The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Sourdough Baguette

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balabusta's picture
balabusta

Sourdough Baguette

I wonder why the recipes I see for baguette include a preferment, but, in general, not sourdough. Is a sourdough baguette an oxymoron?


After some experimenting, I now make a SD baguette that I think surpasses the flavor of a traditional baguette.


Diane


 

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, Diane.


If you had used the TFL search box (in the upper corner of the left hand frame of any TFL page) and entered "sourdough baguette," you would have found a great many examples.


For your convenience, click on This Link


David

balabusta's picture
balabusta

Yep - I see all the entries now.  Thanks!


My SD has a sweet, almost fruity smell when I refresh it, so it works well.


Diane

hansjoakim's picture
hansjoakim

I believe the reason that most baguette recipes use poolish, is that for many, the traditional baguette should have a subtle sweet flavour. You'll get this with a yeasted, liquid preferment. Sourdough adds acidity that, at least traditionally, isn't associated with baguettes. Oxymoron? Well... according to Michel Suas in Jeremy's interview, possibly yes.


At the end of the day, do what you like and like what you do.

dghdctr's picture
dghdctr

I can't say that sourdough doesn't work for baguettes, because we've all seen them, or maybe even made them.


Hans of course is right in stipulating that, at least in France, a dough leavened only with levain isn't part of the baguette tradition (a well-recognized tradition that is, ironically, less than a century old).  The best accounting of the evolution of baguettes I've ever read is in Winter 2006 edition (Nos. 73&74) of The Art of Eating, in an article written by James MacGuire.  Those of you who are baking MacGuire's version of pain de tradition might find it to be a fascinating read.


Just briefly -- baguettes evolved from an entirely new way of leavening bread dough, a fairly new way of shaping it, and a new focus on crisp crust united with a feathery light crumb.  Up until the 1920's or so, electricity was not so easily available to bakery owners -- even in Paris -- so while "lighter" strains of yeast could be had (essentially foam skimmed from vats of beer), the use of this "manufactured" yeast didn't become widespread due to limited use of refrigeration.


By the early '20's, though, this began to change in bigger cities and towns, so the technique of using the manufactured yeast became more common.  It seems likely that the Viennese bakers who had migrated to Paris in some numbers at least encouraged this adoption, and the technique became known as pain viennoise, to distinguish it from pain francaise, which was sourdough-based.


The widespread practice of making bread into long strands that had thin, crispy crusts and light interiors pretty much started there.  The style contrasted very much with dough entirely leavened with levain, as even lighter-textured sourdough breads have a somewhat more dense crumb structure and they tend to have a thicker crust.  Also, a pure sourdough (no added yeast) seems to be less able to overcome gravity than a dough leavened with manufactured yeast, and while a round or fat shape seems to funnel all of a sourdough's gas pressure into a nice crown, the long strand shape seems to encourage more side-to-side expansion, yielding less height than what's typical in a traditional baguette.


So . . . Parisians didn't just see the baguette as a new shape, but really as a new sort of bread altogether.  Just as with any cooking technique that's been fused with other traditions (like chocolate-chip bagels or Hawaiian pizza), we're free to pair the baguette shape with any dough we like.  It might not be traditional, or even an ideal pairing, but if you like it, who cares?


--Dan DiMuzio

dghdctr's picture
dghdctr

I forgot to mention that there is one traditional technique of using a liquid levain in baguette dough creation.  This isn't really considered a sourdough process per se, since the amount of levain used was purposely small and really designed to add flavor and complex aromas to the dough while still minimizing the sour flavor that Parisians were preferring less and less.  This dough was still primarily leavened with manufactured yeast, and the liquid levain was probably thought of as an alternative to poolish -- not as a primary leavener.


--Dan DiMuzio