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gsquared

The Perfect Baguette: In search of the holy grail

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Here in Italy.. I find that the flour is low in protein.. the O flour is not bread flour..and hence absorbs less water..

loaves look great!

how's your ciabatta?

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At what temperature do you bake your bread??

I use a brick oven so I just fire that baby up and when the bricks get white I stick my hand in and feel it - and then pray for the bread to bake and not burn.

Im thinking about getting a thermometer but it would be pretty useless if I dont know what temp I need! :blink:

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A few thoughts in no particular order:

Your photos show the dough on a stainless table. Stainless is notoriously cold and could lower your dough temperature and stall out the dough.

For the primary fermentation, you could try proofing in a rectangular plastic container not on the stainless table. This would maintain the temperature and give the dough some gentle organization.

It is not the amount of protein in flour that is critical, but the quality of the protein.

Doughs more hydrated are more difficult to handle but produce a more open crumb; it is easy to make a good looking loaf with less hydration, but the taste and flavor are typically penalized as a result.

A formula in favor with many bakers contains 67% hydration, no more that 1.1% yeast, and around 1.8% salt. With a short mix, a two hour bulk fermentation - including a stretch and fold after one hour, an intermediate proof of 20 - 30 minutes and a final proof of 45 - 50 minutes, they are achieving excellent results.

It's difficult to say for sure, but the photos of the dough make it look like a stretch and fold would be of great help, as would pre-shaping which I haven't notice mentioned in the discussion.

Retarding doughs in the refrigerator can be a useful technique, but be aware of the buildup of acidity which may alter the flavor (better for some tastes, worse for others).

If you can cool your bread quickly (not in the oven, but on the same racks out of the oven), you will enjoy a more crispy crust and a less gummy crumb.

A stretch and fold is more of an aid to primary (bulk) fermentation than it is an interruption. The benefits far outweigh any disadvantages.

Looking at the photos of the baguettes after they have been scored, a couple of things come to mind that may help. It looks as if you are using a knife -- get a lame. Score the bread with your arm, hand, and lame almost parallel to the loaf and cut slighlty under the surface creating a slight lip which will result in beautiful grigne.

I think it is great that you are going to so much effort for your bread. The journey to good bread is truly rewarding. Hope this helps without being too long-winded or smarty-pantsish. I just wanted to share.

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Thank you all for the replies!

Boulak = great reply!

I dont have a good ciabatta recipe here - and in this kitchen it is near impossible to execute without working 20 hours a day!

What I do now...

I autolyze and let the dough rest approx. 40 minutes. Add the salt and this begins the bulk ferment time.

I fold every hour in bulk ferment - total of three folds - i then pre shape - let rest 30 min - then I shape and let rest as long as possible - about 30 min. - then i bake. tomorrow i will try to cool the loaves out of the oven - i have noticed that the next day, the crust is chewy and not crunchy, like some have mentioned - i want CRUNCHY!!!

Thanks again!

Ore

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For a crunchy crust, try venting the oven once the color on the bread is set and then finishing the bread in the oven with the door cracked.

This should aid in driving the water out of the bread and render a crispy crust. There is so much water in Ciabatta that the baking time can be considerable. What temperature is the oven? Is it a forced air oven?

What kind of climate do you live in?

What is the humidity and/or storage conditions of the bread once it is baked? It can be difficult to maintain the integrity of lean dough breads for more than a day.

A lot of Ciabatta recipes are folded every 45 minutes for three turns and then divided after one hour for a bulk fermentation of 3 hr. and 15 min. No pre-shape is necessary, and the final proof is 50 - 60 minutes.

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Ore, they sure look good to me. It looks like everyone has gotten you streightened out, hope you kept notes on what you did right and what you did wrong, my big problem. Anyway congrats brother they look like you want to crawl in the screen and grab a hunk.

Polack

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Are you trying to make a French baguette? What I mean by that is the type of baguette found in France? Not the baguettes found in the States.

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I'm trying to improve my sourdough baguettes.

I want an all sourdough baguette I can make at home with easily available materials, but that is light crusty and flaky with big holes in the crumb - almost more air than bread. The curent ones are still a bit bready,

I'm slowly dialling in - there are so many variables. Join me on the journey.

The best results so far are with a variation of the "a l'ancienne" method. The theory is that you mix and retard cold so as to allow the maximum autolysis, then shape prove and bake.

I'm using soft pastry/general purpose flour 9% protein - Tesco supermarket own brand, and the lowest protein flour they sell.

The current formula in grams is


Starter
Flour           100g   100%
Water           100g   100%
Clef             20g    20%

Ferment at 30C overnight (12 hours)

Dough  
Flour           500g   83%
Starter         200g   33%
Salt             12g    2%
Vit C - pinch
Water           330g   55%
 
Total flour     600g  100%
Total water     430g   72%

Mix cold, and retard in bulk - put in the refrigerator at 4C immediately.
Next day (say 18hours) portion, shape and bake (floor of the hot oven of the AGA, about 240C) No steam in this batch.

Makes 3 x 330g baguettes

gallery_7620_135_9794.jpggallery_7620_135_10473.jpg

This has been the result of much experiment.

Still a bit bready, but in the right region, and one where I can perhaps make small changes from.

Today's experiment is with shorter proof times.

These are times from taking the dough out of the fridge, so include shaping

15 mins - effectively no proof at all. Still surprisingly good, and no flour pick up from the couche, since it was never couched!. The baguette is a bit short as it hit the end of the oven when I slid it off the peel. Nice and easy to handle as well.

45 mins. OK, but not as good a grigne as the zero proof time. Maybe marginally better texture. Dough still tight enough to handle.

90 mins. Dough too liquid to pick up, hence the strange shape, and lack of grigne.

Where next? Machine mix (these were hand mixed)? Try harder flour?

Jack

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I am not a pro baker but....

Why the soft flour?

Seems to me that you will need a harder flour to get to where you want to be.

With a harder flour you will need a longer mixing time to get the gluten there....this may lend itself to machine mixing.

This all should alow you to go for longer proof times, which is how you are going to get your air in the dough.

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Not sure it works like that.

To get a really open texture we have to break the rules, which were designed to make uniform bread. French baguettes are traditionally made with Type 55 flour, which is quite soft.

A harder flour gives a finer textured crumb.

Since this dough has a lot of mature starter in it, the acidity is quite high, and a long proof time just results in a sloppy liquid as the acid alters the nature of the gluten.

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I'm certainly interested in watching how you progress through this, and it's a thing I've got on my list myself.

It seems to me you've got three options (at least that I'm able to think of at hand): adding some portion of higher protein flour, decreasing the water to some degree, or baking with a higher temp, which would work fine here, given they're baguettes.

You're at around 450F, right? I bake mine at about 550F in my wood-fired oven. They rise and bake very fast. But they don't burn, and of course they bake through.

I'm still learning and experimenting, and it's really useful to go through these things with others who are doing the same thing.

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Baking hotter is certainly a possibility, and I'll try some in the wood fired oven next time I fire it, in a couple of weeks time.

The dough is about as wet as I can handle it, and then only when cold.

I fear if I make it stiffer, I'll lose the texture, so I'm not sure I want to go that way.

What surprised me was how little difference the final proof time made. I've varied it from 0 to 4 hours, and except that the dough is tough to handle warm, it really makes little difference to the texture. The bulk fermentation time is pretty minimal, since its at fridge temperature, although there is some rise. Looks like the mechanism is different from the conventional story of yeast produces gas that expands on baking to expand the gluten bubbles.


Edited by jackal10 (log)

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The loaves pictured are from a conventional oven, yes? I'd be willing to bet the results will be dramatically different in the wood-fired environment. And with the higher heat as well. Anyway that's been my experience. My ancient dough is nearly double the height in the wood-fired oven as opposed to my kitchen oven. And the interior crumb is very much more open and airier and lovelier as well. But I imagine you've experienced the same thing.

I'm going to try working on this myself later this week, at least in my electric oven for now, and I'm glad you've brought this up to spur me on because a sourdough baguette is on my list of the more immediate breads to work into a thing I like better than what I'm producing right now. But I'm glad you're way ahead of me. :biggrin:

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Not sure it works like that.

To get a really open texture we have to break the rules, which were designed to make uniform bread. French baguettes are traditionally made with Type 55 flour, which is quite soft.

A harder flour gives a finer textured crumb.

Since this dough has a lot of mature starter in it, the acidity is quite high, and a long proof time just results in a sloppy liquid as the acid alters the nature of the gluten.

Then why did you ask if you should use a harder flour?

I use a mixture of an AP and a bread flour. I machine mix.

Good luck

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Since this dough has a lot of mature starter in it, the acidity is quite high, and a long proof time just results in a sloppy liquid as the acid alters the nature of the gluten.

I take it that this means that you have been using the same starter over a long period of time. How old is it, and could a timid little starter be given a mature boost by daily feeding and if so, have you any recommendations? I would love to get a really strong taste on my starter.

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I have had the starter (clef) for some time, and it is very healthy. I believe it can be traced back to California in pioneer days. Not timid at all. It lives in a jar in the fridge, and when the jar is a bit empty gets refreshed with some sponge (equal quantities of flour and water by weight, spoonful of clef, fermented out),

What I meant was that the I had fermented the sponge for 12 hours at 30C. Most of the flavour in sourdough is added from the long fermented sponge. For a stronger flavour try fermenting your sponge longer and warmer.


Edited by jackal10 (log)

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I have had the starter (clef) for some time, and it is very healthy. I believe it can be traced back to California in pioneer days. 

Now, that's what I call provenance! Do you have the family tree?

Joking aside, am I correct in reading that it doesn't matter too much about the age of the clef, what matters is the fermentation? Do you have any gauge for working out when the fermentation has peaked, and if it is running out of steam, how much will it affect the outcome?

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The starter comes via the former Librarian of Sutter's fort from the Simpson Ranch in the Sierra Nevada foothills. Experience tells me that 12 hours is about right for a very active sponge. Much longer and it will begin to collapse.

The provenance of the clef is just romance; the flour and water you feed it are not sterile. After a few months it will have been contaminated, evolved and adaped to the local conditions and the yeasts and bacilli in the flour and water its fed.

Today's baguette. Same dough but machine mixed (2 x 20 secs in a food processer).

500g baguette. 1/2 hour proof I used some steam, so it has a shiny crust.

Still very wet, as you can see from the cross -section.

gallery_7620_135_13284.jpggallery_7620_135_4866.jpg

Texture is getting there, still a little tight in places. Need to work on the shaping, especially the ends.

gallery_7620_135_2884.jpg

I'm retarding the other half of the dough to see if that will keep shape better.


Edited by jackal10 (log)

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I'm watching your trials with interest, since I'm trying to solve my own baguette problem. If any of you serious bread bakers have a minute to look over here, and give me advice, I could really use the help too.

Jack, have you tried the Crocodile Bread recipe from Carol Fields' Italian Baker? It yields the biggest hole/bread ratio of any bread I've made. It gets 17 minutes of kneading with the dough hook, which is pretty different from the quick-whiz in the processor technique.

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Jack, have you tried the Crocodile Bread recipe from Carol Fields' Italian Baker?  It yields the biggest hole/bread ratio of any bread I've made.  It gets 17 minutes of kneading with the dough hook, which is pretty different from the quick-whiz in the processor technique.

This is interesting. I had wondered about the food processor v a Kitchen Aid for the quick-whiz technique. Are there beniefits to using the former? Also, I would be very interested in hearing more about the 17 minute kneaded bread, how the gluten is affected, the science bit etc

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I'm trying to improve my sourdough baguettes.

I want an all sourdough baguette I can make at home with easily available materials, but that is light crusty and flaky with big holes in the crumb - almost more air than bread. The curent ones are still a bit bready,

I'm slowly dialling in - there are so many variables. Join me on the journey.

The best results so far are with a variation of the "a l'ancienne" method. The theory is that you mix and retard cold so as to allow the maximum autolysis, then shape prove and bake.

I'm using soft pastry/general purpose flour 9% protein - Tesco supermarket own brand, and the lowest protein flour they sell.

The current formula in grams is


Starter
Flour           100g   100%
Water           100g   100%
Clef             20g    20%

Ferment at 30C overnight (12 hours)

Dough  
Flour           500g   83%
Starter         200g   33%
Salt             12g    2%
Vit C - pinch
Water           330g   55%
 
Total flour     600g  100%
Total water     430g   72%

Mix cold, and retard in bulk - put in the refrigerator at 4C immediately.
Next day (say 18hours) portion, shape and bake (floor of the hot oven of the AGA, about 240C) No steam in this batch.

Makes 3 x 330g baguettes

gallery_7620_135_9794.jpggallery_7620_135_10473.jpg

This has been the result of much experiment.

Still a bit bready, but in the right region, and one where I can perhaps make small changes from.

Today's experiment is with shorter proof times.

These are times from taking the dough out of the fridge, so include shaping

15 mins - effectively no proof at all. Still surprisingly good, and no flour pick up from the couche, since it was never couched!. The baguette is a bit short as it hit the end of the oven when I slid it off the peel. Nice and easy to handle as well.

45 mins.  OK, but not as good a grigne as the zero proof time. Maybe marginally better texture. Dough still tight enough to handle.

90 mins. Dough too liquid to pick up, hence the strange shape, and lack of grigne.

Where next? Machine mix (these were hand mixed)? Try harder flour?

Jack

Hi Jackal,

I have been researching the French flour, and theirs tend to be a soft spring wheat, with proteins around ~11.7 and ash contents at 0.55% or 0.65%, depending. Ive heard that we can blend american flours to obtain similar results. Blending 3:1 of AP flour:bread flour. Please correct me if Iam wrong.

I am in the process of blending flours for a vietnamese baguette which includes rice flour.

-Nhumi

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Science of dough mixing as I understand it. This is a vast over simplification. Gluten is a series of large, complex protein molecules whose chemistry is complex. Gluten contains four classes of proteins: gliadins, glutenins, albumins, and globulins. Gliadin is the alcoholic glutamine and proline rich fraction of gluten and in turn contains over 40 different components. When the wheat is ground, the cells are boken, releasing the gluten, which in the presence of water bonds to itself to form large scale plastic structures.

Its not the mechanical work that develops the gluten, but time and hydration.

Hence you can short mix doughs, Easy to try yourself with just some flour and water.- just mix by hand until its more or less evenly mixed. Leave it for half an hour, and you will find the dough has magically turned silky, like a well kneaded dough.

High speed or prolonged mixing does something a bit different. It overworks the dough so that some of the gluten bonds are broken, weakening the gluten, giving fewer, bigger holes, but also oxygenating the dough which helps the gluten, or rather destroys an enzyme that attacks the gluten. Vitamic C (ascorbic acid) does a similar oxydation. Stale flour has also lost this enzyme. The enzyme is also released from the ground up wheat cells, where it stops the gluten bonding in the living plant.

The Chorleywood process uses a short high intensity mixing combined with of vitamin C to give high oxydation and air entrapment, to make a very pliable dough.

Although it can produce good bread, it has fallen into disrepute since it is the basis for much short process flavourless supermarket bread.

Overworked dough has a characteristic sticky silky texture, since the gluten sheets have been disrupted. The trick is to work the dough the amount you want to get the right texture.

Most of my bread I now hand-mix, and the use the folding technique. For these baguettes I use a food processor (Magimix Robochef), since I don't have a suitable mixture (or rather I do, but its buried in a shed somewhere). I find 20 secs, then a 10 minute rest, then 20 secs works for me for the batch sizes I make.

If you want to feel what overworked dough is like whizz for a minute or two, but don't expect it to rise.

Its difficult to compare flours, since the French measure ash content rather than protein - hence type 55 has 0.55% ash, type 65 0.65% etc. I've found a few references that suggest they have a protein content (loosely related to gluten in white flour) of around 11.5%, which is not all that weak - more like US AP flour. I thought they were softer than that.

I'm not sure you can get the same effect by blending different types of flour. Flour is complex stuff, with many variables - not only the amount of gluten but also the ratio of gliadin to glutenin, the extraction, the particle size (french flour tend to be ground finer) all affect the dough, and in turn are affected by the variety, the climate and the way its grown. Blending a soft and a hard flour are unlikely to lead to a flour with the characteristics of a variety in the middle.

As Dan Lepard says, its not the flour, but the baker. You can make good bread with almost any flour, although you may need to tune the formulation a bit to get a similar effect. Each flour will make a slighly different bread, unique to that flour.

The "Crocodile bread" is somewhat similar to what I'm doing here - very wet dough, long fermented active starter.


Edited by jackal10 (log)

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I've been meaning to post these pics and to comment on this sourdough for some time now, but anyway.

I like this formula, and I used it for a roasted garlic baguette and a rosemary olive oil as well which were both very wonderful. Here're a couple of photos for the straight sourdough (I need a sharper knife for slashing). I'm going to be using this a lot.

gallery_16410_2294_177282.jpg

and sliced....

gallery_16410_2294_295012.jpg

Thanks Jackal!

edit to note I used bread flour for this, not soft flour as Jackal has. I'm going to play around with the flours at some point....


Edited by devlin (log)

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Jack, a question about your formula for this baguette.

For your initial preferment, you're using 20 grams of starter (or chef), and for your final dough, you're using 200 grams of starter.

Here's my question. Does that 200 grams include the initial 20 grams? Or is the 200 grams added to the initial 20 grams?

Thanks.

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