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  • Loaf Shape?

    A question to throw out here. I've got a pretty good handle on the crumb issue now, but ...

    When I shape baguettes or longer shaped loaves they go in nice and narrow, but end up flatter and wider than desired. It's like they melt and seem to expand more in width than height :-) . These doughs, Hammelman's white or wheat sourdough mainly, are ~60-65% hydration, which is definitely pliable, but not cibatta consistency. I bake at 500-550* F. I was using a sprayer for steam, but went back to a sheet pan with a glass of water. Any ideas what could help here?

  • #2
    Re: Loaf Shape?

    Hi Pdiff!

    Couple of ideas... Conventional "french style" baguettes are usually in the 60 percent hydration range so you are on the wet side of normal and that will tend to equate to spreading. I assume you are using GP. 65% is pretty wet for GP. I would suggest sticking to 58 or 60 percent until you get that working well.

    (Yes there are wetter baguette doughs, but...)

    Kneading the dough and shaping a baguette is nontrivial - especially for wetter doughs. You need enough gluten development to keep it from overly sagging. The shaping needs to create enough surface tension to keep it from excessively sagging. The finished loaf needs to be light and well proofed but yet it needs to be underproofed some so the oven spring can lift the loaf. Timing is pretty critical. Great baguettes are hard which is why they are one of the key skills in bread competitions.

    Hang in there!
    Jay

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    • #3
      Re: Loaf Shape?

      Thanks, Jay. A wealth of information as usual! I should trust my instincts more, I guess. I had suspected these things, especially the hydration. I also want to try to temper my slashing too as I can get carried away with that.

      Speaking of which, I saw a great video the other day. It was a Julia Child show from the 70's and she was making "French" bread. That was interesting in itself, but the good part was when she showed a clip from a visit she made to a bakery in Paris (I don't think it was Poilaine, but I could be wrong). There were some really good shots of his slashing technique and using a baguette board to move the loaves. If anyone out there has access to these DVDs or NetFlix, this was the 3rd disk of "The French Chef 2 with Julia Child". It's worth a watch, IMO. If it isn't available on NetFlix, it's because I still have it and need to pop it in the mail

      Pdiff

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      • #4
        Re: Loaf Shape?

        The only thing wrong with the video (I think I know which one) is it is SO LONG! But...pretty good. Have you seen the video with 500 "whacks" (effectively 500 folds). (As I recall her French friend splats the bread on the counter and sort of folds it as she grabs it 500 times. I tried it and it definitely gave a strong, well worked texture that stands up well to slashing.

        In general, baguettes should not open much on slashing. If they do the dough is too slack.

        An alternative (but an "always flat" one) is Pain l'Ancienne from the Reinhart books that has no slashing.

        I don't think your steaming contributes to sag in any way. Good steaming can enable sagging (by keeping the crust soft) but gives the crust you want!

        Good Luck!
        Jay

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        • #5
          Re: Loaf Shape?

          Originally posted by texassourdough View Post
          The only thing wrong with the video (I think I know which one) is it is SO LONG! But...pretty good. Have you seen the video with 500 "whacks" (effectively 500 folds). (As I recall her French friend splats the bread on the counter and sort of folds it as she grabs it 500 times. I tried it and it definitely gave a strong, well worked texture that stands up well to slashing.
          This must be a different clip, as it is pretty short (actually two clips as part of her 30 min show), but Julia does use the fold and whack kneading method. The French man (Prof. Cavelle?) goes through an elaborate patting,folding and rolling routine to form the loaf (a long snake of dough). His lame looks pretty specialized. It is bent such that, when he holds it vertical at about 90* to the loaf, the blade is actually cutting at an angle. He basically pokes it into the loaf and then draws it back with two distinct motions. It looks like a bent scalpel. Maybe it is.

          A lot of over analysis on my part here, but like the Poilaine video posted in the vids section, it's a beautiful thing to watch a professional like that work with such ease.

          Pdiff

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          • #6
            Re: Loaf Shape?

            Just a quick followup on the loaf shape. I finally got to fire up the oven last weekend and try a lower hydration dough. I actually got it a bit too dry for texture, but it definitely did improve the shape and prevent the meltdowns I was getting. Hopefully (weather permitting) I can try again this weekend with a bit more hydration. The bread is Hammelman's Roasted Potato (doubled).
            Attached Files

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            • #7
              Re: Loaf Shape?

              Those are gorgeous!

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Loaf Shape?

                Great slashes! Look good!

                With experience in forming (which will create loaves that hold their shape better) and more perfect kneading (which will come) you can increase the hydration and get an more open crumb, but if either of the above are off, you tend to get puddles (wide and flat!)

                Great work!
                Jay

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                • #9
                  Re: Loaf Shape?

                  Geez, you guys know how to boost an ego! :-) Thanks for the compliments. I'm going to have to start posting here more often .

                  I have another round planned for the weekend if it doesn't rain too hard. That, and a batch of chocolate croissants :-) Shhhhh! It's a surprise for VD....

                  Pdiff

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                  • #10
                    Round two:

                    Another try with a white sourdough. I ended up kneading in about an extra cup of flour to get the consistency I thought I needed. The Bātards came out well and the baguettes not too bad. The lift in those was limited as I mucked them up a bit during loading. I've never used a baguette board (AKA a piece of 1 x 6 pine I had laying around) before and stretched them out too much unloading. I'm still pleased with them, though. I think I will clean up the board for better performance. It was fun making such a long piece of dough :-)

                    Pdiff
                    Attached Files

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                    • #11
                      Re: Loaf Shape?

                      Need a crumb shot to really tell much. They look a bit rough but I like my bread rustic so it doesn't bother me at all. Your slashing continues to look good. Forming looks like the biggest problem - and contributed to some of the "character" of the loaves. It AIN"T easy!
                      Jay

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                      • #12
                        Re: Loaf Shape?

                        What's the best way to off load a long baguette? Down the length or off the side. I tried both. The off the side didn't work well as I didn't flour the board and the board was too tall. It rolled onto it's side and I had to hastily try to save it :-p I did get to practice some French, tho. The second one I slid down the length, which did pretty well, but really stretched the middle thin. The "rustic" shapes are mainly due to those mishaps. I'm trying to remember what I've seen in the vids I've seen.

                        The crumb was good - open celled with few big pockets. Sorry, no pics. the, uhhhh, evidence has disappeared :-)
                        Pdiff

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                        • #13
                          Re: Loaf Shape?

                          Ahhh, yes, the old rolling off the board routine! Lots of things go wrong there! I don't have a good answer to that and i don't do long baguettes a lot. My shorter baguettes go off the end like a boule. Methinks that us amateurs who don't do a LOT of baguettes benefit from using parchment. It allows the loaf to slide off the peel and onto the stone with no danger of rolling over - thus keeping the slashes on top.

                          WRT baguettes I continue to hone my forming and have been working on both the tensioning during the loaf formation and the ends - striving to avoid the end blob/dumbell shape that is so much easier to accomplish!

                          Hang in there. You are really close!
                          Jay

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                          • #14
                            Re: Loaf Shape?

                            Thanks Jay. Fortunately I am, and plan to stay, in the amateur class :-) The Baguette was a spur of the moment thing - like "hey, let's see how long I can roll this puppy out". Then afterwards, scrambling through the barn wood pile trying to find a decent (clean) board to launch the sucker :-) Not the best planned outing ... Still, I have a nice board now and will work it up a bit to be thinner and smoother. I need to get in a bit of wood work anyway. Too cold to finish the oven and I haven't done any woodwork other than splitting logs since my kayak building days. This job isn't much different from paddle making.

                            Yet another challenge! :-)

                            Pdiff

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                            • #15
                              Re: Loaf Shape?

                              Originally posted by Pdiff View Post
                              Then afterwards, scrambling through the barn wood pile trying to find a decent (clean) board to launch the sucker :-) Not the best planned outing ...
                              LOL! I share the pain! Bread has a way of becoming "an adventure" from time to time.

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