Only More Questions
A return to Andy's formula yielded good results and considerable lessons about dough development, strength, and fermentation. At the same time, I'm more convinced than ever that all home baking is local. Andy, if you are reading, thanks again for your guidance.
Now, an interesting new question arises. Andy mentioned that the center of these breads does not bake up as does the perimeter. My own loaf, and my own experience in general, agrees with this. I have made and seen loaves with very even distribution of the cell structure, but more often, I make and see loaves that have a perimeter with larger, varying cell size, and a center with a more uniform structure. As a nontechnical person, I am only guessing that this is a result of a combination of all the factors that go into a finished loaf; handling, fermentation, baking.
I would be very interested in comments directed at the goal of producing loaves with more evenly distributed cell structure throughout the loaf, even if the holes themselves are irregular in size, if that's clear.
Anyway, photos (I've included one with flash to better illustrate the translucency of the cell walls,) followed by some shots of txfarmer's crazy baguette, which I undertook just as a challenge. The long cold autolyse and bulk fermentation make for a really delicious bread. However, do take txfarmer's admonition to heart: this isn't an easy dough to handle, especially as a baguette. Myself, I'd be inclined to form it maybe as a batard, or more accurately, a log of some kind. I'm still trying to figure out how I got a 21 inch baguette on my 17 inch stones. Still, delicious and a fun project.
And a side by side shot, which is actually pretty interesting: