Gringes..."Ive got to admit it's getting better..."
This past June marked the 42nd anniversary of the release of the Beatles seminal "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," and with it, one of my favorite songs of the album, "Getting Better."
Today marked my umpteenth attempt at successfully scoring poolish baguettes, and to my utter joy a success at last! So now I'm humming the tune in my head....over and over.
I did two bakings actually: My first mix this morning was for the baguettes with poolish, and I followed that up with another poolish-based rustic bread: Hamelman's Pain Rustique by way of James MacGuire and Raymond Calvel. I love the fact that this no-knead, no-shape bread is ready to bake in just over two hours (not counting the overnight fermentation of the poolish). What other bread can be created in such a short time with the distinctive nuttiness of the poolish-based dough?
As for the baguettes, I think I'm getting closer to the secret of getting my gringes to open consistently. The biggest factor, I believe, has been the transition to a couche for final proofing. And in particular, allowing the baguettes to rise seam-side up, as we did at King Arthur Flour. Although I've repeatedly heard and read that allowing the dough to develop a "skin" will defeat successful scoring, my experience since using a couche has been that the up-side of the dough gains more surface tension, and it's been obvious to me in that my cuts are no longer dragging the dough, but (for the most part), cleanly cleaving it.
The second factor, I think, is a quick misting of the loaves just after scoring and before loading. Finally, I've started consistently throwing 3-4 ice cubes into my cast iron skillet in the bottom of the stove about 1 minute before loading. That's followed by a cup of boiling water onto the skillet once the bread is just in. And then at 2 minute intervals I'm again misting the loaves very quickly - just twice. So when I set the timer for 24 minutes, which with my gas stove is a full bake at about 460°, I'll mist at 22 minutes and then at 20. After that I leave well enough alone.
Tomorrow I'm off to pick up a bag of lava rocks at David Synder's suggestion to see if I can successfully generate steam that lasts longer - as opposed to one scorching burst.
Anyhow, as the Beatles put it so well those many years ago: "Getting so much better all the time."