Stone begins cutting off small chunks of dough, then shapes each into a loose ball. After a brief rest on the folding table, each ball is then flattened into a disc. Stambler demonstrates how to fold the disc in half like a calzone, firmly close the edges and then shape it into a chubby bâtard. Stambler and Stone rest each oblong round among the accordion-like folds of a couche, the stiff canvas cloths that French bakers use to help absorb moisture in order to develop a crispy crust (the rye loaves are already nestled in couche-lined round bread baskets).
Once all the loaves are resting in the refrigerator, Stambler surveys his flour-dusted kitchen. "The agreement that I have with my wife is that the kitchen cannot look like there has been any bread baking going on when she gets home," he says.
He glances at the clock and decides there is still plenty of time to clean up. Right now he has stories to share with Stone about that summer trip to Vermont last year when he purchased his mentor Rubaud's bread at the local farmers market. "I wanted to see if mine matched up to his," he says with a sly grin.