The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Baguette Surprise to Fullfill a Promise

proth5's picture

Baguette Surprise to Fullfill a Promise

 What is this?  Loaves made with commercial yeast, no pre-ferment, and all commercially ground flour?  I'm flashing back. beads.

But I promised I would try this as part of the baguette surprise and challenge.  It was like riding a bike.  How fast those commercial yeasts do their little thing! (6 hours from scaling to bread and 2 of that was my slow mixing!)  How easy!

I made my standard baguette formula (65% hydration) adapted to commercial yeast.  I feel that my % of yeast - which was .5% - was a bit high, but looking at dmsynder's formula it seemed ok.

I did not use any whole wheat flour because I wanted to go "single factor" on this try - my sourdough baguettes vs. commercial yeast.

I've written up the technique and formula before and I followed it as only I can (like a maniac) - although I did have to adjust the timings for the bulk ferments (1 hour, fold, 1 hour) and proofing (40 minutes).  Shaping went "as usual" - I did not try to be especially light in my shaping although I have been told that I have a "light but firm" hand "naturally" (yeah, after years of practice...). I got a little distracted during the scoring, but steamed and baked as usual.

Oh my goodness!  The oven spring!  I remember when bread sprang quite like that!  This commercial yeast is the bee's knees! No wonder so many people use it!  Wow!

 Here' a picture of the cooling loaves where my haste in scoring is clearly evident.  But even so, the slashes opened well and have some nice grigne.  Alas, it seems that no yeast wild or commercial will improve my photography skills, though.

Cooling Loaves


I did NOT leave them in the turned off oven for 5 minutes, as again, I wanted to go all single factor on this.  When the loaves came out of the oven the crust was crackly and fragile.  I kept poking my fingers through it as I squeezed the loaves to test doneness and it came off in flakes.  As the loaves cooled, however, they lost the crackly quality somewhat.  I really think the slower cooling has some virtues and some role to play in that "crackly crust." (I also now think that excess steam is the culprit on cuts not opening...)

Here are a couple of crumb shots.  The crumb is not as open as my normal baguette, but it is not horrific.  The slashing flaws have a role to play there.

 Crumb End


The bread had a "fluffy" feeling when I bit into it.  Very soft  and springy as compared to my normal levain baguette.

And the taste?  Well, bland.  Nice, sweet, wheaty, no hint of yeast, but bland.  This would make a lovely "carrier bread" as far as I am concerned - some really good butter and jam would go nicely and is almost required.  I'd gladly toast it up for a breakfast tartine.  Remember that I haven't eaten any breads not produced with wild yeast in at least three years now, so my perspective is somewhat skewed.  But so easy! This commercial yeast is the best things since - well, since sliced bread!

 (Seriously, you can see why bakers, pressed to get bread on the shelves for morning customers, embraced this marvelous yeast when it first appeared.  Taste?  Close enough.  People will eat it if that's all we sell and if we sell it warm, who will know?  For my personal baking I would never forgo the preferment - even using commercial yeast - because it is just so easy to do and can be done during non working hours.  But for speed from mixing to baked loaf after long centuries of baking with wild yeast, this must have been viewed with tremendous enthusiasm.)

At some point I will try the 10% whole wheat.  I mean, why not? The whole process is so fast...

David, I hope my experiences are helpful to you in some small way.

 Happy Baking!


LindyD's picture

I'm quite jealous.  You managed to create taste - and a pretty nice crumb.  What flour did you use?

Mine tasted like nothing.  Bland is better than nothing.  

I sent two baguettes home with my daughter who used them for French toast.  She reported they had no taste, even as French toast (perhaps she forgot to add a bit of vanilla?).

proth5's picture

I use King Arthur All Purpose Flour.

As I say below, they are far from tasteless, but taste is a subjective thing.  Some folks just crave the big flavors and the subtle tastes of a white flour bread come off as tasteless.  I won't eat bad bread(because I don't have to), and I happily ate these guys...

Gentle mixing and folding are key elements to keep that taste of the flour.

Let me also add that .5% of yeast is somewhat lower than I have seen in most formulas.  I was going to drop it even lower, but my scale doesn't weigh much smaller amounts .  I think that the less yeast, the more flavor (to a point - I mean, you don't want to lose out on the big time  fun of these rapid rises!)

dmsnyder's picture

As always, I find your perceptions interesting and informative.

I, too, haven't made any breads without levain since forever, with the exception of the "surprise" baguettes.

If I read your post accurately, you did not make the baguettes I did at all. You made your usual baguettes, just leaving out the levain and using instant yeast.

Since you are committed to varying one factor at a time and know your own baguette formula so very well, my suggestion for your next experiment would be to add the 10% white whole wheat flour. I have also found baguettes made with 100% American white flour (KAF AP, Guisto's Baker's Choice, KAF European Artisan) to have underwhelming flavor. The baguettes I have made with the white whole wheat have been very tasty.

It would be great to have the judgment of your sophisticated baguette palate on this flour mix.

Parenthetically,  I should note that when I have made sourdough baguettes, the levain has always had some rye and some whole wheat. Hmmm ... 30% of the starter is non-white flour. Starter is typically 17% baker's percentage. So, non-white flours are at 5% of total flour in the dough. Enough to make a difference in flavor complexity, in my experience.


proth5's picture

I am mixing up some instant yeast baguettes with 10% whole wheat.  (actually not whole wheat, but my lovely, fresh, almost floral high extraction flour...)I really wanted to get a "baseline" before I started varying things because I have been working 100% levain for so long.  I'm a little giddy with this commercial yeast thing.  I used it for many years, but have been so focused on levain baking that I had forgotten what fun it is!

I used my formula because it has beeen honed for my hands and my altitude and I get nearly identical results with it each week.  I thought it was better to have a formula that I know well so that I could better understand variations in the baking process.  I go back and forth on leaving the baguettes in a turned off oven for 5 minutes after baking.  On one hand I am almost certain that this is what produced that longer lasting crispy crust.  On the other hand, I have both a Hearthkit and a large baking stone in my oven.  I think that for me, it might just be the equivalent of over baking them - even with the oven door open a bit.

Although I don't really like "bold" tastes in my breads, I will admit that I have gotten used to that slight tang of the levain (Oh, and that wonderful floral flavor of my high extraction flour). But, I've tasted a LOT of baguettes in my day - even some that would go on to be declared the best in the world  -and these little white flour guys are not too bad.  (We keep searching for "big flavor" but I will say that a baguette flavor should be a bit more nuanced than say a peasant bread.) They are far from tasteless and make a great vehicle for say - a rose geranium jelly - or some of my more delicate confections where the levain would be overpowering (Taste the spread, not the bread).  Their softer texture would be perfect for sandwich applications and a toasted tartine (which I eat as I write) is crunchy and delicate and a little less confrontaional on a dreary morning than my usual.

Of course, the rye flour and even the whole wheat are not permitted for a traditional baguette and that is always in the back of my mind.  I'm pretty sure that I'm not heading for the Coupe du Monde anytime in this lifetime, but I like to try to play by the rules... And while we are talking about it, I will say that a very highly regarded baguette at said competition used a very high percentage of pre fermented flour.  Say, more than 30, but less than 50% - with "a little" diastatc malt (permitted, of course) added to give the yeast a little boost because of the high percentage of pre fermented flour...Just some food for thought.

I'll post the mixed flour results as soon as they are in.


Pablo's picture

"I mean, why not? The whole process is so fast..."

"...have been so focused on levain baking that I had forgotten what fun it is!"

You're going over to the Dark Side.  :-)

:-P aul


proth5's picture

you know I'll be buying whole wheat flour...

charbono's picture


Now that you've re-discovered baker's yeast, any thoughts on using it in a levain recipe?


proth5's picture

Well, I guess what I would do is make a pre ferment with the levain  and use commecial yeast at something less than .5% - maybe about half of that because my levain could raise the bread by itself...

Maybe I'll try that tomorrow on my baguettes.  Hmmm