The return of bread-French Baguette

The return of bread-French Baguette

March 16, 2009 de Anda - 1 Comment

Wow I can’t believe how long it has been from my last bread post. It might not seem long to you, but it is unfair to not write about one of the things I love most: both baking and eating. It was not only once that I wondered if it would be possible to live on bread and cookies alone. Would it?
Bread, freshly baked, spreading the most wonderful aroma, crunchy crust, what can be more fulfilling on a Saturday morning?

I tried different bread types over the time and tried techniques from different bakers, but Reinhart wins again. I think he is the best and he presents bread making so good that you can hardly resist the urge to bake them all on the spot.
Crusty, rustic breads are by far my favorites.

I tried to bake French bread before, after the DB had this challenge. It was a Julia Child recipe. I do not know what went wrong (my lack of experience, the “too long” recipe, my anxiousness), but it was not quite what I imagined it to be. It was good, but not thrilling. So, this time I had Reinhart as a teacher and it was good and the earlier tries vanished from my mind after the first bite.

I will not post the recipe just now (as I am not sure if it is fair), but I can tell you that buying the book is a wise thing to do if you want to fully understand what bread making is all about. Also I made a twist on the recipe, replacing half of the flour with whole wheat flour and it worked.

* I will post the recipe below as I have seen it published on the internet and as I changed it a little.

Pate Fermentee
140 g AP flour
140 g bread flour (I used whole wheat)
5 g salt
1.5 g instant yeast
180-210 ml water, room temperature (my dough required 200 ml)

Stir the wet ingredients together. Add 180 ml water and mix to combine. Add more water or flour as required to get a dough that is neither too sticky nor too stiff.
Knead the dough on the counter until it is soft and pliable and not sticky (6-10 minutes).
Let it ferment in an oiled bowl for 1 hour (cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap).
Remove the dough from the bowl and knead it lightly to degas. Put it back in the bowl and place it in the fridge overnight (8 hours to 3 days).

French bread dough

453 g pate fermentee
140 g AP flour
140 g bread flour (I used whole wheat)
5 g salt
1.5 g instant yeast
180-210 ml water (warm) (I used 200 ml)

1 hour before making the final dough, remove the pate fermentee from the fridge, cut it into about 10 small pieces with a serrated knife (pinch the dough do not sew). Cover it and let it dechill.

As above, stir all dry ingredients and the PF together. Add water (begin with 180 ml) and stir for 1 minute so that it comes together in a ball. Add more water/ flour as needed to have a dough as above. Knead for 10 minutes. The dough should pass the window pane test.
Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to ferment for 2 hours. If it doubles earlier than 2 hours, degas it slightly and continue rising.
Flour the counter and gently remove the dough from the bowl (try not to degass it). With a dough scraper or a serrated knife dipped in water cut in 3 equal pieces. Take one piece and form a batard: gently pat it into a rectangle; fold the bottom third up to the center and press to seal (create surface tension); fold the remaing dough over the top and use the edge of your hand to seal. Repeat for the other 2 pieces and let rest for 5 minutes before continuing the shaping. Gently lift the dough from the edges and pull it out. Crease down the middle, fold it as a letter and seal. From the center start to roll the dough to extend it to the desired length.
Transfer the baguettes to a pan lined with parchment paper that you have previously oiled and dusted with semolina or cornmeal. Spray oil on top and dust with flour, cover with plastic wrap and proof for 45-75 minutes or until they are 1.5 their initial size.
In the meantime prepare the oven: 250 degrees C and have a steam pan inside. Boil some water and add it to the steam pan once you put the baguettes in the oven.
Score the baguettes: with a very sharp knife or razor; do not go straight down but on an angle so that the slit is almost parallel to the surface of the bread. Do not press to cut.
If using a baking stone transfer the baguettes on it. If not, place the pan in the oven. # times, at 30 seconds intervals spray the oven walls with water. Reduce the oven temperature to 225 degrees and bake for 10 minutes. Rotate the loaves for even baking and continue to bake for 10-20 minutes: they should be golden brown and register 96 degrees C (205 F). Cool on a wire rack for 40 minutes before slicing.