Oh the controversy! So I thought to myself, the recipe cited in some posts was from a "Best Worker of France." Why not consult the bread book I bought last April with recipes from the MOFs in Boulangerie.
Sure enough, we find the formula, method, and pictures from M. Auzet himself. Although he hails from Avignon and at the time of publication lived in Cavaillon, one can consider him just a "stone's throw" from Beaucaire. His picture makes him seem like a right jolly old elf and he is an MOF - so I'm going to take his advice on this.
The recipe I will not repeat. It is a fairly simple levain dough with 17% of the flour pre-fermented in a stiff levain and a total hydration of 60%. He adds commercial yeast - which some of us would prefer not to add.
Although I understand the French, I do not have that peculiar gift that allows direct transation, so I will summarize.
Note the technique. He is mixing the ingredients in a spiral mixer at first speed for 15 minutes (so, I'm thinking no stretch and fold here...). The dough is not getting a true bulk ferment because of the long development in the mixer. The dough is rested for 15 minutes. It is then patted out with the hands into a rectangular form. It then rests for 20 mins. After that the ends are folded to the middle. It is then flattened and folded by hands would fold croissant dough (for you Francophones "(comme pour faire un tour aux croissants)" - don't know if that could be any clearer...) What is unclear is if the dough is folded in half, so that with the addition of the earlier folds it is a "tour double" or if it is folded in thirds in addition to the folds to the center in order to do a "tour simple" - my speculation is that it is folded in half to create the double turn. It is left to rest, covered for 30 minutes and then is rolled with a rolling pin to a rectangle 2.5 cm thick.
Then a slurry of 5:1 water to flour is used to moisten the top of the dough (but not too much) and the dough is left to rest for 10 mins.
The dough is cut lengthwise and one part stacked on the other. It rests for 15 mins.
It is then cut in the way of a "racle a Beaucaire" (which roughly translates to a Beacaire scraper) but he assures us this just means to cut into loaves- one would assume, because the original rectangle was cut lengthwise that this is cross wise - but helas - he does not elaborate. The loaves are placed on a floured couche still in a stacked position. He cautions us to make the folds of the couche very high so the dough does not fall over.
The loaves proof for 3-4 hours.
His picture shows loaves that truly look like two narrow loaves that are stuck together. The ends of the loaves are distinct and blunt - they show no taper.
He does go on and on about how the folding is what makes the bread and regrets mightily that it is so seldom baked. He concludes by saying that it requires a baker not just a bread merchant to make this bread.
I'm trying my own version of this today, but perfectionist that I am always hesitatant to publish pictures unless I am happy with the loaf (and I never am...)
So, friends, this is what I find. I cannot but believe the source is authentic. That being said, the bread belongs to the baker (unless it is controlled by French law) and I am sure there are many excellent variants on this theme that are just as authentic and delicious (and that's what matters.)
The book from which I have cited is "20 Meilleurs Ouvriers de France, L'Equipe de France de Bouangerie, et Medailles D'Argent se Devoilent et Vous Offrent Leurs Recettes Choisies" published in 1994 - a book that is not really accessible to all, but which I treasure...
When will that ABandP arrive? Ah well.