The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Shaping pain l'ancienne

David White's picture
David White

Shaping pain l'ancienne

Hi, I'm looking for some hints on how to shapemthese loaves better.  I follow Reinhart's recipe exactly.  I start my shaping with a rectangle of dough roughly 3" x 8" and then try and stretch that into a 14"-16" long loaf on the baking tray.  Instead of a pleasing looking loaf, I usually end up with more of a dumbbell shape - skinny in the middle, but thicker at the ends where I've held onto the dough while I stretch it.  Usually end up with some great rise in places, but flat spots too.  Any clues on how to get a more classic baguette shape, or videos that people might have seen greatly appreciate.


RobynNZ's picture

My only experience with the Reinhart pain l'ancienne was years ago but as I recall it was high hydration and somewhat hard for me to handle  and it was really just a matter of stretching/pulling it into shape.  The following baguette shaping videos give you an idea of baguette dough consistency. You may be expecting too much of yourself working with Reinhart's pain l'ancienne to achieve the classic baguette shape you seek. 

Ciril Hitz Baguette shaping video


There are six excellent KAF/Jeffrey Hamelman videos  the 4th features shaping.

dmsnyder's flipping board video is helpful too

and his bread scoring tutorial

It's worth checking out the TFL video section which you can access from the banner at the top of the page.



David White's picture
David White

 But I only want them to look like the picture in the book!  Seriously, thanks for your reply.  It is a wet bubbly dough by the time you get to stretch it out.  I'll check out the links and see what I can learn there.

kendalm's picture

Baguette shaping just takes a lot of repetition - as an example having slung thousands of pizzas and able,to shape a disk with little effort it took many more baguettes to finally feel comfortable rolling out a long thin cylinder. I can now get baguettes rather quickly with little effort but can attest to the fact that it doesn't happen overnight.

Btw a 3x8 rectangle is a good starting point just prior to final fold and rolling hopefully by this point you have already folded twice and gaining surface tension. The final fold (at the [call it] 8x3 point) works best using the heal of your hand as this tends to get maximum surface tension (you can also seal with fingers but also this can seem easier tends to produce inconsistencies in the tension). After the final fold with heals of the hand you want to have a roughly 12 inch long bloated looking cylinder and from here roll out center-wise paying close attention to pressure where needed - ie more pressure where its thicker. Eventually muscle memory kicks in - for me that was many hundreds of loaves but its definitely rewarding and lets you focus on other things like nice score lines etc.

The main thing to note here is that it is indeed a rather challenging shape and repetition is the key but of course any advice and hints can help expedite the process. Good luck !

David White's picture
David White

Thanks for your reply Ken.  There isn't really any folding and rolling with this recipe.  You proof once, take the dough out of the bowl keeping as much gas as possible, cut into rectangles, just stretch it into a longer rectangle, and into the oven it goes.  Really a very crude but simple process and that's part of the appeal.  But I do get your point that repetition is the key.  And I like your tips for regular baguette's which I will use next time.  Thanks again.

kneadvt's picture

Hey David

I have fond memories of making this recipe. The key for me was using quite a bit of flour and not being that critical of the final shape. I recall a bit of dumbbelling but not to the extremity you're talking about. If you have some flat spots that might be due to handling the dough too roughly?

I also recall that there was a long period of retarding in the fridge. Are you skipping this step?

You might try just using your pointer finger and thumb to stretch the final shape to avoid a flat end, or giving the dough a longer or shorter time to relax after dividing. You could also try pinching the ends together and rolling them to get more of a classic baguette shape.

Any which way, I think the key here is that this is a rustic recipe and some of the beauty is in it looking funky.

Good luck!