Sam Fromartz's Award-Winning Baguettes
It's not often that someone can lay claim to producing the best baguettes in a city, but in Washington, DC Sam Fromartz has done so, thanks to a competition sponsored by a local publication - the Washington City Paper.
The competition, held in 2009, challenged metro-area bakeries to submit baguettes which were then blind tasted by a panel of experts, including Mark Furstenberg, who introduced artisan bread baking to DC. What the experts didn't know was that Fromartz, a writer by trade but a bread enthusiast, had submitted his own home-baked baguettes as well. When the dust settled, the judges had awarded perfect scores to the two loaves baked by Fromartz.
The story is fascinating, and you can read the City Paper article here: http://tinyurl.com/cdzhkf
But the baguettes are fascinating as well! I've baked them on numerous occasions and they produce a delightful flavor and crust. For those who want Fromartz's recipe from the horse's mouth, it can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/oo68jv
Sam Fromartz's Parisian Baguette Recipe
The following will produce two 16" baguettes weighing in at around 280g apiece.
Ingredient Weight Bakers %
AP flour (I use KA's Sir Galahad) 295g 95
Whole wheat flour 5g 5
Water 210g 70
Starter (100% hydration) 45g 15
Salt 6.5g 2
Instant dry yeast 1 tsp .9 (may be reduced in summer or warmer environment)
The mix - Desired Dough Temp = 76°-78°
Day 1: Begin by adding the starter and water and mixing to break up the starter. Fromartz adds his yeast as well, but because I use instant dry I instead mix it into the flour. To the liquid mixture add the flour and salt. Fromartz mixes by hand and uses the slap-and-fold technique to knead. I initially followed this method, but my last bake produced great results using my stand mixer and left me with clean hands to boot! (I mixed 4 minutes on speed 1 and 4 minutes on speed 2, which produces a dough with moderate gluten development).
Place the dough into a lightly oiled container and cover. It then receives 3 folds at 20 minute intervals. After the final fold, place again in covered container and retard overnight in the refrigerator.
Day 2: Preheat oven to 470°. Remove dough from the refrigerator. Fromartz immediately divides and pre-shapes, but I allow the dough to sit for about 1 hour before dividing. After dividing and pre-shaping I let the two pieces of dough bench rest for about 30 minutes before shaping into two 16" baguettes. I couched them, seam side up, for an hour, before placing them on a parchment-covered peel and scoring them.
I pre-steamed my gas oven with about 1/4 cup of water, and then immediately after placing the baguettes on my baking stone I carefully added 3/4 cup of water to lava rocks that I have piled up in a cast iron skillet at the bottom of my oven. Bake for 18 - 20 minutes. Because of the overnight retardation, these have a rich crust with almost a reddish coloration.
The flavor of these is truly wonderful. The small addition of whole wheat flour and sourdough gives them a nuttiness that I've only found in poolish baguettes.
I was pleased with my slashes (despite the problems gas ovens create by venting steam), and the crumb was the most open I've achieved with his recipe.
So - want to enter your own competition with Sam Fromartz - then give his award-winning recipe a shot!
Edit: Oops! Don't know where my head was when calculating bakers percentage, but AP is 98% and whole wheat is 2%.