It’s All About the Baguette


One week down, 23 to go. During my first five days at SFBI, my routine went something like this:

  • 5:00 am: Out of bed.
  • 5:10 am: Coffee. This step must not be omitted.
  • 6:00 am: Hit the road. Unfortunately, my route to SFBI coincides with that to the airport. I have learned that every man, woman, and child in the Bay Area catches an early-morning flight each and every day.
  • 6:45 am: Arrive at SFBI. Try to resist breakfast pastries. Fail miserably.
  • 7:00 am – 1:30 pm: Get patient instruction and constructive feedback from Frank, our  talented and knowledgeable bread instructor. In the classroom and in the bakery-lab, learn about flour, water, yeast, salt, scaling, mixing, fermentation, proofing, scoring, baking, cooling, staling. Learn shaping of boules and batards (which I thought I knew, but didn’t). And practice baguettes, baguettes, dozens of baguettes! These babies are, hands-down, the hardest bread there is to shape and score properly. Say “uh-oh” (in reference to my own clumsy but thankfully improving efforts) several times an hour. “Oops” can be used interchangeably with “uh-oh.” And then, every once in a while, sometimes when I least expect it, there’s a “well, that didn’t turn out too badly after all, now, did it?”
  • 1:30 pm: Lunch, prepared by SFBI staff. Always includes fresh bread and more irresistible pastries.

Here Frank demonstrates proper baguette-shaping technique…


… and his are perfect …


… while these are mine. Can you say baseball bat?

my baguettes



One of two four-deck ovens that hold more than 100 baguettes each. I’m wondering whether one of these will fit in my garage:


The loaves are placed on the cooling racks in order, so everyone can keep track of their own. There is always plenty of bread to take home at the end of the day.

baguettes and batards

Which of these baguettes do you think is the best? Stay tuned…

3 baguettes

For more scenes from Week 1, check out my classmate Rachael’s blog, The Pastry School Chronicles.

CommentsLeave a comment

  1. says

    To bake bread, even I would get up at 5 am. In fact, I have. That’s a great deck oven, too. I miss the one I used in school , although it wasn’t near as techie as that one, plus, I like your idea of putting one in the garage. I’m looking forward to seeing your future posts.

  2. says

    I am so not a morning person…I would be sleepwalking…er…sleepdriving on the way. I cannot believe you spent so much time shaping baguettes…you must be doing it in your sleep by now.

    Since you asked, I like the looks of the middle baguette. But then again, I would have to taste them to know for sure~

  3. Erika says

    mmmm…all of it looks delicious–and all those baguettes look fantastic!! And the rolls–mmm…and to think you still have the energy to share your experiences with us! I am impressed–and enjoying it!

  4. says

    Oh, c’mon! You can leave us hanging here like this!!!!

    Ok, I say the best one was the top left, but what do I know? :-)

    I’m wondering how the training for your marathon will go with these ongoing classes…. you are a SuperWoman!

    I look forward to the next report on baguettes…

  5. says

    What a wonderful adventure, Susan! Ooo, you are making us so envious, you know. My vote goes to the middle loaf. Hey, eat the pastries – it’s part of your education!

  6. says

    I envy you, Susan! What a wonderful experience… I know what you mean about the delicious lunches.
    A 45-minute commute is really not too bad. You get airport traffic but at least you don’t have a bridge to cross. During the German Breads workshop, my commute from SFBI to the Berkeley area took me one day less than 30 minutes (that was the day most people believed the Bay Bridge was still closed) and the day after 2 hours and 30 minutes…

  7. says

    Shoot, I had to walk to class, not bad but really what sort of transportation system do they have on the left coast!!
    As for baguettes, they are a bit hard, but once you figure it out, well…. no I am lying they are difficult!
    Looks like fun, watch the pastries, they are good, like the macarons Erin Bailey sent me off on my Jet Blue flight home, delicious!

    Happy Baking!

  8. Kristen says

    Five AM??? {swoon, faint}

    Which baguette is the best? The one that tastes the best! I mean, aesthetics is nice, but I’ll happily take the “ugly” ones off your hands. ;)

  9. says

    First off, I widely share the sentiment that coffee is of utmost importance when getting up before the roosters being to crow. Secondly, I guarantee I have not once said ‘uh-oh’, but something more along the lines of borderline inappropriate and colorful profanity muttered under my breath while attempting to perfect my baguette shaping technique. As you mentioned, much trickier than one might anticipate. Glad to be in class with you and thanks for the shout out! See you bright and early tomorrow, along with those evil little pastries and plenty of caffeine!

  10. mlaiuppa says

    AH! Fresh bread and a hunk of imported sharp provolone cheese. Maybe a fresh tomato on the side. That’s all you really need. Fruit for dessert and you’re set.

    I love to bake bread. Will I ever be a baker? NO. Why? Because bread bakers get up in the middle of the night to bake bread so it’s fresh when the shop opens at the crack of dawn.

    I sleep in. That said, Sundays are my bread baking days. I get up when I get up and start. And it’s done in plenty of time before I go to bed. If I’m lucky, I can have fresh bread for dinner. And plenty for the rest of the week.

  11. says

    Thanks for sharing your SFBI experience. Makes me nostalgic for my days at ICE . . . And my vote is for the middle loaf (although this loaf scoring is something I really never got the hang of . . )

  12. says

    Oh how fun… thanks for sharing your SFBI experience with us! I can’t wait for future updates. I wish I could go as well, so this is as close as I will probably get.

    I think the middle one looks the prettiest, but I’d taste them all!

  13. says

    I hope you’re having a great time at school! And I hope you’re loving Frank as much as we did – he’s a fantastic instructor!
    And make sure and take advantage of going in on Saturdays. It really made the whole experience come together.

  14. says

    I think I would probably fail in the pastry eating section as well – that is if the pastries are made by the same folks who are running this school.

    Wonderful looking baguettes! I don’t think they look like baseball bats at all.

    (Ooooooh, I never thought of using the garage to house an oven!!)

  15. says

    I am so envious and absolutely love your bread baking experiences. Thank you for taking the time to share. Your baguettes are gorgeous and your instructor probably sees baguettes in his sleep too =).


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