I have tried and tried and tried, and I am just not getting it.
I've tried a no knead recipe, I've tried a recipe by Peter Reinhart that was touted to be "fool proof". It's just not working for me.
The NK recipe I used was at:
The Peter Reinhart recipe was at:
In the case of the NK recipe, at first I thought I was doing ok. Then I did the final forming of the baguette and left it on the parchment paper to proof. When that was done, the baguettes had stuck to the parchment paper and I was afraid they would bake into the paper, so I restled them loose which flattened the loafs. So when they came out sort of flattish I wasn't too surprised. I put off further experiments until I could come up with a way to get the loaves into the oven without collapsing them. Plain old parchment paper wasn't going to cut it for me. I know, now, that the bread wouldn't have stuck to it, but it was only rated to 375 anyway.
I found something called Super Parchment which I am now using, Instead of putting the loaves for the final rise on a "couche", I use the Super Parchment with towels rolled up to make the folds. I can put 2 baguettes on the super parchment, which is on the peel, this way, and let them do the final rise.
Again, at first everything seemed to be going fine. But I made several mistakes. Firstly, I left the yeast out of the first step of the "foolproof" French bread. However I caught the error shortly after I started kneading, and added it (well dissolved) with the remaining 2 T of water that hadn't been added yet.
The dough rose just fine so I figured I dodged that bullet. I ended up kneading it for something like 12 to 15 minutes because of the late entry of the yeast, but according to the recipe, you can't knead it too long, so I didn't worry.
Put it in the fridge overnight like the directions said, it doubled in the fridge. Cut it up and added it to part 2 of that recipe as instructed, kneaded it for the 6 minutes recommended, did all the steps to the best of my ability. Let the loaves sit on the parchment paper with the ridges folded into it for about 50 minutes and the loaves were looking good, really good. Increased in 50% in size as per the instructions and popped them in the oven, did the thing with the water in the pan to steam the oven.
However I forgot to slash the loaves until 2 or 3 minutes in. They had already developed a thick crust or skin at that time. They popped up so that the bottoms were rounded instead of flat and they tended to roll around while being handled.
They came out with a really fine crumb - no nice big holes. My first shot was better than this. And a very hard, very thick, very unpleasant crust that only browned where it had been in contact with the pizza stone. It tasted OK, if you ignored the dense interior and the thick hard shell of a crust. Kinda hard to ignore those things though.
I'm really losing heart here. I've done pretty well with pizza dough in the past, but bread is really whippin' my butt. My son must think I'm an idiot by now, this'll be the 4th batch of bread that hasn't come out and in fact it's worse than my first attempt. It LOOKED better at first, but the first batch at least had a larger crumb and though the crust was thick and too hard, it wasn't the hard shell-like exterior this latest batch ended up with.
What am I doing wrong???? Other than everything, apparently.