Shaping a Loaf – Oval, Boule, Batard

Herewith the techniques I use for shaping a loaf: a Rustic Oval, a Rustic Boule and a Batard.

Shaping a Loaf – Free Form

Most of my loaves are made free-form, baked on a sheet or in a Dutch oven. I shouldn’t imagine there’d be any problem using a loaf tin for these recipes, but I can’t speak from experience.

RUSTIC OVAL LOAF

With a 50/50 mix of flour and semolina, generously dust a large working surface.
Gently turn the dough out of the bowl, and press it outwards to a rough rectangle.
This will ease out excess gas, but not flatten the dough.

‘Thirds’ Folding

Imagine the rectangle divided into three sections.
º Fold the dough in on itself: the first third over the second third. (left to right.)
º over this fold the 3rd third, (right to left.)
º Turn the more-or-less square you now have for 90º (a quarter turn), knuckle it out to a rectangle again and repeat the folding.

This folding helps strengthen the dough for its final rise.

Shaping the Loaf

Roll the bread gently to form a log shape.
– Cup one hand around each of the long sides of the dough.
– Move the cupped hands down the loaf, tucking them underneath with firm, sharp, almost chopping movements.
– Use the cupped fingertips of one hand to do the same to the ends.

Repeat this shaping a number of times until the loaf has a definite form and a firm ‘skin’.


RUSTIC BOULE

We borrow the description boule from the French – maîtres of le pan. A boule is a rounded loaf.

With a 50/50 mix of flour and semolina, generously dust a large working surface.
Gently turn the dough out of the bowl, and press it outwards to a rough rectangle.

Shaping the Loaf

Imagine the rectangle divided into three sections.
º Fold the dough in on itself: the first third over the second third. (left to right.)
º over this fold the 3rd third, (right to left.)
You now have a rough square.
Turn this over and, using the cupped hand technique above, move and form it in a circular mode until the loaf has a definite ball shape, and a firm ‘skin’.


BATARD LOAF

The French contend the puritan ownership of this bread, but the term has sigued into the general domain.

One way in which this differs from my Rustic Loaves is in that it has less handling, but in all cases the handling is about finesse.

With a 50/50 mix of flour and semolina, generously dust a large working surface.
Gently turn the dough out of the bowl, and shape it to a rough rectangle.

Operating with the long side, take hold of the top and fold the dough in on itself so that the edge you are holding touches down on the centre line.
Repeat from the bottom edge, so that the bottom edge meets top edge on the centre line.
Gently press this seam together.
Take hold of the top of the new shape and fold the dough over in half.
Pinch the edges together to form a firm seam.

Shaping the Loaf

Roll the bread gently to form a log shape.
– Cup one hand around each of the long sides of the dough.
– Move the cupped hands down the loaf, tucking them underneath with firm, sharp, almost chopping movements.
– Use the cupped fingertips of one hand to do the same to the ends.

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