The Fresh Loaf

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The Perfect Baguette Eludes Me... My Breads are Getting Worse...

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breadbakingbassplayer's picture
breadbakingbass...

The Perfect Baguette Eludes Me... My Breads are Getting Worse...

The Perfect Baguette Eludes Me...  My Breads are Getting Worse...


Argh!

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jpchisari's picture
jpchisari

Hi breadbakingbass,


Do you have photos? What problems are you experiencing?


John

breadbakingbassplayer's picture
breadbakingbass...

John,


I have photos in my head that I would rather not remember...


My 2/1/10 batch of sourdough I think I retarded during the bulk fermentation in the fridge for too long (more than 24hrs)...  I also tried to bake too many of them at a time in my oven...  Had I made the dough weight for each loaf, maybe 8 of them would have fit, but I just went with it...  They sprung up, but the crumb was very gummy.  I attribute this to working with all bread flour instead of my usual mix of mostly AP and a little (20%) bread flour...


My lastest batch of baguettes from last night were also a bust...  This again was a combination of using bread flour, too long retardation, over proofing, and an oven that was not hot enough...  The baguettes didn't brown, which meant that there were maybe not enough sugars left in the dough to caramelize, and the oven was not hot enough to caramelize...


I think what is happening is that I am experimenting, and learning what will not work and why...


It's just frustrating to throw out bread, but if it sucks, it's not worth trying to eat...


This is why I both love and hate baking bread...  Everything is a variable...  I have to just accept that I will bake stinkers.  The more I bake, the less stinkers I may bake...  I think I'm just in a rut and have to either take a break, or bake through it...  I should probably revisit formulas that have worked for me in the past...


Tim

breadbakingbassplayer's picture
breadbakingbass...

I actually think "consistency" eludes me...  But I don't bake the same recipe twice, so this may also contribute to my problems...

ehanner's picture
ehanner

When I get into a rut where things don't turn out the way I expect or hope, I go back to a simple formula that I know will work and make that a few times. Baguettes are a difficult bread on a few fronts. For me a simple pain au levain is the friend I can fall back on.


Eric

breadbakingbassplayer's picture
breadbakingbass...

Yeah...  I just needed to vent a little...

William Alexander's picture
William Alexander

Don't feel so bad. FWIW, I just spent a year trying to bake a decent loaf of peasant bread, and often felt the frustration you express here (actually, I was ready to shoot myself more than once). Along the way, oddly enough, I did become pretty good at baguettes. Just for the heck of it, you might want to try the recipe posted on my blog. My starter is 50/50 flour/water, so you may need to adjust if yours is different to get the right hyrdation (67 percent if I recall).  Also, a softer flour may help -- I find bread flour too hard --  and the small amount of corn flour I used is not really necessary, but it does add some creaminess to the crumb.

breadbakingbassplayer's picture
breadbakingbass...

Last night's bake was not a total loss...  I baked some sourdough boules that I spiked with a little yeast, and then some 100% hydration ciabatte with some graham flour...  These turned out pretty good.  The baguettes I just cut one open, looked at the crumb(decent)...  Tasted OK, but the crust was horrible...  I'll be OK when I mix up another batch of dough this weekend...


As for bread flour, I'll just make a mental note and make sure I don't use it for more than 20% of the total flour in my recipes...  I need to get a hold of some more AP flour...


Thanks for letting me vent...

frenchcreek baker's picture
frenchcreek baker

Impressed by your persistence to bake the perfect peasant bread. A year-long quest! Did you include the recipe in your upcoming book?


And when is the release date? 


Thanks for sharing the baguette recipe. I am now curious about the corn flour addition.


Do you know if it is possible to create corn flour by using a food processor to further refine medium grind cornmeal? Or is there a brand of corn flour out there? Perhaps Bob's Red Meal sells corn flour? 


cheers,


Anne

William Alexander's picture
William Alexander

Anne, the book should be available early April or sooner.  And yes, there are recipes, including the one for peasant bread, but it's most definitely a memoir from an amateur baker, not a cookbook.  Re corn flour, good guess. In fact, I use Bob's Red whole grain corn flour. I would be doubtful that you'd get the same effect by putting corn meal in a food processor.  - bill.

wally's picture
wally

Tim -


Experimenting if fine, if you approach it methodically.  You change one variable - and only one - at a time, and then look for differences in your bake.  From what you describe above, I think a lot of your difficulties are self-inflicted: it sounds like each batch of baguettes is different is so many ways from the last.  That approach will never yield consistent results, but even more, it won't allow you to discover what is needed to consistently produce good baguettes.


And by the way, a good baguette is one of the most difficult breads to make.  I know - I bake nearly 100 a day, and the consistency I am aiming for still eludes me.


Larry

breadbakingbassplayer's picture
breadbakingbass...

Larry,


I know my difficulties are self inflicted...  I like trying new things, or doing things differently than I did in the past.  I have to accept that they may or may not work...  There are just so many different ways of doing things...  I have a few things up my sleeve that I want to try...


I should decide weather I want to experiment, or get consistent results...  I'm  just being indecisive...   This will wear off soon...


Also, are you by chance a professional baker?  Just curious as you are baking 100 baguettes a day...


Tim

wally's picture
wally

Hobbyist for many years, but mainly bake-by-numbers.  I'm now an apprentice working in a restaurant.  One thing I learned immediately: bakers are accountants in many ways.  You weight (not measure) everything to the gram.  My old habits of by-guess-and-by-god (which sound familar to yours), have gone out the door.


Good baking isn't luck.

bnom's picture
bnom

To me, baking bread isn't a matter of luck, or measurement, it's a matter of technique and trusting your senses.  My hands and eyes, not a scale, tell me when the dough has the right amount of flour. My nose, not the timer, tells me when it's ready.


Granted, measurement has it's place (for the commercial baker or someone wanting to replicate a recipe), but it also gets in the way.  The weather or wheat will impact the grams you use--isn't it better to have a clear sense of the texture you're looking for? 99.9 percent of the time I don't measure and I haven't had to throw out a loaf of bread yet.  In fact, I get very good and consistent results.


Here are photos of a sourdough rye/wheat batard (two handfuls each of wheat/rye berries ground in a spice grinder, large glob of sourdough) I just took out of the oven



 

breadbakingbassplayer's picture
breadbakingbass...

Ah, cool...  I use a scale, write out all my formulas using the baker's percentage, work in grams...  I'm pretty anal with the measurments...  It's the process that get's me sometimes...


Baking bread isn't luck at all...

bnom's picture
bnom

I suspect it comes down to what Myers Briggs calls "Judging vs. Perceiving" orientation. People who are "Js" like to control their enviroment....makes schedules, keep lists and, I suspect, measure and track all their ingredients. "Ps" like to stay open to new information and  keep things a little more playful. 


My point is that you can be a P orientation and still make great bread. Those who don't like following recipes should not be dissuaded from playing with their food.. . .


Here's a link to more information about Judging and Perceiving>


http://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/mbti-basics/judging-or-perceiving.asp


 

sewgirl's picture
sewgirl

Dear fellow artisan bnom,


Aaaaahh, it IS refreshing to know that there are those who use their senses to cook.  It is - in fact - the only real way to achieve perfection!  An attempt to use the numbers will foil you, because of densities, a breeze through the room... and Lord knows what... but using the look, feel, smell and taste method brings it all together, no matter the vairable.  Thank you for restoring my faith in mankind's cookery. : )


With best regard,  Judy

bnom's picture
bnom

Yes, it is good to be able to wing it.  The other dayt I was autolyzing some sd bread --- remembered it at 2.am.---very well risen. I still managed to salvage to dough.  But next time I think I'll rely on the timer rather than my memory!

nancy58's picture
nancy58

French Creek, It is my understanding that corn starch is corn flour. KA sells what they call Natural Hi-Maize 5-in-1 Fiber. The only ingredient is cornstarch (rather expensive for plain old cornstarch,now that I know what it is). They recommend that you can substitute up to 1/4 of the flour with the Hi-Maize and for yeast breads to add 1 tsp of vital wheat gluten as well for each 1/4 c of Hi-Maize.


So given that info, I would be under the assumption that cornstarch IS cornflour. I'm sure that a few experiments with a food processer or coffee grinder and some regular cornmeal would be of use as well. I do not believe that it would turn out as fine as the hi-Maize, but rather like the difference between Duram and Semolina.


 

William Alexander's picture
William Alexander

I think there might be some confusion here, because in England, corn starch is sometimes called cornflour (one word). It is not what we in the States would call corn flour, however, and I'd be a touch hesistant about baking with it. Espcially if you've watched any of the videos that are linked to if you Google "corn flour Newtonian."  Turns out, it's interesting stuff. 


In any event, Bob's Red sells a very nice whole grain cornflour that bakes up wonderfully.


 


 

breadbakingbassplayer's picture
breadbakingbass...

I think I have redeemed myself, or at least this bake was better than the last...


http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/16145/2510-baguette-redemption-modified-pain-a039-l039ancienne-baguettes





I also did a sourdough that seems to have turned out well which I will post soon...


Thanks for listening to me whine...

wally's picture
wally

Beautiful looking loaves and very nice open crumb!

breadbakingbassplayer's picture
breadbakingbass...

Thanks!  And here are the sourdoughs from 2/7/10...


Not too bad...