The way I learned to make baguettes was from Master Chef Markus Farbinger, who uses a slow rise or pointage en bac method. It is a straight dough, but bulk fermented and retarded overnight. This allows the amino acids and lacto- and acetobacillus bacteria to develop, while retarding the activity of the yeast. The results, as shown in the picture to the left, are pretty magnificent.
But I recently learned another technique called Baguettes de Tradition from Jeffery Hamelman’s book, “Bread” that he learned from Japanese bakers. This is a straight dough that differs rather significantly from the slow rise baguettes. First of all, these baguettes are baked in just a few hours from final mix, so you’re working with room temperature dough. Second, where I would normally use an 11.7% protein AP flour mixed with about a third high-extaction flour, this recipe calls for 100% bread (strong) flour. And finally, this is a wetter dough than what I’m used to using at 76% hydration.
As Hamelman puts it: “…a baker could be excused for concluding that the dumpster and not the belly is the destination for the bread.” This is because mixing is done gently, so after mixing – even using a stand mixer – there’s virtually no gluten development! The dough just comes apart. But with the folding schedule, the gluten develops quickly, and by the last fold, the dough is luxuriously smooth and supple – and strong.
Chef Hamelman warns that this is a challenging bread and certainly not one for beginners. I can attest to this as the dough at this hydration using pure bread flour is tacky and will easily stick – especially since you’re handling a room temperature dough. So keep your hands floured when shaping and use quick motions!
But the end result is pretty fabulous. You will notice right away when the loaves come out of the oven, that you will not get pronounced ears. This is because with these particular baguettes, you minimize the creation of a skin during shaping. The crumb is significantly different from my other baguettes in that there were not many huge voids. But that could be more of a function of how I handled them during shaping. But in spite of that, the texture of the crumb is magnificent, redolent with numerous pockets.
I’m going to provide the bakers percentages, so you can scale the recipe up and down as required, but will also provide example amounts.
|Ingredient||Bakers %||Example Amount|
|Bread Flour||100%||1000 grams|
Before you get started, I highly recommend sifting your flour to avoid creating lumps which are a pain to get out, especially if you’re mixing by hand.
- Add all ingredients to your mixing bowl and combine all ingredients until fully incorporated. If you’re using a stand mixer, Hamelman recommends 400 to 450 revolutions at low speed (a KitchenAid 5-quart mixer’s RPM at the first notch is 60 RPM) – about 7 minutes. If mixing by hand, make sure everything’s fully incorporated. You’ll probably end up with a bit of a shaggy mass. Just make sure you don’t stretch the dough too much. You don’t want the gluten to develop!
- Let the mass rest for 20 minutes, then perform a stretch and fold of the dough. Repeat this 2 more times every 20 minutes over the course of the first hour. By the end of the third stretch and fold, the dough should be strong and velvety-smooth to the touch!
- Let the dough rest for 2 hours or until it has nearly tripled in volume. But you’ll know when it’s ready when the dough is like jello when gently shaking and the top surface of the dough has plenty of bubbles. For me, this can actually take as short as 30-45 minutes.
- Divide and pre-shape into rough cylinders and let rest for 15 minutes (it may be shorter or longer depending on the dough being sufficiently relaxed), then shape the dough into baguettes, being careful not to tighten them too much to avoid creating a skin and doing your best to be gentle but firm to not degas them too much. Transfer each baguette to a well-floured couche.
- Hamelman list the final fermentation as 1 hour, but use the finger dent test to make sure, bearing in mind his times were for much more dough and larger loaves.
- Bake at 485° for 12 minutes with steam, then 8-12 minutes at 425° or until the crust is a deep golden brown. A full bake is recommended to ensure the crust is crispy.
- Though I provided specific ingredient amounts in the table above, I always work backwards in figuring out how much of the ingredients I need. For instance, for my oven, my standard batch is 4 baguettes scaled out to 325g apiece. So I know I’ll need 1300g of dough. I always add a fudge factor due to loss during processing, so I’ll up that to 1310g. Given that, I can easily calculate the flour I’ll need by dividing the total yield of 1310g by the total of the percentages – in our case here it’s 178.55%. So 1310 / 178.55% = 734g of flour. From there, I can just use the ingredient percentages to figure out the amounts for the rest of the ingredients.
- As with any high-hydration white flour dough, this dough is tacky! I can’t stress enough the quick, definitive movements I had to make to work with this dough. I also had to make sure that during shaping I was dipping my hands in my pile of flour to prevent sticking.
- I think the next time I make these, once the dough is close to finish bulk fermentation, I’m going to pop it into my fridge for a few hours to help develop flavors. As a friend of mine who lives in Paris complained, “I’m so sick of the bland baguettes made from pure white flour here in Paris.” So a little flavor development, no matter how small, will help plus, pre-shaping will be much easier with a cooler dough. Though I’m used to handling high-hydration dough, that doesn’t mean I enjoy it. 🙂
- I will also use my normal flour blend of 1/3 high-extraction flour and 2/3 AP flour. This will get me to the same protein content as King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour at 12.7%. But also the bran in the high-extraction flour will add a nice nuttiness to the flavor profile. That said, I will have to tweak the process a little and do an autolyse step to ensure the flour is fully hydrated, and I may have to up the hydration by a percentage point or so.