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Boules, Baguettes and Batards, Oh My


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Parchment is 100% necessary for ciabatta, I think.  How else to do it?

The only other way I could think to do it would be on a greased (or maybe Silpat-lined) half-sheet pan. Although come to think of it, can a Silpat withstand 450-500 deg F heat?

I agree with you that the parchment directly on the stone is probably the best.

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I almost always make boules using a cheap dutch oven I picked up at Marshall's (no need to abuse my Le Creuset with 550F heat).

I've been doing 70% hydration lately (down from 75% which I'm beginning to think is not necessary for a bread of this sort). I usually proof in a banneton in the refrigerator, even if I'm not going to retard for a long period of time (this allows for a slightly better margin of error for overproofing, I think). Then, when it's done proofing, it's usually a bit stiffer from the cold, making it fairly easy to handle. I flip it, slash it, and carefully drop it into the dutch oven. I've found trying to flip directly into the dutch oven to be difficult to do with precision (I'm using a 5 quart), so I don't try that anymore.

I agree though that with breads that have to have really high hydration like ciabatta, parchment onto a stone's the only way to go. I like to remove it half way through too, because even if it's subtle the parchment does act as a bit of a heat barrier and I don't get the kind of toasty crustiness and color I like from the parts of the loaf in contact with the parchment.

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Lisa: What hydration are you doing?  I usually do between 67% and 70% for a boule (which I am also doing sourdough, with the expected consequences as to fragility) and don't have any troubles with deflation unless I misjudge and overproof.  Do you slash?  I find that it's really the slashing that seems to deflate a fragile dough much more than inverting.

My breads are right in that same hydration range. However, I generally don't retard the dough after shaping, but during bulk fermentation. (Bagels and challah are exceptions, but they're much dryer than most breads and not relevant to this discussion.) Perhaps I should consider it.

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I've thought of retarding the bulk stage instead of the loaf stage, which I imagine is probably better. But, since I have to work my bread making around a work day and bake in the evening, I'd have to shape the loaves after I got home from work and would end up baking them at midnight or something like that.


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Admittedly, I have lots of free time on my hands since I've been out of work the past year, but I used to do most of my baking on weekends. Perhaps you can retard the dough before and after shaping, sort of a take on the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day concept. Always have a batch of dough waiting to be shaped, shape it the night before, and bake when you get home from work. I bet that would make some pretty tasty bread.

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On the other hand, something that is more like an oval boule is very good for slicing and toasting.

I'd imagine my 7-1/2 quart oval Dutch oven would be perfect for this shape. I'll give that a try one day.

Might be perfect for a loaf 3 times the size of the one I'm baking - I have a 7.5 qt. oval Staub and the thing is HUGE.

I'm in agreement with not liking the way the parchment gets kind of folded into the dough when using the CI method...though I have done some wet pizza doughs on parchment.

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gfron1: Is your bâtard more like a short, thick baguette or more like an elongated boule?

I guess I'd call what I baked above bâtards rather than baguettes, and they aren't ideal for toasting in my slice toaster.  The boule slices much better for that (although perhaps 5% on each "skinny side" of the boule isn't great).  On the other hand, something that is more like an oval boule is very good for slicing and toasting.

Mine is definitely more of a short thick baguette than an elongated boule.

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I'd imagine my 7-1/2 quart oval Dutch oven would be perfect for this shape.  I'll give that a try one day.

Might be perfect for a loaf 3 times the size of the one I'm baking - I have a 7.5 qt. oval Staub and the thing is HUGE.

There's no reason you need to fill the entirety of the oven with dough. It just gives you the space to create a bread of a certain length.

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  • 2 months later...

The number 28 inches ( 70 cm) sticks in my head from a French bread class I took recently with a traditional baker.

That number was confirmed on this blog. See sidebar "Shaping A Baguette."


Raymond Calvel's The Taste of Bread has a chart of the traditional French bread shapes, their weights, and sizes. A technical book, but available thru my public library by library consortium exchange. Wouldn't you know it, I returned the book yesterday to my library.

French law dictates the baguette's weight and composition. I would guess length also. That would be another place to research.

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There must be a solid platinum baguette somewhere in France that defines the official length in SI units.

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The Grand Prix de la Meilleure Baguette de Paris, the annual competition for the best traditional baguette, with the prize including the right to supply the Elysee Palace, specifies a length of exactly 70cm and a finished weight of between 250gm and 300gm, hence a typical dough weight of 340gm

The Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie, an international artisan bread baking competition held every three years in Paris, specifies a finished weight of exactly 250gm and a length of between 60cm and 70cm

Edited by jackal10 (log)
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  • 4 months later...

At the bakery, we sometimes get a bubble right in the middle of our sourdough baguettes. Some days close to half have a bubble; but most days it is around 10-20%. The baguettes with bubbles turn out with a crater where the bubble was, and the score that goes across the bubble is often irregular. The crater is typically about 4 cm across and about 2 cm deep. I've never noticed the bubble with our yeasted baguettes even though we use the same equipment for mixing, dividing, shaping, proofing and baking.

Typically we can see the bubble right after it comes off the shaping machine. The person picking it up and placing on the couche rack will know that there will be a bubble the next morning when it is baked.

We use a shaping machine that sends each piece of dough between two rollers to get the baguette shape. I can take pictures if it would be helpful to diagnose.

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I'm not an expert at machine forming, but it sounds like the dough is not being rolled hard enough.

Can you get the manufacturer to check the settings, in particular the spring tension on the forming plates and rollers?

If you are on the BBGA mailing list http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/breadbakersguild/ there are some real experts there.

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Change the settings on the rollers to de-gas the dough more. This should solve the problem. The drawback is a slightly reduced overall volume, due to the extra force exerted on the dough. With skilled hands, one can detect such a bubble (especially in a smaller piece of dough like a baguette) and eliminate it accordingly.

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  • 5 years later...

Hi everyone, I am a real beginner and I got a question.


I've been making baguettes for a week now.  And everything has been going great until tonight.


Basically, It's my own little secret recipe, and using all purpose flour...  Tonight I got home, my wife surprised me with "quality" flour, Robin Hood "best for bread" flour.


I was super excited, how ever the end result was a fail.  I did everything as usual, however I did notice that it took about 1 cup extra flour as I normally would add.


And after baking it, it came out looking amazing, but like hollow.. not literally, but usually my baguettes were coming out dense and full.


Dunno if I make any sense at all. 


Just wondering if it's because of the flour.

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Sounds like it was a proofing or slashing issue.


The bread flour, having more gluten, can support more and larger holes without collapse. A good baguette should have random large holes. If it's dense and even like sandwich bread (like grocery store baguettes) inside, it's not really a baguette.


You really should be using a formula based upon weight, not volume, for dry ingredients.


On the first day of pastry class, I have each student measure out a cup of flour, however they like to do it, then weigh it. Then I have them do it again. No one gets the same number as anyone else, and, no one in the room ever gets the same number twice.

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I agree with Lisa. 

My French bread, whether baguettes, boules or batards  are made with bread flour or "strong" flour, high protein, high gluten and have lots of holes, varying from small to large and a very crisp crust.


To me a dense crumb is a sign of not enough yeast activity and is disappointing. 



"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett


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Previous Baguettes


And they came out delicious, crisp, crunchy.

I mean putting the blade to the crust rumbled my house. Actually, I have sold 5 of these and have 8 to sell for the weekend.

This is last night (My shaping is getting better) There is no crunch at all..????

It's a soft shell...... :( :(



Oh and I had a flash back, this is where you guys might all yell at me.

I know I said I did everything the way I've done with the all purpose....

Ummmm, I forgot to add my olive oil.

1 1/2 water

3 1/2 to 4 cups flour (except last night I had to go to about 5 cups with this Robin Hood)

1 1/2 tsp yeast (I've been using quick rise instant)

1tsp sugar

1 Tsp salt

2 tsp (my spices)

Another thing I noticed last night, after about 2 hours of fermenting, when I took out the bowl from its resting spot, the dough just collapsed. Never saw that before.

So I pulled it out of the bowl, laid it out, banged on it a little to take out the air... Preshapped 2 baguettes and set aside for 20 min.

When I started rolling them out later, they were full of air bubbles. Again something I never experienced in my previous 8 baguettes with my all purpose.

So I guess back to my first question, did the flour really make the whole difference? Or forgetting my 1 TBS of oil?

Won't be able to reply as I'm on restricted access. However I can reply by editing this post.

Edited by KingofBaguette (log)
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The flour makes a huge difference of course as does adding an extra cup (!) of flour and oil (?) to a baguette recipe.

From your "before" baguettes it looks like your slashes aren't opening at all during baking which is probably a sign of a lack of oven spring and could be due to under proofing or shaping.

The crumb of your baguettes appears extra dense. That's fine if you like it but it's not the preferred quality of baguette crumb.

Id suggest trying to achieve more gluten development by more kneading or more stretch and folds of your dough or more time for fermentation etc.

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Try using the basic baguette formula provide by King Arthur flour that utilized a poolish preferment and secondary addition of yeast. What's possible with this method might open your eyes a little.

There's no need to add herbs and spices to a baguette it should have plenty of flavor from the dough process.

Also if you want a crisp crust: add steam to the baking environment at the beginning.

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