This is my first blog, so bear with me ....
I'm about 6 weeks in as an amateur bread baker. I started in an effort to save my family some money, and find a new hobby. After my first loaf of pain sur poolish, I was hooked. So far I've made some pretty good breads, and they seem to have gotten a little better each week as I practice my technique.
Having just purchased The Baker's Apprentice, I woke up Friday feeling overly ambitious. I decided this weekend that I would go for the gold: pain a l'ancienne. I read through the instructions: it seemed simple enough. No kneading involved. How hard could it be? No guts, no glory...
First mistake was this: I did not realize that pain a l'ancienne is different from traditional french baguettes. So my expectations were out of whack.
Day one went relatively smoothly. I measured, mixed and put the concoction into the fridge for primary fermentation. I noticed that the dough seemed rather wet, more than I was used to ... it almost poured into the bowl like batter, but held together okay. I figured I'd wait and see.
This morning (day 2), I woke up, ready for baking day. I pulled out my dough... it had barely risen. The instructions said to leave it at room temp for a couple of hours and let it continue to ferment.
Two hours later, and very little progress with the rise. I decided to give it another hour and see, since it was a chilly morning. The extra hour did the trick, and it had risen to twice its size.I could see bubbles, so the gas was there.
Now for the shaping. As per instructions, I "poured" the dough out of the bowl onto a heavily floured surface. No problem there. It seemed to puddle a bit, but it looked like the photos in the book. I floured the top, and began to cut the dough for baguettes.
Here's where I am sure I went wrong. First, I cut them too thin. They seemed like a reasonable width, but by the time I placed them onto the parchment, they had stretched so much and were no more than an inch across in places. I say "in places", because they also did not hold a uniform shape lengthwise. The dough was supposed to make 6 baguettes and I ended up with 9, if that helps explain it!
Second mistake: I neglected to dust my parchment with cornmeal. I am still baking so not sure how this will affect them, but given how sticky the dough was, I'm sure it means paper attached to the baguette.I tried lifting one set of 3 off the parchment and onto another dusted piece, but the shape completely fell apart and all the gas was lost. I did not score, either -- another rookie mistake. Clearly I was too excited to do this properly!
Had some trouble getting the things in the oven the first time (which resulted in my first oven burn). The second time around I modified and it worked okay.
I ended up placing the cookie tray on top of my pizza stone, as the dough stretched longer than the stone and would not fit. It took about 28 mins total to bake. Batch 1 never really achieved that nice golden brown colour I have seen, so I coated Batch 2 and 3 with a little water. Perhaps I did not correctly steam the oven, or the issues with the dough ruined the process. I did get a nice holey crumb, so had they been the correct size, I would have had some winners. Live and learn.
The texture is nice, and it tastes creamy, which I've read is what the aim is. But they are nowhere near as picture-perfect as I would have liked.
Despite the failure, I learned a great deal from this attempt, and I'm not discouraged, surprisingly. The thing I love about bread-making is that even if it's not great, it's still pretty good... and certainly better than the grocery store brands that are now unpalatable to myself and my family.
Fortunately I had the good sense to prepare a poolish the night before as well, so I will be making pain sur poolish later ... enough to hold us for the week, since we will be sans baguettes -- at least in the traditional sense!
Happy baking! :-)