The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

couche cloth - what to use?

metropical's picture
metropical

couche cloth - what to use?

other than the $20 KA flax couche, what kind of cloth should be used?  I bought some cotton muslin, but that doesn't seem to be it.  Is flax cloth a fabric one should be able to find at the local fabric store?

Oldcampcook's picture
Oldcampcook

I bought light canvas at a fabric store.  I don't remember what the price was, but I only bought about a yard because it was quite wide.  I cut it up into two pieces.

 I dust it with flour and it works really well.  Has enough body to stay upright between the loaves.

Bob

TimM's picture
TimM

I found an old paint Drop Cloth I had stored away. Chopped of some material - washed same. Works great after applying rice flour.


Obtained at a Scotts Paint Store some years ago. Very stiff canvas and I think it was very inexpensive.


One more option.


Tim

Marni's picture
Marni

I wonder the same thing.  I've tried my linen dish towels.  They didn't work- too soft.  I've tried parchment supported by rolled towels and that wasn't great either.  Does anyone know of a good baking supply shop in the Los Angeles area?  I figure we should have something in a city this size. 

Marni

Oldcampcook's picture
Oldcampcook

Marni,  I think I got my canvas at JoAnn's Fabric.  Actually, my SO picked it up and I think that is where she got it.  Similar to artist's canvas.  Hancock Fabric should carry it also.  Wal-Mart here did NOT carry it.

Bob

Marni's picture
Marni

Thank you Bob, JoAnn's is here in the LA area.  I'll check it out.  Does it stay stiff with repeated washings?

Marni

Oldcampcook's picture
Oldcampcook

So far it has.  But I really dont wash it.  I just open the back door and shake the bejesus out of it after it has dried.

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

Take a look at    www.sfbi.com They sell various baking supplies at very reasonable prices. Linen for couche range in price from $8-$10 a yard.

For some reason the link doesn't work..so copy and paste..sorry!

 

Darkstar's picture
Darkstar

The link doesn't work because it tries to load this: 

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/www.sfbi.com

 

Try clicking on  www.sfbi.com  instead.  :)

 

Marni's picture
Marni

They sell the baskets there too.  I have no idea if the prices are good, but it's nice to know that the proceeds go to the scholarship fund.  Thanks for the link.

Marni

breadnerd's picture
breadnerd

Mine is pretty heavy -- I think it's originally from an art store for stretching canvases. I'd wash it before using just to get out any sizing etc. I wouldn't bother with a specialty product....

That reminds me I need to cut a few more pieces out and actually finish the edges this time--mine are just randomly cut and fraying :)

Liam's picture
Liam

Hi,

I am a fairly simplistic and cheap bread baker. I raise my non-round loaves on parchment paper, large enough to leave about 3" of paper on either side of the loaf, then I put them onto an aluminum baking sheet. I fold up the excess paper and place a 1x 3" wood board between the loaves which are side-by-side, nestled tightly. I place a weight of any description, as long as it is about 1 pound or more, against the outside boards. I lightly cover them with plastic wrap or a tea towel depending on my mood. When it is time to bake I gently slide the uncovered slashed bread, on its parchement paper, directly onto my stone, using the aluminum baking sheet as the peel. The paper does not stick to the loaf and it rises nicely.

For round loaves, I just raise them on the parchment paper, covered with plastic wrap or a tea towel. Round seems to rise higher in the oven for me, so I don't usually bother with the couche process. If for some reason I want to support the sides of a round loaf here is what I do. Place the loaf on parchment paper on a baking sheet; use the ring part of a spring-form pan as a collar. The size of the pan is big enough to leave some room to spread as the loaf rises (about 3/4" all around). I line the ring with strips of parchment paper. When it is time to bake I unbuckle the ring, remove it gently and slide the loaf and papers onto the stone.

Henry's picture
Henry

 metropical

I bought a painters drop cloth at Home Depot.

Works very well. Cloth is dusted with rice flour so

the loaves don't stick.

H

painters dropclothpainters dropcloth

metropical's picture
metropical

nice looking loaves.  Thanks for the drop cloth idea.

Trishinomaha's picture
Trishinomaha

Good and Heavy works great and it's cheap!

Trish

Monica's picture
Monica

Artist supply stores sell a plain linen canvas that would work, and has no protective sprays on it.  Ask for raw canvas.  Monica

chez-jude's picture
chez-jude

I purchased 2/3 yd. very heavy cotton canvas from an upholstery store. I think I paid about $4. I machine washed and dried it with very little shrinkage. 

leemid's picture
leemid

The thing to use is raw linen because of the oils in the raw linen as opposed to cooked? linen which loses its oils. I bought the heaviest linen fabric from JoAnn's and dust it with bread flour and rice flour and dough doesn't stick.

The baskets at SFBI are great and very reasonable. I recommend them.

Lee

Eli's picture
Eli

I purchased Duck cloth from the local Walmart. It is holding up well and I only had to purchase a yard. Washed, quickly ironed on low heat and finished the edges and it is working great.

Eli

Marni's picture
Marni

What size couche would be most versatile?  I have a 5'-15' painter's drop cloth that is made of untreated 12oz canvas.  So far I have only been making batards and boules on their own pans.  Can this be washed first without losing its stiffness?

Thanks for any input.

Marni

PS The paint store salesman loved the planned use of the cloth.

Yumarama's picture
Yumarama

I use sometimes use my baking pans for boards under the couched loaves, about 16" long X 11" wide, your basic baking pan in other words. So I made my couche 13" wide after washing/drying/shrinking/sewing the raw edges. Although I've often just couched the loaves directly on the counter, I figured the pan dimensions would suit since bread made any wider wouldn't fit in the oven or on my baking stones anyway.


I also made them 30" long which happens to be 2.5" or half the width of the 5' drop cloth. So out of a bit more than 13'" of the drop cloth and allowing another inch or so for some fast edging, I got two couche cloths long enough to afford folds in between several loaves and enough to roll up a starting and ending rim.



PS: just noticed this was a really old post I responded to. Must pay more attention... 

Bella's picture
Bella

I just use the chicago metallic perforated french bread and baguette forms. I like them because the bread can rise and bake in them. I usually roll my bread bottoms in a bit of cornmeal first to prevent sticking. Then the filled forms go right on the stone. I don't know if that's cheating but I found it so much easier.

Henry, that is the most beautiful raw bread I have ever seen, they are perfect! How do you get them off the couche without stretching/deflating them?

B.

Henry's picture
Henry

 

Bella

 

The older I get, the more I like the word… easy.

Interestingly, I’ve always associated perforated metal baguette

pans with bread of inferior quality mostly because the places I’ve

worked at that used these pans made lousy bread.

That’s not to say you can’t make good bread using the “Chicago”

forms.

If it’s working for you, if it’s making your life:  “so much easier”

and you’re happy with the results…then carry on!

As for getting the bread off the cloth without experiencing

wardrobe malfunction;

well, I literally picked up the first loaf with floured hands and moved

it over to the sheet pan.

Not the best way, but you can do that if you know

when it’s ready, and not over proofed

The rest of the loaves were moved using a transfer peel

or board; in this case, a piece of

cardboard I cut off of a box that just happened to be around.

 If you look at the top left of the photo  “proof with supportbread flipbread flip”,

 

 

there is my inexpensive cardboard; hard to see

because it’s blending in with the table.

Now, if you go to the bottom right sheet pan, there’s a space

where you basically see a bit of green pan. The cloth gets pulled to the right, direction wise, which moves the whole first loaf over to the right as well.

The cardboard peel is now placed to the left of the first bread, then, using the cloth as a handle or means of support, by which I mean, getting a grip, the loaf is flipped on top of the peel.

The second photo, which I took at home, shows the bread on the peel or “flip board”.

You now flip it onto your sheet pan or your heated stone.

Sounds complicated?

Not once you’ve done a billion of them.

Look at my friend’s site, Boulangerie Anna, in the south of France.

http://heatkit.com/html/bakeov19.htm

On a busy day, she’ll go through a couple of thousand baguettes.

Anna has the flipping part down pat.

So will you…eventually… if you decide to go the cloth route.

 

Hproof with supportproof with support

Gadjowheaty's picture
Gadjowheaty

Old thread, I know - only to say, Henry, many thanks for the Boulangerie Anna link and photos, there.  Je pourrais mourir, seulement par les voir!


 

Martyn's picture
Martyn

After a couple of disasters with dough stuck to towels I did a search and found this thread. I've just been out to the garage and dug out my decorating dust sheet, cut off a couple of large squares and washed them. Hope to give them a try tomorrow!


If this doesn't work I may be in trouble for ruining the sheet, just like I was for the towels!  :-/


Edit: Just got back from the supermarket. I couldn't help noticing that they sell Bags For Life made out of jute which looks ideal for bread making. :-) Shame they're not just a bit bigger.

Ruralidle's picture
Ruralidle

Martyn


I know it is expensive but it does work well.  If your dust sheet offcuts don't work you could try  http://www.thebertinetkitchen.com/shop/bread_making where a piece is £12 or http://bakerybits.co.uk/Couche-Proving-C128890.aspx?sid=10763 where it is a bit more expensive!

proth5's picture
proth5

say this one more time since this thread has popped up again - and then I'm going to let it go. (Let it go, proth5, let it go...)


I understand that many people have very tight budgets - or simply don't like to part with a penny.  I understand that many people can use other fibers successfully. However.


Linen is the best cloth for a couche.  Why?



  • It has unique wicking qualities that will efficiently pull the moisture from the top of loaves to prepare them for scoring. It will also dry quickly.

  • It is"lintless" - which means that the long fibers of the flax (used to make linen) do not shed little fibers that will cause the bread to stick to the couche. (Unlike jute, which sheds lint like crazy.)  When people say they have problems with stickage - I always mutter to myself "Try linen."


The Baker's Catalog (King Arthur) does charge a surprizing amount for a half yard of linen.  You can find it for about $9 a yard at TMB Baking (affiliated with SFBI) - for whom I do not work - but from whom I have purchased good, high quality products that have enhanced my baking experience.


If you wonder why it is so "expensive" - see the "Couche Chronicals".


Let it go...

Martyn's picture
Martyn

Thankyou Ruralidle and Proth5 for your help. My experiment with the dust sheet was a disaster, I ended up scrapping the dough onto a tray and making flatbread. Looks like my next purchase will be a proper linnen baking cloth :-)

LindyD's picture
LindyD

You won't regret it, Martyn.


I initially went the route of using canvas material as a couche, then took Pat's (Proth5) advice and purchased linen from TMB.  There's simply no comparison - the linen is magic.


Perhaps Andy will chime in and suggest a good U.K. supplier of a linen couche.

Allison Ayala's picture
Allison Ayala

Yeah even I agree Linen is amazing cloth, and it's always preferable to use linen while making breads.

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