Alas, I squeezed and smashed and kneaded, but the large amount of leftover flour in the bottom of the bowl got more and more crumbly and hard and grody. You know what I mean. My poor dough was practically screaming for a sip.
So I added more h2o. It's my blog. I'm allowed.
I didn't add so much as to obscure the formula. After all, I am baking my way through this book, so I try to keep the formulae as close to the book as possible. Well, as close as I'm able to. You know, when I get in there, I always monkey around and do something differently. I'm an artist. I have a vision. What can I say.
I thought it was me. Remember last week? When I blamed lack of coffee for getting the whole deal wrong? Well, it turns out that it wasn't lack of coffee that caused a mis-measure, because what happened this week happened last. The only difference is that this week, I did have my coffee first, and I was cognizant enough to fix things.
Once I ameliorated the water situation, this batch of baguettes was a hoot. Mine turned out to be more like Pixie Sticks, really, because the Tartine book declares that this formula makes 4, but I wanted a bushel of 'em, so I made 'em 8 and skinny. And listen to this, friends, the hootiness of the whole shindig was elevated because the appliance delivery guy brought me a brand new oven at a bright and shining 10 am. No more toggling, guessing, scorching the crust. No more lost steam from the oven door that never really closed all the way. Can you believe that I baked so much bread with a broken oven y'all? All these months. Yeah.
I don't have a son.
In order to circumvent the 'S factor', I found it helpful to keep a ruler extended to the ideal length of the baguettes (minus a couple of inches to cushion the expand factor) at the top of my work surface so that I wouldn't exceed the desired length of the loaves. I seriously recommend this little maneuver. You can see what I'm talking about in the series of shaping pix below.
The next thing I learned is that it is really easy to overhandle the dough, because, well, you have to handle the dough more to shape it into baguette form. Be light of finger when shaping the dough.
With that said, I must say that the shaping was not as difficult as I thought it would be, in terms of handling. In fact, the dough was uber easy to handle from autolyse through proof, and I even used flour on my board instead of olive oil. You know, I just had to conquer that fear. It was starting to hamper me.
The best part of baguettes, aside from sharing the lot, is that they bake in 30 minutes. Plus, an hour to an hour and a half is shaved off of the proofing time. So this means that baguettes are like the 'fast food' of the bread world.
But enough opinionated blather, here goes the how, the why and the whatever for.
THE NIGHT BEFORE:
Mix together the ingredients for the levain, cover and let it bloom at room temp for at least 8 hours.
50g KA whole wheat flour
OK. Here we go:
When the 4 hour fermentation is complete, pour the dough out onto a floured workspace.
Divide the dough and shape it into rough rectangles (I divided mine into 8 pieces, if you have a wider oven and want to make longer baguettes, you can divide yours into 4 as the book directs). Let it rest on the bench for 30 minutes.
NOW FOR THE SHAPING:
Take a rectangle.
Pull the bottom of the rectangle up to the center of the dough.
Stretch the sides of the dough to elongate it.
Pull down the ears.
Press the ears into the dough.
Pull down the top of the dough to the center.
Press the seam.
Fold this roll in half, and press down on the seam to close.
Now roll the dough back and forth, gently stretching, to elongate it into your baguette shape, keeping in mind the length of your baking stone.
Get the dough onto a couche that has been liberally dusted with brown rice flour, pulling up the slack between the baguettes to make snug compartments for each one.
Wet a towel with warm water and squeeze well, drape over the dough, then pull the leftover couche flap (or another dry towel) over the wet towel.
Let it proof for 2.5 to 3 hours, checking at 2.5 to see if it has fully proofed.
30 minutes before you plan to bake, preheat the oven to 500 degrees with a cast iron pan on the floor of the oven. At the last 5 minutes of preheat, fill a one-cup measure up with ice then fill with cold water. Dump this into the hot cast iron pan. Let the oven fill with steam for 5 minutes. Transfer the dough onto an inverted sheet pan (a peel will not be wide enough to hold the full length of the baguettes) that you have layered with a piece of parchment. Score the baguettes **and be sure to score horizontally. Scoring horizontally creates the ears on baguettes. When you slash straight down into the dough (like I did on 6 out of 8 of my baguettes) the score marks bleed open and do not develop prominent slashes.
Jerk the parchment onto the hot peel, close the door quickly, and turn the oven down to 475 degrees. Immediately open the oven door a hair and squirt the left wall with a water bottle whose nozzle has been set to 'stream'. Squirt until the side of the oven stops hissing, then repeat with the right wall. Do this every 4 minutes for the first 16 minutes. After the 16 minute steam, pull out the cast iron pan if it still has water in it. You no longer want steam in the oven. If it does not, leave it there so it's good and hot for the next batch of baguettes. Rotate the baguettes after 20 minutes for even browning. Bake until the loaves are brown. Mine took 30 minutes total. Repeat with the next batch, if you must bake in batches, and be sure to refrigerate the other doughs while they are awaiting their turn in the oven, so that they do not over proof.
Crust: Very crisp. A little on the rustic side. Didn't have the sheen that you get with commercial ovens with 'real' steam, but good, crisp crust nonetheless. Crumb: Open sesame! As you can see. Try not to overhandle the dough! Flavor: Pretty darn remarkable. But try not to overbake, especially if you make skinny loaves, to maintain a tender crumb. My French friend Francois love the flavor of the baguettes that I gave to him. Yes, he is my tester when it comes to all of my breads. So far so good for every one, including these! Ease of handling dough. Simple Notes: Be sure to keep a measuring stick on your workspace so you don't make your baguettes longer than your stone. Try not to overhandle the dough. This is tricky, and it will take more than one batch to work this out. Be careful not to overproof the dough, it proofs quickly. What I would do differently: I am undoubtedly going to try a lengthy and cold proof, because, well, you all know how much I love a good, long proof. I want my baguettes to get the lovely blisters and brittle crust that develop with long, cold fermentation.Remember, it's because it allows the sugars to fully release from the flour and thus caramelize in the oven. I am also going to play around with the commercial yeast factor. How much and all of that good stuff. Whatever I do, I will report back at once. Frankly, I think the next few posts are going to be baguette posts, because the next couple of breads rely on a the formula for them. I have to perfect it if I am to move on and expect any sort of success with the upcoming breads.
To the staff of life!
This pixie post was spirited off to Wild Yeast Blog's Yeast Spotting.
All recipes in this post are derivative of those in the Tartine Bread book. I urge you to get your own copy.