The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Couche help please- I finally got one

Marni's picture

Couche help please- I finally got one

As suggested here on this site, I have a painter's canvas drop cloth to use as a couche.  It is 5'x15' - a bit large for my needs.  I'm wondering what would be the most practical size to cut.   I'm thinking 3'x5'?  3'x2.5'? 

Also, since it was not intended for food usage, should I wash it first?  I planned to, but don't know if it will get too soft. 

 I was able to find rice flour for dusting it at a middle eastern market.  It is very fine- like dusting powder or cornstarch.  Is that the right stuff?  I have always used cornmeal on parchment so I want to check before I start.

The dough I have rising is quite slack, so any thoughts on that would be great.  (I may just stick with my parchment for this loaf...)

 I appreciate any ideas.  Those are the questions I've thought of, but if someone has other tips I should know, please send them on.



dmsnyder's picture

Hi, Marni. 

I suppose the best size for you would depend on how many loaves you will be making at one time and the size of the counter on which you will proof them. I think I would measure the counter real estate available, add 30-50% to account for folding up the couch between loaves and go for it. 

Dusting generally is done with AP flour. You want a fine flour than you can rub into the canvas' "pores." I wouldn't use a coarse flour as you would on a peel or parchment. Rice flour is an interesting idea. I use it mixed with AP flour in bannetons, but I've not heard of it being used on couches, but why not? 

Slack dough is a challenge on a couche, for sure. I had a problem last weekend with a mildly sticky dough adhering to the couche. I think the answer is to flour it very generously, really making a "bed" of flour. I'm still learning, too. 


suave's picture

I use only rice flour for dusting.  The stuff that I buy is sold in gluten-free section of local supermarket and is definitely coarser than regular flour - think very fine sand, but I think finer variety will work just as nicely.  The last oriental market I've been to also sold "cream of rice" - rather fine rice grits.  That, I think, would also work nicely.  Don't worry too much about sticking, most of the time my doughs are on the wet/slack side, but rice flour is like teflon.

LindyD's picture

When I use a couche in an attempt to keep my dough rising up rather than out, I will dust it with rice flour (which I ground), then place a narrow strip of parchment the on the couche for each baguette or loaf.

The rice flour is to keep the sides from sticking and the parchment makes it easier for me to move the dough to the peel and then to the oven. If the dough is really wet, the parchment gets damp but I've not noticed any negative effect on the crust.

Yeah, I'm a slacker, but the bread still tastes great.





edh's picture

I use straight rice flour on my couche (which is just a piece of rather cheap, thin cotton), and it never sticks. I'm a little heavier handed with spreading the rice flour when I'm doing a slack dough, but it really does work like magic. For moving longer loaves like baguettes or batards, I made a smaller peel of 1/8 thick pine, which I also rub with rice flour before using.

Works a charm!


holds99's picture

I use a piece of thick canvas similar to what you describe,  The canvas was originally was 36 inches wide by 6 feet long, so I cut it down the middle lengthwise to get (2 eighteen inches wide by 6 feet long pieces) 2 couches.  I made mine 18 inches wide because of the size of my oven, you could make it wider if you have a larger oven/workspace.  My wife seamed the edges with her sewing machine (she calls it "overcasting").  Then washed it, dried it and ironed it out flat (it takes lots of steam from the iron to take out the wrinkles from washing and drying).  Before using it I dust it thoroughly with a mixture of rice flour and white flour.  It works great.  After using it, I take it outside and shake off the excess flour and hang it up to air dry thoroughly then roll it (floured side in) and store it for next use.  Mark Sinclair, who owns a bakery and posts to this site, suggests folding it folds and storing it on a baking pan.  I don't store mine in a plastic bag for fear that it may mold if there's a slight amount of moisture left in the canvas.  Hope this helps.

Howard - St. Augustine, FL

Marni's picture

Thank you to everyone for the suggestions. 

Suave, LindyD and edh,  I'll check how fine my rice flour is - I've never used it before so I'm looking forward to seeing how it works out.  LindyD, I love parchment!  Thanks for pointing out that I can still use it.  Just a narrower piece.  I got the couche because the parchment is too stiff when I curve it up the sides of the bread and pokes into my softer doughs causing lumpy looking loaves.

David, I have always proofed on ( or in) a pan, I hadn't thought of the fact that this can now sit on the counter and be quite large.

Howard, Thanks, sewing the edge is a good idea.  (I think I'll ask my mother to help out on that one- lazy me.)

Thanks again,