The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Tip - Baguettes - a mindset when shaping

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Tip - Baguettes - a mindset when shaping

Being relatively new to all things baguettes, my struggles to succeed have taught me a few lessons. They are passed along with the hope that it may be of value to others. As is true of all “Tips -“, they are worthy of consideration, but not to be considered the “ultimate way” but only a “possible way”. If you queried every single baker in the world, no 2 of them would agree on all opinions and probably debate most of them.

Anyone who has set out to perfect a baguette is acutely aware of the difficulties of shaping the long stick of bread. Small errors are practically impossible to conceal. With that in mind I have a one word suggestion. “Stretch

Most bakers “roll out” their dough. And many of them do an excellent job of it. But someone like me needs all the help they can get. So, after watching countless shaping videos in preparation for our Community Bake featuring Baguettes, I stumbled upon something that changed my baguette shaping in an instant.

When shaping a baguette dough “think STRETCHING” , not “rolling”

In my mind rolling implies rolling. You know, think about rolling out a pie crust with a rolling pin. There is downward pressure involved. Downward pressure has a tendency to squish the dough causing some areas to be smaller than others. As far as I know it is not possible to efficiently fatten a section that has become too skinny. But the thought of stretching implies elongation. Instead of downward pressure the hands move gently outward.

Clarification - the actual characteristics of the baguette dough must be taken into consideration. If your dough is very elastic (resist stretching and springs back to original length, stretching may be extremely difficult or possibly impossible. In this case, the best thing to do is put the dough aside to rest and come back later once it has relaxed.

Another consider that might be over looked is the pre-shape. In all other types of dough shapes (batards, boules, etc) we are conditioned to think “strength”. Baguettes are a different breed all together. When pre-shaping don’t forget the magic word, “stretch”. You may discover that a lighter pre-shaping is beneficial.

The information above may or may not benefit you, but it is worth considering and maybe even a try...

Here are a few video snippets that get right to the point -
   Note - the entire videos from beginning to end are worth a look.

The tips below came from various bakers.

  1. The process of elongating a baguette shouldn’t take a long time with many tries. The very act of pursuing perfection when it comes to shaping can produce the opposite results. 
  2. If the shaped dough is 60-70% of the baguettes final length, shaping will require much less time and handling. (KendalM & MTLoaf)
kendalm's picture
kendalm

Hey dan, 

I'm going to throw another angle on this, but first let me preface by saying whatever works for each individual.  For me I kinda shy away from the while whole stretch emphasis.  As an alternative, they to focus more on getting some length on the first few folds right before rolling.  If you can get your loaf out to about 60-70% length at this stage it makes for a much easier final roll out and elongation.  At this point I personally sont like fighting the dough.  It's just a personal preference and me I tend to get much more consistent cylinders this way.  

If you watch various pros you will see quite and array fron those who start short and really dramatically elongate but here's one thing I think is important either way and that is to get a technique down that only takes say 30 seconds at most (better yet 5 or 10) during this last roll out.  It's when you're spending time adjusting correcting etc that the loaf becomes overworked and eventually this over working will lead to a point of no return.  Again I refer to my favorite baguette vid online of louis lamour.  Its effortless the way he tubifies his dough.  

Going back to my thoughts as a pizza parlour employee you first learn to throw a pie and takes time in the beginning making corrections till eventually you turn a ball to disk in no time flat so, at the end of the day again goes back to repetition (and me repeating myself on the topic of repetition) 

 

 

alfanso's picture
alfanso

If it takes more than 10 seconds, max, to roll out a baguette, then there is something wrong in the process at some level.  I'm referring to the actual rolling time, and not the time it takes to move from pre-shape to roll - which itself should take less time than to change the kitty litter box.  

Understood that we can't match the efficiency and speed of those pros we see in videos, but rolling out a few baguettes shoudn't take more than a minute, if that.

kendalm's picture
kendalm

Thought I'd add a couple.  Both of these also demonstrate short roll out.

In both these cases especially the second - the loaf is mostly elongated and already very uniform again speaking to the point of minimal working of the dough.  Louis lamour is so incredibly gentle that this kinda serves for me as the ideal technique.

- Wayne Caddy - (love his yorkshire twang) - https://youtu.be/gp0GwG4wVHo?t=915

- Louis Lamour - https://youtu.be/DkHsbchF2-g?t=340

On a related note - degassing.  Here's a point where I think a lot of people seems to be afraid of being more forceful.  Wayne caddy's video shows (as many do) that you can apply force here.  I'm trying to point out where it pays to be forceful and where to be gentle.  

Finally, what the heck kind of baguettes is Wayne Caddy making ? sourdough, hybrid, CY.  I can never make sense of that part of his video !!! 

 

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

I have a problem finding the seams sometimes. MTLoaf taught me to roll it much less and that has worked. Do you have anything to add?

When the dough handling during shaping decreased, the baguettes dramatically increased.

alfanso's picture
alfanso

I roll starting with the seam side up.  Since we really never roll the baguette around fully, but rather rock it back and forth, the seam will, conceptually at least, always remain up when finished rolling.

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Alan, I’ll have to give that a go. For some reason I’ve always started with the seam down. I hope this works for me because many times I am forced to guess when couching and for sure some of them don’t end up oriented correctly. Just today I had a side blow. I’m calling it an extra ear :-)

kendalm's picture
kendalm

I think you called it.  Less handling otherwise it will disappear yeah.  One other thing may be fashion of sealing that each person employs.  I tend to do it like wayne caddy using the heal of my hand.  Other bakers I've seen will use their fingers and progressively fold over.  I will sort of hammer it down.  Having said that I dont recall really ever wondering where the seam was.  I think if the seam goes away it means over handling at the end rollout. 

MTloaf's picture
MTloaf

that I shoot for and sometimes hit is the just right level of proof that is a factor in handling and shaping batons. It is like we talked about. It really is a lot of little things that have to happen along the way that add up to a beautiful baguette. 

My shaping is even less assertive than most of videos because my dough never seems to have the resilience of the ones I have watched. I end up around 75% of the desired length before it is rolled out with as few rolls as possible. My most open crumb in the CB did not have a single roll. Perhaps because I knead less and push the hydration thing to near collapse. The long thin wands are a next level challenge to get a uniform crumb.

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

“ I end up around 75% of the desired length before it is rolled out with as few rolls as possible”

That will be added to the OP. I dropped it to 60-70% because today the dough was very extensible and it quickly stretched out too long. Had to squish it up n the couche a little.

Benito's picture
Benito

Great videos and discussion.  Getting the preshape a longer length and partially along the way to what we are trying to achieve is a great point.  I also note that some of the bakers, while final shaping, pick up the dough from each end and pull a bit as they turn the dough 180 degrees, further lengthening the dough towards the final length before doing the next fold.  With this extra lengthening one doesn’t need to roll and stretch as much in the end.

kendalm's picture
kendalm

The other thing or actually probably the first thing I notice on these videos is the size difference between cyril and king arthur tutorials.  The huge loaves.  I think they are turning out 450g of dough at a time.  Those loaves are humongous ! 

SassyPants's picture
SassyPants

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I'm not sure that I have the experience to weigh in on this.

A bit ago I watched the preshape and shape videos on The Sourdough Journey channel on YouTube. He heavily references Trevor Wilson's Open Crumb Mastery which I haven't had time to delve into yet, so I'm not certain to whom credit is due.

Basically, it is proposed that there are 3 items which work together to create crumb: dough strength, preshape strength, shaping strength. Essentially 2 of 3 must be strong and one should be "weaker." While baguettes are their own world, I suspect this applies after all. Essentially there are many choices that determine what the shaping technique would be. We typically only see one step of the process when the entire process is necessary.

If we looked at the entire process for each baker, I wonder if we would see more extensible doughs for those who do more handling in the pre-shape/shape and less extensible doughs for those who use a lighter shaping touch.

This experiment was in my mind prior to the cb. I see 15 batches for each round of experiment though, times three to confirm it...so if one of y'all want to test it out, go for it!

 

MTloaf's picture
MTloaf

Experience is not a prerequisite to contribution. Especially for someone who goes by the moniker of SassyPants. You hit the the nail on the head. The sum is a result of the parts. Trevor Wilson writes about the "Dough in hand" as how to proceed in shaping. The baguette recipe needs to reflect the final shape and the dough in hand needs to be understood to  shape it well.

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Couldn’t agree more. If the dough is divided and feels really strong, it would be detrimental to give in a strong pre-shape and shaping. Likewise, if the dough is super slack, more intense pre-shaping and shaping may be called for.

This comes with experience. When starting out we have no other choice than to follow directions as closely as possible. And it is wise to do so.  But as our hands become educated it makes sense at times to go off the reservation and follow with your intuition.