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How to Shape Baguettes

Learn how to shape baguettes in this bread making video from Howcast.


All right, so the baguette dough has fermented for a total of two hours, with a turn at one hour. So now we're going to divide the dough, and so we're going to lightly dust our surface, scrape the dough out onto our surface. I'm going to shape this dough into two different shapes. I'm going to show you how to shape a traditional French baguette and then I'm going to show you how to shape demi-baguettes, which are smaller, about half the size, and fit more easily into your oven at home.

So for the French baguette I'm going to divide the dough into 300 gram pieces and for the demi-baguettes I'm going to use half that weight, so I'm going to divide it into 150 gram pieces. You can always eyeball this, but for me as a baker, weight really matters, both when you're scaling out your recipe just in terms of consistency, and then also when you're dividing, so things look more consistent.

If you find yourself making the same sourdough recipe or the same baguette dough recipe, and you've become so comfortable with it that you can just sort of eyeball the weights of things, and you know what the dough feels like, then by all means you don't need to weigh anything out. But for me consistency is really important, and so I always weigh everything out, from the ingredients to the scaling of the dough, right before I shape it.

All right, so when I'm dividing; now that these are divided; I'm going to pre-shape them, and pre-shaping is the step right before shaping, and you're pre-shaping, so that you can get an even and consistent final shape, that's all. So if you're shaping it into a ball, you really don't need to do a pre-shape. But when you're shaping it into a long baguette, you want that baguette to be even, and so you want to do some type of pre-shaping, so that the final shape is even.

So the first thing I do is that I take a bread board here and you could also use your kitchen counter or just something that you can flour, and let the bread sit on it for about 15-20 minutes. So I'm just going over the board with some flour and now I'm going to take my baguette piece and I'm going to roll it up, like I'm making a log, and that's all that I'm doing with this pre-shape, is I'm rolling it up and I'm making a log, and that will become my final baguette shape.

I'm not putting a lot of tension on this, although you could. But I'm just sort of rolling it out, just so it's nice and even. Now for the demi-baguettes my pre-shape is round and so I'm going to round this dough. And so again, I am flouring my hands, because this is a little stick, and that's okay. And I'm going to take against the surface that I'm working on, and sort of round and use that friction to create a nice ball, and I'm going to work two at a time.

And then these balls are going to rest along with the baguette oblongs for about 20 minutes and we're letting them rest, because we want the gluten to relax. And you might find as a beginning baker that your dough is already soft enough or relaxed enough, for you to shape it into a baguette and that's great. Really for a professional baker, who puts a lot of tension in the dough, you need to let that gluten relax, before you can do the final shape.

The rolling here for example, is really working the gluten, and so if I tried to shape this into something else right now, I wouldn't be able to so I need to let it relax. So that's dividing and pre-shaping baguette dough. We're going to let this relax, and we'll come back to it in about 20 minutes. So I'm going to show you how to shape a baguette, and then I'm going to show you how to shape demi-baguettes.

So I've moved all of my pieces of dough on to my board, so I would have more space, but you don't necessarily need to. I've gotten myself set up, so I've got a row of flour right in front of me. I've got my work space where I'm going to shape my baguette. I've got my bench knife, which is really important in shaping. And then I've got what is called a couche, which is a French word. It's a verb, it means couche which means to sleep.

And basically, I've rolled this couche up, and I'm going to proof my baguette on this couche, and it's just going to sort of let my bread proof and rest, and it sort of helps support my bread, so it doesn't go slack when it's proofing. So I've got my couche set up right over here on a board. This couche is about 26 inches long. You could easily substitute; this is a linen kitchen towel and it's somewhat sturdy; and this is an easy, easy substitute if you aren't able to find the linen available.

So I'm going to start shaping my baguette dough and the first thing that I'm going to do is that I'm going to deflate it a little bit with a little smack. You don't have to really deflate it, because we did knead it by hand. Then I'm going to take a piece of my dough and I'm going to fold it over itself, like I'm making a letter fold, only this time I'm going to use my thumb and my hand, and I'm going to push the dough forward, sort of like you're pushing forward parallel to your work surface.

And that is going to create this little bit of tension like this. And then from that point forward, I'm going to roll and seal with the palm of my right hand, and d I'm going to roll, see I'm rolling it and I'm sealing it and I'm going to go back over it, and I'm going to do it one more time. And see, that has formed a seam on the bottom. And so at this point, I have my initial shape. I'm going to roll my baguette out, I'm going to flour my hands a little bit, so it doesn't stick to me.

I just start in the center and I'm going to work in the center and I'm going to work my way out. So start in the center and then work your way out like that, and so that is a shaped baguette. I'm going to put a little flour down on my couche, so the baguette doesn't stick to it, and I'm going to make sure the seam is on the bottom of the couche and then I'm just going to fold the couche up just a little bit like that, and now I have a spot for my next baguette.

And so this next baguette, I'm going to shape faster, so you can see what it looks like sort of, like real time. So deflate, fold over and out, and then seal, and then roll it out. And the rolling out is really helping to even it out too, and then you're going to just put it in the flour, put it on the couche and then fold the couche up. And now to shape the demi-baguettes.These are rounds.

And so the way I shape these is first I deflate it a little bit, then I make a letter fold like this, and then I'm going to bring the two top ends of my rectangle down to the center to form a triangle. And then I'm going to take the top of that triangle down. And now I'm going to just sort of roll it out and as I roll it out, I'm going to taper the ends. And then I'm going to dip it in the flour and then I'm going to make sure that I dust this a little bit. I'm going to put my demi-baguettes right here.

And demi-baguettes are a great way, when you don't have a lot of space in your home bread oven, if the baguette isn't going to fit, like these will be a tight fit in this bread oven, but you can easily fit multiple demi-baguettes in your bread oven. So I'm going to do a letter fold, then I'm going to bring the two top corners down to make a triangle. I'm going to take the top down all the way to the bottom and then I'm going to roll it out, and I'm going to taper the ends, bring my couche up a little bit, and I'm going to keep going.

Okay, this is the last demi-baguette. I'm going to quickly shape it. I'm going to put it on the floured couche, and then what I like to do sometimes, if I have a little extra fabric, is I like to sort of pull the fabric over the bread to sort of keep it from drying out and prevent a skin from forming on it, so we're going to let this dough proof for about 30-45 minutes.

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