Mother Earth Living

Bread Making: How to Make Four Common Bread Shapes: Boules, Baguettes, Bâtardes, and Loaves

Most breads come in one of the following shapes or in a variation on one of them. Here are the steps you should follow to make boules, baguettes, bâtardes, and loaves.
By Lauren Chattman
May 2011 Web
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"Bread Making" offers in-depth instructions and bread-making techniques that even complete beginners can successfully follow. From buying flour to slicing a warm baguette, you'll find everything you need to know to make artisanal loaves of every bread style, including straight doughs, sourdoughs, yeasted flatbreads and more.
Photo Courtesy Storey

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The following is an excerpt from Bread Making: A Home Course by Lauren Chattman (Storey, 2011). The excerpt is from Chapter 3: The Basic Steps. 

Four Common Bread Shapes 

Most breads come in one of the following shapes or in a variation on one of them. Here are the steps you should follow to make boules, baguettes, bâtardes, and loaves.

Boule. A boule is a large round. Use the same steps, rounding with one hand instead of two, to make small round rolls.

1. On a lightly floured countertop, gather the pre-shaped dough together into a ball by cupping your hands around it and rotating it several times.

2. Pull the slack surface of the dough downward toward the countertop and pinch it together underneath the round, creating a tight, smooth skin over the round. See illustration.

3. With your hands cupped around the dough, rotate it as you drag it across the counter, pulling the skin tighter and tighter by pulling any loose bits of dough toward the bottom and incorporating them into the seams underneath. See illustration.

Bâtarde. This torpedo-shaped bread is formed by first rounding the dough and then tapering the ends.

1. Form a round as you would when shaping a boule.

2. Place the round seam side down on a lightly floured countertop. Cup your palms over the top of the round and gently roll it back and forth in small motions to elongate it, placing gentle pressure on the ends as you roll in order to taper them. See illustration.

Baguette. Customize your baguette by making it as long and thin or as short and fat as you’d like. French baguettes typically have tapered ends. Italian breads are of a uniform thickness with rounded ends.

1. Pat the pre-shaped dough into a 4- by 7-inch rectangle. Fold it into thirds, as if folding a letter, pressing the top fold into the other two folds with your fingertips to seal.

2. Use the side of your hand to make a shallow groove across this rectangle. Fold the rectangle in half along the groove and pinch the edges together  to seal. See illustration.

3. Place the dough seam side down on a lightly floured countertop. Place both of your hands in the center of the dough log and gently roll it back and forth in small motions, moving your hands toward the ends of the dough as you roll to stretch it into a longer log. To taper the ends, apply a little more pressure on the tips as you roll. See illustration.

Pan loaf. Even if a loaf is going to be baked in a pan, it still needs to be folded and rolled into shape for an optimum rise.

1. Press the dough into an 8-inch square. See illustration.

2. Make a groove across the square with the side of your hand and fold the dough over itself, pressing lightly on the edges to seal. See illustration.

3. With the seam side down, roll the rectangle back and forth on a lightly floured countertop until it is the same length as your loaf pan.  

When your dough is shaped, place it on a parchment-lined baker’s peel, or in a banneton, couche, or loaf pan for its second rise. Remember to place it seam side down unless otherwise directed, or else its seams will split wide open during baking.

Excerpted with permission from Bread Making: A Home Course (c) 2011 by Lauren Chattman; illustrations by Alison Kolesar; cover photography by Dan O. Williams; used with permission from Storey Publishing.   

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