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French Batard Bread: Everything You Need to Know

The first clue about what is batard bread is in the name, it clearly has a French name. So, we know that it’s a French loaf. But we’re left to find out exactly what type it is. We’re going to do that mainly through a batard bread recipe.

I promise you that it’s going to be a really interesting article where you’ll discover even more about artisan breads from around the world.

What Makes Batard Bread Different?

french batard bread
How did it get its name? Because this is where things get interesting.

The word batard means bastard in French. What a funny name to give to a loaf of bread.

It definitely stands out from the most famous types of French bread, which are baguette and boule. Boule is the name for artisan breads that have a round shape, which can be easily achieved by using a proofing basket.

Batard bread is shaped like a football. That’s the best way to describe its shape. Although, there are some who make it more elongated at the end, while other make the end more round.

It has an oval shape but you can take some liberties with shaping it.

In the 19th century a baker came up with this third shape for French bread and it was a success. It’s the third shape between those two famous ones. Not a baguette nor a boule, just in between.

The ingredients are the classic ones. The difference is in the shape actually.

Is batard an artisan bread?

Yes, it is.

Let’s take a look at the definition for artisan loaves. Artisan is a name that encompasses a wide variety of loaves, actually.

It can refer to breads that have long fermentation and proofing times. Our loaf that is in discussion today has a long fermentation but the proofing is normal.

Moreover, it encompasses those kneaded by hand, which this one definitely is. You will have to knead for about 10 minutes, first mixing the ingredients for 5 minutes.

But you can also use a mixer to knead to dough. You’re in your kitchen, there’s no one stopping you from using a dough kneading machine. The result will still be delicious.

Water, salt, flour, and yeast are the only ingredients used, which indeed is the case for the batard bread.

Batard Bread vs Baguette

french bread
The first difference between these two French breads is that one is more famous than the other.

The second difference is in the shape.

Everyone thinks of France when mentioning the word baguette. We have an instant picture in our heads of what it looks like just from mentioning the name.

If you tell someone I made a batard bread today, it’s an absolutely high chance that they’ll just stare at you and they’ll draw the conclusion that you ate some kind of bread. There’s no image that comes to mind.

Baguette means stick. It’s a stick of baked dough that’s absolutely delicious. The enjoyment also comes from the unique shape, without a doubt.

It’s also very light because it usually only weighs around half a pound (250 grams). It just gives the illusion of being bigger thanks to its elongated shape.

There are actually 4 types of baguettes: traditional half pound stick, moulded baguettes (made in industrial ovens), floured baguette (paler in color, coated with a fine flour before baking), and huge flutes (twice the length of a normal one).

A batard can also be half length of normal loaf due to its shaping. It is shaped pretty much like a football, somewhere between the boule and the baguette.

How to Make Batard Bread: Easy Recipe

batard bread
Before going into how to make batard bread, we should remark how seriously French people take their bread.

There are 3 world-famous French products that result from fermentation: bread, wine, and cheese. That’s just how important it is.

The inspiration for this batard recipe comes from the Bread Baking for Beginners by Bonnie Ohara, which is just such an awesome book about bread.

This is a recipe that will make 2 loaves. And they will be quite pretty big loaves. Even if you have a bigger family, it will suffice.

If you want just one loaf, cut the ingredients in half. You can also make two mini loaves from the halved ingredients, in case you want them to fit in your Dutch oven.

Ingredients:

Directions:

Mix the dough for 5 minutes and knead for 10 minutes.

The dough needs:

  • 1 hour to rest
  • 3 hours to rise
  • 1 hour or 1 hours 30 minutes to proof the dough

If you want to remember the time it takes to make a batard loaf, you can remember this verse from the song Il est cinq heures Paris s’eveille by Jacques Dutronc: Il est 5 heures, les boulangers font des batards.

The rest time is actually divided into two:

  • 30 minutes rest after the mixing of the ingredients and before the kneading so that the flour can absorb the water
  • 30 minutes after the fermentation is complete, after you have divided the dough into 2 equal pieces – this is also called bench rest because it takes place on the work surface before the shaping

You can let it rise in the bowl where you mixed the ingredients. Cover it with a towel.

It’s very important to respect the fermentation time because this is when the loaf develop its taste, those deep flavors.
Once the fermentation is done, you can shape the dough for the proofing stage

To make sure that the dough it proofed, with your big thumb, make an indentation in the side of the dough. If it’s not filled immediately and it maintains its shape, then it’s time for baking.

Use a knife or a bread lame to score the loaf right before baking. Just make a long slash from one end to the other.

Shaping batard bread

I would like to tell you that I think it’s just much simpler to use oval proofing baskets, like the Saint Germain Premium Oval Banneton Basket.

Now, let’s discuss the more complicated method.

I’m not going to describe how you should shape batard loaves because I don’t think you will understand much. It’s pretty complicated to put into words.

Instead, I found this YouTube video that will show you how to shape the batard bread, it’s really helpful.

But, as I said, you can take some liberties with the shaping and do it as it comes to you or use oval proofing baskets.

Baking batard bread

Bake time: 40 to 45 minutes

You can use a Dutch oven for baking but the loaves might not fit in. The other option is to use a bread cloche.

If you’re using a Dutch oven, bake at 475 degrees Fahrenheit (245 degrees Celsius) for 40-45 minutes. 25 minutes with the lid on and the rest is done with the lid off. The pot is also preheated empty with the lid off.

For the bread cloche, preheat it with the lid on for 20 minutes at 450 degrees F. The baking with the lid on is done for 30 minutes and the lid will be off for the last 5 to 10 minutes.

From my point of view, the easiest is to use a baking sheet or a roasting pan. You could also use a baking stone if you have one, the result will be delicious because the crust will be fantastic.

For the baking stone, preheat it for 20 to 30 minutes at 450 degrees Fahrenheit (230 degrees Celsius) and bake at the same temperature until the crust has the desired color.

Also, if you’re using either of these 3 bakeware tools that I’ve mentioned, put a tray with 1 inch of water on the bottom of the oven. You need the steam.

Don’t forget about parchment paper.

And that’s all there is to know about what is a batard bread and how to make one.