The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

My try at Bouabsa's baguettte

MichelP's picture
MichelP

My try at Bouabsa's baguettte

My name is Michel and I live in the province of Québec. I am new to this forum. I would like to receive comments and suggestions from the very knowledgeable bakers in this forum, especially concerning the lack of character of the "grignes". I find them rather flat. The photos below show baguettes I recently baked following Bouabsa's method. They are fairly representative of the results I usually get.

They are made with unbleached AP flour, at 74% hydratation, with 0.35% IY and 2% salt. I mix 90% of the water with the flour and let autolyse for 45 minutes. I then mix the remaining water, the salt and the yeast, do approximately 150 slap and fold, bulk rise at room temperature for one hour with 3 stretch and fold at 20 minutes intervals. The dough then goes in the refrigerator for 21 hours. After that time, it is warmed at room temperature for 1 hour, preshaped, rested for 20 minutes, shaped and proofed for approximately 45 minutes. The baguettes are baked on a pizza steel in a 500 F. oven, covered with a reversed lasagna pan for the firt 12 minutes and uncovered for another 12 minutes.

foodforthought's picture
foodforthought

Michel,

Welcome to the forum.

First off, your baguettes look pretty good from here, though I too am always chasing airier crumb and more distinct ears. Since you don’t mention steam, I will suggest the method I used when I used to bake under an inverted graniteware pan. After loading the bread onto the stone, I would place 5 or 6 ice cubes around each loaf. They don’t last long but they do produce a few minutes of steam. I also always misted the dough with water before loading onto the stone.

Lately I’ve been final proofing in a controlled environment where I can maintain a temperature of 85-90 degrees F. This seems to help with loft.

Best of luck,

Phil

MichelP's picture
MichelP

I have tried to place a rolled and damp rag between the baguettes to get more steam.  Compared to only coverig them with the lasagna pan without anything else to get more steam, the results were not as expected: the ears were shallower and the oven rise was not better. Maybe a bit shinier crust. I have read that too much steam may have a negative efffect on the "grigne" and I am tempted to believe that the reversed pan holds enough of the steam produced by the baking bread.

Benito's picture
Benito

Bonjour Michel, Benny from Toronto here.  First I’d say that you baguettes look quite good, nicely shaped and the scoring appears good too.  The crumb is lovely and open.  I have experienced poor grigne and that usually has been when I’ve pushed fermentation too far.  It is a fine balance between good crumb and good grigne, if you push one too far you lose the other.

If you’re interested have a look at this link to the Community Bake Baguettes.  This is a super information rich thread where we as a group learned to bake baguettes individually yet together.  In the first post there is a summary that Alfanso kindly did to nicely summarize the things we learned together.  You will likely find what you’re looking for there.  At the very least it should be good for a few laughs.

But again, I think your baguettes look great, shorten the proofing a bit and you should have your grigne.

Benny

MichelP's picture
MichelP

I will definitly have a close look at Community Bake Baguettes! I will also experiment to find the right balance between good crumb and nice grigne.

Michel

Ming's picture
Ming

I second Benny's assessment of a potential over fermenting the dough in this case. A 0.35% of instant yeast could speed up the fermentation quite a bit if not controlled efficiently. Also, a 74% of hydration is quite high for a baguette with just AP flour. I don't believe adding more steam would have made the ears any better. I think you are already there as a successful baguette baker, you might need to adjust the fermentation time and hydration a bit to get to your optimal desired results. Good bake!

MichelP's picture
MichelP

Very encouraging comment! Thank you Ming. Should I start by adjusting fermentation time only or should I reduce % of yeast and water? I am tempted to reduce hydratation to 70% (the AP flour I use can very easily sustain that amount of water) and yeast to 0.25% and give it a try keeping the same timing.

Michel

Ming's picture
Ming

Sorry I did not realize this bake was specific with a known recipe. If you deviate from an original recipe, then obviously you will likely get a different result. With that said though, if you are going to change anything, change one thing at a time so you can track the effect of it. Nonetheless, pay close attention to Don’s and Benny’s advice (they seem to disagree at the moment) as they have much more experience than me with baguette baking around here. Good luck and have fun!!!

MTloaf's picture
MTloaf

I like the torpedo shape and the recipe is a good one. I am not sure about the amount of IDY you used. The original version calls for 1/4 tsp for 500 grams of flour. My suggestion for a more open crumb would be to do less kneading as in no slap and folds. Just mix it a couple of times until it comes together then do the stretch and folds. The time in the fridge will develop the gluten. To get more of an ear make sure your scores are at an angle and not straight in. A short proof of 20 or 30 minutes is sufficient and may help with the bloom.

Don

MichelP's picture
MichelP

Your suggestions are helpful Don. Thank you! It has only been a short while since I started to understand the relationship between the openness of the crumb and the kneading. Too much of a good thing... Il will have to learn to trust the time in the fridge for gluten development. As Mingh  and you suggested, I will also reduce the yeast to 0.2% and shorten the final proof time. And I hope reducing the hydratation a bit (from 74% to 70%) will make the scoring at an angle easier. It is a work in progress...

Benito's picture
Benito

I hate to contradict Don, but in my past several bakes of baguettes I've been changing what I do.  I used to follow the less dough development to get more open crumb.  But lately I've been doing some upfront dough development with slap and folds.  The idea being, this dough strengthening might allow me to push fermentation further without compromising the ears.  My recent bakes have found that to be the case and I was able to ferment more to get that open crumb and still get the grigne/ears.

Benny

mariana's picture
mariana

Hi Michel,

Welcome to the Freshloaf!

Your baguettes are good and in this style of scoring there is not much grigne, see Bouabsa's photo, especially his baguettes in the back:

Please, see this photo as well, zero grigne on his loaves fresh out from the oven!

https://archive.davidbrabyn.com/image/I0000YJyg2h7bdbA

Your top baguette looks exactly right. The only difference from Bouabsa's process is that his baguettes surfaces are dry to touch, formed a raw "crust", at the end of the proof and yours are moist. So after baking his crusts outside the scores are thick, robust and yours are thin. 

Do not cover your loaves with plastic, only with a cloth, as they proof. Use a freshly sharpened knife to score. Your scores show some drag (uneven edges). This happens when the knife is dull and the surface of the dough is too moist.

Spray the inner surface of the lasagna pan with water before using it to cover the loaves in the oven. You can spray loaves as well. It will help with generating some cold steam needed for better oven spring.

MichelP's picture
MichelP

Thank you Mariana! In fact, I have been strugling with a moist and thin surface on my proofed baguettes. This makes the scoring very difficult, even with a brand new rasor blade. I will stop using plastic to cover the baguettes. I also plan to reduce hydratation a little bit (from 74% to 70%) and reduce the proofing time (from 45 minutes et 30). 

I have previously tried to add moisture using a rolled damp cloth. It actually made things worst: the oven rise was not better (I think it is actually good with the reversed pan only); the ears were even flatter than they are now; and the crust was only a bit shinier. But if I reduce the hydratation percentage, I might have to change my method. Spraying the inside of the pan might be a good idea. I will be baking tomorrow...

Michel

gavinc's picture
gavinc

I've been following all the comments here and agree your baggies are quite good. Out of interest, my favourite baguette formula is Hamelman's baguettes with poolish that include 68% hydration, 2% salt and 0.4% IDY. 33% of the flour is prefermented in the poolish.. Cheers, Gavin

MichelP's picture
MichelP

In this second try I have reduced hydratation to 70% (from 74%), yeast to 0.2% (from 0.35%) and final proof time to 35 minutes (from 45 minutes). I have also done less slap and folds (I stopped when the dough just started to become cohesive). The rest of the procedure remained the same.

I found that the dough was harder to elongate in the final shaping (to reduce the elasticity I might have to lengthen the rest time after preshaping and preshape more loosely).  The scoring was easier. The crumb is airier. The ears are still relatively flat (altough I see a slight improvement). As Mariana pointed out, it may be illusive to expect the lofted ears we see in levain baguettes with this kind of bread.

Ming's picture
Ming

Below is a baguette I baked a few weeks back. Obviously, it is certainly not the best that we have seen around here from others (Alan's, Don's, Benny's) but this is the least that I was able to achieve with a 50% wholegrain baguette. 

Benito's picture
Benito

Do you have a cross sectional photo of the baguette?  I would be useful to get an idea of the degree of bake top vs bottom.

MichelP's picture
MichelP

 

 

Thank you for taking the time Benny. I bake in a conventional oven without convection. I preheat at 500 F for at least 45 minutes. A 3/16" thick cast iron plate is placed in the middle of the oven. On the bottom shelf, I place two trays one on top of the other to prevent overheating the iron plate and overcooking the bottom of the loaves. When I put the baguettes in the oven, I cover them with a lasagna stainless steel pan (preheated) for 12 minutes. I think it retains enough steam to allow for a good rise and nice sheen on the crust. The baguettes bake for another 12 minutes uncovered. I never change the thermostat setting (500 F) to compensate for the heat loss when I open the oven's door. The door is opened for loading, uncovering the baguettes (at 12 minutes) and moving them around for a more even bake (at 18 minutes). My oven may be off by 10 or 15 degrees and, of course, in a regular home oven like the one I have the cycling variations of temperature are important.

 

Benito's picture
Benito

Michel, the cross section is very helpful because it shows how excellent your oven spring is.  Also it shows that you’re getting enough heat into the bottom of the dough as it bakes and the top of the crust looks fine as well.  I’d say your setup is good and you probably don’t need to change it.

I struggled a lot with getting good ears early on and sometimes now if I miss the mark on fermentation it still happens.  You’ll need to keep experimenting for sure.  I would consider pre-heating at 500°F and then dropping the temperature to between 480-450°F.  I wonder if the high temperature is leading to the top crust forming too quickly limiting the ear forming.  I typically pre-heat 500°F and then drop to 480°F when loading the dough.  Later I’ll drop to 450°F.  In fact I’ve been thinking that next time I would drop to 450°F when I load the dough as I often find the bottom crust thicker than I’d like it to be.

If you’re feeling that your dough is too elastic with the hydration change, you might want to increase by 2%, perhaps your AP flour is typical Canadian AP and essentially as strong as bread flour and able to tolerate the hydration.  I’ve been using Canadian AP flour for my baguettes and currently have the hydration up to 74% and I’m still getting good ears.  

In regards to gluten and dough development, as I’ve said earlier when I was learning as part of the Community Bake, we came to the conclusion that less development was more and really helped the open crumb.  However, since that time I’ve been gradually adjusting my Yorkville SD baguette formula with the idea that if the dough is more developed, it will tolerate more fermentation.  This should help with a more open crumb, but with more development you should then still get the ears even though the dough is more fermented.  My gradual changes have confirmed this so far for me.  Have a look at my blog post if you’re interested to see the most recent baguette bake I shared.

I know this can all be quite confusing with different bakers giving you different advice, but that’s the thing, we’re all different and using different flours and have different techniques and different starters or yeast.  So there are a lot of variables.

Oh I just thought of something, you’re in Quebec I think you said.  My favourite baguette flour is from a Quebec mill, La Milanese.  It is their AP flour that I now use exclusively for my baguettes +/- some whole grain at times.  That is the one that I used in the baguettes I posted the link to above.  Good flour with good flavour.

Benny

MTloaf's picture
MTloaf

Let me start by saying it is possible to get ears and reliably so if that is the goal. There are many factors such as hydration, flour, gluten development, the amount of tension in the pre shape and final shaping as well as hitting the point in the final proof. All of these things you can control however your oven regimen has the final say. Many home ovens are not up to the task or require extraordinary steps to make proper steam in the initial phase. The non convection inexpensive oven in my old house was very good for all breads. The oven I have now with all the bells and whistles is barely up to the task and I still struggle to make it work for baguettes. I haven’t been baking baguettes much lately because I am running out of ideas to fix the oven shortfalls. Like you I start the oven at 500F because the loading and the steam created by pouring boiling water in a pre heated sheet pan will drop the temp at least 50 degrees. 
I did make some a couple of days ago using the recipe as written and as near as I can figure the IDY is .1% That is to say 1/4 tsp per 500 grams of flour. I wasn’t thrilled with the final product partly from lack of practice even though the dough handled well enough and the steam was adequate but they wouldn’t brown properly so I resorted to switching from bake mode to convection roast. I hate this oven because it is too big so it doesn’t put out much radiant heat. At any rate I still got decent ears and bloom which all happens in the first 5 minutes. 
Bouabsa I usually get a more open crumb but not so much this time. They have a dull luster from the convection phase but it does help make the crust crispy. 
My recommendation for you after reading your process would be to shorten the time before dividing from 1 hour to 5 or ten minutes and doing the final shape when the dough looks like it is starting to move. The finger poke test works great for baguettes and you will get more bloom and ears if it is closer to underproofed vs over. If the dough is too elastic consider adding some water back in next time. 
Hope this helps thanks for playing along. Your doing great for only your second attempt. 
Don

I almost forgot the obligatory Alfanso angle shot 

Ears

idaveindy's picture
idaveindy

I'm not a baguette baker, so excuse me, but it looks like there may be an issue with top heat (broiler element, sometimes called the grill) and/or convection (fan).

Please describe which heating elements (upper, lower, back side) you are using, and which rack position (how far from top and bottom) that you are using.

500 F does seem high for baguettes, but I'm not a baggie-baker.

The real baguette-meisters will get you all sorted out, I'm sure.

alfanso's picture
alfanso

As several dedicated baguette bakers have already stated, ears are wholly possible with Bouabsa baguettes.  If you are inclined to do so, have a gander at this link posted during the heyday of the lockdown era.

You might just find some additional keys to your success.

alfanso

Benito's picture
Benito

All this talk about Bouabsa so I have dough in cold retard now…..

MTloaf's picture
MTloaf

I hope our advice didn’t create too much confusion. My response was in relation to my experience with the Bouabsa recipe in particular and not baguettes in general. I consider sourdough baguettes to be a completely different animal that requires steps unique to them. I was somewhat confused myself by the original poster mentioning levain baguettes which the Bouabsa recipe is not.
Now that you have teased us with a performance piece I am rooting for your success and look forward to seeing your bake. As Bogey said in Casablanca  “Ears looking at you kid”:-)
Don

alfanso's picture
alfanso

I'm shocked! Shocked to find that baguettes are going on in here.

Benito's picture
Benito

I think that I’ve only baked Bouabsa baguettes thrice.  Once plain and original and very early in my experience learning to bake baguettes, once with sesame seeds on the crust and a final time with chocolate chunks inside.  I’m doing a plain set this time.  I so seldom do IDY anything so hopefully I don’t get the timing too far off.  I’m also not using an aliquot jar which I always do for baguettes.  I’ll post tomorrow.  2 of them are for friends, one will be my dinner.

Benny

MTloaf's picture
MTloaf

You did a great job with the shaping and I like the taper on the ends. Ears to you

Don

Benito's picture
Benito

Thank you Don, I’m still using the Scott Megee shaping which is my favorite now.  I should have scored a bit more deeply and likely compromised the ears a bit because of this but pretty good overall.

Benny

MichelP's picture
MichelP

I am starting to think that my baking method may be the source of my problems. In order to avoid the hassle of pouring water in a hot oven, I have adapted a dutch oven method for my baguettes: I use a stainless steel lasagna pan (about 15 inches long and 3 inches tall) to cover the loaves for the first 12 minutes. Too much humidity, too much radiant heat on top of the loaves? I suspect this method is not suited for baguettes. This morning I baked 3 baguettes (same recipe and procedure) in a less hot oven (480 F) as Benny had suggested. Got the same results: good rise, open crumb, shiny crust, but flat ears. I am not desperate, but I fail to understand why I can get nice ears in boules and bâtards while covering them in the first half of the bake and I cannot get the same result with baguettes.

 

 

idaveindy's picture
idaveindy

Are you covering the boules and batards with the same lasagna pan ?

If not, ... is the lasagna pan the same height, and made of the same material as the cover used for boules/batards?

Radiant heat is in relation to the inverse  square of the distance --- twice as far means 1/4th the heat is transmitted. A cover that is closer to the dough will impart more radiant heat to the dough.  

And different materials transmit heat differently.

Are you baking the boules/batards on the same rack as the baguettes?  Baking the baguettes on a higher rack puts them closer to the upper heating element.

I believe for most electric ovens, the upper heating element still comes on, at least intermittently, during "maintenance heating."

MTloaf's picture
MTloaf

Is the pan stainless steel or aluminum? Are you pre heating it? Steel or aluminum don’t work as well as other materials like cast iron or clay.   Graniteware roasting pans however do radiate well and heat up faster. The problem is they limit the size and number of batons you can bake. 
Baguettes don’t require as much prolonged steam as a batard and if your oven seals adequately you can pour boiling water in the lasagna pan with a wet towel in it to make enough moisture for the first 7 minutes. Then you could at least see what is happening. That is if your oven has a glass door. 

Benito's picture
Benito

The photo in the top right is my oven set up for baguettes.  It’s simple and it works well.  If you’re baking in a gas oven it won’t work since they leak for safety reasons so won’t trap steam.  If you bake without convection something similar will work for you.  I stuff the broiling rack that comes with most home ovens with crumpled aluminum and then place my baking steel on top.  In fact, I’ve stopped using my dutch oven for batards because I prefer these open bakes that give my loaves a thinner crust.

The metal loaf pan has a rolled hand towel in it, boiling water is poured into it 30 mins before baking to pre-steam the oven.  The cast iron skillet gets a cup of boiling water after the dough is loaded.

MichelP's picture
MichelP

Another try and with some improvement in my opinion. I used Benny's steam set up and did not use the lasagna pan to cover the loaves. I also used Alan's method of BF in the refrigerator for 3 hours, preshaping and shaping after 30 minutes rest and back in the refrigerator for the remaining of the 20 hours. I baked the loaves right out of the fridge. I think I should have scored a little bit deeper. The crumb and the crust texture are to my liking and taste very good. Slowly getting there!

Benito's picture
Benito

Nice to see these step wise improvements Michel.  You’re definitely figuring out your oven setup now.  The ears are much better now, I agree with you, score a bit deeper and you should be there.

Benny

MichelP's picture
MichelP

I will be baking another two baguettes tomorrow. I can't wait to try a deeper score and see the results!

Michel

alfanso's picture
alfanso

It's a process.  and scoring is an art that some come to rather quickly and others toil over for quite some time, but eventually get there.  

The best is when you do exactly what you are doing.  Take the original, find out what works and doesn't work for you, then take a piece of knowledge and experience from here and more from there.  

When all is said and done, you will have baked your Bouabsa baguettes, not Benny's, Don's nor mine.  When you aren't tearing your hair out trying to figure out what went wrong on the last bake, half the fun is getting there.   

And there is no strict 3 hrs to divide and shape, I just give the dough enough time to begin to retard, so anywhere along the timeline works for me.

Welcome to the Baguette Brigade!

Alan

And we all owe a debt of gratitude to dmsnyder and janedo for being the first (to my knowledge) on TFL to do the sweat-work and figure out how to adapt the baguettes for the home baker.

MichelP's picture
MichelP

I agree Alan! Half the fun is learning (and the other half, perhaps, is eating good bread). Your comments are very encouraging and you welcoming me to the Baguette Brigade is received as an honour! Thank you also for reminding me of the role played by dmsnyder and janedo.

Michel

 

 

 

 

MTloaf's picture
MTloaf

I’m not sure the depth of a cut is that critical as long as you slice through the skin. It looks like your scores separated but the bloom wasn’t consistent. Cutting at an angle on the score is more important to me.  Are you using a curved blade? It is hard for me to judge the actual size of your torpedoes. What is the weight of your baguettes. Mine were about 290 grams each I think Benny’s are near the traditional 330. 
Much of the baguette oven spring and open crumb comes from the slender profile on the hot surface  They are more like bread sticks in that way. 
Nice to see you making progress and look forward to your next bake. 
Don


MichelP's picture
MichelP

Hello Don,

They are approximately 280 g before kaking and 14 inches long. I used a curved double edge rasor blade. Thank you for taking the time to comment and for your nice words.

Michel