Last week it was so cold I spent a lot of time making kefir cheeses and web surfing. Found a site that used kefir as a sourdough starter so I decided to give it a try. Followed the starter directions and looked for a recipe online to make a loaf. Found a blog site that had pictures so I followed it. I produced two loaves - boules - that had some flavor but the texture was extremely lacking. I decided to pursue an actual sourdough starter and basic sourdough bread so I hit the library. I have a culture in progress and needed something to do while it matures.
I thought a great idea would be to actually learn how to make a basic bread :)
In all of my internet research to find information and book suggestions, The Fresh Loaf came up repeatedly. I camped for a while and started reading. Baguette type breads are my favorites and I found the Straight Method Beginner Baguettes.
This is my experience with this method, my limitations, and my lack of any actual baking experience beyond cookies and muffins. The potential of creating an edible baguette loaf had me determined to try! And I even met with a decent level of success, according to my tastebuds :)
Original goal - Sourdough
Interim goal - baguette basics
These are for practice and do not include sourdough.
They include a great deal of information on dough mixing and handling techniques - excellent reference source.
Description and video of stretch and fold technique
Video link showing baguette shaping -
Technique Link for Bread Scoring and why
Discussion with photos on Covering vs. Steaming the whole oven when baking
I have a baking sheet and a lasagna pan that I can turn over to use as a cover
Some information on baguette sizes
Additional Baguette recipe that includes suggestions for measuring very small amounts of yeast - very important!
This one uses a preferment and sunflower seeds for a deeper flavor. It also doesn't give details so refer to the recipe in the first link on this page for the times and techniques - "straight method baguette good starter baguette practice" until I get more experience.
Things I thought I was doing very well -
- Handling the very sticky dough - I actually enjoyed it - using a very light touch and watching all the bubbles building in the dough and not popping all of them. I didn't use any extra flour/oil/water - just used the stickiness of the dough and my homemade dough scraper to lift and stretch, then fold, like in the video above.
- Only flouring the work surface for the final baguette shaping. In my observation this allowed my dough to become very cohesive to itself after each manipulation and not slide apart due to over flouring which I was concerned with due to lack of experience.
Things I knew were seeming off prior to baking
- I halved the recipe and had a very difficult time getting my scale to cooperate for a single gram of yeast.
- Need to find a volume equivalent
- Scale may need new batteries
- My dough after folding and resting had much more pronounced surface bubbles than in the tutorial
- May have been over proofing due to miscalculated yeast weight
- May have been working dough too lightly and not getting the appropriate gluten structure in dough surface
- Scoring such a thin and airy loaf is much more difficult than a denser boule
- Practice :)
- My dough was not split precise in half
- Weigh it next time
- Size limitations for final baguette shaping
- Limited by size of pans for laying on - aluminum air bake sheet and lasagna pan cover
- Adjust shape by making shorter, fatter baguettes
- Keep eye out for options to make adjustments - not sure on next step here
- Temperature limitation to 450 instead of 460 degrees
- Parchment paper is rated to 450 only
- Research higher rated parchment paper
- No baking stone
- After the initial 10 minute covered steam bake I removed both pans and baked on parchment paper on the rack so the bottom crust would not be soggy
After Baking -
- I removed the smaller loaf at the end of the baking time and did not leave it in for the additional 5 minutes with the oven door cracked open
- The crust was delicious and wonderfully crispy
- I removed the larger loaf after the 5 minutes with the oven door cracked open was over
- It sang!! I actually heard it
WOW! An incredibly edible loaf and the crispy crunch and caramely goodness of the crust was fantastic. Interior was not ideal but airy and light, not gummy at all. Paired wonderfully butter, then with herbed evoo and a feta style kefir cheese with a side of olives. Dinner was definitely worth the 46 cents of ingredients to try this method and recipe.
Now I just need to figure out how to save the last half for tomorrows breakfast.......and then try it again :)
Thanks so much for such a wonderful site full of inspiration and helpful information for even a fledgling baker.