San Joaquin baguettes I
For my first attempt at baguette-making, I tried dmsnyder's San Joaquin baguettes.
I followed the process detailed on the San Joaquin page as written,. Starter was being a bit slow, so bulk took 7-8 hours at ~72F, but got there eventually.
Only half of the formula was made for this first run-through. I don't have a baking stone or other large-area heat source (I usually use a dutch oven), so I baked these by placing them atop a large cast-iron frying pan. They drooped off the sides a bit and the fit was fairly tight, so this isn't a great long-term solution. For steam, I placed a baking sheet with a cast-iron pan on it in the lowest rack of the oven, then poured boiling water over it when the loaves were placed in the oven.
Getting the loaves into the oven was also a little difficult. I rested them on top of parchment, to which they stuck, so I ended up just putting the parchment paper into the oven with them.
Only one loaf photographed because the other one got cut up and frozen before I remembered.
Less oven spring than I might have liked, probably due to a combination of the strange baking set-up and my lack of shaping practice. There are some strange features: why is the crust blotchy? Why did it burst at each end (circled in red below)?
Crumb was better than I expected given the brutality of my baguette first-timer's shaping technique.
Strange browning patterns on the bottom crust. What is up with this?
The long bulk (cool temperatures + a slightly sluggish starter) meant that flavor was a bit on the sour side for a baguette, but not unpleasant as a flavor for bread. The crust was thin and crisp on top, but a little soft in the pale areas shown in the image above.
Questions & future work
The slogan here is "more practice needed" to improve my shaping and handling of such long bread. I will also experiment with some other baking setups, as the frying pan approach wasn't great from a results or ease-of-use perspective. I will try to get some lava rocks for improved steam when it is convenient to do so.
Q1: Why did the loaf split?
My current guess is that this is just an artifact of the ends drooping over the frying pan's edges, but perhaps there is another reason?
Q2: What is causing the strange coloration of the crust? The bottom has a dark stripe and pale edges, while the upper surface is all splotchy.
Thanks to alfanso, txfarmer, and dmsnyder for their many helpful baguette-related posts. They've been good reading.