Second chapter on Cooking Projects 2012!
Five weekends. One hundred and twenty six ounces of flour. Blood. Sweat. A few tears. But, I am not afraid of shaping baguettes any longer. Is there room for improvement? No doubt, but the goal now shifts from shaping to baking: I must find a way to optimize the generation of steam. Apart from that, I am pretty happy with my babies…
UN-KNEADED, SIX-FOLD FRENCH BREAD
(from Jeffrey Hamelman, Bread)
2 pounds + 4.5 oz bread flour (8 + 1/4 cups)
1 pound + 10.6 oz water (3 + 3/8 cups)
3 + 1/2 tsp salt
1 + 1/4 tsp instant dry yeast
Place all the ingredients in a large bowl, and using your hands or a plastic scraper, bring them together forming a very shaggy mass. The best way to do it is working the scraper down the sides of the bowl, and then rotating the bowl as you bring it up, and fold that part of the mixture on top. Do this movement about 20 times, which should mix everything together reasonably well at this stage. Do not worry about how smooth the dough is, it will feel and look very “rough”.
Set a timer to go off every 30 minutes. You will fold the dough every thirty minutes, for a total of six times (at that point you will be 3 from the start). At each cycle, fold the dough on itself using a scraper, for a total of 20 times, either removing the dough to a surface, or folding it inside the bowl. After the sixth folding cycle, leave the dough undisturbed for 30 minutes, then divide it in 12 ounce pieces (from the start, you will be at the 3 hour and 30 minutes mark). One full recipe makes 5 long baguettes.
Gently form each piece into a cylinder shape, and let it rest for 15 minutes (very important to relax the gluten, don’t skip this step). Shape as a baguette, then roll the baguettes to stretch them to their final size (make sure they will fit over your baking stone or the surface you intend to bake them on).
Let the baguettes rise (preferably using a couche well coated with flour) for 1 to 1 and a half hours at room temperature (ideally at 76 F). Score the baguettes and bake in a 460 F oven, with initial steam, for a total of 22 to 25 minutes. Cool completely before slicing.
to print the recipe, click here
Comments: I like to do the first four of the six kneading cycles using a different technique: I coat the granite counter top with a very light amount of olive oil, and slam the dough on it 15 to 20 times. You can see the technique demonstrated in this video. The last two cycles I omit the “slamming”, and simply fold it, so that the airy structure is not disturbed. Phil insists that I should let him make a video of my “slamming technique”, but so far I resisted the idea. Maybe one day… ;-)
As to the shaping, I will be forever grateful to Gary, my friend and baker extraordinaire, who went through the trouble of mailing me a DVD of Chef Jeffrey Gabriel CMC, from Schoolcraft College. Gary made the video during his class on French baguettes, and I watched it over and over… and over! The main difference between Chef Gabriel’s technique and this one, is that he is not too concerned with where the seam of the baguette ends up. On my initial attempts, I was so worried about keeping the seam up for the final rise, that I ended up manipulating the baguettes too much and messed up their final shape. Gary’s method is much more user-friendly, and once you score the baguettes and bake them, the seam position seems to have no influence on the final look of the bread.
A few important pointers for success:
1. Coat the surface where the baguettes will rise (after the final shaping) with flour. They WILL stick if you forget this step, leading to intense grievance.
2. Allow the dough to rest for 15 minutes before shaping. You need that or the gluten will keep fighting back like an elastic band.
3. The better you get at shaping the baguettes, the longer they will be. If you want to bake them covered to create steam, this could be a problem. Consider making shorter baguettes – not authentic, but easier to bake in a home oven.
4. Baguettes are scored with an odd number of slashes. Usually 5 or 7. Some advise you to wet the blade to do it, I prefer to use a dry blade, as I like the “spiky” look of the slashes.
5. The baker’s blade is sharp. Make sure you cover it with the protective plastic cap when you are done, or, if using a blade with no cap, put it away. Leaving it sitting on the counter top is a recipe for disaster. (sigh)
After practicing several weekends in a row, I now settled on making half this recipe, and shaping either 3 long baguettes or 4 medium-sized. The tricky part is baking them: I can bake two at a time, so the last one must go through a longer rise. Sometimes it seems to be slightly over-proofed, and the resulting baguette is a bit flat. However, the taste is spectacular, this recipe produces a very creamy crumb, with a flavor that transported us to the 7eme arrondissement in Paris. Not a bad virtual trip to take! ;-)
I am submitting this post to Susan’s Yeastspotting…
ONE YEAR AGO: Cornmeal English Muffins
TWO YEARS AGO: Cornish Hens for a Sunday Dinner