Baguettes are deceptive. They are made from the simplest of ingredients: flour, water, salt and yeast. But they are also complex: to get a classic baguette - thin, crisp crust that crackles under the bite, and large, irregular holey interior - requires a combination of technique and practice, practice, practice.
So, to improve my own technique since we don't bake baguettes at work, I have made a routine of baking two each day when I return from work.
Often I make poolish baguettes, so-called because of the prefermented dough made the night before which loads the baguette with a wonderful nutty flavor. But I am also experimenting more with straight dough baguettes using no preferment, but allowing the dough to retard overnight which results in a more flavorful bread.
The baguettes pictured above, just baked this morning, are made from a straight dough which was refrigerated for 12 hours overnight before being shaped, placed in a linen couche, and then proofed for a little over 1 1/2 hours. I mixed the dough by hand instead of using my stand mixer, and then performed what are called 'slap and folds' twice at 30 minute intervals to develop dough strength. After allowing the dough to ferment for 1 1/2 hours it went into the refrigerator.
They were baked for 24 minutes at 460° F with steam.
Overall I'm very pleased with the outcome of today's bake.
First, to the 'ears' or grignes as they are called. Most, though not all of mine opened, although I will admit to achieving better results in other bakes. Learning to slash a baguette using a curved blade in a lame requires attempt after attempt to gain the proper technique and rhythm. Cutting just two a day makes it difficult to achieve consistently good results.
Now to the crumb. I was excited at the lightness of the finished baguettes and hoped this would foretell a nicely open crumb filled with irregular cells.
And I was rewarded with a nicely open crumb as you can see. Lots of irregularity in the cells and the picture on the right shows you the beautiful translucence of the cell membrane.
Here is another shot of the baguette crumb:
These indeed have a thin crust that snaps when you bite into it, and lovely flavor.
So, what to do with my experiment?
Lunch of course! Ah the delights of baking.