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The Perfect Baguette: In search of the holy grail


gsquared
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I'd suggest using a single edged razor blade. Less awkward to manipulate than a knife or lame.

Disposable box openers with the breakaway blade if you do a lot.

Living hard will take its toll...
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Sometimes, I wish I had a digital camera. :sad:

You can buy one on e-bay for less than $25.00, It is called a Jamcam. The digital eqv. of the old Instamatic. 640X480 res. Not bad for quick shots of stuff. :biggrin:

Living hard will take its toll...
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I am still not happy, taste-wise, with the salt quantity. I am sure I need more salt, but have been worried about killing off the yeast. Is the salt quantity finely balanced or can one be fairly generous?

Salt should be about 2% in bakers percentage, that is relative to the weight of flour.

I make that about 1 Dsp (or two tsp) for 2 1/2 cups of flour.

Salt jams the amylisation of starch to sugar. However if you are using a salt-less sponge there will be plenty. I add mine after 1/2 hour and whizz or knead it in.

The other thought is that instead of reducing the proof times, reduce the amount of yeast. I wonder how much you are using compared to these other expert bakers here? Yeast needs only a very small amount, like 1/2tsp of fresh yeast or even less dried yeast.

Edited by jackal10 (log)
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Now I have a shiny new digital camera, here are some pics of the ficelle I baked this morning.

Shaping the dough:

DSC00009small.jpg

Retard overnight....

Ready to bake: The object in front is the lame, the razorblade on a stick used to slash the loaves

DSC00011small.jpg

In the oven:

DSC00012small.jpg

20 minutes later. Good oven spring.:

DSC00013small.jpg

Final product;

DSC00014small.jpg

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  • 1 year later...

Ciao,

My baguette recipe is kinda off in my opinion...here is what I do...

1300 g. water

2000 g. Type "O" flour

42 g. yeast

42 g. salt

I dissolve the yeast in the water (slightly warm), then add the flour and salt. I mix it in a mixer (the type where the whole bowl turns one way and the corkscrew looking thing turns the other way). It is mixed for about 6-10 minutes. Then I put the dough in a hotel pan, cover with a plastic bag and let proof for 60 minutes at 33 degrees C.

After the hour I for my loafs and let proof another 10 to 20 minutes, then turn oven to mist setting (COMBY) and at 220 C bake for about 27 minutes. What do you think?

My bread is too dense. Not airy like the real stuff. Also, I save a bit of the previous dough and use it the next day.

Ciao,

Ore

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Hopefully someone with more knowledge will help also, but I'll give you what I can. The formula looks pretty good--2% yeast (you are using cake yeast, right?), 65% hydration, 2% salt.

Does the dough feel and look developed when you take it off the mixer? Are you familiar with the autolyse method, where you mix a short time (without the salt), let rest and then mix a short time with the salt? Some prefer that method.

What temperature is your dough when it comes off the mixer? Sorry, I'm not good in Celsius, but you should be aiming for maybe 76 or so Fahrenheit.

I think you should give it bench time--after the first proof, scale it into whatever size piece you are using, then proof 15-30 minutes before forming.

Does it seem proofed correctly when it goes in the oven?

Does it rise and then fall in the oven, or just not rise enough? It could be over or under proofed. Have you considered adding a little ascorbic acid-- it makes the dough a little more forgiving to slight over proofing.

Edited by fredbram (log)

Fred Bramhall

A professor is one who talk's in someone else's sleep

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To begin, I must say that fredbram has spoken on this thread w/ a well-informed voice. If I may be so bold, I should like to add a few thoughts:

Recently, I have been using a mixture of three-quarters unbleached bread flour to one-quarter pastry (i.e., soft wheat) flour. I would by no means stipulate that it’s strictly necessary to use the pastry flour for good results w/ baguettes, but to my palate the flavour bears closer affinity to the real thing when it’s included.

On the other hand, you may prefer to comply with the instructions provided by Bernard Clayton in his New Complete Book of Breads (p. 253): “This excellent bread is made with hard-wheat flour to give the dough the ability to withstand the expansion it undergoes when it rises more than three times its original volume. Baking at high heat provides the oven-spring that makes possible the formation of a large cellular structure the distinguishing characteristic of pain ordinaire." (I bake my baguettes at 450° F, which corresponds to 232° C.) Moreover, I use commercial-quality, blued-steel baguette pans. These pans ensure results superior to that derived from flat sheets. As the The Well-Tooled Kitchen aptly describes, these forms "rapidly transmit a high heat, assure quick setting, thorough baking, and overall golden brown color, while the perforated strips...foster even baking by allowing heat to circulate freely." A very beneficial investment!

Since you are living in Italy, I am wondering which grade of grano tenero or grano duro you are using for your breads. The 3-to-1 ratio I’m using for baguettes would approximate the Italian “00” flour. (For pasta-making, I would strive to approximate the "0" grade.) In France, the boulangers use a flour known as French type 55.

When adding the flour, I beat the mixture very well., continuing until the dough is stiff & clears the sides of the bowl. After turning it out onto the work surface, I knead it w/ determination. This dough will start to rise very quickly – so, after about 8 minutes of kneading, slam the cushion of dough down hard on the bench to compress the CO2 bubbles. When this had been done the dough will have a better skin. Continue kneading until little blisters appear under the skin.

The ideal texture of baguettes ought to be coarse & porous. The purpose of a second rising is to achieve a denser or “closer” texture. Since this French bread has no fat content, the crispy, crackly crust will be derived from the hot, misty oven chamber, and the rapid expansion during the early stage of baking.

I'd like to share another point: Use a straight-sided pail in which to raise the dough. Many bakers neglect to realize that the nature of yeast in dough is to grow upward, not outward!

Incidentally, have you made other shapes & sizes of your French bread? Le Bâtard, la Ficelle, or le Pain?

"Dinner is theater. Ah, but dessert is the fireworks!" ~ Paul Bocuse

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Try this:

1400 gr water

2000 gr flour

18 gr yeast

40 gr salt

combine flour and water and mix until the dough comes together. Let this rest for

20-40 minutes. Add the yeast and salt and mix another 3-4 minutes.

Put the dough in the hotel pan and let ferment at 23-25 degrees C for 2.5-3 hours, give it a fold every 45-60 minutes (2 total).

Divide and pre-shape.

Rest 15-30 minutes.

Shape and proof at 23-25C for 45-60 minutes.

Good luck,

Roger

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My baguettes aren't that good either, so I'd be interested in the replies.

rgural makes most of my points, as do the other contributors

Some observations:

French Baguette flour is comparatively soft - more like pastry flour.

The dough is quite slack - more like 70% hydration - 1400g water. The dough is so wet it needs support during proof from the curved baguette pans or from floured linen folds. I use silpat baguette forms, but purists insist on floured linen so as not to get the the little bumps in the lower crust.

How much old dough are you adding? Bear in mind that it will not contribute much to the rise, and should not be more than say 10% or 200g.

Autolyze before adding the salt; no need to mix too much, it is time that hydrates the gluten, not mechanical work.

Less yeast and ferment for longer. The folding technique (sides to side and top ro bottom, like a turn when making puff pastry) really works.

Bulk ferment and prove for longer times as noted by rgural.

I like to retard overnight in the fridge before baking, but you get small blisters in the crust.

Bake hotter for shorter: more like 250C

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Jackal,

The reason purists object to the perforated pans is not the little bumps so much as they

indicate that the baguettes weren't baked on a hearth. The rack oven will invariably result in a less open interior crumb as well as a less attractive baguette. Jeffrey Hamelman has a series of photographs that illustrate this perfectly in his fine new book, "Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes".

Roger

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You said that you dissolve the yeast in the water (warm)? Are you using dry yeast? If so, dissolve it in a small amount of warm water and add that to your dough.

The water for your recipe should be about 68oF when you add it. Otherwise, the entire mix will be over heated by the time it is through mixing and the dough will overproof quickly then stay flat and heavy through baking.

Also, add your salt in the last 1-2 minutes of mixing or during the autolyze. Yeast will react poorly with the salt if added together. Never put them together when you are setting up your mise en place.

Chris

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Ciao,

Thanks for all the tips!

I have taken a few bits from all and have come up with this solution which is working out well.

1400 g. H20

2000 g. 'O' flour (W of 310-340)

42 g. yeast

42 g. salt

I add the water and yeast in the mixer and dissolve the yeast with my hands. The water now is not as warm as before and my final dough temp is 76-78 F.

Into the mixer goes 2 kg. flour. It is mixed until well incorporated...about 4-6 minutes.

Then it rests for about 40 minutes. Goes back into the mixer for a sprinkling of salt. Mixed for 2 minutes then rest.

I start this process at 10.00 AM every day. My bread must be ready by 13.30 so the resting period between the adding the salt and scaling often varies with the other jobs I must do.

On a perfect day I would shape and proof at 12.30 and divide and pre-shape at 11.45...so that means one hour of resting after adding the salt. What do you think!?!

One other thing...the shaping...I remember at school (CIA), we folded over one side of the dough and rolling it up. I always make sure that the crease is on the center of the bottom of the dough but sometimes O have noticed that the bottom side of the bread in a way explodes. Do you know what I mean!?!

Also, scoring techniques?

Also, the use of flour...should it be minimal throughout the whole process? I now don't proof in the oven, I proof out on a stainless steel work bench. I just put the dough down and cover with a plastic shopping bag. Should I lay flour down first? Should I flour the top?

Is there anything else I cam use other that plastic bags to cover my dough?

I tried damp cloth but the dough sticks to it too much and is difficult to clean. The plastic bags I can throw away...but I will run out of them soon!

I am baking in a COMBI oven at 230 Celsius for about 15 18 minutes with the setting to (I think) mist or combi - the setting with both dry and moist heat...the vent is also closed during this time.

I then switch to the dry heat setting and open the vent to dry the bread out a bit. I found that at 240 or 250 C, the bread was too dark and the interior not fully cooked. What do you think!?!

I think for now this info will be sufficient!

Thanks for all your help!

I will try to post some pictures soon!

Ciao,

Ore

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If you are acheiving a good rise during your first fermentation than I would tend to think that you have two problems. #1 you are not allowing enough time for proofing (after you have shaped the baguetts). If the loafs are doubled in volume than they are ready, usually 45 mins for commercial yeast. #2 The shaping of the baguettes is not a step that can be taken lightly. It is very important to shape in stages, start with a batard, then fold and roll the dough until you have acheived the proper length, making sure to rest between each step. I usually give baguettes 3 stages of folding and rolling, each time getting thinner and longer. Hope this helps.

"He could blanch anything in the fryolator and finish it in the microwave or under the salamander. Talented guy."

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Thanks for all the tips!

I have taken a few bits from all and have come up with this solution which is working out well.

1400 g. H20

2000 g. 'O' flour (W of 310-340)

42 g. yeast

42 g. salt

I add the water and yeast in the mixer and dissolve the yeast with my hands. The water now is not as warm as before and my final dough temp is 76-78 F.

********************************************

I think 1250g of water is more appropriate

mix the water and flour together and let stand 30 min.

*********************************************

I always make sure that the crease is on the center of the bottom of the dough but sometimes O have noticed that the bottom side of the bread in a way explodes. Do you know what I mean!?!

***************************************************************

It could mean the dough is underproofed or it could mean the seam is showing on the surface and the dough is breaking during oven spring.

*****************************************************************

Also, the use of flour...should it be minimal throughout the whole process?

*******

Yes.

*******

I don't proof in the oven, I proof out on a stainless steel work bench. I just put the dough down and cover with a plastic shopping bag. Should I lay flour down first? Should I flour the top?

****************************************************************

Proof on a linen with flour if possible. Ask your local artisan baker to sell you a piece.

****************************************************************

Is there anything else I cam use other that plastic bags to cover my dough?

******************************************************************

Belgian Linen.

Try 220 degree for 25 minutes depending on the weight. A baguette usually takes about 25 minutes to bake

********************************************************************

I will try to post some pictures soon!

******************************************************************

That would help. :)

Good luck.

ps i tried to quaote but i must have hit the wrong button

Edited by artisanbaker (log)
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Ciao,

Thanks for all the help! Like a said, here are some pictures of my progress. What do you think!?!

Pic 1

Here is my dough in the mixer…looks good…right!?!

gallery_19487_64_1095780905.jpg

Pic 2

Here is my dough resting. After I took the picture, I put the trash bag on top of the dough. I can’t seem to find the time to get over to the local bakery and I don’t think my chef wants to fork out more cash for some linen when I and he think the plastic liner does fine…What do you think!?!

gallery_19487_64_1095780558.jpg

Pic 3

Here is a shot of the dough after resting and pre shaping. As you can see, I yield about 6-8 loafs from my recipe. I try to stick to six because I can get two on a hotel pan and three hotel pans in the oven is max.

gallery_19487_64_1095781091.jpg

Pic 4

Here are a few loaves ready to go into the forno. They look OK? I need to get one of those cool yellow razor blade bread scoring things…for know, my knife works fine!

gallery_19487_64_1095781013.jpg

Pic 5

Here is a shot of the outer oven. The settings so you can see them…Oven set to COMBO at 230 C (works best for me).

gallery_19487_64_1095780947.jpg

Pic 6

Here is the bread right after they are done baking…Look good right!?!

gallery_19487_64_1095780840.jpg

Pic 7

After baking, I turn the fan on in the oven and open the door, I put the bread on the racks to cool this way. I pull them out when the oven temp reaches about 70 C. Do you suggest just letting them cool on a work bench…I don’t have a rack for even cooling…that is why I do it in the oven.

gallery_19487_64_1095780981.jpg

Pic 8

Here are the finished Baguettes. Color OK? Shape OK?

gallery_19487_64_1095780890.jpg

Pic 9

Here is the internal shot. What do you think? I think the bread is OK…this is the best result I have seen. I nice amount of bubbles, not as dense as the first stuff I was baking! It tastes great too!

gallery_19487_64_1095780638.jpg

Thank you for helping me this far…what else should I try and bake now!?!

Ciao,

Ore

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Ore, nice pics, nice loaves. Seems like everyones baking situation is unique and may require creative means to get the job done. You seem to be adapting well by the looks of the loaves. you can fine tune those loaves by adjusting fermentation times, hydration, etc. For what its worth, i'll throw in my 2 cents. and these are just MY preferences. I would have gone with about 60-62.5% hydration. I think artisanbaker already mentioned that. I have never been a fan of interupting my fermentation of my bag dough by punching down or folding. Three to four hrs. on the floor or until i acheive a nice doubling. I too don't have linen with which to couche my baguettes. Instead, i use clean aprons, well floured. Not conventional, but it works...and the linen service always gives you a few aprons that have no strings. I also cover the whole board(or hotel pan in your case) with a trash bag and give the shaped product a 12 hr cold proof in my walk in the reefer. This gives me the porous interior and nice crust i'm looking for and the slow cold rise really develops the flavor of the grain. Hope this helps.

...and if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce it tastes alot more like prunes than rhubarb does. groucho

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Looks good!

You might find life easier by retarding in the fridge for between 4 and 24 hours once formed. This also gives a longer, slower second proof.

You can retard for up to 24 hours, so you can make up the loaves at your convenience, put them in the fridge, and then bake them (from cold) whenever you want. Or make one day (before or after service) and bake the next.

The plastic liner works fine.

Try scoring at less of an angle that is with longer cuts more along the length of the loaf - more like 10 degrees to the centreline.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I want to make darn sure everyone knows that Peter Reinhart is currently taking questions here at egullet (hurry up before he's gone). He's such a hugely respected chef I feel it's really an enormous honor that he's here! Please feel free to post all your questions in the Q & A forum for him.

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