The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Baguettes with Poolish - and Grignes finally!

wally's picture
wally

Baguettes with Poolish - and Grignes finally!

Since I returned from a class on the classic French breads at KAF I've been attempting to reproduce the quality of the bakes we accomplished there. Especially with baguettes where, with a still shaky scoring technique, I nonetheless managed to produce some decent looking grignes while there.

What I discovered at home, however, is that my gas oven is like a sieve when it comes to steam retention. I also found that my scoring techniques had regressed, if anything. The result has been bread with a wonderful crust that is crackly, and a crumb that, while a little tighter than it would be if my scoring was opening, has a wonderful flavor - particularly when using a poolish which imparts a nice nuttiness.

But on the whole, it's been frustrating. Until today. While my cuts are still sealing prematurely, and depriving the loaves of maximum spring, I finally accomplished gringes that actually look like they should, and which did allow the crumb to open up a bit more.

What happened? I think a combination of two things:

1) In attempting to holding my lame at a 30° angle to the top of the baguette, I think I've actually gone too close to horizontal, and the result's been a noticeable pulling of the dough. Today I approached from a steeper angle - probably closer to 45°, and the result was cleaner cuts. (You can see that my scoring was more successful on the bottom loaf than the top one). And I also made the slashes with more confidence and less hesitation. I kept thinking of Reinhart's injunction to his students to imagine slitting open an envelope.


2) I heavily misted the loaves just after scoring them, right before putting them into the oven. I used a cup and a half of boiling water poured into a cast iron pan in the bottom of the stove instead of the usual one. And finally, after one minute, I very briefly opened the oven and again misted the tops of the loaves.

Obviously I haven't totally solved the steaming issue, as my cuts didn't bloom to the degree I hoped. But for the first time I've got recognizable gringes.

It has me grinning along with the baguettes!

Larry

 

 

SteveB's picture
SteveB

Larry,

At the KAF French bread class you attended, was the dough mixed in a standard tabletop planetary mixer (KitchenAid-type) or in their large spiral mixer?

SteveB

http://www.breadcetera.com

 

 

wally's picture
wally

Steve,

We primarily used the large spiral mixer, but Jeffrey also used a smaller one for one of our miche bakes, I believe.  It wasn't tabletop, might have been oblique.  If anyone out there from the class is reading, please chime in.

Larry

wally's picture
wally

Steve,

We primarily used the large spiral mixer, but Jeffrey also used a smaller one for one of our miche bakes, I believe.  It wasn't tabletop, might have been oblique.  If anyone out there from the class is reading, please chime in.

Larry

SteveB's picture
SteveB

Larry, thanks for your response.  I asked the question because I've found that it is much more difficult to develop dough properly using a home stand mixer than it is using a spiral mixer, although there are work-arounds.  Proper dough development is a major contributing factor as to whether one is able to obtain good grigne formation.

SteveB

http://www.breadcetera.com

 

wally's picture
wally

Thanks for clarifying Steve.  I didn't mention it, but I also increased my mixing times and used autolyse.  So perhaps that may be the more important factor.  Duly noted.

Larry

DonD's picture
DonD

Your baguettes look like they are commercial size. How long are they?

Since you took the classes at KAF, I assume you were using commercial ovens there. How much steam is injected in the commercial oven in comparison to home oven?

I have read that too much steam can seal up the scoring but I have not been able to determine what is the right amount of steam for home ovens. I use 1-1/2 cups boiling water on a cast iron skillet filled with lava rocks and I get decent grignes about 65% of the times.

Don

wally's picture
wally

Hi Don,

Thanks!  Actually, they're only about 15 inches - that's the size of my baking stone.  Previously I used a baking sheet and could produce 22" ones, but I was dissatisfied with the quality.  You need a stone I think.

At KAF we'd steam their production oven for about 2 sec. prior to putting the loaves in, and another 2-3 sec. just after loading.  Hammelman noted that oversteaming will close up your scoring, but with home gas ovens that are vented I don't know if it's possible to oversteam.

This afternoon I'm going to do a bake of baguettes de tradition and I think I'll actually wait 3-4 minutes after my initial steam to mist the tops of the loaves again.  My reasoning is that previously I only waited 1 minute, and at that point I suspect the loave tops were still plenty moist from my pre-spritzing and the immediate steaming with boiling water.  So I'm thinking I need to wait a bit longer before re-moistening.  We'll see...

DonD's picture
DonD

Hi Larry,

Does Hammelman recommend misting the loaf before and during baking? I only misted my baguette one time when I sprinkled sesame and poppy seeds on to make them stick and that was when my scoring closed up.

I have a bread book by Basil Kamir and he recommends brushing the loaves with water after you take it out of the oven! I have never tried it because it does not sound logical.

Good luck with your afternoon bake.

Don

wally's picture
wally

Hi Don,

I can't recall - although I've got a nagging suspicion he wasn't for doing it.  However, if you look at In the News at the lower right hand corner of this site, you'll see an article entitled "DO try this at home" by PJ Hamel, one of KAF's bakers.  In it he recommends misting the baguettes before loading them.  I'm about to attempt round 2 in about 45 minutes, and if I get decent results again, I'll let you know.

Larry

blackhorse16a's picture
blackhorse16a

I've tried baguettes four times. The result improves each time except I can't seem to score the loaves at all. The dough is always very wet, so I suspect it's TOO wet. Possibility? Ive used a razor, tomato knife, etc. No luck. My oven spring is mediocre. Any other advice on scoring?

Joe

 

 

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Joe,

Here is a link to the scoring section on the site that DSnyder posted. It should help you get started.

Your comment that you are having trouble regardless of the type of knife AND you don't get much oven spring is telling me you may be over proofing. Over proofing makes the dough more delicate and softer harder to slash AND inhibits spring. Especially in warmer weather, you need to take care to not wait to long to get the dough in the oven. Just for fun, try to be aware of the proofing temp. and time. If the temp is near 76F, slash after 30 minutes and load it. I think you will be surprised. Steam once, leave the door closed for the duration unless you need to rotate for even baking and then only at the very end. Let me know how it goes.

Eric

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Larry,

Nice color on the baguettes ad the crumb looks good too.

From reading this thread so far, I think Steve is on the right track and that you should focus on good development and then pre shaping tightly and then final shaping tightening at the end. The velvet glove.

Then, If you are pouring 1-1/2 cups of water into a pan when you load, no way do you need to mist the loaves in a minute or anytime after. If the dough was proofed right and not over proofed, you should get plenty of spring in the first 10 minutes. After that, any water remaining in the pan is moistening the bread crust when it should be drying out. I would suggest misting the dough before loading AND adding 1/2 cup of hot water to the pan. Leave the door closed until 5 minutes before it's done and rotate if needed.

Eric

wally's picture
wally

Eric,

Ok, I'm about to load today's loaves in 40 minutes, so I'll take your advice and go with one misting only.  I'll let you know how it turns out.  This bake, however, is a traditional recipe with a hydration of 76%, versus 67% for the poolish baguettes, so I'm prepared to face more difficult scoring issues.

Thanks for the advice!

Larry

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Try a course bread knife to score. Just a quick pull across the top, be sure.

Eric

blackhorse16a's picture
blackhorse16a

Thanks for the tips. I've been using dmsnyder's modifications to PR's BBA formula. The former calls for 460º but I'm going to try Peter's 550/475 process tomorrow.

If you've used this formula, is the dough always so sticky. I flour my granite counter well, but this stuff is hard to handle I can't pick up a 12" length, so I plan to put it on the parch. paper first then stretch to baguette length.

 

Joe

wally's picture
wally

Ok,

Latest bake is out and cooled.  My cuts didn't open on this batch as you can see from the photos. 

Couple things: 1- this is not the poolish recipe with a hydration of 67%, but a yeast-only recipe with a much higher hydration - 76%.  So I knew scoring would be more difficult.  2- Hammelman recommends against 'excessive tightening' of the dough when doing final shaping, but...I'm wondering if I should have had a tighter final product.

The cuts seemed to approximate those I made on the poolish baguettes (in the future I may take photos of the pre-loaded, scored bread so I can actually compare my lame work).

Oh well, as you can see, I got decent oven spring, a crackly exterior, and a pretty good looking crumb.  And they're tasty! So all is not lost.

Larry

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Larry,

I like the color and the crust looks thinner. I'm wondering what you are using for flour? The crumb was more open on the first batch above. Did you have a good windowpane?

Eric

wally's picture
wally

Eric-

I'm using KAF's Sir Galahad, which I believe is equivalent to/different label than their AP flour.  For both, the windowpane has been slightly underdeveloped, something that Hammelman recommends.  With the baguette de tradition, because of the high hydration the dough was really shaggy after the initial mix.  However, over the next hour I did 3 folds, and it came together nicely.  I then gave it a 2 hour rise (recommended by Hammelman to develop strength), bench rested it for 30 minutes, and then did my final shape, and on your advice, I cut the proofing time from a usual 60 min to 45 minutes (hot and humid kitchen).

I'm wondering how much of my gringes issues are dough-related versus oven-related.

Any thoughts are appreciated.

Larry

 

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Larry,

Are you proofing in a cloth couch? The flour coated cloth absorbs some of the moisture giving the dough a thin skin. It makes it a little easier to slash and the skin gives the bread a distinguishable edge when it blooms.

I don't think this oven related.

Eric

 

 

wally's picture
wally

... I like that.  No Eric, I use parchment paper that I spray with Pam Baking oil between the two baguettes.  Then pull together the paper (much as you would with a couche).  On the outside I roll up two linen towels and fold them outside the parchment to keep horizontal expansion to a minimum.  The technique seems to work as well as using a couche.  Then I drape plastic wrap over the loaves.  I've wondered whether proofing them seam-side up on a floured surface (a couche) would have an effect (that was the way we did it at KAF), but so far I've haven't done it - it would create more work (I don't have a flipping board or a couche). 

Although everything I've read warns against letting baguettes develop a skin, I'm wondering if you're not on to something here.

I think my next experiment will involve turning a linen towel into a 'couch' to see if this has an effect.

Larry

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Give that a try using the finest grain cotton tea towel you have. This works well and I'm pretty sure is the source of your troubles.

A painters drop cloth works pretty well at a lot less.

Eric

wally's picture
wally

Wow, what a great idea Eric!  Much cheaper than the couche linen I see advertised.

DonD's picture
DonD

I also use a home made couche made of cotton canvas that I bought at a fabric store and hemmed the edges. I use 2x2 pine sections cut a little longer than the width of the fabric. I line them parallel under the couche and drop the formed loaves in between. If you want to be fancy, you can rout the top sides of the wood to a rounded shape. It works great!

Don

Yumarama's picture
Yumarama

 

Canvas Drop Cloth Couche

Buy your standard cotton drop cloth at Home Depot, cut a piece to your desired size (mine is 48" by 20" before seaming which makes it fit a normal pan nicely) sew up the edges, chuck it in the wash and you're good to go. Cover the cloth liberally with a 50/50 mix of AP and rice flour. Works perfectly.

ehanner's picture
ehanner

NEVER, EVER cover the vent on a gas oven. You need to keep the vent open to clear the monoxide and keep the flame burning.

Eric

wally's picture
wally

That's the conclusion I reached Eric.  Not worth the risk.  I'd sooner swap out for a different oven.

Larry

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Larry,

When you go to Home Depot see if you can get a 1/4 inch piece of good grade plywood. There is a European grade that has 5 ply and is much better quality and stronger. You don't want the rough construction grade. You can sand down one edge to a taper so you can get in tight to the dough on the couch. They will cut it for you if you ask. Measure the stone in your oven and get it cut that wide and maybe 7-9 inches wide. If you get it a little wider, it will also work with Boule shapes on the end.

Eric

wally's picture
wally

Home-made baguette peel, huh?  I may give that a whirl.  I've found a piece of sturdy cardboard that I'm going to cover in cheese cloth and use as a flipping board.  Haven't had a need for one up to now, but since I'm moving to a couche I'll definitely want one.

Thanks Eric!

Larry

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Larry,

They call them Flipper Boards. I made one a few years ago and I use it all the time now. I made the mistake of cutting it to narrow. For baguettes it's fine but for boules of over 2 lbs it's a little narrow and they hang over the edges. If I wasn't so lazy I would cut another one. Lol

I don't use it to remove the bread after baking. But after a liberal dusting of course corn meal, I zip them in the oven with no trouble right out of the couch or banneton.

Eric

wally's picture
wally

Eric,

We used them at KAF and they made transferring baguettes onto the oven loader a breeze.  I've been using a baking sheet with parchment paper, and then sliding the parchment onto my stone.  I'll probably stick with that since othewise I need to do two transfers from the board to the stone, and in the meantime all the oven heat is out of the oven.  I've only started to appreciate how the typical kitchen oven is not designed for baking - unless you're about 2 feet tall!

Larry