The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Better baguettes?

redivyfarm's picture

Better baguettes?

A little help from my friends, please? Bear with me, here comes one of my notorious rambling lead-ins to some serious baking questions. I love The Splendid Table with Lynn Rosetto-Kasper on Natl Public Radio; doesn't everyone? Years ago she recommended a book, "FoodWise" by Shirley O. Corriher on both the science and the mechanics of cooking. I gave it to my son-in law as a gift and then borrowed it back just the other day. The first ninety some pages are on the wonders of risen bread and there is a wealth of very basic info that I must have encountered elsewhere but have yet to assimilate. Some of it would have helped my most recent baking.

This morning I baked a second attempt at Peter Reinhart's Pain a l'Ancienne rustic baguettes. I mostly use a high gluten flour, about 12.5% protein, but I've heard somewhere that crusty French breads are the product of rather weak flour. For this baking I mixed low protein with high protein white flours 2:1 to get about a 9% protein blend. I followed the BBA formula except that the absorbtion of the water seemed higher than usual so I kept adding a bit more ice-water until the dough remained sticky at the bottom of the mixer as described. I popped it into the refrigerator to retard overnight. This morning it was partially risen when I removed it and let it sit at cool room temperature. After three hours it was actively proofing even though it was still quite cool. I think I allowed this bread to over-proof the first time I made it so I preheated the oven to 500 degrees and turned out the dough onto a heavily floured surface and stretched it to an oblong. I cut the oblong into five strips with the bench scraper dipped in water and baked two at a time at 475 degrees in my curved baguette pan (shaped like this UU) on a top rack with a baking stone. I didn't slash at all because I didn't want to deflate these long thin loaves.

Well, the bread is delicious, the formula is wonderful but my execution is flawed! The crumb is open mostly at the top per the photos- Sorry can't post pictures now- I'll insert them when the problem clears up!

FoodWise says that the problem may be a too hot oven; might the top of my big oven not be the best place to bake these baguettes? I'm also reading that a pale crust such as I'm getting can be from too little protein. What is your experience with these variables? JMonkey, I'd be very pleased with your results!


JMonkey's picture

I just replied to your question on my blog here, so I won't repeat what I've written there. But at 9% protein, I'd say you're a little on the low end. I'd shoot for 11 - 11.5% or so.

As for the oven, I'm not sure. Pain a l'ancienne is a fairly different beast from regular French bread. They're more like ciabatta strips than traditional baguettes, because they're so much wetter. Reinhart's pain a l'ancienne is just shy of 80% hydration, whereas baguettes are usually around 65-68%

Hope this helps!