Another day off, another baking adventure!
I don't have my notes with me as I write this, so I'll just give an overview.
After last weeks attempt at a basic french loaf, I went back to re-read a few things, including my copy of The Baker's Apprentice. This book has been a big part of my push to get into baking, and it includes a lot of great tips and ideas that are easy for me to get my head around.
I decided to try the French Bread recipe from the book, using a pate fermentee that I chilled overnight. Below is an approximate measurement of the ingredients. Again, no notes today!
284 g Flour
5.5 g salt
1.9 g yeast
182 g water
The following morning, I cut the dough and let it warm on the counter for about an hour. After mixing in the new flour, salt, yeast, and water, I had a good amount to work with.
While the recipe claimed that the dough would become tacky in 3 - 4 minutes, I found it far more sticky that expected, and so kept adding flour while I worked it. This ended up being fine, though it threw me at first.
Instead of simply letting it rise, I used the pull-and-fold technique 3 times at 30-minute intervals, before letting the dough rest of an hour. I definitely noticed a lot of gas buildup by doing this, and was very careful to not degas any more than necessary to perform the folds.
The biggest change I made was to work the dough into a boule shape instead of the baguettes called for in the book. I decided to extend the baking time but keep the rest of the instructions (heat/steam). I initially started at 450, but ended up dropping it to 425 just before putting the dough in. I also didn't spritz the dough itself; instead, I used a pan of water to steam it in the beginning.
The result was a well-shaped, crispy-crusted wonder! Soft and chewy inside, tight uneven crumb, and delicious. The outside definitely crisped more than my last loaf, with a nice dark brown crackle when I cut into it.
So, overall, I'm extremely happy with the results. This one is definitely worth making again!
UPDATE: Here's photos of the loaf, a day out of the oven. The top is flaking a bit, so perhaps the crumb was a bit uneven, with too much air at the top. Thoughts?