Newb Questions re Baguettes
I made my first loaf a couple weeks ago. It was a no-knead recipe and it went pretty well. Today I decided to try my hand at baguettes. I'm not too happy with the way these baguettes turned out, however (photos can be seen here: http://imgur.com/a/WeS1G#7sly6A8). I would have liked something with a darker, flakier crust and a more airy crumb. These baguettes taste just fine, but aesthetically they are terrible. I used the easy French bread recipe from Bittman's "How to Cook Everything" book. Some relevant information:
I baked the bread on a greased (with olive oil) baking sheet. Bad idea? I don't have a baking steel or baking stone yet. I preheated the baking sheet, is that necessary?
I used a second baking sheet on the lower rack to create steam by pouring a cup of boiling water on it when I first put the loaves in. Then, after about 5 minutes of baking, I sprayed some water on the walls of the oven to create more steam. Should I have made more attempts at creating steam? Should I switch to the rocks method?
Per Bittman's recipe, I lowered the oven to 350 when I put the bread in. Should I not have done so? My gut is telling me a higher temperature would have given me a darker crust.
Did I take the bread out too early? I let it bake for about 35 minutes, I think. I wanted to leave it in for a darker crust, but I was beginning to worry it was going to be overdone.
After initially mixing the ingredients in the food processor, I let the dough rest for about 2 hours. After shaping, I let the dough rest for about an hour before putting into the oven. Any change here that could result in a more airy crumb? I suspect the bigger loaf may have a better crumb, as it rose more after shaping.
Any other tips for getting a more airy crumb?
I kind of mangled the loaves when I was trying to move them from their resting place to the baking sheet. Any advice on how to do this without ruining the shape/rise?