busier bakes it gets forgotten quite often ... more important things to attend to.


proth5's picture

the thing broke (yes, the SP5) I loved it.  The extra time - oh - the time that thing saved.  I've worked on larger spirals and I do miss the ability to put my hand in the mixer while it is running, but with such a small bowl, it really isn't safe.  The one speed is somewhat limiting and it would be nice if it had a breaker bar, but for a mixer at home it's pretty nice.  A lot of the bakers who see it sitting in Deans World have expressed a desire to buy one (even though it is in the shop!) and he's thinking of trying to become a distributor. 

What I saw as Dean and I surveyed my machine is that the bearings really are very tiny and are held in place by a fairly lightweight ring of metal.  He pondered why the manufacturer chose such a lightweight setup.  Now, so do I.  I wonder if I pushed it a bit too much.

Oh, I probably shouldn't admit this, but I hate the feel of rye doughs on my hands, too.  Probably why I don't make a lot of them.

Take Care!


isand66's picture

Beautiful looking loaves.  Very cool shapes. Not sure if I missed it or not but what was your formula and technique for your dough?



proth5's picture

My formula is on these pages in my "Starting to get the bear" blog.  Or in shorthand - all purpose flour - 72% hydration, 15% of total flour prefermented, 7% in a 100% hydration preferment - commercial yeast, 8% in a 100% hydration levain.  1.8% salt, .01% yeast.  Improved, hand, or double hydration mix.

I think either David S or Glen S has written it up also - writing directions is not my forte - I seem to think they are communicated telepathically...

Hope this helps.


Syd's picture

What to do?  I know you don't like  shaping after retarding (I don't either, it loses its maleability) but have you tried retarding after final shaping?  I like it for its convenience.  Very often, especially if the weather is hot and the fridge has been opened a lot, I find that my loaves are fully proofed and bake straight out of the fridge.

Love your shapes and the colour of the crust.  Fermented and proofed to perfection. 



proth5's picture

I have tried retarding after shaping and I like that even less than rerarding after pre shaping.  That's just to my hands and with my dough (climate, fridge, etc, etc).  I found that the loaves actually became tacky and tended to stick to the peel no matter what I did - also didn't slash well.

I have replaced my refrigerator (with one that actually keeps things cold) since the last time I tried this, and should probably try again.  With summer coming on, might be time to try it again.

Thanks for the kind words.


Janetcook's picture

Hi Pat,

I very much enjoy reading your blogs.  This one is no exception.

Love the peek into your cooking space and time.  While reading your words I couldn't help but think how your experience clearly expresses the ingenuity of both home bakers and commercial bakers who have limited space and numerous gastronomic cravings to attend to.  A piece of baking that has come up through the ages and still is going strong :-)

Bravo to your standing up to the challenge you set for yourself.

Methinks a scullery maid would come in handy in this kitchen - therefore giving the baker time to take pictures of her works in progress?  

On the mixer.  Had to look up what it was having never heard of one before.  What a cute little thing.  Sorry to hear of it's injury.

Might I suggest an alternate?  Pricey but I absolutely love my DLX.  Use it daily and it has handled everything I have tossed into it from very small batches of dough to huge batches of dough.  Lean doughs and extremely enriched doughs.  Wet doughs and dry doughs.

The mixing mechanism is quite unique and what I love about it is the gentleness with which it kneads the dough.  I also love that I have a variety of speeds that I can use though I tend to use the low speeds on most breads.  It also has a timer so I can simply set it for the amount of time I want a dough kneaded and then get busy washing dishes etc....

Bowl is hugely open and I can put my hands and arms into it without fear of amputation :-0.  It is also a snap to clean up.

It is the 3rd mixer I have owned and by far the best.

End of advertisement....No, I do not sell or own stock in the company....just a satisfied customer who appreciates a well made machine.  (Tis made in Sweden)

Link shows a picture of it just in case you haven't run across one:


Thanks for the post and the breads that have given me new ideas on shaping.

Take Care,



proth5's picture

for your kind words and for your offer, but a scullery maid wouldn't fit into my kitchen - not with me in it, too.  It is a really small space.

That said, I have cooked in the homes of people with those vast "gourmet" kitchens and I get tired of running from place to place.  In my kitchen I can almost stand in one place and reach everything which is convenient.  Like my little front yard garden, it is organized to within an inch of its life.  My house sitter has been trained never to leave a stray item on the counter.

Oh, my poor little mixer - I do hope it comes home soon.  Once you've had a spiral for bread, it really is difficult to go back.  It does one thing - and it does that one thing very, very well.  I looked really hard at the DLX and with my mixer in the shop I still think "Well, maybe I could just get a DLX", but I want my spiral back.  I love that thing.  This is pretty much one of the few spiral mixers that doesn't require three phase power. 

If it breaks again (or if it never comes back from Dean's World), I will need to do some serious pondering on the mixer subject.

Thanks again for your kind words...


FlourChild's picture

Pat, it looks great and sounds like a challenging yet enjoyable pursuit, to pattern your bakes after the Coupe du Monde- worthy goal!

Your special shapes are beautiful, and I particularly like your bran flour coating- I'll be trying it soon.