I'm unsure what first drew me to this elegant way of shaping bread dough. Something about the curves, the opening, the way it slices up—and that dark line from a long single slash—gets me every time. Shaping a batard results in nothing more than dough shaped into an oblong, but it feels like much more.
This method for shaping requires that the dough be relatively strong and not overly sticky. This method may not work for you if you're working with a dough that's under-mixed, excessively slack, or at very high hydration. Because I essentially “roll up” the dough near the end, if your dough doesn't have the strength to remove it from the counter, it will stick excessively. In this case, I'll typically “stitch” the dough to provide more strength and structure and be sure to give the dough additional sets of stretch and folds during bulk fermentation next time.
Please keep in mind that this shaping method looks simple but requires practice for proficiency, as with most things bread-related.
One thing that may help is to practice this dough shaping method using a folded-up dish towel. First, lay out a square in front of you and follow my steps below to first fold in the sides. Then, roll up the towel with your hands and fingers, with a finishing tuck to keep it tight. I remember doing this repeatedly when I first embarked on this method, which helped.
If you're just starting baking, I recommend shaping your bread dough as a boule (round) first. It has fewer motions and more room for taking things slowly.
What is a bâtard?
Bâtard is a French term for an oval or oblong loaf. It's simply bread dough shaped into a narrow cylinder with tapered ends. The degree to which the ends taper varies, and I typically like to keep them rather blunt.
Shaping a batard
For each piece of dough shown in this guide, I scaled it at 900g after bulk fermentation. At this weight, I prefer using long 14″ proofing baskets that allow the dough to relax outward toward the top and bottom during the final proof. This basket size gives the dough enough room to fill the basket and rise into a long batard. Currently, I'm sourcing these baskets from the San Francisco Baking Institute.
Shaping a batard: Step by Step
There are several key steps to this shaping method:
- Starting with a preshaped and rested round, first flip the round onto a lightly floured surface and gently stretch the round out to fill a circle
- Fold the left side of the circle out and over to a little past the middle
- Fold the right side of the circle out and over to about the middle, just overlapping the left side that was just folded
- With two hands, grab the top of the rectangle before you and gently stretch it out away from your body. Then pick it up and fold it down over the rest of the dough just a ways
- Using your two index fingers, or thumbs, press the top of the folded down into the rest of the dough, so it lightly seals
- Continue picking up from the top and rolling the entire mass down, sealing at each fold-over
With each roll try to avoid compressing the center with too much pressure. In other words, when you pick up the top and fold it over-exaggerate the motion of picking up and rolling down: less like rolling up a tight towel and more like rolling up a big ball.
After the final tuck with your fingers, the dough should be smooth on the outside with a firm surface. Remember, this dough will now undergo a long proof time, and it needs to be shaped with enough strength to make it to the oven without spreading outward excessively.
Using your bench knife and another hand, flip the shaped oval into your proofing basket, seam-side-up. At this point, you can make small adjustments in the basket if your dough isn't entirely center. Additionally, some like to gently pinch the top and bottom of the dough to exaggerate the oval shape.
A video of me shaping a bâtard
This slow-motion video illustrates how this all comes together as I shape a single round. Note that the dough weight shown here was 900g and it was preshaped into a loose round, then left to relax for 30-40 minutes before shaping.
For other shaping styles, such as a round boule, pan loaves, or even baguettes, see my guide to shaping bread dough.
Almost all recipes here at The Perfect Loaf can be modified so the bread can be shaped as a batard (except for some of the more specialty shapes). Start with my Beginner's Sourdough Bread recipe, which would make an excellent batard!