The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Dan DiMuzio's baguettes with liquid levain

davidg618's picture

Dan DiMuzio's baguettes with liquid levain

I'd planned to do yet another bake of classic baguettes ala Hitz' formula, but after seeing and reading Pamela's blog entry a week ago, and after comparing Dan's formula with what I've been doing--they are very similar except for the liquid levain--I gave into my temptation and made the DiMuzio formula. The only change I made was to scale the formula to 1000g final dough weight (four 250g small baguettes) which isn't really a change, merely a diminuation. The DiMuzio formula calls for instant yeast, in addition to the liquid levain. I considered not using it, ultimately deciding to be faithful to the formula.

I prepared the liquid levain from my starter cache, using the 3-Build process I've made my own, over a nineteen hour interval. I mixed all ingredients together in my stand mixer for five minutes--bread hook, on lowest speed--then 3 minutes on second lowest speed, rested the dough 30 minutes, did a stretch & fold, and started to chill the dough for overnight retarded bulk fermation. I did two more S&F at 45 minute intervals before I was satisfied with the dough's development. Left to ferment overnight in the fridge, approximately 12 hours. Next morning, I divided the dough, and returned half to the refrigerator. I let the dough rest for thirty minutes. It didn't reach room temperature, but it had doubled in volume so I divided it again in two,  preshaped, rested 20 minutes, shaped, and proofed for an hour. Baked for 10 minutes, with steam, at 480*F, cleared the steam as much as possible, dropped the temperature to 450°F and baked further to 208°F internal temperature. I had decided to do the bake in two two-loaf batches. The one time I baked four baguettes simultaneously, despite the convection oven, I experienced uneven baking among the loaves.

Meanwhile, I'd removed the remaining dough from the refrigerator.

I was pleased, with the first batch's oven-spring, but one of the two loaves had a minor blowout. I'm still not confident my shaping and slashing is what it should be, and the visual results of the first two loaves didn't boast my confidence even an iota. I prepared and baked the second two loaves like the first batch with two planned changes--and one mistake. Planned: I allowed the shaped loaves to proof 15 minutes longer, and I slashed approximately 1/4 of an inch deeper than the first batch. Unplanned: In a senior moment, I forgot to lower the temperature to 450°F after the first ten minutes.  I think this only effected the crust thickness and color. The second two loaves are on the right in the picture below. I removed the loaves, like the first two, at 208°F internal temperature.

The crumb is all I could ask for, and the flavor, in my perspective, not surprisingly, is better than the poolish initiated baguettes I've been baking. Let me hasten to add, I love their flavor as well, but the sourdough levain adds complexity absent in the classic baguettes. I especially like the crust's nutty flavor bursts, and the chewier crumb. Furthermore, the flavor is only mildly sour.

So, I'll claim a conditioned success: Taste: A, Visual: C. Procedures: C+; I got a lot of them right, but not all of them. I've watched shaping and slashing video's and read shaping and slashing instructions ad nauseum, but my hands haven't yet developed the muscle memory to be able to do it rightly, without thinking about it. More practice, practice, practice. At least I've got lots of mouths that love to eat my bread, regardless of how it looks. I did, however, see one neighbor close her eyes while chewing a mouthful. I had assumed it was a gesture of ecstasy, and felt flattered, but maybe, that wasn't the real reason!



ehanner's picture

David I don't think you are giving yourself enough credit on these. Especially the one on the right, that's perfect by me. It looks like your oven is a little hotter on one side, if they all went in at the same time.

If you are making them swoon with closed eyes, that's a home run.


xaipete's picture

I agree with Eric. Very nice loaves, scoring, & crumb, David.


dghdctr's picture

I'd buy those loaves in a heartbeat.  With David's description of the complex flavors, I can almost sense the aromas.

Shaping and scoring are just two things that can't be easily self-taught, even with the aid of illustrations.  I honestly felt silly in some ways when writing a description of the process for shaping baguettes in the book.  The editor said it was necessary, but if you read through my explanation I think you'll agree that, even with the accompanying photos, it's just not easily understood.  I'd need at least 5 to 10 class periods of practice with my students to get them to shape the baguette consistently well.  And at least that many times to get them to see the technique for scoring properly.

I had to demonstrate my half-**sed technique (at the time) to load and score baguettes in front of Eric Kayser back in '97.  I about  . . . umm . . . ruined my pants as he scolded me (well . . . critiqued my technique) in French.  It takes lots and lots of repetition to get it down.

Unfortunately, if you bake a few loaves per week, and they're not all baguettes, it's hard to get enough practice.  I think King Arthur's education center in Norwich, VT does a class every summer now with Richard Miscovich (excellent protege of Jeffrey Hamelman's) that just focuses upon shaping and scoring.  Shaping and scoring.  And more pounds of dough, followed by . . well .. you know.

Actually, David, I know the dough you made wasn't easy to work with, and I think you had good success with the overall results.  Pulling the skin around the outside of the loaves tighter down toward the seam will give you a bit more height, but don't deflate the loaves as you shape them.   Instead of rolling them back and forth while pushing down on the dough, try pushing down against the wood table at the base of your hand, and then slide the dough portion outwards without removing your hand from the surface

The dough will get pinched a little bit between the base of your hand and the work surface, thereby tightening the skin without completely degassing the dough.  Then switch to using your fingertips to pinch the skin of the cylinder on the other side, sliding those fingertips against the work surface -- not removing them -- and pulling back against the dough toward you.

Just a note or two about the dough itself.  This is meant to more or less mimic the style of Eric Kayser's baguettes.  Classic Parisian baguettes are not sour, but some bakers back in the early days used a liquified levain instead of poolish.  Apparently, that's what Eric's Dad, Grandad, and Great-Grandad did.  My goal was to use just enough mild liquid levain to add complexity and great aromas, without any sour flavor, per se.  If you like them more sour, you can just leave things as they are, but if you want to reduce it, just cut back to 8% pre-fermented flour and you should see them become more mild.

Sourdough fermentation technique (with no commercial yeast) doesn't lend itself that well to long, thin shapes, as the gas pressure from sourdough leavening, which is less intense,  seems to move out more side to side instead of quickly upwards, and this can either flatten baguettes or cause them to lose out on volume during oven kick.  Didier Rosada writes more about this in Suas's book.

So the liquid levain is meant purely to act like a yeasted pre-ferment to strengthen and flavor the dough, but not to be its primary leavener.  David, I recommend that you try to get your hands on the James MacGuire article about baguettes and Professor Calvel that was published in The Art of Eating.

Thanks for the post here on your blog.

--Dan DiMuzio

davidg618's picture

I appreciate the critique--no scolding, no French--Next time, I'll try the technique you suggested. It addresses the conflict I feel when both preshaping and shaping: getting a tight skin, while not forcing out too much gas.

"Instead of rolling them back and forth while pushing down on the dough, try pushing down against the wood table at the base of your hand, and then slide the dough portion outwards without removing your hand from the surface... Then switch to using your fingertips to pinch the skin of the cylinder on the other side, sliding those fingertips against the work surface -- not removing them -- and pulling back against the dough toward you."

This technique is very similar to what I do when I roll-up sticky buns, or date pinwheel cookies, especially the fingers and drawback, but I've never thought of it when shaping baguettes.

We like the mild sour, and will likely stay with it, but wouldn't have been unhappy with less. I was hoping the developing starter hydration during the build--I keep my starter at 100% hydration--wouldn't enhance its sourness, and I believe it didn't. I'm not going to repeat my mistake however, my wife likes the thinner, less chewy crust that results when I lower the temperature midway. (Frankly, I like the nearly-charred flavored crust.)

I'm attending the King Arthur 4 day Artisan Bread course this coming August, and I'm hoping to get some further guidance then. I also will look for the recommended James McGuire article while I'm there if I can't find it beforehand.

Thanks again,

David G.

dghdctr's picture

Oh, man, if Jeffrey teaches that one, you should really enjoy it.