The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Baguettes

Cliff Johnston's picture
Cliff Johnston

Baguettes

Here is my first attempt at making French bread - baguettes.  Viva la France!  I bought the special baguette pan from "The Little French Bakery" on eBay.  My total cost for it delivered was around $41 - not cheap, but I'm sold on it.  I spent a lot of time researching French bread in old cookbooks and modern cookbooks.  I noticed that a lot of modern expert chefs appear to have not done their homework.  The older recipes for French bread did not have any oil in them.  One long deceased author/chef described the differences between French and Italian bread as being mainly the addition of some olive oil to the French bread recipe to make Italian bread.  The crust on the Italian bread was kept softer and the bread more pliable in order to soak up more of the sauces that the Italians used.  In other words the Italians used it for sopping up their sauces...yummy...  Just reading about it made my mouth start to salivate. 

There was a noticeable lack of coordination between the recipe that came with the baguette pan and the pan size itself.  The recipe indicates that 6-cups make one loaf;  however, there was no way that one 6-cup loaf was going to fit neatly into one of the valleys in the baguette pan.  So, I split the dough in half.  When the dough started to rise I immediately had another problem.  The dough was still a wee bit too much, and I had made the loaves too long.  They were starting to flow out the ends of the pan!  A quick folding of one end under and repositioning the dough took care of that problem.  In all likelihood the dough ball probably should have been enough for 3 or even all 4 of the loaf valleys in the pan - it has 4.  While I was wondering out loud about this my wife stepped in with a comment while she was eating her first chunk, and that was that she preferred the size of loaf that I had made.  It was not all crust, yet it was not so large as to have not enough crust.  In other words, she thought that it was just right.  It could be sliced down the center and made into a giant sandwich too.  Whatever.  The bottom line is that I have to agree with her, and not because she's my wife.  It made for a nice ratio of crisp and chewey crust to soft interior bread. 

I had read several articles that stated that better tasting baguettes were the result of longer proofing times.  So I let my dough develop overnight on the kitchen counter (covered with plastic in a bowl, of course).  The results were well worth it.  I like larger holes in baguettes, but I don't like ones that you could loose the Titanic in.  These varied in size with the largest being not too large for my tastes.  Now to find a white flour that is outstanding.  I used Gold Medal Harvest King unbleached white flour, "better for bread" as it happened to be the only white bread flour that I had in our pantry.  I'll be buying whatever else I can find locally to test them. 

Here's a chunk with some butter ready to go.  The texture is great.  The gas bubble development was, to me, extraordinary.  The crust was crisp, chewy, and and yet not so thick that it took excessive effort to bite through.  I like crusty bread, but I've always disliked the crusts that were so thick and dry that when you did manage to bite through them the crust would break up into countless pieces going in every direction all over the place.  This crust to me was just right.  It pays to read those old bread recipe books.

Here is an image of my "back-to-basics" steam maker.  I boil some water in a kettle, preheat the oven, put in the dough/baguette pan, add several cups of water, and close the door.  I check back in 5 minutes to make sure that there is still enough water to last for 10 minutes.  If there isn't I simply add more water.  The crust development on my baguettes was just right!  Crisp and chewy but not so thick as to require too much effort to eat.  Delicious!

Cliff. Johnston

Susan's picture
Susan

Wish I had that big chunk of bread in front of me right now. It wouldn't last long. So you made the recipe that came with the pan? Please share it.

Shoot, I'm running out of superlatives with this gang! Eximious loaves, Cliff.

Susan

Cliff Johnston's picture
Cliff Johnston

Susan,

Yes, and first I'll add that the recipe that comes with the pan is basically the same as one in an old recipe book that I have, "The Bread Tray" by Louis P. DeGouy, who was the chef at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel for some 30 years.  I also made some changes, corrections for spelling and word selection.

2 - 2-1/2 c. warm water (105°-110°F) [I used 2-1/2c.]

1 Tbs. active dry yeast

1 tsp. sugar

6 - 6-1/2 c. all purpose flour [I used 6 c. bread flour]

1 Tbs. salt (kosher or sea salt preferable) [I used sea salt]

Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water.   Allow to rest until bubbles or foam begin to appear.  Add flour and stir together.  Move shaggy dough onto lightly floured surface.  Knead dough by hand or with mixer/dough hook until dough begins to come together and become smoother. 

[I've got bad thumbs - reconstructive surgery is in the near future - so rather than use my hands to knead bread dough I use a large silicone spatula.  I have found this to be ideal.  I get the initial dough mixed in the kitchen and then take the bowl of dough to the livingroom where I sit in comfort and knead it with the large spatula.  I find that I can grasp the spatula with my other fingers against my palm and exert little pressure on my thumbs.  It works!] 

Cover with towel or upside-down bowl and allow to rest 5 minutes or so.  Sprinkle salt on dough and continue kneading until very smooth and elastic.  You may add a little four, but not too much!  Oil bowl and add dough.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow dough to double in size.

[Again, I used the spatula and bowl mixing method described previously.  I forgot to oil the bowl - no problem.  I left my dough out overnight on the kitchen counter - something like 12 hours.]

After rising, gently turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface.  Shape into 5"x7" rectangle.  Fold as in a letter, and then roll into tube jelly-roll style using heel of hand to seal edge as you roll.  Allow to rest a few minutes.  Using both hands, roll dough into long baguette the length of the pan.  Dust off any loose flour and place in pan. 

[Here is where the size of the dough doesn't match the baguette pan.  I tore the dough in half to make 2 baguettes.  I have a silicone pastry mat that I bought on eBay for something like 99 cents that I used for shaping the dough on.  I love it.  In one of the pics you'll see my revered mother's hard maple dough board from the 1940's.  Sorry, Mom, the silicone mat is much better.  If anyone wants to buy her dough board, it's for sale.  Also, the dough loaf should be shaped so that it is approximately 3"-4" shorter than the channel for the bread in the pan.  Then center it.  That will eliminate the dough spreading out of the open ends and going down...]

Allow dough to rise a 2nd time for 1 - 1-1/4 hours.  Preheat oven during this time.  After final rise, slash tops in 4-5 diagonal cuts with blade or knife.  Spray surface of dough with water mist and place into 400°F oven.  Close oven as quickly as possible.

[I reverted to DeGouy's recipe here and let it rise for 3 hours.  I also forgot to slash the tops and didn't spray the surface of the dough with a water mist, but I did add poppy seeds to one loaf - delicious!  I then added boiling water to my steam machine...lol...]

Bake for 20-30 minutes (depending on your oven) until golden.  Internal bread temperature will be about 200°F.  Once golden, you may take bread out of pans and replace into oven, now turned off.  Allow to rest in oven, door ajar until cool.  Or, rest for about 5 minutes in oven and cool on cooling rack about minutes.  Enjoy!

[I reverted to DeGouy here and baked the bread for 15 minutes at 400°F, then turned the oven down to 375°F for the final 20-30 minutes - 200°F internal temperature.  I took the bread pan out of the oven, removed the baguettes and placed them back in the oven.  The oven was turned off, and the door left ajar for 5 minutes.  Then I removed the baguettes to the cooling rack for 15 minutes at which point I couldn't hold the troops back any longer.  The baguettes were attacked, torn apart, and eaten with gusto, taking time between bites to capture some images.] {Caution:  As I've split the dough into 2 pieces the baking time is less than stated in the two recipes that I used/combined.  Today I reduced it to 20 minutes, and it is still too long.  It hasn't hurt the bread that I know of, but the next time I'll take the internal temperature at 15 minutes.}

I hope that this helps you.  Good break making!

Cliff. Johnston
"May the best you've ever seen,
 Be the worst you'll ever see;"
from A Scots Toast by Allan Ramsay

audra36274's picture
audra36274

those look mighty tasty! Good job!

                              Audra

Susan's picture
Susan

Your notes are great. Recipes don't do us a bit of good without the finer points.

Susan

and, depending on what's going on with your thumbs, you might check out the hand pain section here. He works wonders for some people; well, YOU get to do the work. No affiliation.

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

absolutely awesome..mmm, wish I could have a taste! May I ask what the bricks do?

Cliff Johnston's picture
Cliff Johnston

...provide more surface area from which the water can change into steam.  The bricks are somewhat porous and act as a wick continually taking up water from the pan.  The results here were superb!  It's an inexpensive way of making steam.

By the way, I just bought some King Arthur bread flour and have a batch in the bowl.  I'll report tomorrow how it compares to the Gold Medal bread flour.

Cliff. Johnston
"May the best you've ever seen,
 Be the worst you'll ever see;"
from A Scots Toast by Allan Ramsay

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

in water for an hour so before hand..would it work the same way?

Cliff Johnston's picture
Cliff Johnston

...the bricks would dry out very quickly.  I'm using them in a 400°F oven.  I go through perhaps 4 cups of water in 10 minutes...not sure...I'll measure it tomorrow...

Cliff. Johnston
"May the best you've ever seen,
 Be the worst you'll ever see;"
from A Scots Toast by Allan Ramsay

Susan's picture
Susan

Psst, Paddyscake, they're not bricks, that's his bread....................rof,l.

Susan

Sorry, I'm just full of myself today; had a migraine this morning, took 2 Excedrin and have been on a caffeine high all day long.

Cliff Johnston's picture
Cliff Johnston

...doing something to produce square bricks... ;-)  lol...

 

By the way, I've got the King Arthur bread flour batch doing its thing for the next 12 hours in a bowl.  There is a significant difference already.  The KA flour absorbs more water producing a stiffer dough.  Kneading it was a bear-and-a-half as I resisted adding more water.  The KA dough is a couple of shades grayer too.  It will be interesting to see how it bakes up tomorrow and even more interesting to see if there is a taste difference.

Cliff. Johnston
"May the best you've ever seen,
 Be the worst you'll ever see;"
from A Scots Toast by Allan Ramsay

filbertfood's picture
filbertfood

Hello all!  I posted this in another discussion on baguettes, but I would like to let you all know that I import type 55 flour in the US.  The whole reason I decided to do it was to make truly authentic baguettes because I'm an avid baker and chef.  You can reach me at: john@filbertfood.com

By the way the bricks also help retain heat, which is essential for even cooking.  I've thrown bricks in kitchen ovens where the door is opened frequently and also my own.

Cliff Johnston's picture
Cliff Johnston

...telling us about your importing the 55 flour.  The Canadian government has announced a grain that they've developed for market that is similar too.  Why don't you do us a favor and post some more details on your efforts?  I'm sure we'd all appreciate it.  Others have promoted their products elsewhere on this forum - no reason why you can't be invited to do so too.

Cliff. Johnston
"May the best you've ever seen,
 Be the worst you'll ever see;"
from A Scots Toast by Allan Ramsay

filbertfood's picture
filbertfood

I'll make some baguettes with this flour and also take pictures of the differences in color.  I too have made fabulous baguettes with normal, unbleached white flour.  Mostly King Arthur and Gold Medal.  For the most part, technique and experience make the difference, but the right flour always helps! :)

filbertfood's picture
filbertfood

Here are the type 55 flour baguettes...

baguettes 04242007 - Small Overhead
baguettes 04242007 - Small Overhead

baguettes 04242007 - 2 crumb
baguettes 04242007 - 2 crumb

JIP's picture
JIP

Nice but if you want a baguette with longer development and rising times you might want to try the Acme baguettes from ABAA or the ones in the Bread Bible wich are a modified version of the Acme ones.  I have made many batches of the Acme baguettes and like them very much although they are very labor-intensive.  I am also very anxious to try the BB ones wich use an overnight fermentation in the fridge after the final shaping to help develop the flavor more.  This might be a good one for you to try as they suggest using a baguette pan for the final fermentation in the fridge.

Cliff Johnston's picture
Cliff Johnston

Jip,

...hanging.  lol...PLEASE, tell us more about the Acme and BB baguettes.  This is the first that I've heard of them :-)

Cliff. Johnston
"May the best you've ever seen,
 Be the worst you'll ever see;"
from A Scots Toast by Allan Ramsay