I can finally call myself a bread baker.
Yes, I’ve already produced a handful of fantastic boules, (Rye, “Cambridge Loaf”, Tartine’s Country and Whole Wheat), and it’s really amazing to trace my progress from my first loaf of bread baked (King Arthur’s Extra Tangy Sourdough) to the one I have to share with you today. But I really couldn’t consider myself a true bread baker until conquering the most quintessential loaf of them all: the baguette.
As I mentioned in my previous post, baking baguettes can be a nightmare for the home bread baker. Few recipes for baguettes allow for what I consider the easiest way to create steam (covered baking), and many recipes for baguettes are hard to fit in the oven, or, require the purchase of a potentially costly baking stone.
For me, I had been devising in my mind for months the best way of producing a baguette in my home oven, without resorting to potentially dangerous steaming methods. I was on my way to purchase a fish poacher for the single intent of baking a long baguette in it when I stumbled upon GraniteWare’s turkey roasters, extremely cheap covered roasting pans that could fit batards, and potentially, a shorter baguette. With the turkey roaster in hand, in addition to my newly purchased couche and a forecast for the weekend (see: the blizzard formerly known as NEMO), I could see the makings of a perfect storm (sorry! Had to.) for finally trying baguettes this weekend.
Things started a bit inauspiciously. I was modifying Tartine Bread’s country boule dough recipe a bit to create the baguette. I increased the amount of levain in the recipe and lowered the amount of extra flour, in hopes to achieve a thinner crust. I assumed I’d be able to sub out 100 grams of flour and 100 grams of water for 200 grams of 100% hydrated levain. But when I first worked the dough for autolyse, it seemed way too dry! The levain, though 50% water in creation, might have not contained exactly that amount when mixed. I added the 25 grams of water I planned to add when cutting in the salt after autolyse before the autolyse just so that all the flour was incorporated and moistened.
As I went happily on my way stretching and folding, I realized that I had modified the recipe in a way that I had not intended to. I lowered the total flour count by 100 grams (don’t ask how this happened). My baguettes were going to be a lot higher hydration that anything Chad Robertson ever suggested, but, I didn’t panic. The dough wasn’t going to be unbearably hydrated – 77% was a reasonable number, and it meant more holes in the product, at least, which I covet. Here I noticed my experience baking actually mattering a bit – no longer was I following recipes letter by letter. I knew how the dough should feel and work after bulk fermentation, after bench rise, and after preshaping.
I woke up this morning to start the bake, and preheated my oven with the turkey roaster in. It started immediately producing a foul smell, making me worried about the temperature at which the roaster could withstand (I tried contacting GraniteWare multiple times during the week, without response. There is very little advice on the internet as to the maximum temperature one should use the roasters at). I went ahead, and dropped the baguettes, scored (after watching plenty of videos), into the roaster, fumbling a bit with covering the top.
A few hours later, I had mini baguettes – finally. I could be proud of these—I AM proud of these. As I sliced into the first baguette, I could not help but laugh out loud. The crust! Oh my god, the crust. It shattered like nothing I had ever seen before. Crumbs – they flew everywhere! The hole structure wasn’t as pronounced as I would’ve liked, but the flavor was impeccable. The crust was still a little too thick (something that might be remedied by using some poolish in addition to levain). The bread itself wasn’t as darkly brown as I would’ve liked – because of how short the baguettes were, they were pretty fat, and probably needed longer time in the oven. But… I had finally made baguettes.
I called my roommate down to share with him some bread. We talked a little about the bread available in Boston – he said he thought there were good enough ‘artisanal’ breads available to purchase. I disagree. Ask someone about Boston bread and they might mentioned Iggy’s, Clear Flour or When Pigs Fly. I’ve had all, and I haven’t been impressed. The crust has always lacked the crunch and color that I expect. Sourdoughs haven’t been pronounced in flavor enough. Often, the bread uses active yeast, in addition to non-lean ingredients (yes- I’m looking at you, When Pigs Fly, though I am impressed by your selection and variety).
I continued to seek out the best bread in Boston… but with some new gear, I can finally produce some more variety of my own! Next up: fougasse, epi, tordu. I am now a bread baker, and I continue to look for more possibilities in baking!
Sourdough “Mini” Baguettes (~13”) – makes 2
-200 grams 100% hydration sourdough starter (I used my 50/50 whole wheat/white starter)
-275 g warm water + 10 g
-375 g bread flour
-25 g whole wheat flour
-10 g salt
1) Feed your starter so that you have enough to use as levain and that it is very active. When the starter is active and you are ready to use it, mix 200 grams of it into 275 g warm water. Disperse with a spoon.
2) Mix in the bread flour and the whole wheat flour. Make sure all the flour is moistened a bit. Let rest / autolyse for about 40 minutes.
3) Add the salt, and the remaining 10 g of water. Cut in the salt to the dough with your fingers, and once incorporated, do a single turn or stretch and fold.
4) Every 30 minutes, do a single turn or stretch and fold. Repeat this for up to 4 hours, or until the dough feel sufficiently cohesive and there is visible aerobic activity on the surface of the dough.
5) Pull the dough out of your mixing bowl, and onto the counter. Flour the counter and your hands so the dough doesn’t stick. Cut the dough in half. Do a preshape (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cpqGHiPxuQU – I used the blunt shaped preshape), and let rest for about 25 minutes.
6) After the preshape, your dough should be a bit more relaxed – if not, do another preshape. If so, proceed to shaping both preshaped dough portions into a baguette. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Idx4QJwcPHA) In a flour dusted couche, place each formed baguette.
7) Let rise in the refrigerator for final fermentation. I let mine sit for about 13 hours, and it was perfectly proofed when I pulled it out.
8) Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Place a cookie sheet on the bottom rung, and then on the rung above it, your turkey roaster to preheat.
9) Score a baguette loaf (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-APuZ5SHHoU) – you can probably only fit one loaf in at a time – and carefully put it into the turkey roaster and cover. Lower the temperature to 450 degrees F.
10) Let it bake covered for about 20 minutes, then remove the cover and bake until golden brown, probably at least 20 more minutes.
11) Let cool and enjoy.
These photos and this recipe was submitted to Yeastspotting!