The Fresh Loaf

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Newcomer struggling with baguettes

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Frank-in-Bahia's picture
Frank-in-Bahia

Newcomer struggling with baguettes

I've done about a half dozen batches of baguettes, using recipes from here and elsewhere, and always have similar disappointing results:

- The loaves never brown, after 60min+ (!) at 450F/232C. The crust comes out almost as white as it went in.

- The crust is not overly thick, but it's as hard as a rock. (The crumb is still too dense, but it's passable.)

I've tried hydrations from 60% to 75% with common flour; both instant and active dry yeast; with poolish and without; stand mixer kneaded and (once) by hand. I've been using the ice water method for steam.

From what I've read and seen here, the loaves should be brown and crispy after 25-30 min. (certainly not an hour).

Any ideas what I'm missing?

Many thanks!

  Frank   (Bahia, Brazil)

 

cerevisiae's picture
cerevisiae

You may want to play around with different techniques for getting steam into your oven. People around here seem to have had a lot of luck with Sylvia's Magic Towels method (search bar is in the upper right), though I'm sadly not one of them.

It may be that the way you handle your dough before baking is part of the problem, too. If the yeast has eaten too much of the sugars before going into the oven, it's not going to brown well.

Have you baked much other bread? Baguettes are a tricky place to start.

leucadian's picture
leucadian

Check your temperature. At 450F you should not be able to keep your hand in the oven more than a few seconds, and a baguette should brown in 15 minutes. 

Frank-in-Bahia's picture
Frank-in-Bahia

Leucadian: I'm using a digital thermometer, which I double-checked today with a boiling water test. Held 212 exactly for 10min. So temperature isn't the culprit.

Cerevisiae: I will try some other steaming methods. Re handling: when you say "the way you handle your dough", does that mean over-handling?

Thanks again.

  Frank

 

Mebake's picture
Mebake

I think cerevisiae has a point there. Your loaf may have overfermented, which explains why it fails to show color in the oven. How long have you fermented the dough for? and what is the percentage of yeast used in the formula? ideally, 0.5-1% of the total flour should be yeast, any more than that and you risk overfermentation. In other words, the yeasts consume all the residual sugars in the dough and results in a pale bread.

Khalid

Frank-in-Bahia's picture
Frank-in-Bahia

Mebake - If "fermentation time" refers to the time between mixing the ingredients and the initial kneading, it has been between 45 to 90 min., depending on the recipe. The yeast-to-flour ratio has been between <0.5 to a max of 2%. As these come from the 4 or 5 recipes 'expert' I've used (e.g., William Courderot; Saveur), I've assumed these are within accepted tolerances. Please tell me if you think otherwise.

Thanks again.

baybakin's picture
baybakin

I can't imagine any shape of baguette not burning or coloring at all in 60 minutes at 450.  Did you pre-heat your oven first?  For artisen breads, most books and authors (of the sort respected around here) will have you bake on a stone-lined oven that has been pre-heated for at least 45 mins to an hour, at 500F (turned down to 450 once the bread is loaded onto the stone).  At that temp, baguettes will be done in 15 mins or less, charing not much longer after.

2% yeast is way too high, and in my opinion, would not produce a well fermented dough before the yeast activity is too high to produce satisfactory bread.  2% would work out to 10g of yeast in 500g of flour.  The minimum amount of time for a batch of baguettes is 4 hours, which is is around where most authors put it as well,  (personally, I wouldn't do any that are fermented less than than 6 hours), Daniel leader has a wonderful 4-hour baguette recipe (in Local Breads), and it contains a little less than .5% active dry yeast (instant yeast you'd use 30% less).

henryruczynski's picture
henryruczynski

Frank

Friend of mine just came back from a wedding in Brazil.

She had a blast – melted like a popsicle ‘cause it was so hot and while there (she is a Baker)

… noticed “pao frances” everywhere.

That tells me that you have good bread flour available….and that you’re working in hot temperatures.

You’ve told us very little in terms of your recipe and technique but as Khalid and Cerevisiae suggest, it sounds like you’ve over fermented

Buy a thermometer

One for dough temperature and then hang another one on the wall where you are working in for room temperature.

Temperature, temperature, temperature…. so important.

You’ve probably read enough about what ideal temp is.

I wouldn’t go any higher than a final dough temp, after mixing than…. let’s say, 77 f

(I prefer between 73 – 75 f)

You’ve made this at least six disappointing times, so I wouldn’t make it the way you have been again.

You’ve asked for ideas – here’s mine.

Make a straight dough baguette until you get your colour issue resolved.

Good quality bread Flour 100 % = 600 gm = 4 ½ C

Water 66%+   400 ml = 1 ½ C

(I don’t know your protein of the flour you’re using so you might need more water)

Salt 2% = 12 gm = 2 t

Instant yeast .006% (or 2% fresh) = 1.5 gm =1/4 t

You say you’ve used a stand mixer so :

Put it all in the bowl and…

3 – 4 minutes on first speed or until it all comes together, then 2 – 3 - 4 minutes on second speed

Check your dough temperature.

If it’s anything past 75 – 77 f, into the fridge it goes until you get desired temp.

Two hour bulk ferment – hopefully your room temp is not more than 77 f if it is – check your dough temp after ½ hour and if it’s too warm, into the fridge to cool down.

Fold after one hour and then, half an hour after that, decide if you need one last fold.

Scale the dough - for you at home, maybe 250 gm each which will give you 4 baguettes.

Gently preshape, cover and rest ½ hour. Shape into baguette, support with couche cloth and proof until ready to bake.

Steam your oven - you can play with different steam methods at a later date.

Right now, you’re trying to figure out why the bread has been so pale.

Slash and bake

If you take care of your temperatures, the baguettes you pull out from the oven should make you happy.

Once you’ve nailed that, you can start to play with autolyse, poolish, pate ferment, bulk overnight ferment (adding diamalt) ; overnight ferment shaped baguettes and so on.

Hope this is of help.

H

Frank-in-Bahia's picture
Frank-in-Bahia

Henry -

Many thanks for your recipe and suggestions, which I'll try tomorrow.

I have several thermometers, all of which tell me that the usual temperature in my kitchen is 80 - 82. Most sites are loaded with tips on dealing with a too cold kitchen; this is the first I've heard of too hot. (And I'm sure the bakeries in my town are way hotter than my kitchen.)  Let's see!

Thanks again.

Frank-in-Bahia's picture
Frank-in-Bahia

Henry - Before I start, I'd appreciate your clarification on the yeast/flour ratio.

You say that .006% instant is the equivalent of 2% active dry. But almost everywhere else I've read that 1 g instant = 1.25 g active dry (or 1 g active dry = 0.8 g instant). And the 1.5 gm you specify for this recipe works out to .0025 of the 600 gm of flour. So could you just confirm for me the quantity of active dry yeast to use? Thanks again.

henryruczynski's picture
henryruczynski

Frank

I stand corrected

600 gm flour x 2% fresh yeast = 12 gm

12 gm fresh yeast x .33 = 4 gm instant yeast (which is what I should have written – basically 1/3 the amount by weight)

Active dry would be half the weight of fresh so it would be 6 gm, then you soak in warm water etc.

Maybe take notes as you go along with this and post a picture of your results and how you got there.

Once you’re a happy baker, you can make it over and over again, using less yeast – going down to one or one and a half percent (fresh yeast) as baybakin suggests

(sorry, but I always calculate a recipe using fresh yeast, then I  convert – as an example: if I needed 100 gm fresh yeast, I would use 1/3 instant dry by weight , or 33 gms. If I had traditional dry, it would be 50 gms)

You are guessing at the weight a bit when using such a small amount, but making it a few times and you’ll know how much let’s say, 1 gm or 2 gm of something is.

H

Mebake's picture
Mebake

You may use up to 1% instant yeast in a formula, which translates to 6 gm (1.2 tsp) of instant yeast for your 600g of flour.

 

Frank-in-Bahia's picture
Frank-in-Bahia

Or 1.25% dry active, correct?

Mebake's picture
Mebake

That's right. But try to go even less than that. Remember, your threshold is 1% and to develop more flavor, it is best to reduce it even more and extend the fermentation time a bit.

Frank-in-Bahia's picture
Frank-in-Bahia

When I started this thread, I hoped to get some ideas on why my baguettes wouldn’t brown after more than an hour at 450. Well, I got some, and more.

 Here are the photos. While the loaves won’t make the cover of Cook’s Illustrated, they are a major improvement over previous efforts! I’ll summarize the results, then what I did to get them, and finally some specific questions for further improvement.

 Results

While the loaves aren’t yet the desired golden brown, they’re headed in that direction. The loaf in the foreground (which was toward the back of the oven) has already started to brown up nicely.

 The crust quality is a major improvement, too. It’s thinner than before, and instead of rock hard it’s crisp – not quite yet that desired crackling quality, but on the way.

 The crumb is still way too dense – almost chewy. Good bread but not yet good baguette.  (I lived in France for a year, so that’s my benchmark.)

 Technique

I followed Henry’s recipe, using 6 gr dry active yeast. The temperature during fermentation stayed at about 75, never more than 77. I didn’t have to refrigerate. (Actually, I misread part of his instructions and didn’t do the first fold until the dough had sat for 2 hours.) Compared to my previous efforts, the dough handling time – machine and hand – was considerably less, so it looks like I’d been over- kneading. And the consistency of the mixture (at 66%) was far easier to handle than the 70-75% recipes I had been using.

 The oven temp at the start was nearly 450 (the max I can get). In the 5 seconds that I had the door open to put the loaves in, the temp dropped an alarming 50 degrees but it recovered in a few minutes. The loaves baked for 40 minutes. I checked at 25 and 35 – still white – and I decided not to risk going beyond 40.

For steam, I used the spray bottle method this time, giving the walls a few shots at the beginning and at 10 minutes. (It’s a gas oven.)

 Questions

I have a few specific questions but welcome any other advice, too.

  1. Although the loaves were beginning to brown this time, 40 minutes still seems like a long time at that temperature. What should I try next?
  2. The crumb is still too dense. I had been using higher hydrations in an attempt to get a good baguette crumb but the dough was unmanageable. What else should I try?

Many thanks to all thus far. I’ve take a big step forward with your help!

 

 

 

 

balmagowry's picture
balmagowry

@Frank -

The mention of "common flour" is the first thing that jumps out at me from your original post. Do you mean common flour as in first clear? If that's really what you're using, it might be a factor in the density of your crumb. For baguettes, you don't want more than 12% protein at most; protein content in first clear can run as high as 19%, which in this application is too much of a good thing. I might be misreading what you said, but it's worth looking into the composition of your flour - perhaps switching to something more like an AP or bread flour would help?

(Heh. Newcomer here too, though I've been lurking a while. Sorry, I seem to have skipped over the introduction stage, but I really wanted to ask about this. I'm sort of in the middle of my own baguette journey, and tinkering with protein levels has been exciting new territory for me.)

Frank-in-Bahia's picture
Frank-in-Bahia

The flour is 10% protein. (I said "common" because it's the only thing available down here - ordinary wheat flour.)

balmagowry's picture
balmagowry

Had a feeling it might just be me misunderstanding. ;-)

Hmmmm, though. I wonder if 10% isn't a bit LOW, in that case. Not that I would expect that to produce dense crumb - certainly not for the same reasons. But maybe the gluten structure isn't quite strong enough to support the kind of airy crumb you want? I'm no expert, but the logical possibility is intriguing as a thought experiment. I mean... normally if I'm looking for airy crumb I look to hydration and proofing as the critical factors, but that is still predicated on the walls being strong enough, if you see what I mean. I think I'd be tempted to play with adding a little VWG, and/or some extra S&F action, to try to find the sweet spot. I know I've been getting very good results based on the Anis Bouabsa formula and a flour blend (90% KAF AP, 10% KAF WW) that clocks in at very slightly under 12% protein. At 10% I'd be a bit worried about the whole house of cards collapsing on itself.

henryruczynski's picture
henryruczynski

Frank

I agree with balmagowry.

I think it's your flour.

If I were you, I'd walk into your favourite bakery that sells excellent looking pao frances;

and ask to buy a kilo of their flour - go home and try it again.

As for bake time,you are correct. Forty minutes is way too long. You should be looking at 20 - 23 minutes.

At this point, I wouldn't even worry about crumb or hydration.

Get the colour problem fixed and then go from there.

If you type in the word "baguette"  top right  - "search" - of this, or the home page,

you are going to get so very many excellent posts.

Just quickly glancing at what's there: dmsynder, proth5 and txfarmer alone, will keep you in baguette heaven for quite some time.

H

 

Mebake's picture
Mebake

Totally agree with H above. Now that you've tried our suggestions with yet another pale baguettes, the flour is clearly the culprit here. The common flour you are using could have a high falling number; in other words, does not have enough enzymes to kick start the coloration. This would be generally traced to the harvesting / milling stages where grains are inspected for performance before and after milling. Flours that do not contain enough enzymes to break down a dough and release natural sugars will not color up quickly. A tiny amount of malt is added to correct the enzyme activity, which I believe is what lacks in your flour.

As said above, buy flour from a bakery or an imported flour from a famous supermarket chain and see the results for yourself.

Happy baking,

Khalid

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

Try 2 of Sylvia's steaming pans half full of water with a roiled up kitchen towel in each one.  Once the oven comes to baking temperature put the pans in on the bottom rack and 15 minutes later they should be billowing steam.  Steam for 10 minuets and then remove the pans and continue baking another 10-12 minutes.  If the inside of the bread is not 205 F (check with an instant read thermometer) by then you oven temperature is off on the low side  my oven are both 25 F low so this is very common.  But you flour does sound suspect too.

Happy baking

Frank-in-Bahia's picture
Frank-in-Bahia

Ah, the plot thickens.

I'm in a small town in rural Brazil, so the shopping options are very limited. There's only one type of flour sold here, a so-called Type 1 which, according to local blogs, is the equivalent of AP flour. (The protein in the brand I've been using is 10%, but I just found another brand with 12%.)

When I asked a local baker what he used, he said semolina flour (but he "couldn't spare a bag"). I see that King Arthur sells it in the States and that it can be used blended with AP or just by itself. I'll get some ASAP. A local blog here recommends 15% semolina.. Any thoughts on semolina, vis-a-vis my issues?

The local blogs also talk about a so-called Type 2, which they say is equivalent to the French T65. Should I try to source that?

balmagowry's picture
balmagowry

First of all, I'd be inclined to jump at the 12% flour - at least I'd give it a try. That percentage is much closer to the typical AP, maybe just a touch higher.

Semolina - where was I just reading up on this? The nomenclature can be a little confusing. What's usually packaged under the name "semolina" is actually more a meal than a flour; coarse but not as coarse as corn meal. It's what I use to dust the peel when I make baguettes and boules. If you're looking for a flour rather than a meal, i.e. something that goes into dough rather than underneath it, what you want is the more finely milled product that's usually labeled "fine durum" or something like that. Of course they are both durum, in real life - it's just a question of how finely they're milled. The first of those is generally more readily available than the second (at least here, in the NE US), but I know some people grind it finer in a food processor to get the finer-textured flour.

As for T65, that is what Anis Bouabsa uses in his famous baguettes. I haven't tried it yet, but I'm dying to; that's another thing I'd jump at if I were in your shoes. IIRC it's unusually high in both gluten and ash, at least by normal baguette standards (I think T55 is more typical), but the results apparently speak for themselves.

BTW there are a number of great TFL threads on this subject - this is the first one that springs to mind.