Bouabsa Experiment - Take 1
I attempted the Bouabsa high hydration dough shaped as ficelle. Here are notes on my experiment. Would appreciate some critique and guidance. Thanks to Alfanso and dmsnyder for detailed instructions and video. I especially need some help to resize the dough amount and proportions for my small steam convection oven (24in Gaggenau) and small baking stone (12" x 10"). I am planning to do take 2 this weekend and would appreciate any tips.
- I only had KA AP flour and KA bread flour. I used mostly AP flour but ran short and added about 1/4 cup of bread flour. All by weight. My kitchen was quite cold and took longer to rise.
- Day 1 - My dough did not look like a shaggy mass and was definitely tighter. I ended up adding a couple more tbsp of water in the second hydration to make it shaggier. Even then the dough was not stretchy Like the gorgeous french folds in Alfanso’s video.
- On day 2, my dough needed about an hour to get to room temperature. Here is where I started running into some trouble. As I have a small steam oven, I wanted to make smaller ficelle - small enough for a sandwich for 1 person, after googling, I decided on 2 sizes - 100gms for small and 130 gms for slightly longer baguettes. I looked at Breadhitz videos to see how he shaped the smaller sizes. Well, my dough was a lot looser and not as shapeable. In fact, it didn’t seem to have as much gas. I figured it was my cold California kitchen and let the dough rest for a bit longer to get the yeast going.
- Equipment - I had some makeshift equipment. The whole transfer to oven thing threw me off as I did not have a transfer peel. I used a plastic clipboard that was long enough for my baking stone. My baking stone was an Emile Henry enameled baking stone that is quite small - 12in X 10in. Moreover, it had a raised handle and this made the oven transfer complicated. First, I decided to use parchment and the backside of a quarter sheet pan to transfer to the oven. The first attempt was a disaster as the bread just fell off the edge and I had to somehow rescue it. This ended up in the 2 misshapen specimens. For the next 2 batches, I used a cutting board with a handle. I also made a mistake in using a glass Pyrex for the lava stones container. The boiling hot water hit it and it immediately cracked. I should have used a cast iron gratin dish or something that was sturdier. Given that I have a steam function in the oven, maybe I could avoid the kettle of hot water and just do the dish towel in water for extra steam and the rocks for added thermal mass. But if a burst of steam is needed for the initial hit, then I need the water on rocks.
- Overall I needed to bake 3 batches and I feel that the skin got a little dry in the later batch. The second batch had a shiny crust but the third batch and the first batch look dull. Incidentally, the second batch was the one where the glass dish cracked, so maybe the burst of steam helped. I also feel that the underside is not dark enough. The scoring with the lame could be deeper maybe? The bread is not as holey as I would like and the crumb is dense - so maybe I needed to let it rise more or do different proportions or different flour? As I needed 3 batches, maybe I should bake a half batch or pop the dough back in the refrigerator and shape the second half later. Or maybe I should do 2 small baguettes and the rest as a batard or a boule?