I often have customers ask me about the word "bâtard." The word is French, and the first "a" wears a hat.
A bâtard is simply a loaf that has been shaped into a "torpedo," or an elongated loaf that is shorter than a baguette and much squatter. A "boule," by contrast, is a round loaf like my Country French.
From the perspective of the person eating the bread, a boule theoretically stales less quickly than a bâtard because there is less surface area in relation to volume, but in practice the difference is small. A bâtard will have more crust overall, and yield a more regular slice because most of the bread is pretty much the same shape; with a boule, the middle slices are considerably larger than the end pieces, and each piece will be a noticeably different size.
The difference for the baker is that a bâtard is slightly easier to shape than a boule (this adds up when you are shaping dozens of loaves late on Wednesday night and want to go to bed!) and the baker can fit way more of them in the oven at a time. My oven accommodates about 15 one-kilo boules, but I can fit 20 one-kilo bâtards in it.
This seems to argue for bâtards, and indeed it does, but there is one huge downside for a shoestring baker like myself, operating in a small community with low sales and even lower profits: you can proof a boule in a four-dollar wicker basket normally used to hold chips in Mexican restaurants, lined with a linen towel purchased at Ikea for 89 cents. A bâtard though is going to require a rattan proofing basket (called a "banneton") that will cost about eighteen bucks if you are lucky. When you need to buy 100 of them like I did when I began this venture, $4.89 is way, way, way more attractive than $18.00.
Until yesterday, I only had 15 bannetons, but I just bought 15 more, so you will probably be seeing more bread in the bâtard shape now. Please buy some cookies to help me pay for this new expense! When you consider ingredient and fuel costs, I'll have to sell nearly six loaves of bread to pay for each new banneton! But, it will speed up the baking a bit on Thursdays, and many customers prefer the bâtard shape.
This week Gracie and I will have organic British Farmhouse (bâtards!), the seeded sandwich loaves, Country French, semolina sandwich loaves, and cranberry-walnut bâtards, along with most likely something else. I'll also have a variety of cookies, hopefully a batch of chocolate croissants, a small amount of pasta, and maybe some small lemon tarts. I mixed up some rye starter for knackebrod but I am not confident I will have time for those. However, as the weather cools, they will return.
See you on Main Street from 5-7 PM, this Thursday!