Over the past two and a half years I became comfortable baking rustic breads using wild yeast. The baguette, however, gave me lesson after lesson in humility. Baguettes are deceptively simple to prepare, but if you seek a bread with Parisian quality, then each step of preparation must be flawless: bulk fermentation, shaping, final proofing, and baking. I’ve tried many recipes, but they never quite matched the superb baguettes of the 7th Arrondisement, where we used to live.
That all changed during our recent trip home. I was looking forward to baking a sourdough bread in our own kitchen, and decided on sourdough baguettes. I followed the detailed instructions of TxFarmer, one of the most accomplished bakers of The Fresh Loaf Forum, and voila‘, the baguettes from my own oven were just the way I’d hoped for…
TxFARMER’s 36 HOUR SOURDOUGH BAGUETTES
(recipe found at The Fresh Loaf forum)
150 g very active sourdough starter (at 100% hydration)
425g all purpose flour
300g cold water
Mix water and flour into a lumpy mass, cover and place in the fridge for 12 hours.
Remove from the fridge, add the starter and salt to the dough, and mix until distributed. The dough will be very sticky, but you should resist the temptation to add more flour. Allow it to rise at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours, kneading by the “stretch and fold method” every 30 minutes. The dough may rise about 30% of its total volume. Place the dough covered in the fridge for 24 hours.
Remove the dough from the fridge and let it warm up for 1 to 2 hours – you want it to rise but not get overly bubbly, because that will make shaping very tricky later. Divide the dough in four pieces, taking care not to deflate it too much. Place each piece over floured parchment paper, and let it relax for 40 minutes.
Shape each one as a baguette (for a nice tutorial, click here), proof for 30 to 50 minutes, and bake with initial steam at 460 F for 25 minutes.
Let it completely cool before slicing.
to print the recipe, click here
Comments: When Txfarmer described this recipe as “everything I know in one bread,” she meant it. She baked multiple batches to perfect it, and made it clear that you need a good “feel” for the dough to get good results. That’s why the initial stretch and fold cycle varies from 2 to 3 hours, depending on the ‘strength” (gluten development) of your dough. The final rise at room temperature will also change depending on the temperature of your kitchen, and how much “lift” the starter provided during the 24 hour fermentation in the fridge. If you are new to bread baking, particularly using wild yeast, all these variables are intimidating. But if you’ve baked your share of sourdough breads, then consider making a batch of these baguettes, which taste incredibly good! The crumb is open, the taste surprisingly mellow, with an almost “sweet” component, hard to imagine in a sourdough.
You may have noticed that my individual baguettes ended with different types of crusts. The difference lies in how I generated steam during baking. Two baguettes were baked with an inverted roasting pan (sightly wet) on top: they developed a nice, shiny crust, with a “caramel” color. The other two baguettes were baked in a perforated pan, with steam coming from water poured in a cast iron pan placed at the bottom of the oven. Their crust is less shiny, but they had more oven spring. My favorite method is the inverted roasting pan, but it has a major drawback: I can only bake one baguette at a time.
If you dream of perfecting baguettes at home, you MUST try TxFarmer’s recipe. Many bakers already did, and raved about it (check the discussion at The Fresh Loaf Forum by clicking here).
I am submitting this post to Susan’s Yeastspotting event…
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