III - When you are DESPERATE….Baguettes with Pasta Flour
As I’ve mentioned in a few posts  , until I can find a magic and perfect solution for preventing a large stock of flours infested with flour bugs, I’ve got to make do with whatever flour I can find in local shops/supermarkets to make baguettes and other French breads instead of using proper Type 55 or Type 65 flour. So I’ve been experimenting on combinations of various flours for a while now since I experienced the invasion and empire building by flour bugs some years ago and stopped ordering lovely flour from Shipton Mill  which I still miss. For larger loaves, like pain de campagne-type breads, I think I’ve more or less found out a reasonably good, reliable combinations of flours to achieve what I want to achieve, but for baguettes I’m still in the thick of experiments; eternal state of purgatory, between many illusions of possible heaven in sight and crashing down to hell. (Yes, I know...it's only just flours, but my handling skill as well.....)
A couple of weeks ago, my regular Typo 00 flour for pasta making (Organic. Imported from Italy. Can’t remember the name…) was out of stock at my local Waitrose, so in desperation I bought Dove’s Farm Organic Pasta Flour  from another supermarket. The pasta I made with it wasn’t very successful. It produced much softer dough with not much ‘bite’ to speak of, compared to my regular one. So I was left with a half-empty bag of pasta flour with which I don’t want to use for making my pasta again….. I used a part of remaining flour for focaccia one day and it turned out quite alright, got a feel of how it’d behave as ‘bread flour.’ Still really soft, but it had a nice flavour and quite appealing delicate shade of creamy colour to the crumb. So a few days later, I mixed it with strong flour to make my regular Petit Pain Rustique with Poolish (based on Hamelman’s formula with a bit of twist…or two), replacing my usual plain flour. It worked alright; more airy and lighter than plain+strong combination, though the crumb structure was a bit too uniform to my liking; more even small holes than random large holes. But it was acceptable enough, and more importantly, it tasted good.
So yesterday I decided I’d try this on my regular baguettes recipe and see how it’d work. And this is how I made it...
Poolish Baguettes - Spiked with Pasta Flour
(makes 2 x 40cm mini-baguettes)
117g Waitrose Organic Strong flour
8g Becheldre Stoneground Rye flour
0.1g Instant yeast
- Mix all the ingredients, cover and leave at room temperature overnight (12-16 hrs, or maybe shorter or longer, depending upon your room temperature)
All of above poolish. at its peak
75g Waitrose Organic Strong flour
60g Dove’s Farm Pasta flour
Scant 1 tbls wheat germ
Instant yeast 0.7g
5g good quality sea salt (Sal de Gris, if I have. If not Maldon’s)
- Mix both flours with wheat germ, yeast and salt (ground fine if coarse) in a large bowl and add water and active poolish.
- Mix into a shaggy mess and rest for 30 minutes.
- 3 sets of S & F every 20 minutes.
- Cover and cold retard in a fridge for 6-7 hours.
- Take it out from the fridge and leave for 30 minutes –1 hr until the dough almost returns to room temperature. (It’s easier to work with if it’s slightly colder and less risk of over-fermentation this way)
- Pre-shape and shape into baguette shape, as you’d normally do to make baguettes.
- Pre-heat the oven at the highest setting, with a tray of pebbles for steam and a baking stone in it.
- When the baguettes are properly proofed (It usually takes around 40-50 minutes or so at this time of year….inEngland. Finger-poke test is essential!), spray inside the oven very generously to make it moist before it receives the dough. (or you can place a dish of water when you start pre-heating, but I always forget to do so….)
- (Now, you’ve got to do these very smoothly and quickly!) Score the baguettes, spray the surface with water, load the bagettes into the oven (I usually place the dough on re-usable oven sheet and slide it onto the baking stone), pour half a cup of boiling water (yes, you’ve got to put the kettle on when your bagettes are ready to be baked) onto the pebbles, shut the door immediately, turn the oven temperature down to 240 C….and relax for 10 minutes.
- After 10 minutes, remove the tray of pebble stones and, if you think the baguettes are getting too dark too quickly, turn the temperature down to 220 C and bake for another 12-15 minutes or so.
(Hope you're all kind enough not to notice the ragged scoring on the baguette in the back ...)
A vertical shot….
From slightly different angle....
.....and lastly and more importantly....this is how the crumb looked like.
Hmmmmm……well, it’s not as randomly-holey-airy as I would like, and the crumb was a bit too fluffy and soft to my liking (I like my baguette moderately chewy with a slight bite), but the crust was very crisp and lovely and the taste of both crumb and crust were quite agreeable. This is the crumb shot for the uglier looking one (wanted it to disappear from the surface of Earth quicker). I froze the other one, so I'm hoping I'll find slightly more open crumb when I slice into it in a few days time, because it gained more in volume during baking. But there's no guarantee.....
I think I can explore more possibilities in using this pasta flour for bread making, but I’m pretty sure my desperate journey of the quest for a baguette with improvised flours will still continue for some time….