Mastering the Art of French Bread Baking. Part 2. Bâtard.

Have you ever wondered why the French call this bread bâtard, which literally means bastard? Well, Originally French bakers only shaped their dough into baguette and boule. Then, in the 19th century, a baker came up with the loaf shape. The loaf wasn’t shaped like anything the French customers have seen before and was considered inferior, so they referred to it as a “bastard” or bâtard. Voila! French sense of humor.

Homemade bâtard baked in a pot.

I make my bâtard using the same recipe and method I used for making the boule. The proportions of ingredients, resting time, stretching and folding remain the same. It’s the shaping that turns the dough into the perfect bâtard and makes it feel and taste like a completely different bread!

I love the bâtard for its airy, open crumb, but mostly because of those extra though and crunchy corners. A real exercise for your teeth and so delicious! It’s a pitty each bread only has two of them.

For baking, you will need a large, deep and oblong pot, dutch oven or casserole dish with a lid. I use my good old German Bräter (a type of a roaster).

Bâtard (oblong French bread)

Recipe by AnnaCourse: Breadbasket, Breakfast/BrunchCuisine: FrenchDifficulty: Medium
Servings

1

loaf
Prep time

15

minutes
Baking time

45

minutes
Resting time

24

hours
Proofing

1

hour

Traditional French bread shaped into an oval shape for a beautiful open crumb and tough, crispy corners.

the basic recipe for a traditional french bread

  • 590 g / 20.8 oz plain, all-purpose wheat flour (or French T65-flour)

  • 400 g / 14.1 oz water, cold

  • 12 g / 0.4 oz salt

  • a hazelnut-sized ball of fresh baker’s yeast

  • Equipment
  • a large, oblong cast-iron pot, dutch oven, pottery dish or another heat resistant dish with a lid.

Method

  • Prepare the dough: Put flour in a large bowl. From the measured out water set aside about 3 – 4 tablespoons and dissolve the yeast in it. Add salt to the rest of the water, dissolve the salt in it and add to the flour. Finally, add the dissolved yeast. Using your hand combine all ingredients by kneading the dough until it is smooth and slightly sticky. Cover the bowl airtight with a lid or aluminum foil (the surface of the dough should not dry out). Set the dough aside to rest and mature for 24 hours at room temperature (at least 22°C / 72°F).
  • Stretch and fold the dough: During those 24 hours stretch and fold your dough every 8 hours (first time after 8 hours of resting and again after 16 hours of resting). To stretch and fold your dough first dip your hand in water. It will prevent the dough from sticking to your hand. Then push your hand deep under the dough, pull the dough to you and fold it over the rest of the dough. Repeat the process from all sides until the whole dough is folded and lies round and tight in the bowl. After each stretching and folding cover the bowl again, set aside and let the dough rest.
  • Shape a bâtard: Transfer the dough onto a lightly floured work bench. Gently stretch it out into a oblong shape. Fold the bottom side over, a little bit past the middle. Fold the top side over to about the middle, slightly overlapping the just folded bottom side. Using your fingertips gently press down the seam, so that it forms a trench in the middle. Fold the top side again over the entire loaf and press down at the seam. Using the palms of your hands gently roll the dough back and forth to even it out. Make sure to even out the corners as well. You might want to gently pinch and stretch the corners to give it the finishing touch.
  • Place the loaf, seam-side-down, in a oblong (best if about 14 inch long) proofing basket, dusted lightly with flour. Give it one last tuck with your fingers, cover with a clean kitchen towel and set aside to proof for 1 hour.
  • Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 485F/250C with the pot in it.
  • Take the hot pot out of the oven, let the dough fall out of the basket directly into the pot, cover the pot with the lid and put it back in the oven. Reduce the heat to 240°C / 465°F and bake for 45 minutes. Let the bread cool on a cooling rack.

Here is a really good Video, how to shape a bâtard.

Notes

  • If you like your crust a little darker, take off the lid for the last 10 – 15 minutes of baking time.

Shall we talk about it?