This month, the Maine Grain Alliance brings you a video and membership newsletter on shaping baguettes. Ciril Hitz once asked a crowd at the Kneading Conference “Any of you out there have trouble shaping baguettes?”, but only a brave few raised their hands. For any of you who secretly have had problems shaping baguettes, click here for a video of a local baker, Noah Weston of The Bankery in Skowhegan, shaping baguettes.

An avid home bread baker I took on a “Baguette Challenge” this winter….

The holidays were over and winter had settled in. Buried in my stack of “books to read”, was Samuel Fromartz book, “In Search of the Perfect Loaf“, purchased at the Kneading Conference 2015. Skeptically, (after all, who would take so much time to create a perfect loaf of bread?), I read his book as well as Peter Reinhart’s description and method for Pain A L’ancienne. Well, why not a “baguette challenge”, is there really a difference? 

I used one recipe and method as my control and with each baking, I changed one input at a time and compared it to the control. Taste, crust, and crumb tests were done at home and amongst friends who were faithfully enthusiastic each time as well as the professionals at the Bankery. These guys could tell the difference EVERY time between the control and the experiment. I learned a lot about water temperature, yeasts, fermentation times, flours, salts and my final “best” product was a combination of those inputs. The number of baguettes that I produced was reminsicent of the “I Love Lucy” show, where Ethel and Lucy worked at the chocolates factory, but no one ever turned down an experiment. And while I will not vie for honors in Paris and Alice Waters has certainly not called me for an order, I have certainly found a great, though not perfect, loaf. The shaping baguette video may inspire you to your own “Baguette Challenge”.    

Baguette bread

Early attempt

Final results of my personal baguette challenge