Monday, September 10, 2007

French Baguettes attempt 1

I get pretty excited--maybe a little too excited--about good bread. After I discovered it's possible to make good pizza, I thought why not bread? I made this recipe out of the same book I made the last pizza: "Crust and Crumb" by Peter Reinhart. It has two formulas for French Bread: one "easy" way, and a second way using Pâte Fermentée (old dough). I'll include the recipe for the first easy way. This is the method I used for my first loaf. It was very good! The crust was crispy and chewy with a moist crumb.

3 1/2 c. (453 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
3 1/2 c. (453 g) unbleached bread flour
2 1/2 tsp. (19 g) salt
1 tsp malt powder or brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. instant yeast
2 2/3 cups cool water (65 to 70 degrees)
Vegetable oil cooking spray
  1. Combine the flours, salt, malt, and yeast in a bowl.
  2. Add the water, and stir with a large spoon until the flour is gathered and the dough forms a ball.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead vigorously for about 10 minutes, until the dough is soft and pliable, tacky but not sticky. Knead in extra flour or water (just a few drops at a time) if necessary to achieve this consistency. The dough is fully kneaded when it passes the windowpane test.
  4. Place the dough in a large clean bowl that will hold it when it has doubled in bulk. Mist the dough lightly with cooking spray. Cover the bowl (not the dough) with plastic wrap or enclose it in a plastic bag, and let rise for about 30 minutes. It should just begin swelling.
  5. Knead the dough for 30 seconds, form it into a ball, and re-cover the bowl with plastic. Allow it to rise for 90 minutes, or until doubled in size.

  6. Scale, bench, and shape the dough into loaves or rolls as described below. Place them in pans or baskets. If using pans, line them with parchment paper and dust them with cornmeal or semolina for texture; if using baskets, mist them with cooking spray and dust them with rice flour or bread flour to prevent sticking.

    Scale the dough using a kitchen scale. You can save 1/3 of the dough for a later batch (discussed in a later blog entry). Here's the short version of how to shape into baguettes: shape the dough into balls and rest for 20 minutes. Then shape into a football and rest for 3 minutes. Flatten into a rectangle. Fold the bottom up 1/3 of the way, and fold the top down over top of it (see picture). Seal the seam, stretching the dough around the rest of the baguette. Then roll the baguette outwards. Rest and flatten into a rectangle again, and repeat the fold.
  7. Lightly mist the top of the shaped dough with cooking spray to prevent sticking, and place the pans or baskets inside a large plastic bag. Let rest for 15 minutes.
  8. Place the shaped dough in the fridge overnight, making sure the bag is loose but closed to prevent drying. [I didn't have a bag big enough so I covered loosely with plastic wrap.]
  9. The next day, remove from the refrigerator but leave it in the bag. The dough should be 50-75% larger than when it went in. If so, let it sit out 1 hour to take off the chill. If not fully risen, let it sit out 2-3 hour until it completes its rise.
  10. Prepare the oven for hearth baking by placing a steam pan on a lower rack. Preheat to 475 degrees F (allow about 30 minutes to heat fully). Fill a spray bottle with water.
  11. Remove the dough from the plastic 15 minutes before baking to allow the surface to dry slightly. Just before baking score the bread about 1/4" to 1/2" deep. Put the loaves in the oven. If they were on parchment paper, leave them on the paper. Then pour 1 cup of hot tap water into the empty steam pan and spray water on the oven walls and the bread with water.
  12. After 2 minutes spray the oven walls and the bread again. Repeat in 1 minute. Then lower the oven temperature to 450 degrees F.
  13. Wait 10 minutes and rotate the bread if necessary.
  14. When the bread has developed a rich, golden brown color--this will take about 25 minutes total for loaves and 15 minutes total for rolls--turn off the oven or lower to 350 if you plan to bake again. Leave the bread in the oven an extra 5-10 minutes, until it seems on the verge of overbrowning.
  15. Remove the bread to a cooling rack and allow it to cool thoroughly before eating, 60 minutes for loaves, 20 minutes for rolls.

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