The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Baguettes (July 7, 2013) - FIrst attempt and lessons learned

JDYangachi's picture

Baguettes (July 7, 2013) - FIrst attempt and lessons learned

Well, I decided to try to make baguettes.  I loosely followed dmsnyder's instructions and Anis Bouabsa's formula (scaled to 80%) from here, with some adjustments based on my schedule and my laziness.  Specifically, I mixed the dough but did not knead it, let it rest at room temperature for about 45 minutes, then parked it in the refrigerator for about 12 hours without any folding.  I portioned the dough and did a very cursory pre-shaping step consisting of simply forming some rough rectangular blobs.  After a 30 minute rest, I formed the loaves and let them rise for about 1 hour.  I attempted to score the loaves without much success (I guess my knife wasn't sharp enough).  Then I baked with some steam at 450F for 20 minutes.

Super lazy pre-shaping step.  I did not find the dough to be too sticky or unmanageable.  These were 175g (~ 6 oz.) portions.  I figured smaller loaves might be easier to handle.

After watching a couple of videos on youtube, I was ready to go. There may be better/more helpful videos out there.  These are the two I happened to watch.

I did these very quickly, as I didn't want to obsess and end up overworking the dough.  The smaller amount of dough made it slightly difficult to form a good seam with the side/heel of my hand. 

I proofed directly on a parchment lined baking pan, without couching.  The loaves spread out sideways as a result and  the spacing of these was awful.  I should not have loaded more than three on this pan.

Scoring was a disaster.  First I tried with a paring knife, then tried 2 different serrated knives.  As as you can see, the blades were dragging and pulling the dough.  I finally gave up.

Yikes! After 15 minutes at 450F, the tops were golden brown but they didn't look quite done.  I decided to go for 5 more minutes.  In retrospect I should have dropped the temperature.  The loaves look a LOT darker in the photos than in person.  I guess the lighting was too cool and my phone's camera picked up too much blue.

I had to run out the door, so I left these to cool and then sliced one open 2.5 hour later after I got home.

Despite the problems with scoring and the overly browned crust, I'm pretty happy with the results.  The crust is somewhat crispy (maybe not cracklingly crispy) and has a nice chewiness.  I didn't get a ton of oven spring, but the crumb is still somewhat open and tender with a slight chew.  I must have liked it, because I finished a loaf within a few minutes.


dabrownman's picture

and smoke up the house so bad the smoke alarm went off like I did.  Looks a like a near complete success unlike mine.....  Next time watch the bread and not the clock.  Not a bad first shot at all.  If it was edible then no worries!  Soon you will forget all about this bold bake!

Happy  baking

JDYangachi's picture

My first attempt sounds a lot more tame than your story.

The browning was really not as extreme as the photos make it out to be, and they were quite tasty.  I enjoyed two of the loaves yesterday first with some butter and then later lightly toasted and topped with some sardines and hot sauce.  Today I had one for lunch and when I cut it open there was no noticeable staling.  I quartered it, rubbed on some leftover sardine oil, toasted in the toaster oven, and topped with a crab salad.  Super delicious.  But I digress.

Next time I will do a longer ferment in the fridge, find a sharper blade for scoring, and probably lower the temperature at least for part of the bake.  I am confident the next iteration will produce better results.  I really like the 175g loaf size as they were pretty easy to work with to produce 10"-12" demi-baguettes -- a nice size I think for a sandwich.

lazybaker's picture

Let the dough form a skin during the last 5 or 10 minutes of proofing. The dry skin would make slashing easier. Because the dough is moist, it makes it difficult to slash. Don't allow a skin to form at the beginning because it will prevent the dough from expanding. 

I like breadhitz's videos on youtube. He makes shaping and scoring so easy.

I don't know if you baked the breads on a rack. I find it helpful if you were to bake them on a pre-heated stone or pre-heated hibachi. I think the transfer of heat from a very hot surface to bread will allow more air bubbles. 

I'm still horrible at making baguettes. Maybe I'll try again in the autumn.