The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Ficelles made with Anis Bouabsa's baguette formula

dmsnyder's picture

Ficelles made with Anis Bouabsa's baguette formula



  • Flour500 gms Giusto's Baker's Choice
  • Water375 gms
  • Yeast1/4 tsp Instant
  • Salt10 gms
  1. Mix flour and water and autolyse for 20 minutes.
  2. Add yeast and mix by folding dough in the bowl.
  3. Add salt and mix by folding dough in the bowl.
  4. Mix dough by folding and stretching in the bowl for 20 strokes. Repeat this 3 more times at 20 minute intervals.
  5. Refrigerate dough, covered tightly, for 21 hours.
  6. Divide into 4 equal parts and preshape gently for baguettes.
  7. Allow preshaped pieces to rest, covered with plastic, for 1 hour.
  8. Shape into ficelles (short, thin baguettes).
  9. Proof en couche or on parchment paper dusted with semolina for 45 minutes.
  10. Pre-heat oven to 500F with baking stone in middle rack and a cast iron skillet and a metal loaf pan on the lowest rack. Preheat 45 minutes or longer before baking.
  11. 3-5 minutes before baking, place a handful of ice cubes in the loaf pan. Shut the oven door. Bring water to a boil.
  12. Transfer the ficelles to a peel and load them onto the baking stone. Pour one cup of boiling water into the skillet. Close the oven door.
  13. Turn the oven down to 480F.
  14. After 10 minutes, remove the loaf pan and the skillet from the oven.
  15. Continue baking for another 10-15 minutes until the loaves are nicely colored, the crust is hard all around and the bottom gives a hollow sound when tapped. Internal temperature should be at least 205F.
  16. Cool on a rack completely before slicing.
Anis Bouabsa is a young Parisian boulanger who won the prize for the best baguettes in Paris in 2008. He gave Janedo, a French home baker extraordinaire and a member of TFL, his formula, and Jane shared it with us. He uses a technique of a long, cold fermentation which has been used, with variations, by a number of contemporary French bakers.In addition to producing wonderfully flavored bread, it also permits the home baker to make bread using two blocks of about 2-3 hours rather than requiring longer time blocks. For example, I mixed the dough yesterday evening after dinner. I took it out of the refrigerator at about 4:30 pm this afternoon, and we ate it with dinner at 7:30 pm.These ficelles sang loudly coming out of the oven. I cooled them for only 20-30 minutes. The crust was very crunchy, and the crumb had a sweetness that would make one think there was sugar in the dough. Very yummy.Variations on Bouabsa's formula, adding 100 gms of sourdough starter and substituting 10% rye or whole wheat flour for an equal amount of white flour, make a delicious pain de campagne, which has become a favorite bread of several of us.This is described in my blog entries under "Pain de Campagne" and "San Joaquin Sourdough."Enjoy!David



Candygirl's picture

This is so on my to do list!

wren's picture

These are so beautiful, the color is amazing!

Is it possible for someone to explain how to transfer the proofed dough from the baker's linen onto the peel without them deflating? When I move my dough that's been proofed it seems like it looses all its height and doesn' recover in the oven. What is the correct way to do this?


dmsnyder's picture

Hi, wren.

Thanks for your kind words.

The best way to transfer baguettes from couch to peel is to use a "transfer peel," also known as a "flipping board."

The baguettes should be proofed seam side down. They are rolled onto a long and thin board, then flipped onto the peel for loading into the oven. You can also proof seam side up, but then you should roll each baguette over before putting it on the transfer peel.

SusanFNP has made a nice video of the procedure. Here's a link:

Hope this helps.

BTW, if you search TFL on "transfer peel" or "flipping board," you will find some ingeneous home-made peel ideas.


wren's picture

oh! brilliant! i'm glad that little neuron-connection was just made in my brain. thank you for the help david!


highmtnpam's picture

David, Your bread is always so sweeet (in teenage vernacular that means fantastic, wonderful, beautiful,etc)   I aim for that beautiful color but don't always achieve it.  What is your best suggestion for consistent color ??   

Thanks,  Pam

dmsnyder's picture

How to get crust color like mine consistently? I dunno. Follow my formula and procedures?

I could give you a general overview of factors influencing crust color, but it might be more helpful if you tell me what problem you are having with your crust.

Meanwhile, think about this: Assuming you haven't done anything bizarre with your dough like radically over-proofing it, you can control crust coloration by manipulating time and temperature. 

Let's say you are baking baguettes of 250 g for 25 minutes at 440ºF. You want a darker crust. You might raise the temperature to 460º and bake for 22 minutes.

Fiddle with it. You should be able to get your bread just as you like it.


highmtnpam's picture

David, Frankly, it new occurred to me to raise the temperature.  Thanks for a great idea.   Pam

GSnyde's picture

My ficelles are fresh out of the oven.  When I opened the oven to pull out the steam pan, I saw that the tips of the ears were already getting very dark (this happens to me too on very sunny days with no hat, but I decided that sunscreen would not help the bread in any way).  So I turned the oven to 430 on convection for the rest of the bake and baked a few extra minutes.  My only other problems were shaping, proofing, scoring and transferring the loaves to the oven.  This is the slackest dough I've worked with, and four 13 inch ficelles did not go easily onto my improvised (parchment over towel) couche, not did they want to be slashed prettily, not did they fit well on my baking stone.

Other than that, it was a marvelous bake and they look great (if a bit dark in places). I'll report on taste (the thing that matters most) and post pix on my blog tomorrow.  


chefkill's picture

are you letting the dough come to room temp after 21 hours or are you going right into preliminary shaping?

thanks for the help.

chefkill's picture

Hi David,


Your bread has really been working out well, but I would like to make a larger loaf as my family really likes sandwiches. I'm assuming (usually a big mistake) that I will need to lower the temp and time a bit. I would appreciate your input on this.

I will be taking a few classes with Mr. Hamelman over the next few months and will share my  experience when I return. Thanks for the help



dmsnyder's picture

Hi, Tad.

If you want to make a larger loaf using Boabsa's method, I suggest you look at this:

Baking at 460 degrees for 28-30 minutes results in the crust color I prefer. If you want a lighter crust, you could bake at 440-450 degrees for 30-32 minutes. (Assumes loaf weight of about 450-475 g.)

The San Joaquin Sourdough does not use added yeast. I assume you have an active starter. If not, you could use the Boabsa formula and just shape as boules or batards.


chefkill's picture

Thanks David1

LuLu B's picture
LuLu B

loved the rye and sourdough idea!

cjns1989's picture

Thanks much for posting this.

I have been using your formula/recipe for a couple of weeks for all kinds of breads, rolls, regular loaves, pizza crusts, etc. with great results.

And that's with a toaster oven with a measured maximum temperature of 400°F and no scales to weigh the ingredients!

I had a few questions:

1. Why twenty minutes autolyse rather than thirty, or twenty-one, for that matter? Is there anything magical about the number twenty, or is it just a reasonable minimum beyond which nothing useful happens?
2. Is it necessary to tightly cover the dough in between autolyse, and then between the successive strech & fold sequences?
3. Why twenty strokes when folding? I tend to end up with a few small lumps (I do not have a mixer and do it all by hand, usually 8-10 cups of flour) and I found that if I fold some fifty times or thereabouts, I end up with dough that's a lot smoother. Any risk this might.. ‘damage’ my gluten, so to speak?
4. Why 21 hours refrigeration? My schedule being what it is, I sometimes cut down the fermentation time to something like ten hours, and there have been times when I made the dough in advance and left it something like 36 or even 48 hours in the fridge. I noticed that when I use it after 8-10 hours, the dough is a bit more difficult to work with and the resulting crumb is slightly more compact. If I leave it more than 24 hours, on the other hand, I get a better rise and both the crust and the crumb are even better than when I stick with the recommended 21 hours.

I would greatly appreciate any comments on the above.



Laddavan's picture
Laddavan looks nice, thanks

mccvi's picture

i've completed this recipe twice.  both times the loaves were excellent, both in crust and crumb, but i've found it very difficult to shape (final shaping) them given how sticky the dough and wet the dough is.  does this mean i should reduce the hydration ratio, add a little flour during the final shaping, or do some post fridge stretch and folds to increase the membrane strength (is this even possible)? which option is best, is the last one even allowed?  any help would be most appreciated.

many thanks.

dmsnyder's picture

Hi, mccvi.

I'm glad you are enjoying this bread.

The dough is sticky. If you added flour during the final shaping, it would be un-fermented. You would just end up with streaks of raw flour in the loaves. Not recommended.

Handling slack dough is an acquired skill. Frequently dusting your hands with flour or wetting them may help. In my opinion, the real key is to use a light, fast touch. The dough will stick to your hands less if they are in contact with it for an instant at a time. If the dough sticks to the board a little, just loosen it with your bench knife. If it sticks a lot, you can dust flour on the bench lightly.

Again, a light (but firm), fast touch is the key to handling this dough. You can lightly dust your hands and the bench as needed, but try to avoid incorporating raw flour in the dough during shaping.

Hope this helps.


jet's picture

just did this one for the first time and just realized i only added half the yeast (i doubled the recipe, and had 3 small children running around me as i was mixing). guess i'll give this a nice, loooooooooooooooooooong fermentation time and see what happens.


mabdelsayed's picture

Just baked the ficelles, they taste good, but the crumb is more compact, then it should be. Also the loaves are somewhat  heavy for their size. Please tell me what can cause this. Thanks

dmsnyder's picture

Causes of a compact crust

1. Inadequate gluten development

2. Insufficient bulk fermentation.

3. Excessive de-gassing when shaping.

4. Insufficient proofing.

Those are the most likely causes, in order of likelihood. However, you can also get a denser crust from

5. Over-proofing

6. Not scoring.

7. Insufficient oven steaming.


mabdelsayed's picture

In lieu of stretching and lifting, can you use a Kitchen Aid  mixer,  fitted with a dough hook. I love to bake bread, but I am limited by an old multiple hand/wrist fracture. Merci beaucoup David



dmsnyder's picture

Yes. You could mix with a KitchenAid mixer.


mabdelsayed's picture

thanks David, for your prompt reply, I will try again.

willthefirst's picture

So I followed this recipe and tried to make the starter, but after 21 hours of rise it ended in tears, because the dough was still far too tough (absolutely not sticky or elastic, as other commenters have mentionned). 


I used:

a mix of King Arthur All-Purpose White and Bread Flour (1:1) ~4.3 cups

1/4 teaspoon of instant dry yeast, 10 grams of salt

1.5 cups of water

It was impossible to fold starting out, and my hope was that it would soften up with a rise. It didn't soften, I tried adding water after the rise (out of desperation) and that failed. Now I have a hunk of flour in my garbage. What went wrong? Wouldn't it make more sense to dissolve the yeast and salt in the water before hand, then mix in the dough?


mcs's picture

According to the formula David listed at the top of the thread, he uses:

375g(water)/500g(flour)=.75   or 75% hydration

Since you're using volume measurements, it's impossible to get the exact hydration, but if your flour cups were 145g each, your hydration would be:

356g(water)/624g(flour)=.57  or 57% hydration

If you're going to use volume measurements, keep the yeast and salt the same but use 3.5 cups of flour and a little over 1.5 cups of water.

The salt and yeast can be added directly to the dry ingredients and it saves you a step.


willthefirst's picture

I figured the measurements must have gone wrong. I'll try again!

dmsnyder's picture

Using half bread flour (probably 12.5-12,7% protein) would result in the flour absorbing more water and a dough that would act even firmer than if you had used all AP.


GSnyde's picture

In my experience with this formula, most of the dough should stick to your hands and whatever else it touches, and it should stretch far more than you want merely buy looking at it cross-eyed.  Think Gumby-in-a-microwave and you're on the right track.

I agree with the comments above about hydration and flour choice.

It is delicious if you can get it to hold still.


willthefirst's picture

MITENALL's picture

I usually dont respond to posts... BUT, this recipe is AMAZING!

Thank You David for sharing it.

I have been out of baking for at least a decade. I somehow wandered across your recipe and thought "what the hell", I am so glad I found it. A good friend of mine, also a physician, opened my eyes to what sorts of processed crap we have been putting in our bodies for years. Needless to say our family has made a change to a more healty diet.  He and I have been going back and forth, in sort of a "one up ya" contest, we are both "foodies". My only problem now is, I have to wait a day to get him a couple loaves because these are not going to make it past noon today.

Marc Brik's picture
Marc Brik

Reading the recipe, that I needed unbleached flour at 11.5%; I only had unbleached whole grain flour, so I sifted out most the bran. There was still some bran in the flour. Knowing that I should have added another 6.4% extra water into the recipe. But I didn't. hence the firm result

to hold the shape during baking, I made a 'pan' from chicken wire. lined with baking paper so the bread is not touching the wire, my 'stone' is a ceremic floor tile. And that all worked really well

the dough sat pretty much still, it relaxed and was easy to roll after 21 hrs in the fridge, even after 1 hr on the bench and 45 minutes proof not much changed, only in the oven with all the steam it started to move

i used the tray to slide the wire onto the stone

This is a 3/4 oven, bit more hot than a full oven

need to cut deeper, and hold the razor blade a little more on an angle while cutting, as you can see, not enough leviation, but cooked after 12 + 10 minutes

But, I learned from the process and going to try again, this time with bleached bakers flour at 11% protein so I add 0.5gr of gluten flour per 100gr flour. I'll made the recipe with 1kg of flour, so that works out to 5gr of glutenflour xtra. 

The dough was a lot softer and stickier, than my whole grain try. Which is good. Still not the results shown in the starter blog. I've taken the dough out of the fridge 2 hr before pre-shape. pre-shape 1 hr on the bench, finall shape 45 min before baking. Hot oven 260degree C. steam/ water bath for 2 minutes, spray the oven inside, stone bake a bit lower than the middle of the oven. turn the oven down to 225degree C bake 10 minutes, take out of the wire tray and place directly on the stone, bake another 12 minutes directly on the stone. 

result, nice crust, nice colour, good flavour. But no where near the airy structure of the first photo. 1 I think you used more yeast than you have descibed in your recipe. 2 or you have a proofer where you under controlled temperature and humidity rise the bread before baking.

I'm going to try a sourdough next, with more leviation than in this recipe. and I will leave it on the bench for even longer.

I'll keep you posted



katyajini's picture

Hi David!

I think it is here in this thread that you say something like you do two additional S&F 45 min apart on the bench? Or instead of the three S&F 20 mins apart in the bowl? And that was a big improvement for gluten development.  If you have a moment would you clarify for me if I am doing

A) 3 S&F in the bowl plus 20 mins apart PLUS 2 S&F 45 mins apart on the bench or

B) only 2 S&F on the bench 45 mins apart or

C) ?

Do you find S&F on the bench to be stronger, i.e. more effective, for developing gluten?

I think it is also here that it is commented to add maybe a little, in the range of 5% rye or whole wheat flour or a combination, to approximate the flavor or texture of French flours? I dont mean trying to have a pain de champagne effect. Is this correct? 

I have been reading so many threads so fast I am becoming confused where a piece of information came from...

Going to try this bread now!

Thank you!

dmsnyder's picture

These days, I handle the dough according to my assessment of what it needs. I think 4 episodes of S&F in the bowl at 30 minute intervals is fairly equivalent to two episodes of S&F on the bench at 50 minute intervals. But, that's for the way I do them. 

With experience, you will get a feeling for dough strength as it develops during bulk fermentation and adjust your dough manipulations accordingly.

I have found that, when I make a "white" bread with American AP flour, adding 5 to 10% rye, whole wheat or a mix enhances the flavor. I have never personally baked with French flour. Very few of the breads I have eaten in France during many trips have been as good as the breads I can bake at home. The exceptions have mostly been because of the ovens they use, not the flours or fermentation, at least that's my impression.


katyajini's picture


Very few of the breads I have eaten in France during many trips have been as good as the breads I can bake at home. :):)!

I will bet my bottom dollar on that!

Thank you for the above guidance, its means a lot to me and it is ver helpful.

I made this recipe with but autolysing flour with 325 gms water at warm RT for 4 hours.  Wanted to get the sweetening effect right away.  maybe I will try a controlled experiment another time. Then added yeast and salt and remaining water and proceeded as written. 

hands down, this recipe was preferred over the Gosselin one. 

My baguette rustique look more like ciabatta. I have to work on that.  I followed your tips on steaming ( about 10 -12mins) and got a less shiny and crisper crust (which is what I wanted). The crumb is more moist, tender yet chewy, and still very sweet.  The crumb is just as open, but in a different way.  For me this is a bread worth getting to know and experimenting with.  I will try your SD version. 



dmsnyder's picture

I'm sure they taste as good as they look, too.