Baguettes & Type 55 flour
My daughter just returned from a semester in France. When visiting her in Paris this spring, it was clear my baguettes needed to change from an Americanized "French Bread" to a more "Frenchified" true baguette with a much coarser crumb. When I asked the French woman that my daughter was living with for any "secrets" on making the perfect baguette, she said the secret was "a special flour", and she didn't think I could replicate it in the US.
My efforts to date have been pretty good, but not quite right. I can get a pretty course crumb using a recipe with all-purpose flour and 65% hydration, and I'm getting used to working with slack breads. However, my loaves tend to have a harder and somewhat darker crust, "taste" wet, and struggle to get the large/coarse texture of a true French baguette.
Last night, when my daughter returned, she was kind enough to bring me a cookbook of "French breads & pastries" (of course in French...argh!) from Paris. Its recipe for baguettes says specifically to use "Type 55" flour, which today I have learned contains a bit less protein (9-10%) as compared to the "All-Purpose" flour (10-12%) that I've been using. Apparently Type 55 flour is the traditional flour used in making bagguetts in France.
So my questions are ...
1) Will Type 55 flour really make a difference in my baguettes?
2) Is Type 55 flour (or its equivalent) sold in the US?
3) Can I "make" a Type 55 flour equivalent by combining some cake flour with all-purpose flour (thus decreasing the overall protein content)?