I've been trying to bake artisan bread for about three years now, since I picked up a copy of The Bread Baker's Apprentice as an exchange for a Christmas present. In that time, I've never been particularly good about focusing on one particular bread and practicing it until I get it down, as so many of the wise bakers on this site recommend. There are a couple of breads that I've mastered anyway, simply because I love them and bake them often enough to do blindfolded--the BBA Italian Bread in particular. Starting this week, however I'm going to try to amend that, in a way sure to put me deep in over my head. My objective: produce a reliable, tasty and beautiful baguette through practice, trial and error. I don't really imagine that I will truly master the baguette--better home bakers than I have tried in vain, I know. But I'm hoping to turn what is usually a hit-or-miss process into something I can do over and over again well, if not perfectly.
So, every Saturday from now until I get it right (or get sick of it), I will be baking three baguettes using the Baguettes with Poolish formula from Hamelmans Bread. I have made this formula before with varying success, and on the first occasion just about nailed it by pure luck and accident--nice ears, open crumb, the works. I know it can be done, if not precisely how.
This is the formula:
- 5.3 oz. bread flour
- 5.3 oz. water
- 1/8 tsp yeast
- 10.7 oz. bread flour
- 5.3 oz. water
- 5/8 tsp yeast
- 0.3 oz. salt
Note: I halve the quantities that Hamelman calls for--we can only eat so many baguettes!
- Mix Poolish night before
- Mix all ingrediants with wooden spoon, let sit 5 minutes
- Mix in mixer ~2 minutes until the dough windowpanes
- 30 folds in the bowl with a rubber spatula
- Ferment 1 hour, stretch and fold
- Ferment 1 hour more, divide into 9 oz. pieces, pre-shape as cylinders
- Rest 10-20 minutes
- Shape as baguettes, place on couche, spray with oil.
- Proof 1 hour
- Pre-heat oven to 515 and stone 45 minutes before baking
- Transfer baguettes to parchment on a sheet pan, score.
- Cover oven vent, slide parchment onto stone, pour steam, lower temp to 460.
- Bake 24-26 minutes, uncovering the vent, and turning the baguettes around after 10.
Pictures from week 1:
The dough was reluctant to slash, and so the scoring is all irregular. Still, it formed a nice ear along the slashes. I'm thinking for next time I will make two changes: first, I will cover the baguettes while proofing, but not spray them; I think the surface was too wet to score easily. Second, I'm going to increase the oven temperature--I kept the baguettes in for almost 30 minutes, and you can see how much color they got. I'm aware that my oven doesn't get as hot as it says it does; I just have to calibrate what temp actually bakes a nice baguette in 25 minutes.
I'll update with crumb pictures later.
I'd appreciate any thoughts or suggestions; but for certain I'll be back next week to try again!
Update: Typical crumb shot below. Surprisingly nice given the irregular scoring. Crust wasn't as crisp as it might be; if changing the oven temp doesn't fix that I'll think about applying the "turn off the oven but leave the bread in" method, but one thing at a time. Texture of the crumb was more fluffy than creamy, and the flavor just okay; I've done better with this formula. But, again, one thing at a time.