Retarded yeast fermented 70% hydration batard
For about two years previous I had been making bread for groups of college students as a part of the college student outreach at my church. Every Sunday morning I would bring pounds of retarded yeast fermented dough to the church kitchen, prep it on site, and bake it off for our college lunch. I was pretty proud of the formula I used for it, mostly this was because it was mine. I chose the hydration, the fermentation technique, and the shaping and baking of it. And it always came out beautifully every time. Later on, i even started fermenting it with my sourdough starter.
Fast forward five months. In addition to baking off a spiked sourdough boule, we would be making pane francese, a rustic dough that we would be forming into baguettes. It was made with a high proportion of biga, and a high hydration, around 70.5%. We ended up putting 6 folds into it as it dribbled around on the bench, then it would be shaped, proofed, and baked. It was supposed to be an exceptionally beautiful bread with a wide, open crumb. And it was.
Sometime after Chef showed us how to shape the loaves, and before his loaves went into the oven I recognized something interesting about the loaves. That shaping technique was the exact same one I used for my church batards. I thought this was intriguing and dismissed it. Curiosity bit me a few seconds later as I decided to check the exact hydration...70.5%. Another interesting thing. And to top it all off you use biga to give it great flavor and texture.
And then it was that I realized that for the past two years I had been making pane francese. Its amazing that by thinking about how I would make good bread, and implementing those factors, you can come up with a bread is very very old.