I've been paying attention to lots of threads around here and info from all sorts of sources. Last weekend I finally hit on a process that I think will put out constistantly beautiful, tasty baguettes with great internal crumb structure. This process takes about 90 minutes worth of work spread over 3 days to get some awesome results. During those 90 minutes we'll be using the recipe from Julia Childs, autolysis techniques to get more sugars converted from starch, retardation for slow ferments which give things other than your yeasties time to play, along with folding rather than kneading, and shaping techniques from Mark at the Backhome Bakery. Finally, I've framed this setup around having fresh loaves ready for dinner on Saturday afternoon/evening. Of course you can slide the times around to suit your schedule.
This process yeilds three 11oz loaves, enough for most family dinners.
Thursday Night Before Bed: 30 Minutes
-20oz (by weight, 5cups by volume) of your favorite flour
-2cups water (room temp)
-1T SAF Instant yeast
-2t table salt
On your kneading board or in a mixing bowl bring together flour and 2 cups of water. Mix this until all the flour is wet and no longer lumpy. You should have a nicely tacky (not sticky) dough ball. Cover and let rest for 20 minutes. Add in yeast and mix until incorporated then do the same for the salt. Using a coverable container that is large enough to hold twice the volume of the dough ball, spray the interior of the container and the bottom of the lid with PAM. Place the dough ball inside, cover and place in the fridge until the next morning.
Friday Morning Before Leaving for Work/School: 5 Minutes
Bring the dough (now doubled at least) out of the fridge and out of the container. Place it on a clean UNFLOURED surface and perform a triple fold: As the dough is laying on the counter in front of you, get the bench scraper under the right hand side of the dough, grab it and stretch it out to the right then fold that section back over onto the dough mass. Do the same thing with the left side, now the dough has been folded like a business letter into thirds (more or less). Rotate the dough 90degress and repeat for 4 folds all together. Place the dough back into it's container (more PAM only if needed) and cover before replacing in the fridge.
This basic folding process will happen twice more at least!
Friday Evening About Dinner Time: 5 Minutes
Repeat the above process.
Saturday Morning: 5 Minutes
Repeat above but this time leave the dough out in a warm place.
Saturday Day: Approx 10 Minutes
Divide the dough into three peices about 11oz each. Shape the dough with your preferred technique, but I highly recommend Mark's process (and videos) at his website: http://thebackhomebakery.com. Also, I highly recommend placing the loaves on parchment paper to proof/bake on, it makes life so so much easier. Cover and leave the loaves in a warm place until doubled, consult your yeast for exact time and schedule!
Saturday Day: Approx 30 Minutes
Time to actually bake! Setup your oven stones and steaming pan and bring the oven to 500 degrees. Steam the oven with about 2 cups of water and score the loaves while the steam permeates the oven. Place the loaves in and cook until done, for me this is usually 23 minutes. Cool and serve with dinner on Saturday evening.
Honestly, I know that there are a ton of recpies already out there, and just as many processes, so why put this one? Well, hopefully seeing the information framed like this, day by day, will help someone to 'see' the whole process. Would love to have someone else try this and let me know the results. Thanks!