The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Desirable wheaty taste of Le Pain Quotidien baguettes - how to get?

LukeFl's picture
LukeFl

Desirable wheaty taste of Le Pain Quotidien baguettes - how to get?

Hi! So here in London Le Pain Quotidien makes some of the best baguettes you can get. It's not clear whether they use Alain Coumont's levain, pure yeast or a hybrid.

I love them, but I've noticed the flavour is not really sour, or only very slightly so. The distinctive taste is a 'creaminess' or a 'wheat-y', rounded caramel flavour.

My last attempts at baguettes have either been too heavy on the sourdough or just bland. I use genuine French T55 flour from UK miller Shipton Mill, but its become clear to me that despite Shipton's reputation this flour is actually roller milled. I guess it'a unavoidable with a flour as white as T55.

(I really enjoy some aspects of the T55 flour and it's been a lifesaver for using French recipes for croissants and brioche-style doughs. It tolerates much less water than English flours.)

Now I'm thinking - to get the creamy, rounded taste I want, maybe I need to get a stonemilled T65 from France (the whitest a stone milled flour gets).

An I thinking along the right lines??

Any responses welcome!!

 

kendalm's picture
kendalm

Is a great flour that you can smell the wheat right in the bag. Its the only flour I know of thats available (here in usa) that tastes like a real french baguette should. Btw I think its more common that boulangeries make yeasted baguettes and if they do levain its often a hybrid of spurdough and commercial yeast (theres all sorts of stipulations on the contents percentages etc). You nailed it on the explanation 'wheaty' and 'creamy'. A key thing to look for is grown and milled in france. Also note that there are flours of the t55/t65 variety that are grown and milled in france but arent necessarily suitable for baguettes (francine for example). Not sure if you can acess this flour but if you can look for moulin d'august its a great flour for what you are aimkng for :)

LukeFl's picture
LukeFl

Moulin d'auguste looks like a terrific flour, thanks! In France it appears only sold wholesale to boulangeries. It does seem to be sold on the Epicerie website in the US, but they're out of stock :(. In general I am able to order stuff to be delivered from France to the UK (except when dealing with a v. small website) but there seem to be no French retail channels for this flour.

Thanks so much for the tips! I'll definitely look out for being able to smell the wheat in the bag. That's not really the case for the Shipton Mill T55.

Also, kendalm, why is there so much cloak and dagger over whether artisan baguettes are yeasted, sourdough, or hybrid? Anis Bouabsa, baguette prize winner, apparently doesn't use any sourdough in his baguettes. Are they still an artisanal product? A lot of boulangeries/bakeries make a song and dance over their prized levain/sourdough, but when it comes to baguettes they quietly forget about it. Maybe no-one really wants a sour baguette.

jimbtv's picture
jimbtv

I again point you to this article:

http://www.cooksinfo.com/french-bread-law-1993

From what I have learned, in France you are held to higher standards when you label a product. Here in the US we can add olives, raisins, or what ever, and still call it a baguette. We have no such standards. Those of us that try to adhere to the French traditions build our baguettes according to French law. We are marketing our baguettes in the French tradition.

You have to determine your desired result. If you want to adhere to the French tradition you are limited to what ingredients you may use, and in which proportions. Otherwise you are building baguettes to the US tradition, which is a blank slate. You may call it a baguette but it won't be in accordance to pain de tradition français.

 Given the limited ingredients and limited proportions, it is up to the baker to develop unique qualities through other processes. Again this usually involves preferments, time, temperature and handling.

 

LukeFl's picture
LukeFl

and it is interesting. I'm confused by your point though. I would never add olives to baguette. I want to make baguettes according to French tradition.

The issue is that within the law there is huge flexibility. A baguette could be pure bakers yeast leavened, or pure levain leavened. The proportions are up in the air. Moreover, there is no specification as to roller milled vs stoneground.

Both Alain Coumont and Eric Kayser believe strongly in stoneground flour, but it's not 'necessary' for a baguette. I imagine there are everyday baguettes sold in France that are pretty bland but still get to be called 'baguettes'.

 

jimbtv's picture
jimbtv

All good points LukeFl.

It wasn't my intent to imply you would add olives or raisins, but that you could and still call it a baguette in the US. I think you are in the UK so I cannot speak to any regulations or standards there.

As to the proportions of levain or yeast, I do believe I read that somewhere but I cannot find it now. My error and if I find the text I will let you know.

Back to my original point, I subscribe to the practice of coaxing structure and flavor from a given flour, not bouncing from flour to flour in the hopes that they will produce a desired flavor and/or structure. This has provided me with the best success in developing my baguettes.

alfanso's picture
alfanso

(even if you are familiar with all of this, I'd like to contribute the following)

Sourdough is just the name that we English language speakers refer to what is known in France as levain.  Levains, as with just about any type of wheat bread, can be cultivated to have a flavor profile.  Mild like mine with barely a hint of sour, or quite sour typically associated with "San Francisco Sourdough" breads or those that are made by our own dabrownman.

Levain based breads, as you likely know, provide a more complex flavor to the bread as well as having a "keeping" effect thanks to the bacteria within the culture.  Most any pre-ferment based bread is going to have a more complex taste than a straight dough mix.

Eric Kayser, a now well established French baker here in the US, particularly in NYC, apparently gets around the French law to which jimbtv refers, by naming his baguette-ish product "monge baguette".  On his Paris as well as USA websites he lists the ingredients to include a liquid levain, a no-no in the official designation world - in France.

I've tasted them in NYC and they are delicious and have the slightest tang that we unwashed refer to as sour.  He, as do I, use the levain as basically a flavor and leavening agent providing the ability to remain fresh much longer than the typical pure baguette - designed to be eaten that (half) day.

There is a Maison Kayser Boulangerie at 8 Rue Monge, 75005 Paris, France.  Hence the designation "monge baguette" would be my guess.

BTW the word "artisanal" is open to a lot of interpretation, but I'll use the dictionary.com definition for what we do:

  • pertaining to or noting a high-quality or distinctive product made in small quantities, usually by hand or using traditional methods.

So I read that to be what we all do at home, as well as what Msr. Bouabsa does in his bakery.

I think that we get a pass as to not growing, scythe harvesting, stone milling on horse driven giant grinding stones, etc. All "traditional" methods depending on which traditions we choose to abide by!  Personally, I like my electric oven ;-) .

jimbtv's picture
jimbtv

I cannot say that my baguettes taste like those created by Le Pain Quotidien. I have never had one. What I can say is that early in my baguette making experience I really focused on the ingredients, changing from flour to flour in hopes of developing flavor.

Learning to manage time and temperature, along with the development of levains and poolishes has made the most profound difference in the quality and flavor of my baguettes. I do adhere to the "pain de tradition française" method. I selected a flour and then developed my formula and technique to work within the parameter of that flour, not the other way around.

You may find this link informative.

http://www.cooksinfo.com/french-bread-law-1993

LukeFl's picture
LukeFl

Thanks. I want to take personal responsibility for my baking more. That means not blaming it on the flour, maybe. I don't know if my post gave off the sense that I was trying to externalise something that should be on me, learning to manage time and temperature. My most recent batch of baguettes underwent an overnight cold proof but it went wrong somewhere.

On the nose, the Le Pain Quotidien baguettes have at first a grassy, then a cereal malt scent. I'm just not sure if those smells and tastes are produced by the right process, or if they're produced by the right flour. kendalm above seems to lean to the latter. I've read that autolysing the flour for longer than an hour releases more sugar and gives a nuttier, hazelnut-y taste. I guess I should try that next.

There are so many variables in bread baking! How do I test them without wasting so much flour :\ 

kendalm's picture
kendalm

What flour do you use ? I think you are in usa right ? Finding french flours is incredibly difficult here. Theres of course knock offs - central milling t70, king arthur 'fremch style' the latter being pretty poor and extremely expensive. I have often experimented with flours here but only got success (flavor-wise) mith moulin. Jist wondering what you settled on ?

LukeFl's picture
LukeFl

I'm in the UK so it is certainly easier than in the USA... but not that easy. We have high quality stoneground white flours here, and working watermills for stoneground. BUT as I'm sure you're aware UK flours, while being low protein like French flours, have a very different hydration profile. French flour doesn't handle much water. It also - I've heard, and my own experiences have confirmed this - develops a better crust than English flour.

I think my Shipton Mill T55 might be a knock off. But Shipton Mill is the best known artisan flour producer in the UK: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/apr/23/shipton-mill-flour-britain-baking-revolution.

Unfortunately only a few of their wholewheat flours are stoneground.

kendalm's picture
kendalm

What flour do you use ? I think you are in usa right ? Finding french flours is incredibly difficult here. Theres of course knock offs - central milling t70, king arthur 'fremch style' the latter being pretty poor and extremely expensive. I have often experimented with flours here but only got success (flavor-wise) mith moulin. Jist wondering what you settled on ?

albacore's picture
albacore

Wessex Mill sell a French T65 flour; grown and ground in France. Probably not stoneground, because it doesn't say it is, but might be worth a try.

I think if you do find and use 100% stoneground, your baguettes might be a bit heavy. I'd be tempted to use about 25% and the rest roller ground T65.

You could always try using something like Gilchester stoneground white for that 25%, or even make your own by sifting some stoneground WW through a #50 sieve.

Lance

kendalm's picture
kendalm

Ooks like you have more options for french flour. Trying to find it in usa is really difficult - pretty sure with a bit of hunting you cam find a great flour heck if I were there I think Id just take a trip through the chunnel or snag a ride on the hover craft to do some weekend shopping !

LukeFl's picture
LukeFl

Hi Lance, I knew about the Wessex Mill flour, thanks - I think it's roller milled. I wanted to find a stoneground version of T65 - it exists in France but is a little rare. I want to know - artisan baguettes in top bakeries, do they use stoneground flour? Is stoneground necessary for the creamy, wheat-y taste or not? LPQ claims to use a custom stoneground Shipton Mill flour for all their baking, is that even possible?

Just a little lost. I don't want to simplify and say stoneground = high quality, good taste. Yet many famous artisan bakers imply when interviewed that that is the case.