A friend asked me some time ago to help him locate a good recipe for Banh Mi (Vietnamese baguette). I found a couple of recipes and tried using KA AP and the results were deemed to be tough. So my friend went looking for a good example for me to experience and found Lily's Sandwich in Austin, Texas. I went last week and had one of their sandwiches and established my reference point. The bread was amazingly soft and light, but with a seriously crisp crust. I knew I needed to go to a lower protein flour. The only lower protein AP I could reliably find was Gold Medal Unbleached AP which is supposed to be 10.5 percent protein vs. the 11.7 for KA.
My starting point was Andrea Nguyen's recipe at http://www.vietworldkitchen.com/blog/2007/05/vietnamese_bagu.html . I want to thank Andrea for her recipe. It got me off to a good start, but I did end up doing it my way. which is somewhat different.
My first pass gave good results but seemed a little overproofed and a bit tough compared to the bread at Lily. So I modified the recipe to use both Gold Medal and KA pastry flour and the results came out very close to what I had in Austin. I used marked proofing containers for the second batch and found the yeast specified in Nguyen's recipe way high for my needs. Here are the results...
Here is the basic recipe...
250 grams of lower protein unbleached AP flour (such as Gold Medal or Pillsbury's)
250 grams of pastry flour (such as King Arthur)
9 grams of salt
12.5 grams of sugar
4 grams of instant yeast
320 grams of water at 105 degrees F
I blended the flours, salt, sugar and yeast in a large stainless bowl with a spoon. Added the water and mixed to a ragged dough by hand, then switched to a plastic scraper and gave the dough about 100 "turns" simply using the scraper to catch the ball of dough at the bowl and pull it up and over the top, turn the bowl a bit to repostion the ball, and repeat about 100 times. Then I put the dough in the proofing container. The first doubling took about an hour. I then pulled the dough which was somewhat sticky onto a granite counter and gave it one complet stretch and fold (stretch to the top and fold, stretch down and fold, stretch to the right and fold and finally to the left and fold, effectively reforming a ball. Then back into the proofing container. The second doubling took about 50 minutes. Repeat the stretch and fold process. The next doubling took about 35 minutes. Then I formed three loaves and let the loaves proof 30 minutes. Moved them from a linen couch to parchment, spritzed, slashed, and loaded into a preheated 440 degree oven on a baking stone. I used a cast iron skillet with lava rocks for steam and added one cup of boiling water. I removed the parchment at 15 minutes and rotated the loaves. Total baking time was about 23 minutes.
While the dough was fairly sticky I found that it could be easily handled with minimal flour during the forming process. This makes a very nice, very light, tender baguette. Andrea and I wound up using somewhat different processes and baking approaches so I suspect one should be careful about baking temperature and time. Your times and temperatures may be different - yeast needs also!