The Basic Batard

No, not bastard; batard.

detail of bread crust

A batard is basically a loaf of bread lacking the confidence to be a baguette, that classic bread of France. The classic baguette is around 24″ long and around 2-1/2″ in diameter. The batard is shorter – around 12″ but sometimes as little as 6″.

I like baguettes/batards for several reasons. The crust to crumb ratio is pretty high so you get lots of nice crispy/chewy crust (my favorite). You don’t need to slice it because its small diameter allows for the primal pleasure of just tearing a piece off to dip into your soup. And, lastly, the baguette/batard is the prefect bread for making pain perdu, French toast.

While I have made bread for many years, I’ve avoided trying to make batards.  When I have tried in the past, they came out pasty, with poor crust and just plain boring.  The problem was not enough temperature and humidity.

But, I have solved those issues.  I haven’t done anything that most good bread cookbooks don’t tell you.  It’s just that I actually followed directions this time and it worked.

Basically this is the same dough I use for my basic bread using the well-known recipe for no-knead bread from Jim Lahey and popularized by Mark Bittman in a video in the New York Times.  The difference for batards is in the final rise and baking.

Batards rising. Note generous coating of flour to keep the dough from sticking to the towel.

Batards rising. Note generous coating of flour to keep the dough from sticking to the towel.

Prepare the dough as directed in the recipe.  After the dough has fermented over night, divide it into 2 or 3 pieces, handling it carefully so as to not deflate it.  Shape (stretch) each piece into a 12″, or so, long form and place on a floured tea towel to rise.  You can bunch up the towel along the loaf to help keep it from spreading too much.  Use a separate towel for each loaf because you will use the towel to roll the loaf onto your baking sheet.

While the loaves are rising, pre-heat the oven to 500˚ F. Put a large roasting pan on the lower rack of the over with 1″ hot water in it.

Slashed loaves on baking sheet ready for the oven.

Slashed loaves on baking sheet ready for the oven.

Roll the risen loaves onto a dry baking sheet.  Using a very sharp knife or single edged razor blade, slash each loaf (classically with 3 long diagonals) about 1/4″ deep.  Put the sheet into the hot and humid oven and bake for 25 minutes.

Finished loaves fresh from the oven.

Finished loaves fresh from the oven.

Allow the batards to cook on a wire rack and store at room temperature. Bon appétit!

The "Taster" waiting for his sample of the fresh batards.

The “Taster” waiting for his sample of the fresh batards.

The “Taster” is a small sculpture that hangs on our kitchen wall.  It was made by Andrew Lonnquist of Olander Earthworks.  We bought ours at the Saturday Market in Portland, Oregon but is also available (along with a number of other characters) at his Etsy site.

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