80% Hydration Baguettes (Yeast) - First Attempt
My regular baguette recipe (from my local Artisan Bakery) uses about 66% hydration. This is my first foray into a much more difficult 80% hydration. This was a real challenge and the results far from perfect, but the experience gained along the way is invaluable and worth the trouble. I would say without any hesitation that these have been the tastiest baguettes I have ever made and the closest I have come to that genuine baguette flavour expectation.
For anyone out there wanting a first hand look at how the stretch and fold method develops the dough structure, this is a great way to see and "feel" it. From the outset it all looks and feels hopeless but one has to have faith in the processes going on within the dough and if all is done carefully the rewards are very satisfying.
I halved the recipe on the Weekend Bakery site which I believe was adapted from a recipe here posted by Akiko, and I used T55 flour and fresh baker's yeast for my attempts.
Pre-ferment (Poolish) - 190g T55 Flour, 152g water, 3g yeast
Main Dough - 190g T55 Flour, 152g water, 6g salt, 1.5g yeast
Upon mixing the main dough I had what can really only be described as a rather thick looking cake batter. Hard to believe anything could be done with it !
There then followed a series of 4 Stretch and Folds interspersed with 45 min rest periods. The structure gradually developed over this period.
After 2 S+Fs the dough looked like this, sloppy but coming together:
Another 2 S+Fs and we progress to this:
Hard to appreciate from that picture but I could in fact lift all the dough out in one piece if I tried.
I split into 2 portions and pre-shaped, rested 10mins and then shaped as best I could. This was a little more difficult than my usual 66% baguettes. I popped then into a baguette tray (my oven dimensions prevent me from making a full sized baguette) and looking at them was more reminded of ciabattas than baguettes !
Normally I'm very happy with my baguette shaping but at 80% it's a whole new ball game. Too little flour on the work surface and the dough wants to stick everywhere, too much and you can't get any purchase to tighten the outer skin. What I ended up with wasn't very pretty to be honest. Nothing like the surface tension I would normally achieve nor an even finish. Next time will be better.
After a 30 min proof I was ready to slash and bake, but remembered that scoring would likely be hopeless in the current state. One quick test slash was enough to prove this as the blade just dragged the wet dough. So, into the fridge the tray went to cool for about 5-10mins. This definitely firmed up the dough some and allowed for much better scoring. Unfortunately, I only have a flat lame and for baguettes I should really invest in a curved one to create proper "ears". I scored as best I could and popped them into a preheated oven (fan 240) with a cup full of water thrown in for steam.
The oven spring was pretty good and after about 25-30mins they were golden and ready to come out.
With a domestic oven I sadly can't get the kind of finish a baker's oven produces with dark crusty edges. Still these looked 1/2 decent for a first attempt and the crumb inside was light and fluffy yet strong in its structure. It could stand a good squeeze between my fingers and still spring back.
Compared to the source website results however, my crumb has much smaller holes. This could well be the result of me being heavy handed with the S+Fs and / or in the final shaping which was a little awkward. Nevertheless, the taste of these with just a little butter is fantastic. Definitely a keeper for future baguettes.
For those of you who have mastered 80% baguettes I welcome your advice and comments on areas that I can improve here. These are clearly worth mastering and putting in my repertoire.